Hemp Plant in History and Culture: Part III

Almost 80% of all modern drugs originate from plants. Western researchers still look to ancient texts and folklore around different plants to determine what direction their research should head in.

China was skeptical of western medicine when it first arrived sometime in the sixteenth century. 

So much so the Chinese really didn’t give western medicine much thought for a good three centuries.

Before the 1800s traditional plant-based medicines were used for everything from migraines to childbirth.

Today, many fear herbal remedies as part of pseudoscience with little proof backing up any of its findings.

But picture yourself as a 16th-century rural Chinese farmer. To you, western medications are the new untested way to fight disease.

And you can’t blame them for being hesitant. When the black plague struck during the middle of the century, a rumor spread like a row of dominos toppled over by a massive earthquake.

Cats and dogs were blamed for the spread of the plague.

Oh, how wrong they were. People were killing their beloved pets left and right fearing the spread of the plague.

But this only made matters worse. With fewer predators around the rat population boomed, and the true carriers of the disease suddenly ran Europe.

Hemp and Science in Ancient China

Western medicine seemed like crazy folklore brought over by untrustworthy foreigners. Contrary to what many believe about traditional chine medicine, there are over 5,000 years of practical experience using it.

There are volumes of data accounting for primitive “clinical trials” of different operations and remedies.

Traditional Chinese medicine has been the starting point for much of the modern medical research the Chinese government now sponsors.

Using the texts of traditional Chinese medicine like cheat sheets, modern-day researchers can choose herbs already known to be beneficial.

High Throughput Screening

It’s taken decades and numerous studies to find out diet soda is less harmful than regular soda. 

Want to bring a potentially life-saving drug to market? You better start now because it takes a minimum of ten years from start to finish.

Why does it take so long to figure out how our bodies react to different chemicals? Can’t we just give a sample group a prototype and take it from there?

If only it were that simple. When you’re waiting on a drug’s approval the FDA can seem slower than a tortoise after a buffet.

Part of the reason is because of all the variables coming into play when going about your daily routine.

You could be part of a study with several others that live a near identical life to yours. But everything from diet to the pollution in the air we breathe can have an effect on an experiment.

Since we can’t isolate huge groups of people to prevent skewed results, researchers often use animals during the early stages of drug discovery.

The Solution

We’re all familiar with the notion of lab rats, but there are an unexpected species that actually makes more sense for early-stage drug discovery.

They’re like the bigfoot of the ocean. Bridging the genetic history between humans and sea life.

This animal has counterparts for 84% of the genes that cause diseases in humans.

This exotic creature must take up a whopping chunk of a drug company’s R&D budget, right?

Actually, it’s about fifty times cheaper to use these creatures instead of mice or rats.

So what is this game-changing mystery animal making it both faster and cheaper to find new drugs?

Zebrafish. Zebrafish have an amazing advantage over rodents when it comes to drug testing.

Even if zebrafish were the more expensive option the cost would be worth it to a lot of drug companies.


If you were running late for work and didn’t want to miss an important meeting, would you call for an Uber or wait for the next bus?

You’d get the rideshare because they’d take you straight to work. Sure, you’d get there on the bus, eventually. Running into the board room, drenched in sweat, just as everyone is finishing up.

You wouldn’t take the slower option when you’re in a hurry. Pharmaceutical companies find themselves in this predicament every day.

Except the private car is zebrafish and the bus is lab rats. Getting test results back using rats can take months and often does.

Zebrafish, on the other hand, can give researchers the results they’re looking for in a matter of days.

They’re speedy reproductive cycle and striking similarities to the human genome mean they are like speed testers for different drugs.

All their major organs are formed in just one day after fertilization. For comparison, it takes a human fetus about a month just to form the neural tube, which later turns into the brain and spinal cord.

History of Zebrafish and Cannabis Research

Experiments with zebrafish and cannabis go back to 1975. Researchers wanted to know how toxic THC could be to zebrafish.

But in the past decade or so, researchers started looking at how zebrafish’s endocannabinoid system works 

The endocannabinoid system is like a system of locked doors. We produce our own cannabinoids, but our receptors can also react to foreign cannabinoids.

Zebrafish have a similar endocannabinoid system to ours. To test the effectiveness of CBD for pain management, zebrafish larvae were damaged with a weak acid.

Researchers then dissolved different cannabinoids into the water to see the effects. Of all the cannabinoids, CBD had the most profound effects.

The larvae given CBD healed the fastest out of all other test groups.

The Marriage of Eastern and Western Medicine

You don’t have to be a liberal art teacher decorated with exotic beads and jewelry to benefit from eastern medicine anymore.

Instead of discounting ancient herbal remedies, modern medical research is investigating as to whether any of these treatments have any merit to them.

Some do and some don’t, just like western medicine.

One thing’s for sure, the CBD industry is rising faster than a Space X rocket, regardless of whether you use TCM as your primary healthcare or have premium private insurance.

Keep reading to find out why big pharma wants a slice of the CBD pie…