Forbidden herbs? The effects of cannabis were a controversial topic 250 years ago

Forbidden herbs? The effects of cannabis were a controversial topic 250 years ago
Forbidden herbs? The effects of cannabis were a controversial topic 250 years ago
Jacobus Tabernaemontanus: “Neuw vollkommentlich Kreuterbuch.” First edition 1588. Credit: University of Tübingen

Should cannabis be legalized for medicinal purposes or will it remain an illegal drug? This has been discussed in many countries for years—and has been a point of contention for much longer than expected: Already in Mexico in the 18th century, priest and scientist José Antonio Alzate y Ramírez campaigned for the healing effects of the controversial plant—against the position of the Spanish Crown and the Inquisition. The historian Dr. Laura Dierksmeier from the Collaborative Research Center Resource Cultures at the University of Tübingen examines the public debate at that time in Mexico. Her study “Forbidden herbs: Alzate’s defense of pipiltzintzintlis” was published on July 7th in the journal Colonial Latin American Review.


In a newspaper article from 1772, Alzate defended cannabis, which he knew under the name “Pipiltzintzintlis” from his own cultivation: He attributed it to valuable medical benefits for the treatment of cough, jaundice, tinnitus, tumors, depression and much more. He also considered the hemp plant…

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