History of Cannabis in Thailand: The First Thai Pharmacopeia Contained Cannabis

For centuries cannabis has been a staple in the South East Asian community as a source of food, stress reliever, and home remedy. Traditional Thai herbal remedies contain a mixture of several herbs and spices, including cannabis.

The earliest use of cannabis recorded was in the 16th century during the reign of King Narai the Great. Cannabis has a long history of traditional use in the Kingdom of Thailand (formerly known as Siam) mainly for its pain-relieving, appetite-inducing, and sleep-sedating properties.

Photo: Museum of Natural History

The first Thai pharmacopeia

It was during the reign of King Narai (1656 to 1688) the first Thai pharmacopeia was complied by the royal traditional healers, known as Nai’s Medical Pharmacopeia ‘ตำราพระโอสถพระนารายณ์’ (Tumra Phra Osod Phra Narai). There were 4 recipes in there containing cannabis along with other herbs such as cinnamon, bay leaf, cloves, dried ginger, etc.

King Narai portrait by European diplomat
Photo: สำนักวิชาการ กรมพัฒนาการแพทย์แผนไทยและการแพทย์ทางเลือก

Cannabis has been an important part of traditional medicine, Thai healers have used it together with other herbs to help health conditions and diseases such as cholera, constipation, malaria.

It is also known that Thai liniment oil ‘น้ำมันมวย’ (Namman Muay), used for warming up the muscles of Thai boxers also contained cannabis.

Photo: The Roots

Thai traditional healers consider the human body to be made up of four elements: earth, water, wind, and fire.

Illness and diseases arise when the four elements are unbalanced. Antidotes and recipes in the pharmacopeia are created by combining two or more concoctions to create medicine for special alinements – based on balancing the four elements.

Traditional Medicine and the Thai Dynasty

Photo: สารานุกรมไทยสำหรับเยาวชนฯ / เล่มที่ ๓๓ / เรื่องที่ ๘ การแพทย์แผนไทย

The art of traditional Thai medicine have been passed down from the Ayuthaya to Rattanakosin period, the beginning of the Chakri Dynasty, with King Rama I in 1782.

Traditional medicine was practiced widely and knowledge of the craft was opened to the public.

The arrival of western medicine during King Rama IV in 1851, was the beginning of the ‘Era of Civilization’. Thai traditional medicine was taught together with in schools and universities.

Photo: R. Placide Augustin Dechaussé 1686

Until the reign of King Rama VI in 1916, Thai traditional medicine courses and services were completed withdrawn and removed. Conventional medicine became the official in the medical services in Thai health care.

And not soon later during the 1930s cannabis was also made illegal all over South East Asia, it was slowly being hidden away from the public and medical sight.

But during King Rama IX (1946-2016) traditional Thai medicine made a complete-comeback, it was promoted by the government ensuring the safety and efficacy of herbal drugs.

And after the legalization of medical cannabis in 2019, it has been revived back as a part of traditional medicine once again.

Today, medicinal cannabis usage has been historically proven to be listed in more than 200 recipes in several pharmacopeias throughout the ages.

Photo: Chiangrai Times

About thirty percent of all diseases are serious and need modern medicine or health care specialists, while seventy percent are general illnesses. It means that general illnesses are able to be treated by traditional medicines. Thus, it is” not necessary to spend a huge budget, particularly for modern medicine.

Besides, some diseases that can not be cured by modern medicine, such as cancer, traditional medicine may be an alternative treatment of those diseases

Traditional Medicine and Medicinal Plants; Utilization, Policy and Research in Thailand’ (2004)

Photo: South East Asian Library Group

With the current law supporting medical cannabis in the country, several institutions have adapted cannabis together with herbal resources to treat general illnesses and skin conditions.

Today, modern medicine and medical cannabis is used together to treat muscle spasms, seizures, painkillers of cancer groups.

There were only 16 herbal recipes containing cannabis (out of 200) in the Thai pharmacopeia thatwere considered by the Department of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine.

The 16 recipies have been developed, easy to gather ingredients and safe for the general public.

Photo: Thailand Plus

16 Thai herbal remedies containing cannabis

1. ยาน้ำมันสนั่นไตรภพ (Sanan Tripop Oil Medicine)  
- Relieve pain and stomach cramps
2. ยาอัคคินีวคณะ (Ya Akinee Vakana)
- Relieve nausea and vomiting, induce appetite
3. ยาแก้ลมขึ้นเบื้องสูง (Ya Kaelom-Kheun BerngSoong) 
- Relieve headaches, red eyes, tinnitus, and fatigue
4. ยาศุขไสยาศน์ (Ya Suka Saiyat)
- Helps sleep and build appetite
5. ยาไฟอาวุธ (Ya Fai Arwoot) 
- Relive colic and abdominal pain
6. ยาแก้ลมเนาวนารีวาโย (Ya Kaelom Naowanaree Wayo)
- Relieve stiffness in joints
7. ยาแก้สัณฑฆาต กล่อนแห้ง (Ya Kae Suntaa-kat)
- Relieve constipation pain 
8. ยาแก้นอนไม่หลับ / ยาแก้ไขผอมเหลือง (Anti-insomnia / Yellow-skin remedy )
- Cures insomnia and juandice
9. ยาแก้โรคจิต *ตามตำราแผนไทย (Antipsychotic drugs * according to Thai traditional texts)
- Reduces anxiety and stress, helps with sleep
10. ยาอัมฤตโอสถ (Amrit Osot) 
- Relieve muscle stiffness, ligaments, hands, feet, numbness
11. ยาไพสาลี (Ya Paisalee)
- Relieve colic, bloated stomach, helps with sleep
12. ยาอไภยสาลี (Ya Apai Salee) 
- Helps with bloated stomach, relieves colic and congestion
13. ยาทำลายพระสุเมรุ (Ya Tumrai Phra Sumen) 
- Relieve muscle stiffness and numbness in paralysis patients
14. ยาแก้ลมแก้เส้น (Ya Kae-lom Kae-sen) 
- Relieve pain, muscle stiffness and numbness 
15. ยาทัพยาธิคุณ (Ya Tuppaya Thi-khun)
- Relieve colic, hoarse voice, body aches, and insomnia
16. ยาทาริดสีดวงทวารหนักและโรคผิวหนัง (Hemorrhoids and skin diseases)
- Apply to treat hemorrhoids and skin diseases

16 Thai Herbal Remedies Containing Cannabis (PDF Only in Thai)


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