Queen Victoria’s Cramps and the History of Medicinal Marijuana in Europe


Documents espousing marijuana’s medical benefits first appeared in 2900 B.C. in China, but medicinal cannabis in Europe is indebted to one over-achieving Irishman. Born in 1809, Dr. William Brooke O’Shaughnessy invented the modern treatment for cholera, laid the first telegraph system in Asia, contributed inventions in underwater engineering, and effectively pioneered the use of medical cannabis in Europe. Inspired by the use of cannabis in Ayurvedic and Persian medicine, O’Shaughnessy conducted the first clinical trials of marijuana, treating rheumatism, hydrophobia, cholera, tetanus, and convulsions.

Influenced by O’Shaughnessy, Sir J. Russell Reynolds prescribed cannabis to relieve Queen Victoria’s menstrual cramps. “When pure and administered carefully, [cannabis] is one of the most valuable medicines we possess,” he wrote in 1890. But the widespread use of the syringe a few years later, which allowed drugs to dissolve quickly into a patient’s blood stream, ended medical marijuana’s popularity in Europe.

Following an international drugs conference…

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‚In the Name of Our Own Fear‘: Eula Biss on Vaccination, Privilege and Fear


In light of the recent measles outbreak in California, I want to share this excerpt from an interview with Eula Biss, author of On Immunity. After the birth of her first child, Biss’s research turned to vaccination, and she ruminated on a culture in which no man, woman or child is an island. Michael Schulson interviewed Biss at Salon:

Salon: You point out that people who oppose vaccination tend to be wealthier, whiter and more educated than the population at large. Why does this kind of social (but not medical) immunity hold a particular attraction for this demographic group?

Eula Biss: I should say that there are a few different demographics that tend not to vaccinate.

I think there’s a lot going on there, actually. Maybe the largest component is the kind of thinking that attends privilege. What I mean is a pattern of thought that’s been developed over a long period…

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