The History of Medical Marijuana used to Treat Horses
Medical marijuana for dogs and cats is one thing. But medical marijuana for horses!? Yes, its true and its not a new concept in veterinary medicine. Cannabis has been used as a medical remedy for horses across the globe and the sands of time. From the ancient Greeks to modern-day farriers and horse owners, marijuana has been widely employed to successfully address a range of medical problems. There are numerous historical references to cannabis being used for sedation and as an adjunct to anesthesia in equine medicine.
Overview of Potential Equine Therapeutic Applications for Cannabis
- Used in a poultice (medicated bandage) to treat skin wounds
- Fresh leaves were used to dress horses’ sores, dried ones against nosebleed.
- A seed-based remedy Used to treat tapeworms in horses
- Used to treat colic and other gastrointestinal disorders
Cannabis in Greek & Roman Cultures
Greek writers reported the use of cannabis in treating horses–especially for dressing sores and wounds–and in treating humans. Here we find the dried leaves used against nosebleed and the seeds used against tapeworms, but the most frequently mentioned treatment involves steeping the green seeds in a liquid such as water or a variety of wine, then pressing out the liquid, which when warmed was instilled into the ear as a remedy for pains and inflammations associated with blockages.
According to a collection of horse-remedies known as the “Berlin Hippiatrica”, the chopped leaves can be used to dress a wound: first some vinegar and pitch are brought to a full rolling boil, then wax, mustard, wheat-chaff, and roasted pine-resin are added, and the resulting mixture (presumably cooled) is applied liberally, then chopped cannabis leaves and grass trimmings are put on top before the wound is bound.
Another collection, the “Cambridge Hippiatrica,” offers a recipe for the treatment of tapeworms which is identical to the one cited above from pseudo-Galen “On ready remedies”
A Remedy for Equine Colic?
Until relatively recently, cannabis was found in a large number of veterinary medications designed to treat colic, spasmodic colon and other ailments in equine patients. The bottles of some of these drugs survive to provide us with evidence of the therapeutic benefits of this ubiquitous plant.
There was a time when U.S. Government supplies cannabis was a part of the standard first aid kit for troopers who also had to pull double duty as veterinarians while in the field. The following excerpts are from a historical field manual issued to cavalry soldiers in the times when they rode horses rather than helicopters. Cannabis was apparently used by the army primarily to treat intestinal disorders, wounds and other painful conditions in horses.
A Modern Horse Owner’s First-Hand Account:
While I have received several emails directly from horse owners outlining their personal experiences administering marijuana to their pets, one conversation in particular stands out.
Horse Owner Becky Flowers relayed her own experiences:
“I have owned my mare Phoenix for 7 years. she is a 13.3 hand paso fino, about 17 years old. She has DSLD (Degenerative Suspensory Ligament Disease) and arthritis in her back and hips, mostly the right hip. She has always limped in the front. i was giving bute ( Phenylbutazone, or “bute”, is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug) on her bad days, 1 to 2 tablets. This helped some, but didnt last long.
Last month when our temperatures dropped to the teens she was unable to get up. Despite giving her 5 and 6 tablets, two blankets and leg warmers. I was having to feed and water her where she lay. On day three of barely getting up, she stopped eating. I decided to give cannabis a try before having her put down. I gave 2 bute and a teaspoon of canna butter. Within 45 minutes she was up, walking, eating and drinking! I am now giving her just the teaspoon of cannabutter daily. I have skipped days to see if this was just coincidence. On the skipped days she is down and depressed. I draw up the melted butter and water in a syringe and give it to phoenix. Every time, within 30 minutes she is up, appears pain free, is free moving and happy. I have been using the canna butter for a month now and have never seen her move this well. She has gained weight, coat is beautiful, shes happy and walking “
Brunner, T. 1973. Evidence of marijuana use in ancient Greece and Rome? The literary evidence. Bulletin of the History of Medicine 47(4): 344-55.
Brunner, T. 1977.Marijuana in ancient Greece and Rome? The literary evidence. Journal of Psychedelic Drugs 9(3): 221-5.
Carter, William H., 2003. “The U.S. Cavalry Horse” p.298