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Marijuana, legalization and constipation

Black sesame seeds are often used as a substitution for Cannabis seeds in herbal medicines
Black sesame seeds are often used as a substitution for Cannabis seeds in herbal medicines

Recently there has been a shift to the legalization of marijuana in some states. Chinese herbal medicine has long recognized marijuana as medicine, but not for the anti-nausea effect or other calming effects that come from smoking the herb. Cannabis or marijuana seeds were used to help relieve constipation.

Regular movement of stool through the gastrointestinal tract is of course very important. The quality of that stool indicates how well the the digestive system is functioning. Various herbal medicines are formulated to address the functions of different sections of the digestive tract. Most Americans address the lack of movement or constipation with adding fiber to the diet. Chinese medicine recognizes that this is appropriate for some types of constipation, but not all. When the system is too dry, the stool is seen to need more lubrication. In this case, seed oils are most commonly used. These types of oils tend to remain in the digestive system and help lubricate the movement of stool through the large intestine. There is a classic herbal formula for this called Wu Ren wan, or Five Seed pill. The formula simply contains five different seeds, almond, peach pit, pine seed, bush cherry pits and thuja (a type of evergreen related to cedar). A related classic formula is called Ma Zi Ren Wan which uses cannabis seeds in combination with a few herbs like Rhubarb root to stimulate and lubricate the large intestine.

These seeds, and realistically all oil bearing seeds, are helpful when the stool is dry and hard. For the pasty sticky type of constipation, fiber and quite often ginger will help. This is because this type of constipation is caused by what is called “cold” digestion. Another unique type of constipation is a situation where the stool forms into round balls. This is caused by a dynamic that is generally not relieved by other measures. There are herbal formulas that can help this type. Usually there is often some anger or irritability associated with this round ball type of stool. The quality of the stool may be an odd topic for people to talk about, but it is essential for understanding what is going on in the digestive tract.

Herbalists in the U.S. rarely use cannabis seeds, and it is not because cannabis is a controlled substance. As it turns out herbalists can buy cannabis seed from suppliers. The seeds are sterilized so that they will not germinate, and are thus legal to sell and posses. The real issue is that cannabis seeds go rancid very easily. They have a very short shelf life and thus most herbalists substitute with other seeds like black sesame seeds that are more shelf stable. If you are interested in using herbal medicines to treat constipation, look for a National Board certified herbalist.