Hunter-Gatherers Employed Cannabis as Parasite Shield, Study Reveals

Hunter-Gatherers Employed Cannabis as Parasite Shield, Study Reveals

In a thrilling revelation, researchers at Washington State University discovered a fascinating correlation between cannabis use and a decreased rate of intestinal worm infections among hunter-gatherer communities. The evidence intimates an intriguing possibility – that these groups might inadvertently be utilizing Cannabis as a therapeutic remedy.

It also opens up the doors to others in Anthropology studying the use of Cannabis in times far gone by proving that the plant has abilities that these users were unaware of deep in the Congo, one of the last remaining solid holds of indigenous people that bore the closest resemblance to the earliest of mankind. 

Ed Hagen, an anthropologist at WSU Vancouver, journeyed into the heart of cannabis use among the Aka foragers, seeking answers devoid of Western civilization's societal and media influence. His curiosity became driven by a fundamental question: Could these remote communities use plant toxins as medicine?

Hagen suggests a provocative parallel to our cravings for salt, theorizing that we may harbor an innate preference for psychoactive plant toxins. "These substances may kill parasites," he explained, thus sparking an unexpected connection between our taste preferences and biological defense mechanisms.

In a preceding study, Hagen found a tantalizing correlation: Aka individuals who were heavier tobacco users had fewer helminthic infestations, a common type of intestinal worm. However, he was quick to underscore the cautionary notes. While nicotine has been observed obliterating worms in livestock, the phenomenon hasn't been directly proven in humans. Furthermore, although Cannabis can annihilate worms in laboratory conditions, the scientific community has yet to observe this worm-killing effect in live animals.

The Aka are an indigenous pygmy tribe in the Congo basin, representing one of the few remaining hunter-gatherer communities. As such, they give anthropologists like Hagen a unique perspective into a lifestyle representing nearly 99% of human history. Simultaneously, they may offer an alternative theory regarding human drug use, challenging conventional wisdom.

Standard explanations propose that recreational drugs "hijack the brain's pleasure centers," inducing euphoria. However, they also activate signals that we're ingesting toxic substances, culminating in bitter tastes and feelings of sickness. This paradox prompted Hagen and his colleagues to ask, "Why would countless people worldwide use plant toxins recreationally?"

Mirroring animal behaviors, they hypothesized that humans might also employ these substances to eradicate parasites without consciously knowing it. Animalistic behavior in humans refers to instincts, behaviors, and tendencies that we share with other animals, particularly mammals. These primal instincts are deeply rooted in our evolutionary history and remain significant in our behavior. One of the most fundamental animalistic behaviors is the drive to survive. 

According to Hagen and his colleagues, this research has tremendous implications, with substance abuse and intestinal worm infections being "two of the developing world's most pressing health issues" according to Hagen and his colleagues. It seems as if the researchers were looking to find ways to pair cannabis use with primal urges to survive, which would theoretically prove it's one of the earliest forms of medicine on the planet. 

Their groundbreaking findings, published in the American Journal of Human Biology, shed light on how Cannabis may have been used or consumed by the earliest forms of man - the hunter-gatherer.


The timeline for when the Aka first encountered Cannabis or its introduction to the African continent remains mysterious. Some theories propose traders from the Indian subcontinent brought it around the first Century A.D. For the most part, Cannabis smoking didn't get introduced to most of the world until European colonization in the 17th Century. This theory could be irrelevant, as Cannabis has been spread around the earth and has grown for tens of thousands of years. So it's impossible to state that Aka didn't hunt and gather their landrace Cannabis and, like their status quo, relied on no outside source for it. 

In an ambitious survey involving nearly 400 adult Aka residing along the Lobaye River in the Central African Republic, Hagen found that approximately 70% of men and 6% of women used Cannabis. Bioassays reinforced these findings, indicating that 68% of the men had recently smoked Cannabis.

Upon analyzing the participants and lab reports, scientists determined that about 95% had parasitic infections. Remarkably, however, those who consumed Cannabis had significantly lower infection rates. Even after a year of commercial anthelmintic treatment, these cannabis users exhibited fewer reinfestations.

Intriguingly, while the Aka deliberately consume tea from the local motunga plant to combat parasitic infections, they don't perceive Cannabis or tobacco as medicinal. This finding hints that they might be unwittingly employing Cannabis as parasite prevention, Hagen concluded.

The marvels of Cannabis never end, as the majestical history and the current controversial nature of the movement to legalize it and make the plant and cannabinoids accessible all over the planet roll on with it. 

When we look at how this untouched tribe has used Cannabis in such an intriguing way to protect their guts, smoking instead of ingesting unknowingly helping themselves - it breaks the barriers of so many myths spread during the Reefer Madness era and shows the true potential of cannabinoids. 

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