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Cannabis, in Botany, the Hemp, a genus of plants representing the nat. ord. Cannabinaceae, Cannabis sativa, the only species, yields the valuable fibre called hemp, which has been known for more than 2,500 years as a material for cordage, sacking, and cloth. In Britain the plant grows to the height of about six feet, but in warmer climates it has occasionally been found sixteen or eighteen feet high. The principal supplies of the fibre are derived from Russia. The fruits, commonly termed hemp-seed, are oleaginous and demulcent, and are used for feeding birds. When submitted to pressure, they yield about 25 per cent, of a fixed oil, which is used for making varnishes. In the sap of the hemp-plant there exists a resinous substance which has extraordinary narcotic properties. In northern climates the proportion of this resin in the several parts of the plant is so small as to have escaped general observation; but in the warmer regions of the East, the resinous substance is sufficiently abundant to exude naturally from the flowers, leaves, and young twigs. The Indian hemp, which is so highly prized for its narcotic virtues, is considered by some botanists to be a distinct variety, and is distinguished by them as C. sativa, var. indica. This herb, and the resin obtained, are largely employed in Asia, and in some parts of Africa and South America, for the purposes of indulgence. The dried plant is smoked, and sometimes chewed. Five or ten grains reduced to powder are smoked from a common pipe along with ordinary tobacco, or from a water-pipe with a peculiar variety of tobacco, called tombeki. The resin and resinous extract are generally swallowed in the form of pills or boluses. The hemp-plant and its preparations appear to have been used from very remote times. The effects of the natural resin, or churrus, have been carefully studied in India by Dr. O'Shaughnessy. He states that when taken in moderation it produces increase of appetite and great mental cheerfulness; while in excess it causes a peculiar kind of delirium and catalepsy. The effect produced by hemp in its different forms varies, like that of opium, both in kind and in degree, with the race of men who use it, and with the individuals to whom it is administered. Upon Orientals its general effect is of an agreeable and cheerful character, exciting them to laugh, dance, and sing, and to commit various extravagances. It, however, renders some excitable and quarrelsome, disposing them to acts of violence. It is from the extravagant behaviour of individuals of this latter temperament that the use and meaning of our word "assassin" have probably arisen, the word having been derived from haschischin, a haschisch-eater. As a medicine, Indian hemp was tried by Dr. O'Shaughnessy in rheumatism, hydrophobia, cholera, and tetanus. In the last such wonderful cures were effected, that the hemp was pronounced an anti-convulsive remedy of the greatest value. Pereira calls it an exhilarant, inebriant, phantasmatic, hypnotic or soporific, and stupefacient or narcotic. It is especially employed in neuralgia and painful rheumatic affections, tetanus, and hydrophobia. The extract is prepared from the dried flowering tops of the female plant, from which the resin has not been removed, by taking 1 pound in coarse powder, and macerating for 7 days, in 4 pints of rectified spirit, and then pressing out tho tincture. Distill off the spirit, and evaporate by a water-bath to a proper consistence. Dose, 1/4 to 1 grain. The tincture is made by dissolving 1 ounce of the extract in 1 pint of rectified spirit. Dose, from 5 to 20 minims. (See Johnston's "Chemistry of Common Life.").
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