Connect with us


How Garcia de Orta distinguished hemp from cannabis in 1563



Listen to this article
Image of Garcia de Orta, Doctor and Pharmacologist, on a 20 escudo banknote, the currency of Portugal before the Euro. Photo:

As unlikely as it may seem, Europeans dealt with cannabis for centuries, unaware of its psychoactive powers — in fact, until the 1534th century, the concept of a drug, understood as a consciousness-altering agent, was completely foreign to them. But things began to change due to the curiosity and free spirit of Garcia de Orta, who in XNUMX traveled to Goa, then the capital of the Portuguese empire in India.

Garcia de Orta (1499-1568) was a Portuguese Jewish physician who lived in India, a pioneering author on botany, pharmacology, tropical medicine and anthropology. The book he published in 1563 includes references to hemp and cannabis, then known as “bblood”.

In the three decades following his arrival in the East, Garcia de Orta, born in Castelo de Vide around 1499 and died in Goa in 1568, compiled an exhaustive list of Indian “medicinal and useful” plants, published in Goa in 1563 under the title Colloquiums on Simples and Drugs and Medicinal Things of India. Considered one of the first manifestations of modern experimental science, this work was hailed in Renaissance Europe as the most important work on medicinal flora since Dioscorides' botany compendium, which was a school 1500 years ago — for this reason, today the Colóquios de Garcia de Orta are perhaps the only Portuguese work to have achieved universal status.

But what makes the Colloquiums a landmark of modern science is the fact that the work reflects the belief, then pioneer, that verification and experience are the true sources of learning and knowledge. Says Orta: “I have no hatred except for errores; nor have I love but the truth.”

And, in part, this scientific spirit of dispassionate observation is more remarkable than when Garcia de Orta dwells on visionary drugs used in India, such as opium, datura, and bangue, a psychoactive cannabis preparation—the considerations that Portuguese naturalist makes about these substances and their effects reveal such an absence of prejudice that, nowadays, more than remarkable, they would hardly find a parallel. As for bangue, Orta dedicates a chapter to it, the Colóquio Oitavo do Bangue, in which he explains “what things he (…) “And believe that because this [bang] is so used and by so many people, that there is no mystery and benefit” (it is even known that the bangue was sold “in a pharmacy made”). 

How Garcia de Orta distinguished hemp from cannabis
Despite noting the similarities between the bangue plant and hemp, Orta considered “not to be this flax alcanave”, not only because “the seed is smaller and no longer white like the other”, but mainly due to the fact that the plant of the bang not being used in India to produce the linen “from which we make our shirts”. Orta could not have known that he was comparing the two strains of cannabis, sativa, the familiar hemp, and indica, which he had discovered in India — this classification would only be made in the XNUMXth century, precisely on the basis of data compiled by the first natural scientists. , like Orta.

Statue of Garcia de Orta in front of the Institute of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in Lisbon, Portugal

To our (Portugal's) disgrace, the afterword to Garcia de Orta's story is sadly familiar. According to the chronicles, after the death of the naturalist, his wife confessed to the Inquisition that, despite being a professed Catholic, Orta had always practiced the Jewish religion in secret. (Orta's parents were New Christians, having renounced the Jewish faith to escape exile when D. Manuel I expelled the Jews from Portugal.) And, living up to their sinister parchments, the Inquisition ordered not only that Orta's corpse exhumed and burned in the public square, but that all copies of the Colloquiums were destroyed by fire.

Fortunately for the heritage of humanity, however, the obscurantism prevailing in Portugal was not able to reduce to ashes “the fruit of that Orta” (in Camões' expression). Since knowledge had ceased to be considered the work of the Devil beyond the Pyrenees, in the year of the naturalist's death, the Colloquiums had been translated into Latin by a French botanist. In the following decades, editions appeared in Italian, French and English and, in the 1895th century, Orta's treatise had already become a mandatory reference work for the young European scientific community. In Portugal, the Colloquiums would only be reissued in XNUMX.
This text, by Luís Torres Fontes and João Carvalho, was originally published in the Portuguese edition of the book “the king goes naked”, by Jack Herer, and reproduced in #3 of the Cannadouro Magazine.



[Disclaimer: Please note that this text was originally written in Portuguese and is translated into English and other languages ​​using an automatic translator. Some words may differ from the original and typos or errors may occur in other languages.]


What do you do with €3 a month? Become one of our Patrons! If you believe that independent cannabis journalism is necessary, subscribe to one of the levels of our Patreon account and you will have access to unique gifts and exclusive content. If there are many of us, we can make a difference with little!

Click here to comment
Notify of

Inline feedback
View all comments

Watch the Documentary "Patients"

Documentary Patients Laura Ramos help us grow

Mais recentes

Events3 days ago

ICBC Berlin shines again. It's the beginning of a new era for the cannabis industry in Germany

ICBC Berlin was the first major international cannabis conference to take place after the legalization of adult use in...

International4 days ago

USA: Mike Tyson products recalled for mold contamination

California authorities have issued a mandatory recall notice for two products from Mike Tyson's cannabis brand,...

Events5 days ago

4:20 is coming and there are celebrations in Porto and Lisbon

The date for celebrating cannabis culture is approaching! This Saturday, April 20th, is the day when...

International1 weeks ago

Paul Bergholts, alleged leader of Juicy Fields, detained in the Dominican Republic

Paul Bergholts, the alleged leader of the Juicy Fields pyramid scheme, has been detained in the Dominican Republic and will be subjected to...

Health2 weeks ago

Cannabinoids reveal promising results in the treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder

An investigation carried out by Khiron LifeSciences and coordinated by Guillermo Moreno Sanz suggests that medicines based on...

International2 weeks ago

Juicy Fields case: 9 detained by Europol and Eurojustice. Scam exceeds 645 million euros

A joint investigation conducted by several European authorities, supported by Europol and Eurojust, culminated in the arrest of nine suspects...

International2 weeks ago

Regular cannabis users may require more anesthesia during medical procedures

Regular cannabis users may require more anesthesia during medical procedures to remain sedated compared to...

International2 weeks ago

The future of CBD in Japan: How legal reforms will shape the market

Late last year, Japan took a big step towards cannabis reform after approving...

National2 weeks ago

Portugal: GreenBe Pharma obtains EuGMP certification at Elvas facilities

GreenBe Pharma, a medical cannabis company located in Elvas, Portugal, has obtained EU-GMP certification under...

National3 weeks ago

Álvaro Covões, from Everything is New, buys Clever Leaves facilities in Alentejo for 1.4 million euros

Álvaro Covões, founder and CEO of the show promotion agency 'Everything is New', which organizes one of the biggest festivals in...