Journal of the California Cannabis Research Medical
Parke, Davis Marketed Cannabis
Extracts to Doctors with "Buy American" Pitch
By O'Shaughnessy's News Service
Archivist Michael Krawitz has obtained via ebay a promotional
booklet attesting to the widespread medical use of cannabis in the
U.S. a century ago.
The handsomely designed and printed 16-page booklet was published by
Parke, Davis & Co. to market its “Cannabis Americana” to
doctors and pharmacists —just as drug companies nowadays do when
they have a potential “blockbuster” emerging from the pipeline.
Just as drug companies do nowadays, Parke , Davis knocks the competition,
which in this instance was cannabis imported from India. And just as
they do nowadays, they invoke science to peddle their wares, although
the science is not entirely rigorous (to put it mildly).
Under a first-page headline defining Cannabis Americana as “Cannabis
Sativa Grown in America,” the marketing department gets right
to the point:
Much has been written relative to the comparative activity of Cannabis
Sativa grown in different climates (Cannabis Indica, Mexicana, and
Americana). It has been generally assumed that the American-grown drug
was practically worthless therapeutically, and that Cannabis Sativa
grown in India must be used if one would obtain physiologically active
Furthermore, it has been claimed that the best Indian drug is that
grown especially for medicinal purposes, the part used consisting of
the flowering tops of the unfertilized female plants, care being taken
during the growing of the drug to weed out the male plants. According
to our experience, this is an erroneous notion, as we have repeatedly
found that the Indian drug which contains large quantities of seed
is fully as active as the drug which consists of the flowering tops
only, provided the seed be removed before percolation.”
This may reflect the crudeness of their testing system, which the booklet
will describe as state-of-the art.
Several years ago we began a systematic investigation of American grown
Cannabis Sativa. Samples from a number of localalities (sic) were obtained
and carefully investigated. From these samples fluid and solid extracts
were prepared according to the Pharma-copoeal method, and carefully
tested upon animals for physiological activity, and eventually they
were standardized by physiological methods. Repeated tests have convinced
us that Cannabis Americana properly grown and cured is fully as active
as the best Indian drug, while on the other hand we have frequently
found Indian Cannabis to be practically inert.
Before marketing preparations of Cannabis Americana, however, we placed
specimens of the fluid and solid extracts in the hands of experienced
clinicians for practical test; and from these men, all of whom had
used large quantities of Cannabis Indica in practice, we have received
reports which affirm they have been unable to determine any therapeutic
difference between Cannabis Americana and Cannabis Indica. We are,
therefore of the opinion that Cannabis Americana will be found equally
as efficient as, and perhaps more uniformly reliable than, Cannabis
Indica obtained from abroad, since it is evident that with a source
of supply at our very doors proper precautions can be taken to obtain
crude drug of the best quality.” [continued below]
"Repeated tests have convinced us that Cannabis Americana properly
grown and cured is fully as active as the best Indian drug, while
on the other hand we have frequently found Indian Cannabis to
be practically inert.."
The proper botanical name of the drug under consideration is Cannabis
Sativa. The Indian plant was formerly supposed to be a distinct species
per se, but botanists now consider the two plants to be identical.
The old name of Cannabis Indica, however, has been retained in medicine.
Cannabis Indica simply means Cannabis Sativa grown in the Indies,
and Cannabis Americana means Cannabis Sativa grown in America...
The physiological action of Cannabis Americana is precisely the same
as that of Cannabis Indica. The effects of this drug are said to
be due chiefly to its action upon the central nervous system...
Cannabis Americana is employed for the same medicinal purposes as Cannabis
Indica, which is frequently used as a hypnotic in cases of sleeplessness,
in nervous exhaustion, and as a sedative in patients suffering from
pain. Its greatest use has perhaps been in the treatment of various
nervous and mental diseases, although it is found as an ingredient
in many cough mixtures. In general, Cannabis Americana can be used
when a mild hypnotic or sedative is indicated, as it is said not
to disturb digestion, and it produces no subsequent nausea and depression.
It is of use in cases of migraine, particularly when opium is contraindicated.
It is recommended in paralysis agitans to quiet the tremors, in spasm
of the bladder, and in sexual impotence not the result of organic
disease, especially in combinations with nux vomica and ergot.
Extractum Cannabis Americae, 0.01 gramme (1-5 grain), Fluidextractum
Cannabis Americanae, 0.05 Cc (1 minim). The dosage of Cannabis Americana
is the same as that of Cannabis Indica, as from our experiments we
find there is no therapeutic difference in the physiological action
of the two drugs. [continued below]
The centerfold: Male and female plants were reproduced by a
color-printing technique superior to modern methods (but more
labor-intensive). Booklet was printed on glossy stock that has
not lost its quality in almost a century.
Cannabis Sativa, when grown in the United States (Cannabis Americana)
under careful precautions, is found to be fully as active as the
best imported Indian-grown Cannabis Sativa, as shown by laboratory
and clinical tests. The advantages of using carefully prepared solid
and fluid extracts of the home-grown drug are apparent when it is
considered that every step of the process, from the planting of the
drug to the final marketing of the finished product, is under the
supervision of experts. The imported drug varies extremely in activity
and much of it is practically inert or flagrantly adulterated.
Extractum Cannabis Americanae is put up in jars containing one ounce;
Fluidextractum Cannabis Americanae is put up in bottles of one-quarter
pint and one pint, respectively.”
There follows a centerfold —lovely drawings of the male and
female plants, reproduced by four-color printing on one page, and a
black and white photo of Parke, Davis’s laboratory of medical
research, a four-story brick building on a river bank. Looks like a
nice place to work. In those days they had windows that open...
The second half of the booklet reprints an article entitled “A
Pharmacological Study of Cannabis Americana (Cannabis Sativa)” by
Parke, Davis researchers E.M. Houghton and H.C. Hamilton, which ran
in the American Journal of Pharmacy January, 1908. It is, shall we
say, lacking in rigor.
Houghton’s specialty was testing drugs on animals. His method “consists
essentially in the careful observation of the physiological effects
produced upon dogs from the internal administration of the preparation
of the drug under test. It is necessary in selecting the test animals
to pick out those that are easily susceptible to the action of cannabis,
since dogs as well as human beings vary considerably in their reaction
to the drug...
In preparing the test, the standard dose (in the form of solid extract
for convenience) is administered internally in a small capsule. The
dog’s tongue is drawn forward between the teeth with the left
hand, and the capsule placed on the back part of the tongue with the
right hand. The tongue is then quickly released, and the capsule is
swallowed with ease. In order that the drug may be rapidly absorbed,
food should be withheld 24 hours before the test and an efficient cathartic
given if needed.”
Within a comparatively short time the dog begins to show the characteristic
action of the drug. There are three typical effects to be noticed from
active extracts on susceptible animals: first a stage of excitability,
then a stage of incoordination, followed by a period of drowsiness.
The first of these is so dependent on the characteristics of the dog
used that it is of little value for judging the activity of the drug,
while with only a few exceptions the second, or the stage of incoordination,
invariably follows in one to two hours: the dog loses control of its
legs and of the muscles supporting its head, so that when nothing occurs
to attract its attention its head will droop, its body sway, and when
severely affected, the animal will stagger and fall, the intoxication
being peculiarly suggestive and striking.
Experience is necessary on the part of the observer to determine just
when the physiological effects of the drug begin to manifest themselves,
since there is always, as in the case of many chemical tests, a personal
factor to be guarded against. When an active extract is given to a
susceptible animal, in the smallest dose that will produce any perceptible
effect, one must watch closely for the slightest trace of incoordination,
lack of attention, or drowsiness. It is particularly necessary for
the animals to be confined in a room where nothing will excite them,
since when their attention is drawn to anything of interest the typical
effects of the drug may disappear.”
The influence of the test dose of the unknown drug is carefully compared
with that of the same dose of the standard preparation administered
to another test dog at the same time and under the same conditions.
Finally, when the animals become drowsy, the observations are recorded
and the animals are returned to their quarters.
The second day following, the observations upon the two dogs are reversed,
i.e. the animal receiving the test dose of the unknown receives a test
dose of the known, and vice versa, and a second observation is made.
If one desires to make a very accurate quantitative determination,
it is advisable to use, not two dogs, but four or five, and to study
the effects of the test dose of the unknown specimen in comparison
with the test dose of the known, making several observations on alternate
days. If the unknown is below standard activity, the amount should
be increased until the effect produced is the same as for the test
dose of the standard. If the unknown is above strength, the test dose
is diminished accordingly. From the dose of the unknown selected as
producing the same action as the test dose of the standard, the amount
of dilution or concentration necessary is determined. The degree of
accuracy with which the test is carried out will depend largely upon
the experience of the observer and the care he exercises.
Another point to be noted in the use of dogs for standardizing Cannabis
is that, although they never appear to lose their susceptibility, the
same dog cannot be used indefinitely for accurate testing. After a
time they become so accustomed to the effects of the drug that they
refuse to stand on their feet, and so do not show the typical incoordination
which is its most characteristic and constant action.”
Did the test animals learn the drill, get bored, or go on strike?
Previous to the adoption of the physiological test over 12 years ago,
we were often annoyed by complaints of physicians that certain lots
of drugs were inert; in fact some hospitals, before accepting their
supplies of hemp preparations, asked for samples in order to make rough
tests upon their patients before ordering.”
Or did they just want some freebies?
“ Since the adoption of the
new test we have not had a well authenticated report of inactivity,
although many tons of the various preparations
of Cannabis Indica have been tested and supplied for medicinal purposes.
the beginning of our observations careful search of the literature
on the subject was made to determine the toxicity of the
hemp. Not a single case of fatal poisoning have we been able to find
reported, although often alarming symptoms may occur. A dog weighing
25 pounds received an injection of two ounces of an active U.S.P. fluid
extract in the jugular vein with the expectation that it would certainly
be sufficient to produce death. To our surprise, the animal, after
being unconscious for about a day and a half, recovered completely.
This dog received not alone the active constituents of the drug but
also the amount of alcohol contained in the fluid extract. Another
dog received about 7 grammes of Solid Extract Cannabis with the same
result. We have never been able to give an animal a sufficient quantity
of a U.S. P. or other preparation of the Cannabis (Indica or Americana)
to produce death.”
Solid Extract Cannabis is also known as hashish. Seven grammes = 1/4
“ There is some variation in the amount of extractive obtained, as would
be expected from the varying amount of stems, seeds, etc., in the different
samples. Likewise there is a certain amount of variation in the physiological
action, but in every case the administration of 0.01 gramme of the
extract per kilo body weight has elicited the characteristic symptoms
in properly selected animals.
“ The repeated tests we have made convince us that Cannabis Americana
properly grown and cured is fully as active as the best Indian drug.
“ Furthermore, we have placed out quantities of fluid extract and solid
extract in the hands of experienced clinicians, and from eight of these
men, who are all large users of the drug, we have received reports
which state that they are unable to determine any therapeutic difference
between the Cannabis Americana and the Cannabis Indica.
1. The method outlined in the paper for determining the physiological
activity of Cannabis Sativa by internal administration to especially
selected dogs, has been found reliable when the standard dose of
extract, 0.01 gramme per kilo body weight is tested on animals, the
effects being noted by an experienced observer in comparison with
the effects of the same quantity of a standard preparation.
2. Cannabis Sativa, when grown in various localities of the United
States and Mexico, is found to be fully as active as the best imported
Indian-grown Cannabis Sativa, as shown by laboratory and clinical tests.”
Evidently Parke, Davis owned land in Mexico or contracted with farmers
there to produce Cannabis Americana.
O’Shaughnessy’s thanks Michael Krawitz of The Cannabis
Museum for allowing us to print the Parke, Davis booklet. Krawitz collects “artifacts
portraying the history of cannabis and interesting associated human
culture” which he “conserves, researches, communicates
and exhibits, for purposes of study, education and enjoyment.” He
hopes to have 100,000 artifacts online at www.cannabismuseum.org by
2008. Says MK: “Those interested in the activities of the museum
or in helping with funding or artifact acquisition are invited to keep
in touch with the museum by email and stop by the website from time
to time for updates.
The cannabis story is truly amazing and is growing exponentially. The
Cannabis Museum is dedicated to not only preserving and communicating
this story but creating a safe space for it to be heard and spoken.”
Michael Krawitz can be reached at P.O. Box 215 Ellsiton, Virginia 24087,