Hua Toa used Cannabis in Anesthesia over 1800 Years Ago

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Following on from our History of Cannabis article, ISMOKE takes a look at some historical figures you may not have come across that used cannabis for its medicinal properties.


Hua Tuo is somebody you probably haven’t heard of unless you’ve studied ancient Eastern history.  Yet he is considered on par with Hippocrates who is literally the father of Western medicine. Hua lived in China from 145 – 208A.D. in time of the late Eastern Han dynasty.

So who was Hua Toa and what made him so awesome? Amongst many other remarkable things for someone living over 1800 years ago including surgical procedures and writing a book that was sadly lost to history, The Book of Later Han records Hua as the first person in China to use anesthesia during surgery (Also see Bian Que).  Just to put that into perspective, Henry Hill Hickman was experimenting with Carbon Dioxide as an anesthetic (bad idea, anyone?) in the 1820s and it would be another 19 years before people began being knocked out by various chemicals including Ether and chloroform during surgery.

Hua Toa used a general anaesthetic combining wine with a herbal concoction called mafeisan (literally “cannabis boil powder”) to knock people out.  This concoction would render the patient unconscious for long enough for Hua to carry out surgical procedures.  The full details of Hua Tuo’s innovative anaesthetic mafeisan “cannabis boiling powder” are still a long-standing mystery.

Hua’s other therapies and body building methods were also a significant milestone in Ancient Chinese history. He introduced externally extruding heart, mouth-To-mouth artificial respiration, as well as the body-building Five Mimic-Animal Exercise. The legend of Hua Tuo’s curing Guan Yu by cutting bone can be found in Romance of the Three Kingdoms, a historical novel by Luo Guanzhong written in the 14th century. Hua Tuo was even called “Originator of Surgery” by later generations.

Hua was described as “an immortal who had passed the gates of this life” and “a man with the complexion of a youth and a snowy beard”. It is documented that he travelled to numerous places in China, collecting herbal medicine and learning local medical knowledge from residents of different villages. The fact that he was using cannabis is amazing because it shows that the medical properties of this wonderful plant were being recognised over 1800 years ago.

, Hua Toa used Cannabis in Anesthesia over 1800 Years Ago

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