Can CBD help athletic performance?

For high-level athletes, and those of us who strive to reach such heights, the search for performance-enhancing substances is eternal and challenging. Supplements have to conform to anti-doping laws, be safe, and preferably natural.

Enter CBD, or cannabidiol. CBD is currently creating ripples among athletes, who claim benefits as varied as accelerated recovery from injury, sounder sleep, and reduced muscle pain.

Although many organizations regard cannabis’ other main cannabinoid, THC, an illicit substance, the World Anti-Doping Agency permits the use of pure CBD isolate. CBD is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid with anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, anti-anxiety, and analgesic properties, and could represent a legal, game-changing supplement.

CBD products targeting both recreational and elite athletes, such as cbdMD and fourfivecbd, are already embraced by athletes across diverse codes.

But is the power of CBD just hype? Is there substantial evidence that CBD can offer athletes that elusive edge? Or are these claims simply PR spin for a trending cannabinoid?



The complete guide to CBD (cannabidiol)


What do studies say about CBD?

According to recent research released in 2020, CBD may support athletes in many ways.

Reduced inflammation and pain

A 2020 review published in Sports Medicine analyzed preclinical animal studies and clinical CBD trials in non-athlete populations. The authors found that CBD may promote physiological, biochemical, and psychological effects potentially beneficial to athletes.

One of the key findings of the review is that CBD could help alleviate inflammatory pain associated with tissue damage and neuropathic pain caused by nerve damage or irritation. This could signal an important advantage for endurance athletes: repetitive, long-distance workouts can provoke inflammation and irritation in peripheral nerves.

Protection against gastrointestinal damage

The above Sports Medicine study also found that CBD may protect against gastrointestinal damage. Athletes who regularly engage in strenuous activity can reduce oxygen and nutrient delivery to their gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

GI stress can negatively influence exercise performance and recovery due to nausea, vomiting, and impaired nutritional uptake. Preclinical research has shown that CBD can reduce tissue damage and restore the permeability of the intestine.

Bone health

The above authors additionally provided evidence that CBD may support healthy bone deposition and help heal fractures. Healthy bones are essential for athletes, and bone health is sometimes compromised by traumatic injuries or inadequate energy availability.

Management of sports performance anxiety

CBD may also help athletes manage sports performance anxiety, according to the Sports Medicine review. Anxiety before a competition can cause sleep loss, increase energy expenditure, and impair nutritional intake.

According to the authors of the review, studies in non-athlete human populations have indicated that CBD may relieve anxiety in stressful situations. CBD could even be more effective when teamed with psychological interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapies.



How to use CBD for anxiety


Neuroprotective qualities to protect against brain injury

Another 2020 study, published in Pharmacological Research, also weighed the validity and applicability of existing CBD research for athletes. These authors emerged with similar conclusions but with a slightly different emphasis.

CBD’s neuroprotective properties were singled out for their potential to counteract harm that can occur following a sports-related concussion. These concussions are considered a variation of mild traumatic brain injury and can lead to harmful long-term complications such as neuronal damage.

The authors of the study emphasize recent research in an animal model demonstrating that CBD oil could help treat pain, aggression, and depression linked to mild traumatic brain injury. CBD oil also helped to counteract neuronal damage in the brain’s prefrontal cortex. The cannabinoid additionally inhibits oxidative stress and neuroinflammation, conferring further neuroprotective benefits.

These are promising findings as there are currently no effective pharmacological therapies available to manage mild traumatic brain injury. Repetitive traumatic brain injury, which can be common in contact sports, may also lead to chronic neurodegenerative diseases such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

Sleep and wake cycles

The 2020 Pharmacological Research study also underlined the sleep-altering potential of CBD. Research in animal models has discovered that CBD may be both a sleep-inducing agent and a wake-promoting agent. This ability to produce opposite effects—known as biphasic effects—depends on the dose being used and seems to work most successfully when the natural sleep-wake rhythm has been disturbed.

Lower doses of CBD seem to promote wakefulness, while higher doses appear to sedate and usher in sleep. Both properties may be beneficial: While the quest for a solid night’s sleep is invaluable before a big game, staying awake could also be performance-enhancing for athletes competing in ultra-marathons or endurance events.

But do any of these advantages come at a cost to performance on the field? Enhanced recovery and sound sleep may sound attractive, but not if they mean compromised balance or coordination.

According to the Sports Medicine study, however, the answer is no. The researchers assessed clinical trials investigating the impact of CBD on cognitive and psychomotor function and found that current data suggests CBD is unlikely to negatively impact either in healthy individuals.



Does CBD help or hinder sleep?


What do experts and athletes say about CBD?

For Dr. Elaine Burns, medical director of Southwest Medical Marijuana Physicians Group and founder of Dr. Burns’ ReLeaf CBD products, CBD holds promise for athletes. Burns cautions nonetheless that current knowledge is limited, because most data is based on animal studies where animals tend to receive high doses of CBD.

“There is much to learn about translating dosing from animals to humans,” she said. That being said, the potential benefits are abundant, especially when it comes to treating and reducing inflammation.

“CBD can help athletes with recovery by reducing inflammation and aiding in muscle relaxation,” said Burns. “It’s an anti-inflammatory that works by reducing pro-inflammatory markers in the body. There’s also research showing that CBD is effective in combating neuroinflammation, making CBD interesting for athletes who play sports like football or boxing where concussions are common.”

For athletes curious to experiment with CBD, Burns advises opting for sublingual tinctures.



Is CBD legal in your state? Check this chart to find out


“I think drops administered sublingually should be the preferred method. This way CBD gets into your system quicker and has higher bioavailability so that dose can be reduced.”

For Stu Kam, jiu-jitsu athlete and owner of ATH Organics, CBD gummies represent a non-negotiable part of his supplemental regime.

“As a Brazilian jiu-jitsu athlete and competitor, CBD has been a staple in my training regimen to help with my recovery and specifically my rest,” said Kam.

He continued: “Every night I take 25mg of CBD gummies to help me sleep after training. Prior to using CBD, I’d have a hard time falling asleep after training, which ultimately led to poor recovery. Since taking CBD, I’ve noticed a much deeper sleep and the ability to train at my full potential the next day.”

The final word

As is often the case with cannabis research, more data on human populations is needed for more conclusive outcomes. The authors of both the Sports Medicine and Pharmacological Research studies emphasize the preliminary nature of their findings. While the current data is very promising, clinical research in athlete populations will provide more definitive insights into CBD’s utility.

Fortunately, it looks like such research initiatives are already getting underway. In 2019, Aurora Cannabis teamed up with the UFC to develop clinical research on CBD, athlete wellness, and recovery, and other research is sure to come. Expect to see more studies unfolding in this space in the near future.

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Supreme Court declines to hear challenge to marijuana’s Schedule I status

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to consider Washington v. Barr, a case that challenged the federal Schedule I status of cannabis. The news came in a routine Supreme Court announcement earlier this morning. The court listed Washington v. Barr among the many cases that were denied certiorari.

The court’s action wasn’t surprising, but it came as a disappointment to the many plaintiffs and lawyers who have been working on the case for more than three years.

The lawsuit began in 2017, when it was called Washington v. Sessions, because Jeff Sessions was then the U.S. Attorney General. Five plaintiffs, including former NFL player Marvin Washington; 12-year-old Colorado medical refugee Alexis Bortell; youngster Jagger Cotte; US military veteran Jose Belen; and the Cannabis Cultural Association, a nonprofit that helps people of color benefit from cannabis in states where it’s legal, challenged the constitutionality of the classification of marijuana under the federal Controlled Substances Act. The case received its first hearing in federal court in 2018.

Leading the case was David C. Holland, a litigator in New York City and the executive and legal director of Empire State NORML. He’s former counsel to High Times Magazine and a member of the New York Cannabis Bar Association.

The case had been rejected in a series of lower federal court rulings. Plaintiffs had hoped to secure certiorari before the U.S. Supreme Court and force the nation’s highest court to confront the baseless standing of marijuana’s Schedule I classification.

Sebastien Cotte, whose son Jagger was a plaintiff in the case, told Marijuana Moment associate editor Kyle Jaeger: “While not surprising, as less than one percent of all petitions to the Supreme Court get a hearing, it is still very disappointing, as we been fighting for this case for over three years now.”


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Top 9 arguments in support of marijuana legalization and regulation

Some 66% of Americans now support cannabislegalization, according to Pew and Gallup polling in 2019. That means convincing the holdouts is going to become even harder.

Thisgeneral election on Nov. 3, 2020, five tough states includingMississippi have marijuana law reform on the ballot. Plus, the winners of 35 openSenate seats, as well as the race for President will either advance legalization federally, or thwart it.

Meanwhile, at the state and local level, there’s choices about allowing cannabis stores in towns or banning them; or just decriminalizing cannabis.

Eleven states have legalization, and 33 have medical cannabis, and the results are conclusive. Here’s 9 sharp arguments in favor of cannabis legalization and regulation.

Because cannabis is a medicine

Epidiolex, sativex, gw pharmaceuticals, greenwich biosciences
Epidiolex starts with cannabis plants patented for their cannabinoid and terpene expression. (Courtesy Greenwich Biosciences)

It’s a scientific fact that cannabis fights nausea in chemo patients, and intractable seizures in kids. For anxiety, marijuana is less addictive and toxic than benzodiazepines like lorazepam (ativan). The medical benefits go on and on.

Under federal law, cannabis is considered as dangerous as methamphetamine and heroin. Almost no one thinks that’s true. Humans have been using cannabinoids to feel less pain and inflammation, and feel more relaxation and oneness with the universe, for several thousand years.

We should stop wasting scarce resources

Each year, police make 663,000 pot arrests, costing the US tens of billions of dollars in police time and money that should be better spent testing the rape kit backlog and arresting violent felons.

Just like alcohol prohibition, cannabis prohibitionpays for a massive, violent illicit market. The original goal of marijuana prohibition in the 1930s was to discourage use of it. The opposite happened—in the last 90 years cannabis use exploded in the United States. Virtually any American who wants to obtain cannabis today can find it; they just can’t buy taxed, tested, regulated herb.

We should preserve freedom and increase justice

(AP File Photo/Noah Berger,File)

Everyone has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—as long as they aren’t harming others. It’s a matter of freedom and personal choice for adults to be able to choose weed.

Cannabis prohibition infringes on many rights, including the right to own a gun, and the right to privacy, especially around traffic stops and searches. In legal states like California, marijuana arrests have collapsed from historic highs of more than 100,000 per year to1,181 felony arrests in 2019—the fewest since 1954. And you don’t have to worry about being pulled over and hassled for the mere smell of weed, which cops can fabricate.

Prohibition has become a pretext for arresting decent, law-abiding people

The United States has the largest prison population of any nation in the world, and marijuana prohibition is a major driver of that shameful state of affairs.

In states where cannabis is illegal, any cop can stop and search any person at any time based on a claimed suspicion or smell of marijuana. These pretext “stop-and-frisk” searches became notorious in New York City, but they happen all the time in other jurisdictions as well. The slightest amount of weed, or even an empty pipe, can result in arrest and a life hobbled by the thousands of repercussions that a drug arrest carries.

Black Americans do not use more cannabis per capita than white people, but police arrest Black people 3.73 times as often as whites for cannabis crimes. The war on marijuana has been a war on the poor and people of color from day one. “ It’s an extension of the old Jim Crow laws,” said Nate Bradley, a former cop, and head of the Cannabis Consumer Policy Council.

Legalization creates jobs and raises tax revenue

Source: Leafly cannabis jobs reports, 2017-2020.

Legalization raises money. Prohibition burns it. Legal, state-licensed cannabis is already a $10.73 billion industry in the US responsible for243,700 jobs in the US.

In California’s second year of legal sales, 2019, the state collected $305.3 million in cannabis excise tax revenue alone, and an estimated$635 million total in state and local revenue.

Find legal cannabis nearby. Order on Leafly, pickup today

In Colorado, cannabis pays for scholarships for teens instead of causing them to be sent to prison.

Thanks to legal record expungement programs, job seekers face fewer barriers to hiring, and fewer qualified employees face the loss of a job due to their own legal off-the-job use of cannabis.

Legalization increases product safety

Thanks to legalization, there’s now cannabis that a) you do not have to smoke (liketopicals), and b) that does not get you ‘high’ (ieCBD).

In a legal state, homemade mystery brownies are replaced by edibles that are precisely dosed and regulated for food safety. Adults can regulate their THC intake responsibly.

Prohibition doesn’t make cannabis use go away. Instead, it drives all facets of the industry underground, making cultivation, production, distribution, and possession more expensive and dangerous. During alcohol prohibition, ‘bathtub gin’ killed tens of thousands of Americans. In 2019, adulterated THC vape cartridges in the illicit market killed nearly 100 Americans and sickened thousands.

Regulating cannabis like alcohol takes the chaos out of production and distribution. Licensed and regulated companies replace violent drug cartels and street gangs. Consumers get safe, tested cannabis products, instead of pesticide and mold-contaminated products.

Marijuana is less harmful than alcohol

Research has found that moderate, adult cannabis use is less harmful in the short, medium, and long-term than other legal substances.

The CDC found 35,823 alcohol-induced deaths in the US in 2017. By contrast, the CDC did not report a single cannabis-induced death. Alcohol carries 114 times the mortality risk of cannabis. The most potent cannabis concentrate will never kill you, just make you go to sleep. By contrast, a handle of Jack Daniels from the corner store can kill a teen in a couple hours.

Cannabis use does not cause violence or reckless behavior, like alcohol. Cannabis use is also associated with lower BMI and lower rates of diabetes.

Alcohol carries 114 times the mortality risk of cannabis.

The journal Scientific Reports, 2015

Unlike alcohol or tobacco, cannabis use is not independently associated with increased cancer risk. By contrast, tobacco is associated with 30% of all cancer deaths in the US and 87% of lung cancer deaths.

No drug is right for everybody, and adults with contra-indications for cannabis use—like a family history of schizophrenia—should avoid it. Legalization generates funding for health messaging and treatment.

Legalization has not led to increased road deaths

Legalization critics have promised road carnage in the wake of popular votes. Instead road safety has not been meaningfully impacted by legalization. This is largely because the same people are smoking, they’re just doing it legally now.

The gateway theory has been debunked. So has ‘amotivational syndrome’

Cannabis legalization has not ushered people onto harder drugs. “The majority of people who use marijuana do not go on to use other, ‘harder’ substances,” the CDC states.

The charge that marijuana causes an amotivational syndrome has also been debunked. It’s an impossible syndrome to quantify, nor is it easy to isolate cannabis in a causal role. Some people who like to smoke pot also like to sit on the couch—others like to exercise.

Unlike alcohol, cannabis usedoes not damage IQ. Recent twin studies have put that myth to rest.

Legalization has not increased teen use

We are six years into legal marijuana sales, and teen use rates in those states are flat or falling.

“Legalization of marijuana for adults was associated with an 8% decline in past 30-day marijuana use and a 9% decline in frequent use among teens,” the Journal of the American Medical Association reported in 2019.

The tobacco taxation and messaging model has all but snuffed out tobacco smoking among youth—a public health victory. That model has begun to reduce teen use of cannabis in legalization states. By contrast, during past decades of prohibition, teens consistently reported high levels of access to marijuana. That’s because prohibition’s profit margins ever-entice people without money (“Money grows on trees!”). Criminal weed dealers don’t check IDs. Licensed stores do.

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9 Black athletes trailblazing the cannabis industry

For decades, the relationship between cannabis and sports was non-existent. Every major league except Major League Baseball has a ban on cannabis use. And the “character” issues associated with Black athletes and drug use has always been volatile.

Luckily, the ‘20s are shaping up to be a new era for cannabis and the Black athlete. From investments to deals with TV networks, Black athletes are quickly becoming champions of both sports and cannabis. Check out these athletes making history in the cannabis industry.

Being a gold medal Olympian makes you one of the best athletes in the world. And putting your face behind CBD might take you back to the #1 spot. 


Gabby Douglas swinging from gymnastic bar.
(AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

When she’s not winning gold medals at the Summer Olympics, Gabby Douglas is making golden investments. Teaming up with other professional athletes, Gabby invested in Motive CBD. Motive’s product line is geared towards athletes, but with CBD popping up in every gentrified neighborhood, Gabby’s investment might win her a medal.

As one of the most respected and decorated athletes in America, Gabby could be a catalyst for future endorsements for the woman athlete. With topical creams and capsules focused on muscle and joint support, it wouldn’t be surprising if other individual women athletes like Serena Williams, Allyson Felix, or fellow gymnasts Simone Biles follow in her footsteps. Keep raising the bar higher and higher, Gabby.

Basketball players are some of the most influential athletes in the world. It’s no surprise that current and former NBA players are finding more than one way to get into cannabis.


Kevin Durant dunks during the World Basketball Championship.
(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

After joining his former rival, winning back-to-back championships and heckling fans on Twitter with his burner account, Kevin Durant could definitely use a smoke. The NBA still has an active ban on cannabis use, thought they won’t test during the COVID bubble tournament. But KD hasn’t let the ban stop him from making investments. His venture capitalist firm, Thirty Five Ventures, has invested in both cannabis ordering technology and cannabis venture capital.

Durant has spoken out about marijuana, saying “there shouldn’t even be a huge topic around it.” And as one of the best and most visible players in the game, Durant’s views on cannabis are pivotal if the NBA is going to stop testing players for weed.

If the best player can get high and put up high scores, shouldn’t we all be able to?


Matt Barnes reacts after being fouled.
(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Former NBA champions Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson were some of the most competitive and intimidating players in the league. Unless you knew them personally, you would’ve never known that for a lot of their games…they were high.

Since retirement, the two ballers have been very vocal about recreational and therapeutic cannabis use in sports. Apparently, some of our favorite hoopers are firing up more than jump shots before the game.

Stephen Jackson warms up.
(AP Photo/Bahram Mark Sobhani)

Barnes and Jackson have turned their advocacy into a multimedia endeavor with a video podcast called “All the Smoke.” Partnering with Showtime, the stoned duo talks to current and former NBA players, entertainers, and celebrities. And since the NBA season has been on a COVID-19 pause, “All the Smoke” has become a top basketball podcast.

NBA fans have never complained about players appearing to be high on the court, so maybe Barnes and Jackson are the ambassadors the league needs to reverse the ban on cannabis.


Al Harrington drives to the basket.
(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

In the early 2000s, a NBA player being suspended for smoking weed was basically a PR death sentence. The perception of the ‘hip-hop’ generation and marijuana was not a healthy one. Hell, players couldn’t even wear basketball jerseys to the game because it lacked ‘professionalism.’ Well, that stigma has changed, at least off the court, and former NBA player Al Harrington is a big part of the movement.

A non-smoker until 2008, Harrington immediately realized the positive effects of cannabis. The mental health improvements and CBD creams post-surgery helped Harrington transition from being known as an ex-player to a true stoner. His cannabis company, Viola, produces in California, Oregon, Michigan, and Colorado.

Along with selling products, Viola is focused on increasing minority ownership, reinvesting in the community and creating opportunities for equity in the industry. Harrington never won the MVP award, but the advocacy work he’s done definitely deserves recognition.


Gary Payton catches a high pass.
(AP Photo/John Raoux)

Gary Payton was never the tallest player while he played in the NBA, but he was known for being the biggest mouth in the league. The hall of famer, Olympian, and NBA champion is a cultural icon because of his game and his trash talk, but recently he’s done something no other NBA player has ever done. The Oakland native inked a licensing deal with cannabis lifestyle brand, Cookies.

The Gary Payton strain is a cross between The Y and Snowman, two of Cookies’ most sought after strains. Known for its “loud” smell, Gary Payton could run you about $70 for 3.5 grams.  But the dope packaging designs and the connection to this sports star probably make that price point manageable for superfans. Will Gary open the door for more athletes to use their likeness for cannabis? The pothead sports fan inside of me is excited to see.

Week after week, the gladiators of the NFL put their bodies and their futures on the line for the love of the game. But what people don’t see are the measures that players go through in order to perform.


Eugene Monroe runs a drill.
(AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Eugene Monroe was one of the best football players in the world. The high school All-American became one of the best offensive tackles in college football. And as a top 10 pick in the NFL draft, Eugene made his presence felt on the professional level too.

The other thing that Eugene felt was the physical effects of the game. Chronic Trauma Encephalopathy, better known as CTE, is a brain injury detected in 90% of former NFL players examined.

The use of opioids to help with the physicality of the game has been commonplace in the league for years. But In 2016, Monroe became the first active player to advocate for cannabis use in the NFL – disregarding the opioid trend.

Now, as a member of the NFLPA Pain Management Committee and the Athletic Ambassador for Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, Monroe is taking a stand against the mistreatment of all players. Hopefully, Monroe can help push the NFL to a place of progress and equity for all players in the league.


Calvin Johnson warms up before an NFL football game.
(AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)

Yet again, two former Black players are stepping up to the plate, doing things with their earnings from the billion-dollar behemoth football industry. Calvin Johnson Jr. and Rob Sims aren’t the first NFL players to advocate for cannabis use, but they are the first to work with Harvard University. The two former players created Primitiv Group, a cannabis research company fighting the opioid crisis and finding the benefits of the flower.

Rob Sims enters an NFL football game.
(AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)

Based in Michigan, Primitiv is going to work with Harvard on how medical marijuna effects CTE. Since can’t be confirmed until death, science needs to get ahead of it by learning more. The behavior of players can be seen and felt in their everyday life, and it’s easy for serious symptoms to become commonplace. Disturbing behaviors like memory loss are normal for players who have been banging their brains inside of a helmet for 10+ years and are beginning to develop CTE.

With the trend towards federal legalization, there’s only a matter of time before the NFL finally realizes what must be done. Cannabis isn’t worse than the pills. If we can’t see eye to eye about that, then there will be unnecessary pain for future players.

The future is bright for Black athletes in cannabis. With more endorsements, investments and licensing deals bound to happen, when will all the pro leagues in America stop banning cannabis? Will we line up for new strains like we do new sneakers? Only time will tell, but I hope so.

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For these ancient warrior women, cannabis was a part of everyday lifeColleen Fisher Tully

Imagine an enemy army on horseback heading in your direction, shooting hundreds of poison-tipped arrows into the sky, launching javelins, wielding iron blades, and slinging bullets made of lead. If you’re lucky enough to survive the first onslaught, a silent lasso is likely to pull your feet from under you, the impact of the fall knocking your breath away as your killer swiftly approaches. The last thing you see are her tattooed arms reaching up as she lands the pointed end of her battle axe into your skull.

This is what it was like to face the Scythian [SITH-y-an] women warriors, or Amazons, who roamed the expanse of land from the western Black Sea to the Central Asian mountains from about 600 BCE to 400 CE.

While scholars once believed the Amazons were pure myth, recent archeological findings of burial mounds, called kurgans, have backed up Greek, Persian, and Chinese accounts of fearsome bands of nomadic women. And along with weapons, gold, and sacrificed horses, skeletons of these warrior women were buried with personal cannabis-burning kits.

The Scythians, both men and women, were expert horse riders, archers, hunters, herders, and raiders. Their fluid, nomadic lifestyle meant boys and girls were raised equally, with an early focus on horsemanship and weaponry.

The ancient Greeks were both fascinated and terrified by the Scythians, describing their interactions (via trade or war) in astonishing detail through art and written record. They called Scythian women “Amazons,” whom Stanford University historian and author Adrienne Mayor says behaved just like Greek men in their physical aptitude, freedom to roam, and choice of sexual partners, “causing the Greeks to feel awe, fear and respect.”

Two and a half thousand years ago, Greek historian Herodotus documented what he called a Scythian vapor bath: felt tipis constructed over braziers—like little cauldrons to contain burning objects—filled with red-hot rocks that Scythians threw “kannabis” onto before heading inside. An ancient hotbox, if you will: “These seeds smolder and smoke and send forth great clouds of steam. The Scythians howl with joy, awed and elated by their vapor-bath,” he wrote.

Historian Mayor says archeological findings have confirmed equipment for making felt tipis, about four feet in height, along with intact braziers with cannabis residue and burnt seeds found inside. More recovered braziers, or cannabis-burning kits, were found in China’s Pamir Mountains, while residue from burnt cannabis has been found in archeological sites across ancient Scythian territory as far west as Romania.

In a later passage, Herodotus described an “intoxicating fruit” the Scythians threw onto campfires when in larger groups: “As it burns, the people inhale the fumes and become intoxicated, just as Greeks become inebriated with wine… They keep adding more to the fire and become even more intoxicated and dance and sing around the fire.”

A people who spent their lives fighting, raiding, and riding the open plains, they used their downtime to smoke weed and chill. Mayor agrees cannabis was most likely used for recreation and relaxation, as there is no evidence it was used before battle. She adds it also could have been useful for pain management.

In her book The Amazons: Lives of Warrior Women Across the Ancient Lands, Mayor describes some of the injuries found on female Scythian skeletons: healed-over fractures consistent with falls from horses, blunt-force skull fractures, slashed ribs, embedded arrows, stab wounds by daggers, and fractures from punching enemies and blocking hits.

Given the likelihood of injury for the average Scythian, and prevalence of cannabis use, she says it’s safe to assume the plant was used to alleviate battle wounds in addition to arthritis and other injuries.

In 1993, the mummified body of an elaborately tattooed woman was found in a kurgan high in the Altai Mountains. Dubbed “Princess Ukok” or the “Siberian Ice Princess,” her 2,500-year-old remains were scanned with an MRI, revealing she had suffered from acute breast cancer. She was buried with a container of cannabis and a personal burning kit, leading researchers at the time to speculate she used cannabis to treat her cancer.

However, well-worn burning kits have been discovered among other Scythian burial sites in the area—with both men and women—which Mayor reiterates means cannabis was part of everyday life, not just for disease management.

Wrote Herodotus: “A plant called kannabis grows in Scythia, similar to flax but much thicker and taller. It is wild in Scythia but the Thracians cultivate this kannabis and weave garments from it that are just like linen.”

Easily grown across the Eurasian steppes, hemp pollen, fiber, and textiles have been found in ancient sites from the Black Sea to China. “Hemp was prized for the flax-like fiber that can be plaited into twine or rope, and also woven into textiles for clothing. So Scythian women probably used hemp to make lariats, useful every day with herding their horses but also as a weapon,” says Mayor.

The lariat—or lasso—associated with fictional Amazonian Wonder Woman, was likely borrowed from ancient Greek art. “Scythian women were notorious for their use of lassos in battle,” confirms Mayor. On horseback, a lasso takes advantage of a horse’s strength to both incapacitate the enemy and bring them to the ground within seconds and, if necessary, drag them to death. Slingshots would also have been made from hemp or wool, making pebbles or fashioned bullets just as harmful as arrows.

Ancient Scythia was not a singular nation, but a collective of nomadic tribes who shared similar languages and culture. Dozens of nationalities now lay claim to the lands these fearsome men and women once roamed, warred, and smoked their cannabis. In effect, the soul of the Amazon could be in more of us than we realize.

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