Cannabis smokers were unharmed during the Philadelphia yellow fever epidemic (1793)

Philadelphia yellow fever epidemic (1793)

During the hot, humid summer of 1793, thousands of Philadelphians got horribly sick, suffering from fevers and chills, jaundiced skin, stomach pains and vomit tinged black with blood.

Philadelphians began keeping their distance from each other and avoided shaking hands. They covered their faces with handkerchiefs dipped in vinegar or smoked tobacco, which they thought would prevent them from breathing in contaminated air.

By the end of August, as more and more people began dying from this mysterious affliction, wealthier residents of the nation’s capital were fleeing in droves.

Cannabis smokers

While those who had the means to leave the city quickly did so, Philadelphia physician Dr. Benjamin Rush (1745-1813) decided to stay. He observed the symptoms and spread of the disease closely, hoping to uncover some definite cause and means of prevention.

“There is something very singular (says the doctor) in the constitution of the negroes, which renders them not liable to this fever; for though many of them were as much exposed as the nurses to the infection, yet I never knew of one instance of this fever among them, though they are equally subject with the white people to the bilious fever.”

Dr. Benjamin Rush, An Account of the Bilious Remitting Yellow Fever, In the Year 1793.

The city’s free black community were mostly unharmed as they were smoking cannabis at home. The free people largely stayed behind, and many were enlisted to help care for the sick.

Although many people back in the days might not be aware of the fact, cannabis have a strong antivirus property. Back in the days, people were treating patients with bloodletting, and all kind of pseudo-science. They were calling cannabis users as a witch or evil.

However present science shows how wrong we have known about cannabis. Like a Déjà vu back in Philadelphia, cannabis smoke can stop COVID-19 pandemic.


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