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Cannabis and the Knights Templar

With Germany recently announcing that it has legalised the recreational use of cannibis - bringing them in line with similar laws in Canada, South Africa, Luxembourg, Malta, and 24 of the 50 US States - we take a look at the history of the drug, its use as medicine, and it's potential connections with the Knights Templar.

It may come as a surprise to many that the recreational use of cannabis has been illegal in the United Kingdom for less than 100-years.

In 1928, under the 1920 Drugs Act, cannibis became illegal in the UK. In 1971, under the Dangerous Drugs Act, it was classified as a Class B substance. It was briefly reclassified as a Class C drug in 2004, but in January 2009 it reverted back to its original classification as a Class B substance.

However, before attitudes towards cannabis changed in the early 20th century it was legal in the UK and throughout most of the rest of the world. Through the 1800s cannabis was hailed as a panacea. A cure-all for everything from cholera to tetanus, and from joint pains to seizures.

In fact, the first recorded case of cannabis being used for medicinal purposes dates back to a Chinese medical journal from 2800BC where it can be found listed in Emperor Shen Nung's pharmacopoeia.

Uses of the drug for medical purposes are also mentioned by the Indian Hindus, the Assryians, the Greeks, and the Romans all used cannabis to treat arthritis, depression, amenorrhea, inflammation, pain, lack of appetite and asthma.

Hindu legend holds that Shiva, the supreme Godhead of many sects, was given the title ‘The Lord of Bhang’, because the cannabis plant was his favourite food. The ancient Hindus thought the medicinal benefits of cannabis were explained by pleasing the gods such as Shiva. Ancient Hindu texts attribute the onset of fever with the ‘hot breath of the gods’ who were angered by the afflicted person's behaviour. Using cannabis in religious rites appeased the gods and hence reduced the fever.

Galen, a Greek physician, writer, and philosopher who died in Rome in the year 216AD was a dominant influence on medical theory and practice in much of Europe for nearly 1500-years from the late 2nd Century through until the middle of the 17th Century. Galen, being an advocate for the therapeutic uses of cannabis, is accredited with the popularity of the drug for medicinal purposes during this extended time.

Of course this period includes the 200+ years the Knights Templar were active, and so it isn't much of a stretch to conclude that they, as was the case with much of learned society at the time, did use cannabis for medicinal purposes.

In fact, there is a theory that the Templars had a central and crucial role in the cannabis trade during the medieval period.

As an Order the Knights Templar could be found in most of Europe and their reach spanned far into the Middle East and beyond. They are known to have introduced spices to the Western World that they discovered on their travels East and were a pivotal part of establishing what we think of as modern banking and international trade. The idea that cannabis was part of those trade deals, knowing as we do that its use as a medicine was widespread, isn't much of a leap of faith. Nor is it a leap to hypothesise that the Templars would know how to use what was at hand to treat the sick, with much of that knowledge being learned from foreign medicine men.

In Green Gold: the Tree of Life, Marijuana in Magic and Religion the author suggests the knowledge needed to use cannabis medicinally was somehow lost and surmises this knowledge was rediscovered by the Templars and brought back to Europe:

The alchemical information about cannabis use was reintroduced into Europe after the Dark Ages, when the Knights Templar, founded by Hugh de Payns (“of the Pagans”) around the beginning of the twelfth century, became involved in a trade of goods and knowledge with the hashish ingesting Isma’ilis.  This knowledge was passed on from Eastern adepts and handed down esoterically through the medieval alchemists.

Indeed, the authors of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail also comment on the liaison between the Templars and Isma’ili’s:

Secret connections were also maintained with the Hashish im or Assassins, the famous sect of militant and often fanatical adepts who were Islam’s equivalent of the Templars .

The also said:

...the Templars ’ need to treat wounds and illness made them adepts in the use of drugs.

In conclusion it seems highly likely the Templars would've had cannabis in their medical tool kit. They certainly would've had access to it and they would've had the expertise to put it to good use.

Maybe they knew something we're only just starting to rediscover.

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