In a recent study done by Washington State University, scientists studied cannabis use amongst hunter-gatherers of the Congo Basin, also called “pymies.” Scientists found more pygmies smoked cannabis on average than in the Western world, and cannabis use was associated with having a healthier gut with less parasitic worms. The use of cannabis and other psychoactive plants might originate from a subconscious drive to rid the body of internal parasites and other maladies.
Forest foragers from the western Congo Basin, members of the Aka group live along the Lobaye River in small logging camps. The same group of researchers had previously studied tobacco use amongst the Aka, and found it was associated with fewer parasitic worms. Given the large body of evidence that shows cannabis can fight pathogens, parasites and bacteria, the scientists decided to run a similar experiment with cannabis.
By collecting urine and stool samples, as well as interviewing members of the Aka community, scientists found that 70.9 percent of males and 6.1 percent of women smoked cannabis with a total prevalence of 38.6 percent. Not only do more of them smoke weed than in most developed nations, “the THCA [THC’s main metabolite] levels of the cannabis smokers were comparable to, though some what higher than, the THCA levels of chronic cannabis smokers in the West,” meaning they might smoke more and get higher than we do.
According to the study, pygmies “smoke to increase their courage on a hunt, dance better, increase their vital force or to increase their work capacity when working.” The Aka say they have been smoking it since the dawn of time, but historians go back and forth over when cannabis got introduced to the region. Not only does cannabis enhance them in their daily lives, it may also help protect them against parasite infection.
Though the evidence was not strong enough to prove that cannabis was actually killing or warding off intestinal worms, it’s clear this topic warrants more research. The next discovery could be a new, and safe, drug for parasites, as well more insight into the underlying drive to get high.