The Slog blog makes note of a new report from anthropologists at Washington State University which appeared in the American Journal of Human Biology, entitled: “High prevalence of cannabis use among Aka foragers of the Congo Basin and its possible relationship to helminthiasis.”
The research found that roughly 95 percent of Aka men smoke tobacco (compared to 17 percent in Black Africa and 31 percent globally) and 68 percent smoke cannabis—both of which are correlated with lower rates of helminths, or parasitic worms. The Aka didn’t tell researchers they smoke to prevent helminths, but to “increase their courage on a hunt, dance better, increase their vital force, or to increase their work capacity when working for Europeans or village people.” They say cannabis is especially helpful when hunting elephants, and that women prefer husbands who smoke—which could account for the especially high rates of male smoking. But the researchers surmised that plant toxins in cannabis and tobacco alike serve to protect the Aka from parasites, and they are unconsciously self-medicating with the herb.
The EveryCulture website informs us that the Aka are better known to the outside world as a “pygmies”—although that word is now considered disrespectful. They live in the tropical forests that straddle the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.