Hemp presence was made known during the slave trade period which goes as far back as the 16th century. The Portuguese been the earliest slave traders moved millions of blacks and Hispanics from Africa to the Western Hemisphere. This blacks as well went along with their herbs and there seeds. The Portuguese colony that settled in Brazil got to know cannabis as “macumba, diamba, liamba, pungo, and so on”, which all have African origin especially from Angola (where natives smoked cannabis in water pot and pipes.)
Cannabis cultivation took hold during this period when Portuguese plantation owners noticed that there workers (blacks) worked with ease and longer after they smoked cannabis under the scorching sun, hence let them cultivate there cannabis crops amidst the sugar plantations. After coming in contact with African slaves some South American took up the act. This tradition of pot smoking and cultivation slowly crept to the sea sides to fishermen and dockworkers spreading through the northern half of South America to the Panamanian isthmus to Mexico.
“As cannabis proliferated geographically, so did its medicinal applications in Latin America and the Caribbean. Tea made from boiled marijuana leaves was brewed to relieve rheumatism, colic, “female troubles,” sleep disorders, and other common complaints. Marijuana purportedly had an analgesic effect on toothaches when packed on the gums near the painful area; leaves soaked in alcohol and wrapped around swollen joints were said to help arthritis.”
Excerpt From: Lee, Martin A. “Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana – Medical, Recreational and Scientific.” Scribner