Tel Aviv man credited with discovering medicinal properties of cannabis

Tel Aviv man credited with discovering medicinal properties of cannabis

It was a chemist from Tel Aviv, Raphael Mechoulam, and his colleagues who, for the first time, discovered that marijuana, till then only known as an intoxicating substance, could also be used for medicinal purpose.

Among its benefits, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, is today given in the form of drops to thousands of children across the globe to cope with cancer and epilepsy.

It all began in 1964 when Mechoulam and his colleagues started decoding the exact structure of cannabidiol (CBD), the primary nonpsychoactive component of marijuana. It was after this that they started decoding the medicinal properties of THC.

Mechoulam began his experiments with 11 pounds of Lebanese hashish, which turned out to be a blessing for modern science. “While morphine had been isolated from opium 150 years previously, and cocaine had been isolated 100 years previously, the chemistry of cannabis was unknown”, said Mechoulam.

As part of their experiment, Mechoulam first injected THC and CBD into monkeys. They were excited to find out that THC was the only compound that elicited a reaction from the monkeys, most often drowsiness. A few months later, the team tested it on themselves.

“We had a group of 10 friends, including my wife and I. Half of us took THC, sprinkled on a piece of cake, and half took the piece of cake without anything else”, said Mechoulam. Everyone who ate the THC-laced desserts had some type of reaction. Bingo! Thus, was laid the stone for the future use of cannabis for medicinal purpose.

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