By about the 8th century, cannabis was used for medicinal purposes not only in China, but also in Egypt, Greece, India and the Middle East civilizations for pain relief, as well as for gastrointestinal disorders, insomnia, blood clots and parasites.
In the early 1940s, the first extraction of CBD from a cannabis plant was, inadvertently, done by Roger Adams, a Harvard University graduate who extracted oil from cannabis/ Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC were first extracted from cannabis in 1942 by Wollner, Matchett, Levine and Loewe.
However, the title of modern day Father of cannabis research aptly goes to an Israeli professor of medicinal chemistry, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, who in 1965 not only established the structures and stereochemistry of CBD and THC but was the first to chemically synthesize both compounds.
Though the human opiate receptor had been discovered in 1973, the idea that there could be cannabinoid receptors wasn’t on the radar until a biochemical neuropharmacologist from Missouri named Allyn Howlett discovered the CB1 receptor in 1988. The development of the radioligand binding assay for the cannabinoid receptors led to their identification. In other words, Dr. Allyn proved that endocannabinoid system exists in reality.
“Receptors don’t exist because there’s a plant out there,” said Mechoulam famously, “Receptors exist because we, through compounds made in our body, activate them. So we went looking for the endogenous compounds that activate the cannabinoid receptors….Two eminent scientists at the NIH said that the endocannabinoid system is involved in essentially all human disease,” said Mechoulam. “This is a very strong statement, but it seems to be correct. Today we know that the endocannabinoid system—the receptors, the endocannabinoids, the enzymes that form and break down the endocannabinoids—are involved in many physiological reactions, and therefore in many disease states.”
Since their discovery, endocannabinoids have been found to play a role in memory, mood, appetite and metabolism, sleep, pain response, thermoregulation and immunity. Once associated with criminals and decried as dangerous, cannabis has taken scientists on a journey to a better understanding of the human body, revealing a biological system now thought to be involved in modulating everything from pain sensation to reproduction to appetite.
A tale as old as time!
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