Political controversy over medical marijuana is widespread in the United States, but clinical studies conducted abroad over
the past forty-some years have revealed that marijuana, or cannabis, does indeed appear to have potent therapeutic qualities.
Widely regarded as one of the world’s experts on cannabinoid-based medicine, and a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, Ph.D., Professor of Medicinal Chemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, along with his colleagues, has been researching what he calls “cannabinoid chemistry” over these past four decades, making many notable contributions to the field. Dr. Mechoulam has written countless scientific papers on his cannabinoid research results, as well as a review of his group’s early studies, the book Cannabinoids as Therapeutic Agents.
Dr. Mechoulam has been awarded many honors for his groundbreaking work, including the highest national scientific prize in Israel-the Israel Prize. He is a past-president of the International Cannabinoid Research Society. Those who know Dr. Mechoulam describe him as mentally vigorous, generous and kind.
In 1964 Dr. Mechoulam and his associates identified and synthesized THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), creating an entire new line of medical research. Twenty-eight years later, in 1992, working with Drs. William Devane and Lumir Hanus, Dr. Mechoulam identified the brain’s natural version of THC, or endocannabinoid. The doctors named this natural THC “anandamide,” from the Sanskrit, ananda, which is translated as “eternal bliss” or “supreme joy.”
Research has revealed that the brain contains many cannabinoid neurotransmitters and receptors. The 1964 discovery of THC led to the eventual discovery of the endocannabinoid system in the brain. Further research conducted by Dr. Mechoulam, working with Dr. Lumir Hanus and Dr. Shimon Ben-Shabat, has led to the detection of an additional endocannabinoid with the tongue-twisting name 2-arachidonylglycerol, or 2-AG. As a result of this work, understanding of cannabinoid systems has advanced significantly.
Endocannabinoids are part of the brain’s reward system, helping with the reduction of pain, regulation of emotions, consolidation of memory and the synchronization of movement. Interestingly, cannabinoid receptors outnumber all other receptors in the brain; the endocannabinoid system is active in nearly every other physiological system that has been studied. Therefore, Dr. Mechoulam has concluded that the endocannabinoid system is crucial to communication with and functions of many other bodily systems.
Pharmaceutical companies in the UK and France are researching and developing many new cannabis-based medicines. Carefully conducted trials have shown not only pain-relieving action and growth-retardation in tumors, but efficacy in treating multiple sclerosis and seizure disorders and a host of other medical conditions.
Over just the past few years the pace of cannabinoid research has been steadily increasing. Quite promising are new drugs currently being developed that both activate and deactivate cannabinoid receptors in the brain. Pain management, neuroprotective treatment for head trauma and stroke, and appetite regulation are just a few of the applications now being studied.
Most recently, one of the synthetic compounds (HU-211) from Dr. Mechoulam’s lab has completed phase 2 clinical trials against head trauma with evidence of a neuroprotective effect. The pace of cannabinoid research has certainly been accelerating over the past few years, and Dr. Mechoulam thinks these new drugs are just the tip of the iceberg.
Learn more about Dr. Raphael Mechoulam and his outstanding accomplishments for medical cannabis patients. See David Jay Brown’s full
report on his interview with Dr. Mechoulam, on which this article is based, at http://mavericksofthemind.com/dr-raphael-mechoulam.