‘Cannabinoids A Dawn Discovery’ Part II

Introduction

In the first of our series titled ‘Cannabinoids, A Dawn of Discovery’ we gave a brief description of the extremely versatile hemp plant, some it’s 50,000 plus known uses, archaeological discoveries of hemp from many centuries ago, the introduction of cannabis to western medicine and the discovery of the first Cannabinoids.

In part II of the series, we continue our cannabinoid journey and those enquiring minds that discovered, elucidated (to make something clear) or enhanced our understanding of these abundant and seemingly increasingly important constituents of the hemp plant.

Alexander R. Todd

1907 1997

Chemist Alexander Robertus Todd was born in Glasgow, Scotland, on October 2, 1907. Noted for his work on the chemistry of nucleotides, (basic building block of nucleic acids) which awarded him the Nobel Prize in chemistry 1957. With a keen interest in other subjects Todd’s body of research work include mould products, insect colouring matters and of course investigations into cannabis and cannabinoids of which he produced ten original publications in total.


Synthesis of ∆6a,10a-tetrahydrocannabinol by Adams and by Todd

Cannabis research was a very competitive area of research at this time, in particular with Roger Adams’ group (see part 1 of this blog series) in the USA that had made considerable progress. Todd realised that attempts to isolate and identify the active ingredients in cannabis resins had not been successful as the separation techniques were inadequate at the time.

Having synthesized cannabinol involving tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), it suggested to him that the psychoactive effects caused by the hashish were due to one of the isometric tetrahydrocannabinols. He was of course proven to be correct in later years, and remained convinced of the interesting and pharmacological effects as well as the potential medical uses of the plant however, the outbreak of World War II meant he could no longer continue his research as his work pivoted to help the war effort.

Walter S Loewe

1884 – 1963

Born in Fürth, Bavaria in 1884 Loewe studied medicine in Berlin, Strasbourg, and Munich, He passed the state examination in 1907. and having obtained a doctorate from the university of Strasbourg in 1908 he was eventually discharged as a Jew. In 1933 he emigrated to the USA via Switzerland and Turkey and took up posts at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, the Montefiore Hospital, Bronx , New York, and the Pharmacological Institute of Cornell University.

In 1946 Lowe compared the active ingredient content of cannabis from different origins, described the spectrum of effects, including an analgesic effect and determined relationships between chemical structure and pharmacological effect. Importantly however he showed that CBD shows no psychotropic activity proving that CBD does not get you ‘high’.

Walter S Loewe one of the first cannabis myth busters!

Prof Jan Kabelik

1891 – 19679

Professor Kabelik produced, ‘Hemp as a Medicament’ in 1955  originally as a cycle of lectures for a scientific conference held in Olomouc on December 10, 1954. In these landmark lectures he discusses treatments with cannabis in ancient, folk, and official medicine up to the beginning of the twentieth century.

Divided into sections the study covers:

Cannabis sativa engraving from the Czech edition of Methioli’s herbal from 1956
  • History of the medicinal use of hemp
  • Properties of isolated substances
  • Methods and results of the bacteriological experiments
  • Survey of clinical experiences
  • Therapeutic results in stomatology
  • Cannabis Indica in oto-rhino-laryngology
  • Importance of hemp seeds in the tuberculosis therapy

He argued that knowledge of narcotics and stimulants can be traced back to ancient times with few new discoveries being made, he is one of the first post-war scientists to re-energise the field of cannabis and cannabinoid research and provides us with accounts of early cannabis treatments and history.

Kabelik provides many accounts of the early use of cannabis globally as a medicine including but not limited to.

  • China – for medicine and later textiles
  • Scythians – a narcotic which they made use of in their steam baths – the sauna
  • India – as an anaesthetic for surgery
  • Egypt – antiseptics and more
  • Czechoslovakia, (modern day Czech Republic and Slovakia) – as a treatment for tuberculosis.

Kabelik also explains that the use of cannabis in Europe was exclusively used as a medicinal & therapeutic product and not as a narcotic as the cultivars found in Europe (Cannabis Sativa.L) do not contain high concentrations of narcotic substances and very often using the seed and roots. The plant was also used as a repellent around cabbage plants and branches of the plant were hung in bedrooms to repel gnats and flies.

Kabliek surmises that the use of practical antibacterial substances from cannabis at varying pH for wounds, furuncles (boils), ear infections and Sinusitis demands further investigation and that;

“the hashish effect on the central nervous system whilst the analgesic and antiseptic effects have been unjustifiably forgotten”.

Raphael Mechoulam

1930

I believe cannabinoids represent a medical treasure waiting to be discovered. “ “I have spent most of my life decoding the mysteries to be found within this incredible plant.”

Mechoulam, one of the world’s pre-eminent cannabis scientists has arguably championed more than most for the advancement of chemistry and pharmacology of cannabinoids, hence being given the popular title the, ‘Grandfather of Cannabis‘.

Mechoulam was born in Sofia, Bulgaria in 1930, to a Sephardic Jewish family, his farther survived a German concentration camp with the family eventually emigrating to Israel in 1949. Here he switched his studies from chemical engineering which he disliked to chemistry, receiving his M.Sc. in biochemistry from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1952, and his Ph.D. at the Weizmann Institute, Rehovot in 1958 with a thesis on the chemistry of steroids. Eventually becoming a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1972, Lionel Jacobson Professor of Medicinal Chemistry from 1975, and was elected a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences in 1994.

Building on the work of earlier generations of chemists such as Cahn, Todd and Loewe, Mechoulam’ s work and that of his team includes, the complete structure of CBD shown for the first time, (1963 ,The structure of cannabidiol), the identification, elucidation & isolation of ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol, THC to you and me.

He and his team went on to discover anandamide, ‘the bliss molecule’ so named for the role it appears to play in producing feelings of happiness and the first endogenous cannabinoid to be discovered. They also found a second endocannabinoid called 2-AG, these cannabinoids are made by our bodies on demand and must be extremely important as the brain has more cannabinoid receptors than any others.

The discovery of the endocannabinoids leads to the further discovery of the endocannabinoid system (ECS), bigger than our respiratory system this biological system is responsible for regulating and balancing processes in our bodies including immune response, appetite and metabolism, communication between cells, memory and more functions are being discovered.

Now 90 years old, Mechoulam, a true cannabinoid pioneer continues his research with his team at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Our journey so far into the research and discovery of cannabinoids brings us close to the turn of millennium. In part III of this series we shall be looking at how the field of cannabinoids has grown at a rapid pace over the last 20 years leading to the epilepsy medicines & CBD food supplements such as Holistic Herbs CBD oils and sprays we see today & what the future may hold for cannabis & cannabinoid research.

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