By / March 24, 2023

5 Cannabis Discoveries Made by Raphaël Mechoulam

Recently, Israeli researcher and chemistry professor Raphael Mechoulam passed away. Dubbed the “father of medical cannabis,” he passed away after devoting much of his life to the study of cannabis.

While he was not the first to research the plant, he did make pioneering contributions to many scientific advances in its knowledge for medicine and patients. Thanks to his work, we all know a little more about cannabis.

Here are his five most important discoveries. But before we get to it, take a moment to download our free cannabis news app.

He Isolated THC

In the early years of his research, in 1963, Dr. Mechoulam and his team focused on understanding the chemistry of cannabinoids. In 1964, they successfully isolated THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), one of the two best-known cannabinoids in cannabis and the one responsible for the plant’s psychotropic effects. After isolating THC, researchers were able to understand the chemical structure of THC and even synthesize it.

The isolation of THC has been critically important to tons of other cannabis research.

The Discovery of the Entourage Effect

Dr. Mechoulam discovered the entourage effect with Dr. Shimon Ben-Shabat in 1999. It refers to the synergistic way in which cannabinoids work together, often enhancing the benefits of each other when consumed together rather than individually or in isolation. He and his team found that some cannabinoids alone had little or no effect, but when combined with THC or other cannabinoids, they were very beneficial.

Understanding the entourage effect is important not only for scientific purposes but also for consumers. It can help medical patients better understand the type of products they should be using. This is especially important because there are dozens of different forms of cannabis available today, from CBD and THC isolates to whole-plant medications. People take isolates for certain reasons, but today, because of the entourage effect, we know that it’s best to take whole-plant medicine to maximize the healing properties of cannabis.

Effect of CBD on Epilepsy

In 1980, Dr. Mechoulam published the results of a small study that suggested that CBD could be beneficial in reducing seizures in epilepsy patients. He found that CBD was more effective than a placebo, and he expected that this would spark big pharma’s interest in developing CBD-based drugs for epilepsy.

That didn’t happen, at least not for several decades. So it is thanks to his groundbreaking research, THC had to share the spotlight with CBD, CBD does not get you high, but it does have powerful anti-epileptic properties that no other pharmaceutical drug can surpass.

Today, it is easy to understand that Dr. Mechoulam was onto something important when he studied CBD at a time when no one else was paying attention. CBD is now a household name in the cannabis industry, being incorporated into everything from drinks and capsules to cosmetics, edibles, and more. As a result, thousands of people use CBD not only for epilepsy but also for anxiety, stress, depression, inflammation, and general well-being.

Discovery of Endocannabinoids

Dr. Mechoulam’s research also led to the discovery of endocannabinoids, in particular, anandamide in 1992, a compound produced by the human body that is capable of activating the CB1 receptor, the same receptor that binds to THC. This was a major milestone, as it was the very first endocannabinoid to be discovered.

His discovery of anandamide not only had a significant impact on cannabis research but it had far-reaching implications for the world of biology, biochemistry, chemistry, medicine, and pharmacology as a whole.

A Cannabinoid More Potent than CBD and THC

Dr. Mechoulam has not stopped working on his cannabis research. In 2020, he even discovered another compound called EPM301, which proved to be more potent than THC and CBD. He was 88 years old when EPM301 was discovered.

It took some time to discover EPM301 because of its instability, but Mechoulam found a method to extract stable acidic cannabinoids for a long enough period of time to be used in further studies and trials. In addition, they found that EPM301 may be useful in the treatment of nausea and anxiety, although it is possible that it may also be useful in the treatment of cancer, chemotherapy, psoriasis, and inflammatory bowel syndrome.

(Featured image via Wikimedia Commons – Public Domain)

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