Raphael Mechoulam, Godfather Of Cannabis Research, Passes Away
Here Are His 5 Most Important Contributions To Marijuana As We Know It Today
In the world of cannabis, we have research to thank. It’s through the hard work and efforts of people around the globe who spent time and resources studying cannabis and its health benefits. It is because of research that we know what cannabis is good for and how it works in the human body.
However, no one else has done more for cannabis research than Dr. Raphael Mechoulam. The Israeli chemist, researcher, and professor of Medicinal Chemistry has devoted much of his life to studying marijuana. So much so, that he was given the nickname, “Godfather of Cannabis Research” early on. In 2016, his efforts were acknowledged and he was thus given the Lifetime Achievement Award in Cambridge, because of several decades of breakthrough research. That is just one of the many awards he has been given during his lifetime.
Unfortunately, he has just passed away at the age of 92. In honor of Dr. Mechoulam, get to learn about his most important contributions to cannabis research:
Isolated THC for the first time in history: During the early years of his research in 1963, Dr. Mechoulam and his team were focused on understanding the chemistry of cannabinoids. Not long after, they were successfully able to isolate THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), one of the two most famous cannabinoids in marijuana, and the one responsible for the plant’s psychoactive effects. After he isolated THC, they were able to understand the chemical structure of THC and eventually even synthesized it.
The isolation of THC was incredibly fundamental for tons more cannabis research. It also soon after became the more popular cannabinoid because of the high it causes, but not long after, CBD (cannabidiol) became just as popular for other equally important reasons.
Discovery of the entourage effect: Dr. Mechoulam discovered the entourage effect together with Dr. Shimon Ben-Shabat back in 1999. It refers to the synergistic way that cannabinoids work together, usually often enhancing the benefits of one another when consumed together as opposed to taking them individually or in isolated form. He and his team observed that when certain cannabinoids were taken by themselves, they had little to no effect yet when you combine it with THC or with other cannabinoids, they were actually very beneficial.
Understanding the entourage effect is important not just for scientific purposes today, but also for consumers. It can help medical patients have a better understanding of the type of products they should be consuming. This is especially significant as there are dozens of different forms of cannabis today, from CBD and THC isolates to whole plant medicine. People take isolates for certain reasons, though now because of the entourage effect, we know that if you want to maximize the healing properties of marijuana, it’s best to take whole plant medicine instead.
Introduced the benefits of CBD for treating epilepsy: Back in 1980, Dr. Mechoulam released the results of a small study he studied whose results suggested that CBD could be beneficial in reducing seizures among epileptic patients. He found that CBD was more effective than a placebo, after which he expected it would pique the interest of large pharmaceutical companies to develop CBD-based drugs for epilepsy.
That didn’t happen, at least not for several more decades. It was because of his revolutionary research that THC had to share the spotlight with CBD, which initially many people didn’t think was important – but it was. CBD doesn’t get you high, but apparently it had powerful anti-epileptic properties that no other pharmaceutical medication was able to beat.
Fast forward to current times, and it’s easy to see now that Dr. Mechoulam was onto something big when he was studying CBD back when no one else was paying attention to it. CBD is now a household name in cannabis, it’s being manufactured into everything from drinks to capsules, cosmetics, edibles, and so much more. Thousands of people are using CBD not just for epilepsy but also for anxiety, stress, depression, inflammation, and overall well-being.
Discovered endocannabinoids: Dr. Mechoulam’s research also led to the discovery of endocannabinoids, particularly anandamide in 1992, which is a compound produced in the human body and capable of activating the CB1 receptor, the same receptor that binds to THC. This was a big milestone because it was the very first endocannabinoid to ever be discovered.
His discovery of anandamide did not only have a great impact in cannabis research but it had far-reaching benefits for the world of biology, biochemistry, chemistry, medicine, and pharmacology as a whole.
Discovered a cannabinoid more potent than CBD and THC: Dr. Mechoulam didn’t stop working on his cannabis research. In 2020, he even discovered yet another compound called EPM301, which was found to be more potent than THC and CBD. He was 88 years old when EPM301 was discovered.
It took a while for EPM301 to be discovered due to its instability, though Mechoulam came up with a method to modify the acids which allowed them to be stable for a long enough period, thus allowing it to be used in further studies and trials. Additionally, they found that EPM301 could be helpful in treating nausea and anxiety, though there is the possibility that it could also help with cancer, chemotherapy, psoriasis, and inflammatory bowel syndrome.
Dr. Mechoulam is the only person on earth who has contributed such a great deal of breakthroughs for the cannabis industry, as well as for medicine and patients. Thanks to a lifetime of his work, we know more about cannabis than ever before and it has helped change millions of lives around the world.