Lifelong Cannabis Research

Professor Raphael Mechoulam is an Israeli organic chemist and professor of Medicinal Chemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel.

Professor Mechoulam was born in Bulgaria (1930), where he studied chemical engineering. After immigrating to Israel he received his MSc in biochemistry from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and his PhD. at the Weizmann Institute and completed his postdoctoral studies at the Rockefeller Institute in New York. In 1960 he joined the junior staff of the Weizmann Institute, and in 1985 he became a professor at the Hebrew University.

Cannabidiol (CBD) discovered in 1930 by Roger Adams is one of 113 identified cannabinoids in cannabis plants, along with tetrahyrdocannabinol (THC). CBD has been used to treat inflammation and auto-immune conditions

Mechoulam was possibly the most significant academic to shed light on the active principles of the cannabis plant back in the 1960s, when his work at the Weizmann Institute led to the discovery of the human endo-cannabinoid system, giving him the title the “Godfather of cannabis research”. In a recent Global Health Talk with Michael Lesner, Professor Mechoulam reflects on his lifelong work in cannabis research.

In 2020, Professor Raphael Mechoulam was awarded the Harvey Prize for his ground-breaking research in the world of medicin­­al cannabis. His studies in this field have given the world a new perspective on cannabis as a healing plant, rather than just a recreational drug. Over the years, the Harvey Prize has become a reliable predictor of the famous Noble Prize. Since 1986, more than 30% of Harvey laureates were ultimately awarded the Nobel Prize.

In this Global Health Talks episode, Professor Mechoulam talks about CBD being used to treat multiple disease states in high doses, although not accepted by many as a recognised drug. The drug however has been included in clinical trials for use on epilepsy participants, a journey of 35 years

Through his research work, Professor Mechoulam Cannabis has found other compounds that show potential for clinical treatment, including anxiety. Medical cannabis in Israel has been available with varying levels of CBD and THC, though in there has been limited dispensing of medical cannabis in countries such as the UK. Compounds in the human body that ‘simulate’ effects of THC and CBD require more detailed investigation. Mechoulam argues, cannabis may not be used to target one particular disease state alone, but more generally.

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