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Cannabinoids, Wonder Drugs of the 21st Century

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Although cannabis was a medicinal plant for thousands of years, its medical use was suppressed and banned throughout most of the 20th century.  While banned in the US,  major scientific breakthroughs were made in Israel, Spain, Italy and Brazil.  These breakthroughs are propelling the natural plant compounds called cannabinoids into "the wonder drugs of the 21st century".

The Father of Medical Cannabis Research

The greatest cannabis researcher is unquestionably Raphael Mechoulam from Isreal. He discovered THC in 1964, the psycho-active component of cannabis. Mechoulam also discovered the first endogenous endo-cannabinoid in 1992, Anandamide, meaning bliss.

This is his book (see image ).
Image: Raphael Mechoulam

A Treasure Trove Waiting for Discovery

When asked why he devoted his entire lifetime studying the biochemistry of cannabis, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam said the following: "The three major illicit drugs derived from plants were then (at the beginning of my career), and still are, opium, coca and cannabis. Morphine had been isolated from opium early in the 19th century and structure elucidated in the 1920s by Robert Robinson. Cocaine was isolated from coca leaves in the middle of the 19th century and structure described by Richard Willstatter in the last decade of the 19th century. I believe that the cannabinoids represent a medicinal treasure trove which waits to be discovered."

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Just Like the Opiate Receptor Story

In a story very similar to the discovery of opiate receptors in the brain, cannabinoid receptors have been discovered along with their endogenous cannabinoids, representing the largest neurotransmitter system in the brain and immune system.  This neurotransmitter system went undetected for decades because it involves an unheard of concept, retrograde transmission, or reversed flow of information from the post synapse to the pre-synapse.  

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Image: Cannabis Sativa Leaf courtesy of Wikimedia commons

In the 1970s, Morphine was isolated from the poppy and found to bind to opiate receptors in the brain.  Scientists eventually discovered that people make their own opioids, called enkephalins and endorphins. Morphine simply hijacks the receptors for the brain's opioids.  It seemed likely that something similar was happening with THC and the cannabinoid receptors in the brain and the immune system.  The health implications of the endo-cannabinoid system are staggering.  Cannabinoids act as a bioregulatory mechanism for most life processes.

Medical Uses of Cannabinoids:

Relieves Chronic Pain
Reduces need for narcotics in chronic pain or Narcotics Addiction
Anti-Cancer (Breast, Colon, Pancreas, Brain-Glioma)
Relieves Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Phobias
Relieves Nausea and Vomiting associated with Chemotherapy
Improves Appetite in Wasting Syndromes
Relieves Migraine Headache
Relieves Glaucoma
Relieves Bladder incontinence
Used as Anti-convulsant
Used as Anti-depressant
Used as Atypical anti-psychotic
Used for Bi-Polar Syndrome
Used for Multiple Sclerosis, ALS

Timeline for Cannabinoids and Receptor System

2,000 BC  to 1,800 AD Medicinal Cannabis used in Ancient China, Egypt, India, ancient Greeks.

800 AD to 1,800 AD Medical Cannabis was used extensively in the medieval Islamic World.

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1800-1900 Medical Cannabis commonly used entire world as primary pain reliever until the invention of aspirin.

Image: An advertisement for cannabis americana New York 1917.

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Jeffrey Dach MD is a physician and author of two books, Natural Medicine 101, and Bioidentical Hormones 101, both available on Amazon, or as a free e-book on his web sites. Dr. Dach is founder and chief medical officer of TrueMedMD, a clinic in (more...)

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