Photos by Yitz Woolf
Famed Israeli cannabis researcher and professor of medicinal chemistry, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, has provided the scientific community with some of the most groundbreaking information about cannabinoids. First identifying and mapping the cannabinoids THC and CBD in 1963 and 1964, plus publishing clinical tests about CBD in 1980, his discoveries continue today. Dr. Mechoulam’s latest discovery holds great potential and could lead to treatments for anxiety, arthritis and psoriasis.
While giving a keynote speech at medical cannabis conference CannMed 2019 in late September, the “Father of THC” announced that THC acids found in cannabis hold great potential for the future of medicine. He explained that along with his team, he has developed a method for creating acids out of THC, CBD and other cannabinoids, and there are now licensing opportunities for companies that would like to utilize these acids to develop drugs to treat some common ailments.
It is believed by Dr. Mechoulam that CBD and THC acids could hold more potent and effective medical benefits in comparison to the cannabinoids CBD and THC. One of the compounds includes cannabidiolic acid methyl ester, or HU-580, which could be more effective than CBD for anxiety and nausea. “CBD acid (in its stable methyl ester form) is more active than CBD in the tests it has been evaluated,” Dr. Mechoulam told CULTURE. “THC acid has not been well investigated, but it does not seem to be psychoactive. More work is needed on the huge variety of effects seen with CBD.” He further explained that compounds like HU-580 could potentially treat certain nausea and anxiety disorders.
“CBD acid (in its stable methyl ester form) is more active than CBD in the tests it has been evaluated.”
Dr. Mechoulam and his team were able to stabilize synthetic acids and determine their efficacy for a variety of problems. This groundbreaking research was quite the team effort, as it was a collaboration between six universities in Israel, a startup called EPM, Mechoulam, agencies in the U.K. and Canada, a topical cream company and a publicly traded laboratory company. Mechoulam is the head of research at EPM.
Hopefully it doesn’t take pharmaceutical companies decades to put Dr. Mechoulam’s latest research to good use. It took over 30 years for Dr. Mechoulam’s published clinical trials with CBD to be utilized by modern medicine. GW Pharmaceuticals, the company that holds a patent for CBD drug Epidiolex, utilized Dr. Mechoulam’s research in order to create their drug, which is used to treat seizures for two rare forms of epilepsy.
Dr. Mechoulam’s interest in chemistry and work with natural products goes back to the early 1960s. His research typically focuses on the cannabis plant, as he was one of the first researchers to see great potential in it. “I’m a chemist,” Dr. Mechoulam told CULTURE. “I work with natural products, and I was looking for something important in natural products in plants, and I was surprised to find out that while morphine had been isolated from opium nearly 150 years previously and so was cocaine, from coca leaves, the chemistry of cannabis was not well-known, and I thought it was a good topic to do research on.”