Israel is Leading the Way in Cannabis Research
By Michael Saunders
In preparing for previous blog posts, I began to notice a striking pattern. They only peer reviewed, medical university sponsored studies about the medical benefits of cannabis I was able to find were coming from one place--Israel. For those of you who don’t know where Israel exists on the globe, it’s a country roughly the size of New Jersey, wedged like a spear separating Egypt from Jordan and Syria along the Sinai Peninsula. Some view this area as the cradle of human civilization.
In Israel, there’s a medical university researcher named, Raphael Mechoulam. This man co-discovered the existence of the human endocannabinoid system (clap, clap!). Mechoulam also discovered that the human brain produces cannabinoids. He continues to be a pioneer in cannabis research at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Schwartz, 2017). Why is this significant?
Due to his discoveries and research by others since then, scientists at the National Institute of Health (NIH) have reached consensus that the compounds found in cannabis, and produced to some degree by our bodies, could alleviate dozens of illnesses and conditions such as schizophrenia, diabetes, cancer and multiple sclerosis. The revelation of this endogenous cannabinoid system provided legitimacy with respect to the relevance of cannabis as a medically viable plant. Research science is increasingly on our side!
One of the studies found that had been conducted in Israel had to do with the impact our endocannabinoid system has on the regulation of our immune systems. According to Pandey, Mousawy, Nagarkatti, & Nagarkatti (2009), the endocannabinoid system is involved in immunoregulation and neuroprotection. Endocannabinoids are believed to control immune functions and play a role in immune homeostasis (balance, yo!). Immune cells in our bodies contain (or express) both CB1 and CB2 receptors, they secrete endocannabinoids and have functional cannabinoid transport and breakdown mechanisms (my mind is blown) (Pandey, et.al., 2009).
What researchers are finding is that the endocannabinoid system dates back a very long time in evolution, it exists as an ancient plant signaling system regulating plant immunity-related genes in response to infection and stress. The big take away from this is that humans having been consuming cannabis as a medicine for an extremely long time in our evolution.
Although attitudes and beliefs about the benefits of cannabis as a medicine are controversial to some, the science is becoming clear. Scientific research on cannabis is something in which I believe and to which I would one day like to contribute. Personally, I’d like to give thanks to the researchers exploring and learning about the full spectrum of compounds in the cannabis plant that benefit human health.