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History of cannabis and the endocannabinoid system

Authors
  • Crocq, Marc-Antoine
Type
Published Article
Journal
Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience
Publisher
Les Laboratoires Servier
Publication Date
Sep 01, 2020
Volume
22
Issue
3
Pages
223–228
Identifiers
DOI: 10.31887/DCNS.2020.22.3/mcrocq
PMID: 33162765
PMCID: PMC7605027
Source
PubMed Central
Keywords
Disciplines
  • Original Article
License
Green

Abstract

This article retraces the story of cannabis from the earliest contacts of humans with the plant to its subsequent global expansion, its medicinal uses, and the discovery of the endocannabinoid system in the 20th century. Cannabis was attested to around 12 000 years ago near the Altai Mountains in Central Asia, and since then, cannabis seeds have accompanied the migration of nomadic peoples. Records of the medicinal use of cannabis appear before the Common Era in China, Egypt, and Greece (Herodotus), and later in the Roman empire (Pliny the Elder, Dioscorides, Galen). In the 19th century, orientalists like Silvestre de Sacy, and Western physicians coming into contact with Muslim and Indian cultures, like O’Shaughnessy and Moreau de Tours, introduced the medicinal use of cannabis into Europe. The structure of the main psychoactive phytocannabinoid, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), was determined in Israel by Mechoulam and Gaoni in 1964. This discovery opened the gate for many of the subsequent developments in the field of endocannabinoid system (ECS) research. The advances in the scientific knowledge of the ECS place the debate on cannabis liberalization in a new context.

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