A Brief History of Cannabis Oil


British Army doctor William O’Shaughnessy certainly was not the first medical professional to recognize the huge therapeutic value of cannabis oil but he definitely became a fan of its medical efficacy when, in 1839, a mother whose infant was having seizures came to him for help.

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After typical 19th century treatments such as leeches and opium did not arrest the baby’s convulsions and they instead worsened, Dr. O’Shaughnessy tried a remedy that was popular among the “locals:” the sublingual administration of a tincture of cannabis oil. “The child is now in enjoyment of robust health and regained her natural plump and happy appearance,” O’Shaughnessy later wrote in a medical journal. “In Hemp,” he continued, “the profession has gained an anti-convulsive remedy of the greatest value.”

Now, 176 years later, the acceptance of cannabis oil as an efficacious treatment for seizure disorders and other illnesses and diseases continues to grow. For example, eligible Georgia residents now can possess cannabis oil to treat eight medical conditions: seizure disorders, cancer, ALS, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, mitochondrial disease, Parkinson’s disease and sickle-cell disease. According to Georgia State Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, since the Georgia Department of Public Health launched its “Low THC Oil Registry” in June 2015, nearly 200 patients have registered for a two-year license allowing them to possess 20 fluid ounces of low THC cannabis oil, and more than 150 doctors are recommending the drug.

Cannabis oil is a thick, sticky, resinous substance made up of cannabinoids such as THC and CBD that is extracted from the cannabis plant, either cannabis sativa or cannabis indica.  Of the three main cannabis products – flower, resin and oil – the oil is the most concentrated form. Making cannabis oil is surprisingly simple. Anyone with a bucket, a pile of pot, and a solvent can make it. First devised by Canadian cannabis pioneer Rick Simpson — from which it derives one of its names, Simpson oil — the oil is merely cannabis distilled to its essential active cannabinoids, with as much of the plant material as possible removed using the solvent.

Cannabis oil also is extremely potent. Constance Finley, an East Bay marijuana grower who knows how to distill a pound of high-grade grass into an ounce of oil, says her concoction is 72% tetrahydracannabinol(THC), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that gets you stoned, and which in lab studies has shrunk tumors in rats; and 11% cannabidiol (CBD) the cannabinoid in marijuana that studies suggest doesn’t get you high but has anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety properties.

It can be used medicinally (with high CBD) as an anti-seizure medication, or as a method to get high.


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