If North America has always been the centre of CBD Culture, Israel is often seen as the world leader in research and development into this fascinating molecule. From its first isolation to more recent medical applications, Israel has been at the vanguard of CBD science.

Discovery

CBD stands for cannabidiol. It is a molecule produced by hemp plants, or to use its scientific name, Cannabis sativa. CBD has been gaining popularity and there appear to be no limits to its growth as an alternative treatment. It has been implicated in treating pain from MS and from cancer, general chronic pain, anxiety, stress, insomnia and a multitude of other illnesses and issues. Many still are curious concerning what does CBD feel like? But with no ‘high’ associated with it the feelings are negligible.

Government Funded Cannabis Research Infographic

Early Work

In 1940, just before the US entered World War II, two organic chemists discovered CBD independently of each other. Roger Adams found it in plant material samples acquired from Mexico, while Alexander Todd obtained it from ‘charas’ resin manufactured in India. The two scientists managed to isolate CBD and to determine how many atoms of each element – 21 carbon, two oxygen, and 30 hydrogen – were in it.

This discovery was moderately interesting to organic chemists at the time, but largely of no use to the general public. The uses of a new substance cannot be properly predicted until its ‘absolute stereochemistry’ is uncovered. Absolute stereochemistry, along with being a mouthful, describes exactly how a substance is put together. This is important. For example: table sugar and lactose have the same elemental components, but different stereochemistry, making them completely different chemicals.

Raphael Mechoulam

CBD was not researched again for almost 25 years after its discovery until Raphael Mechoulam and his research group began carrying out detailed studies on it and on other compounds found in the Cannabis plant. They worked out of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and co-operated with other institutions across Israel. in In 1963, the team in Jerusalem used Nuclear Magnetic Resonance spectroscopy to determine the exact structure of CBD. This involved the use of an enormous electromagnet weighing many tonnes and requiring substantial funding.

Once the true nature of CBD was discovered, researchers the world over were able to make educated guesses about its medical uses and begin carrying out trials and tests.

Research Lab

Policy

Links With the USA

Universities and other research institutions have collaborated and shared information ever since they have existed. Israel and the USA have well-known social, cultural and political ties, so it’s no surprise that research programmes in the two nations are in close contact. Mechoulam and his colleagues would have found it difficult to begin researching medicinal CBD without the original data from the US, collected nearly a quarter-century earlier.

Depending on your source, anywhere between 15 and 50 US companies are carrying out their research and development of medicinal cannabis in Israel. This is due to the resources and funding available in Israel for this research. The Israeli government-funded programme ‘Breath of Life’ is currently applying for US FDA approval for its cannabis-based autism medicine.

Israeli Policies

Israel is one of only three countries on earth where cannabis research is funded by the national government. It is estimated that three million shekels a year is granted to cannabis research. This equates to somewhere in the region of one million US dollars annually. In April 2017, the central government passed a law allowing the export of medicinal cannabis products abroad. The cannabinoid medicine industry in Israel is reported to be worth 100’s of millions of US Dollars.

So, through a combination of policy choices, funding, and the availability of early data from the USA, Israel has become the world leader in cannabinoid research.

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