Photo by Archive

Health | 11.11.2021

Meet The Irish Doctor Who First Brought Medical Marijuana To The West

An unsung hero.

In 1833, a young and bright 24-year-old Edinburgh graduate moved to India as an assistant surgeon in the East India Company. He was an established medical researcher who wrote essential papers on cholera after the horrible outbreak in Europe.

He goes by the name W.B. O’Shaughnessy and is nothing short of a legend to us. The Irish physician made notable contributions to the history of research in electricity, telegraphy, pottery, and, most importantly, cannabis.

Photo courtesy of Ancestral Line

Thanks to a thorough and detailed article written by Sujaan Mukherjee, we’re able to get the full rundown of O’Shaughnessy’s first trials with cannabis and his detailed notes, which were also the first cannabis trials ever to take place.

O’Shaughnessy’s first series of experiments with cannabis was on a group of animals like fish, dogs, vultures, and storks. These groups were all given various kinds of extracts from the Cannabis Indica plant.

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In his experiment with a “middling sized dog,” O’Shaughnessy’s notes read, “In about half an hour he became stupid and sleepy, dozing at intervals, starting up, wagging his tail as if extremely contented, he ate some food greedily, on being called to he staggered to and fro, and his face assumed a look of utter and helpless drunkenness.”

After these trials piqued his interest, O’Shaughnessy later ventured into trials for treatments on several illnesses. He described cannabis’s “delirious” effect to four patients, individuals suffering from rheumatism.

On one patient suffering from rheumatism, O’Shaughnessy notes, “half a grain of Hemp resin was given in a little spirit … became talkative and musical, told several stories, and sang songs to a circle of highly delighted auditors, ate the dinner of two persons. She also sought for other luxuries I can scarcely venture to allude to, and finally fell soundly asleep, and so continued till the following morning”.

Photo courtesy of Irish Hemp

Funny enough, O’Shaughnessy reported that the next day, the patient “begged hard for a repetition of the medicine.” In more chaotic scenes, O’Shaughnessy mentioned that another patient with rheumatism entered a state of “catalepsy,” where his limbs were rigid and could only be moved by medical staff. 

After these patients had “uncontrollable” fits of giggles and laughter, O’Shaughnessy concluded that their rheumatism was cured entirely after three days of cannabis use. It’s stories like these that get us excited about the future of cannabis in medicine, and it’s clear that we’ve come a long way, but there’s an even longer way to go. 

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