Roger Adams Discovers CBD In 1942, Roger Adams (left) won a patent for his method of isolating CBD and was also the first researcher to identify THC. He invented a complex infraction method isolating CBD and THC from hemp and marijuana. 25 years later, Dr. L.A. Matsuda discovered that we all have an endocannabinoid system.
The name most associated with cannabis science is generally Israeli chemist Raphael Mechoulam, who’s credited with first isolating and identifying THC. History shows Dr. Adam Rogers was actually first to isolate cannabidiol. In many records, he is known to be the first to initially identify its psychoactive cousin, THC.
Dr. Adams grappled with the role of science—and its misuses—in war and totalitarianism during the great world political upheavals in the early 20th century. He studied chemical warfare when Germany was then notoriously using poison gas in the trench warfare in Europe. Adams studied this with an eye toward developing prophylactics to gas attacks and researched potential deterrents to retaliate in the German war effort. He was a great American hero and a direct descendant of President John Adams.
Why don’t more people know about the endocannabinoid system (ECS)? Dr. Matsuda was the first to describe the structure and functional expressions of the cannabinoid receptor, CB-1. Scientists at the time, were trying to understand how THC, the primary intoxicating substance in marijuana, affected the body. What they discovered was a remarkably complex network of cannabinoid receptors (CBr) expressed in cells of both the central and peripheral nervous system. All mammalians have an ECS, just like we all have a central nervous system. Since then, other cannabinoid receptors have been identified including cannabinoid receptor type 2 (CB-2), which is found primarily in the immune system, digestive system (gastrointestinal-tract), and many of the body’s major organs. But these receptors were only half the story. The discovery of CB-1 and CB-2, prompted a hunt for the body’s own cannabinoid-like chemicals that naturally interact with these newly discovered receptors.
Why would the body produce receptors if there were no naturally occurring cannabinoids that would bind with them? 25 years later, Dr. L.A. Matsuda discovered that we all have an endocannabinoid system. The first cannabinoid-like chemicals to be discovered was Anandamide. Anandamide acts on both the CB-1 and CB-2 receptors, modulating both the central and peripheral nervous system. Activity in the peripheral nervous system regulates the functions of our immune system.
What exactly does the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) do?
ECS helps fine-tune most of our vital physiological functions. It promotes everything from sleep, appetite, pain, inflammation, memory, mood, sight, smell and even our reproductive system. The ECS helps modulate the regulation of homeostasis (all of our various body systems are maintained in a state of dynamic equilibrium). Having a healthy ECS means that our bodies systems are all working in concert with one another. It was recently discovered that ingesting Cannabinoid oil in its pure form or in tinctures would ignite the ECS for optimizing our overall health. All animals have an endocannabinoid system (ECS) All vertebrates and invertebrates are known to have an ECS.
1. Endocannabinoid receptors are the most abundant neuromodulatory receptors in our body. The total number of endocannabinoid receptors in the body is believed to be greater than all other neuromodulatory receptors found in the body combined, including receptors for the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. Anandamide alone has the most receptors in the brain and is critical for maintaining a healthy central nervous system. 2. The endocannabinoid system (ECS) has been found to play a role in many diseases. The ECS helps bring balance to the body. Scientists have observed changes in ECS activity in a number of diseases. Neurodegenerative disorders, rheumatoid arthritis and cancer have shown changes in endocannabinoid levels and greater receptor expression. This suggests that the ECS may be an effective target for restoring balance in the body and promoting good health. 3. Clinical Endocannabinoid System (ECS) Deficiency Syndrome may be a root cause of some diseases. When the ECS is functioning properly, all our various body systems are maintained in a state of dynamic equilibrium, or homeostasis. But what happens when the ECS is dysfunctional or damaged? Scientists have found that certain conditions which are associated with hypersensitivity to pain or stimulus, such as migraines, insomnia, stress disorder, fibromyalgia, IBS and other abnormalities equates to a dysfunctional ECS. It is believed that by supplementing the body with naturally occurring cannabinoids from plants, we can correct this deficiency, relieve symptoms, and restore health. 4. The endocannabinoid system (ECS) has therapeutic effects. Before cannabis prohibition, hemp and marijuana had been used for thousands of years to treat a number of ailments, including epilepsy, headaches, arthritis, pain, depression, and nausea. Traditional healers may not have known why the plant was effective but their experience demonstrated its effectiveness and provided the basis for later scientific inquiry. The discovery of the ECS revealed a biological basis for the therapeutic effects derived from the plant. Research has shown that small doses of natural cannabinoids from hemp and other plants help support the ECS and enhance its signaling. This suggests that small, regular doses of naturally occurring cannabinoids from hemp and other plants might act as a tonic to our most central physiologic healing system. 5. Exercise and diet also boosts the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Scientists have found that prolonged aerobic exercise increases levels of anandamide, the “feel good” endocannabinoid. Diet is also a useful target. Increasing your intake of the essential fatty acid, omega 3, found in oily fish or healthy seeds like flax or hemp, can help support endocannabinoid brain signalling. 6. Heavy research is being conducted on ECS worldwide now. Talking with your doctor about the ECS can be frustrating since the majority of doctors are still not trained on it. This is beginning to change, but for now it is helpful to become armed with good information about the ECS when speaking with your doctor. A 2013 survey conducted by the Medical Cannabis Evaluation in Sacramento asked medical schools in the United States whether the ECS formed part of their curriculum. The survey found that only “13% teach the ECS to future doctors.” This means that many patients will have had more training on the ECS than their doctors. The name most associated with cannabis science is generally Israeli chemist Raphael
More about Dr. Roger Adams A Boston native and direct descendant of President John Adams, Roger Adams studied at Harvard in 1905 at age 16. In 1913, he traveled on a fellowship to Germany, the world leader in chemistry at that time, and studied at Berlin’s Kaiser Wilhelm Institute. He returned to the U.S. to take a post at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign just as World War I was breaking out.
In 1917, Adams took a position with the National Research Council in Washington, DC and its associated Chemical Warfare Service. Germany was then notoriously using poison gas in the trench warfare of Europe. Adams studied this with an eye toward developing prophylactics to gas attacks—and potential deterrents in the capacity to retaliate in kind. Ironically, the expertise he learned in Germany was now being put to use for the war effort against Deutschland.
Even after the war, Adams remained close to the then-forming national security establishment, which also had an impact on what would be his life’s most important scientific work.
Roger Adams’ Cannabis Research Commences In 1939—just two years after marijuana was banned by Congress—Adams received a Treasury Department license to work with cannabis oil at his lab in Urbana-Champaign and presented a paper to the National Academy of Science on “The Chemistry of Marijuana.” The next world war also broke out that year, although the U.S. wouldn’t become involved until after the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941.
The national security establishment was interested in Adams’ work. In 1942, the newly formed Office of Strategic Services, the wartime predecessor of the CIA, drew on Adams’ research in its quest for a “truth serum.” Cannabis was administered to U.S. soldiers and also to scientists working on the Manhattan Project—the super-secret mission to develop the atomic bomb—but produced negligible results. Marijuana’s newly illegal status made this research controversial.
In his profile of Adams in No Boundaries: University of Illinois Vignettes (2004), Ronald Doel relates how the esteemed chemist was publicly dressed down by Harry J. Anslinger, the anti-pot zealot who was the crusading figure behind the “reefer madness” of this era. As commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, Anslinger was the nation’s first Drug Czar. And since Adams’ research was being overseen by the bureau, Anslinger apparently perceived him as having a bit too much enthusiasm for his work. After Adams reportedly let slip in mixed company about the “pleasant effects of the use of this drug,” Anslinger publicly scolded him. “In my opinion, this drug is bad for human consumption and should be painted so,” he lectured. In 1940, Adams was appointed to the National Defense Research Committee to assist in the war effort, but FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover suspected him of being a Communist sympathizer and blocked Adams’ appointment for several months due to his membership in the Lincoln’s Birthday Committee for Democracy and Intellectual Freedom, a body of academics opposed to Nazi pseudoscience and “race” theories. Adams was what would later be called a “premature anti-fascist.” With the U.S. and USSR allied in World War II, anti-Communism was (for a while) de-emphasized, and Adams eventually got his security clearance. In 1942, he started the Illinois chapter of Russian War Relief, an organization established to support Uncle Sam’s wartime ally.
Adams Synthesizes CBD, Identifies THC From a scientific standpoint, Adams’ most important work was his cannabis research in the early 1940s when he identified and synthesized cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabinol (CBN). In 1942, he won a patent for his method of isolating CBD. Adams was also the first researcher to identify tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and published 27 studies on cannabis in the American Journal of Chemistry.
But Adams never actually isolated THC directly from the plant; instead, he synthesized it in the lab by tweaking the molecular structure of other cannabinoids, principally CBD. Adams apparently had been looking for the psychoactive cannabinoid; he knew it had to exist and had a good idea of its molecular makeup, but never actually identified it in the plant, apparently because the technology later used by Mechoulam wasn’t available to him back in the ’40s.
While Mechoulam is generally credited with isolating THC at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 1964 and giving the compound its name, Adams produced THC analogs in his laboratory some 20 years earlier and is said to have “inferred” the existence of the molecule in the cannabis plant. Mechoulam confirmed Adams’ discovery by using a nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer.
According to hightideventures.com, “The isolation of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol as the primary psychoactive constituent in cannabis was first done by Wollner, Levine and Lowe in 1942. This followed the work of Roger Adams. Since then, (THC) has become the most widely studied cannabinoid.” After Adams reportedly let slip in mixed company about the “pleasant effects of the use of this drug,” the nation’s first drug czar, Harry J. Anslinger, publicly scolded him.
In 1944, “The La Guardia Report on the Marijuana Problem” acknowledged Adams’ work: “We are indebted to Dr. Roger Adams at the University of Illinois and to Dr. H. J. Wollner, consulting chemist of the U.S. Treasury, who supplied some of the active principles of marijuana which were used in the study.” The post-war era saw the pinnacle of Adams’ embrace by the foreign policy establishment. In 1945, he returned to Germany as an advisor to General Lucius Clay, administrator of the U.S. occupation there. Adams’ special mission was to oversee the reconstitution and de-Nazification of Germany’s scientific establishment. In 1947, he was sent to U.S.-occupied Japan with a similar mission.
Marijuana’s newly illegal status made this research controversial. In his profile of Adams in No Boundaries: University of Illinois Vignettes (2004), Ronald Doel relates how the esteemed chemist was publicly dressed down by Harry J. Anslinger, the anti-pot zealot who was the crusading figure behind the “reefer madness” of this era.
Roger Adams repeatedly risked his career and position both for his cannabis research and his political ideals, standing up to the forces of intolerance in a very paranoid age.