Symposium “Plants in Health and Culture”

  Arno Hazekamp, Pharmacognosy Department, Leiden University Cannabis: extracting the medicine


Cannabis has been discovered once again as a valuable medicinal plant. Although it has been used since ancient times as a medicine all over the world, it is now mostly famous for it's narcotic effect. However, since it is known that the human body produces it's own cannabis-like chemicals, a new scientific interest has grown for the cannabis plant. But because already more than 450 different compounds have been identified in the cannabis plant, it is difficult to find out which are the "real" active ingredients of medicinal cannabis.

In this presentation you will learn everything about the current status of medicinal cannabis. Although most countries don't accept the use of cannabis for medical purposes yet, it is possible to get cannabis from Dutch pharmacies since September 2003. The cannabis is grown in large greenhouses under controlled conditions, and processed to obtain a reproducible end-product: cannabis in plastic can. But still much about cannabis is unknown and most of the medicinal effects have never been proven by modern scientifical research. Moreover, opinions about cannabis are usually based more on political or emotional grounds than on facts.

In our research we try to separate the myths around cannabis from the facts. By developing methods for analyzing the constituents of cannabis it is possible to understand the plant in a chemical way. When different types of cannabis are compared it is possible to start searching for the active compounds and to improve the medicinal effect of cannabis preparations. With the knowledge obtained by these kinds of experiments it will be possible to do more advanced medical studies, like developing an inhaler or nose-spray for isolated compounds from cannabis.