Cannabis oil treating Epilepsy, 173 years ago

William Brooke O’Shaughnessy

Everyday I read articles about scientific breakthroughs concerning the medical properties of cannabis, this morning I read an article on how CBD is “a wonder medicine for pediatric epilepsy’ and how Amylea Nunez, aged two months was the youngest patient to be prescribed cannabis oil. However, she is not the youngest and cannabis oil as a treatment in paediatric epilepsy is not a new discovery, it is merely a rediscovery.

You can read little Amylea’s amazing story: Infant Overcomes Seizures After Becoming Youngest Patient to Take Cannabis Oil

Dr WB O’Shaughnessy

In 1840, Victorian Doctors were treating people with extracts of cannabis for many illnesses, including tinctures for treating children with epilepsy.

One of my favourite pioneers was Dr William Brooke O’Shaughnessy MD, an irish physician, surgeon, Professor of chemistry, scientist and innovator, he was a pioneer of ‘intravenous therapy’ and he is the man credited with introducing cannabis to Western medicine.

O’Shaughnessy graduated in 1829 with a Medical Doctorate from the University of Edinburgh. In 1831, at the young age of 22, he investigated cholera and his early work led to the development of intravenous fluid and electrolyte-replacement therapy.

In 1833, O’Shaughnessy moved to Calcutta, India to work for the British East India Company and during his time there he developed new cannabinoid extraction techniques which he used is preparations to treat patients suffering from, cholera, tetanus, analgesia, rheumatism and epilepsy in infants.

In India, he initially studied botanical pharmacology and chemistry, publishing his first paper on medical cannabis in 1839.

In his paper “On the preparations of the Indian hemp, or Gunjah” published in the Provincial Medical Journal, London on February 4th, 1843, O’Shaughnessey relates the case of a baby just over a month old who he administered  an ethanol (alcohol) cannabis based tincture.

Please remember this was written 173 years ago.

Case of Infantile Convulsions, 1843

“A very interesting case of this disease has recently occurred in my private practice, the particulars of which I have the permission of the family to insert in this paper. A female infant, forty days old, the child of Mr. and Mrs. J. L., of Calcutta, on the 10th of September had a slight attack of convulsions, which recurred chiefly at night for about a fortnight, and for which the usual purgatives-warm baths and a few doses of calomel and chalk-were given without effect. On that day the attacks were almost unceasing, and amounted to regular tetanic paroxysms. The child had, moreover, completely lost appetite and was emaciating rapidly”

“I had by this time exhausted all the usual methods of treatment, and the child was apparently in a binking state. Under these circumstances I stated to the parents the results of the experiments I had made with the hemp, and my conviction that it would relieve their infant if relief could possibly be obtained. They gladly consented to the trial, and a single drop of the spirituous tincture, equal to the one-twentieth part of a grain in weight, was placed on the child’s tongue at 10pm.”

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