History of Cannabis as Medicine: Nineteenth Century Irish Physicians and Correlations of Their Observations to Modern Research

  • Ethan B. RussoEmail author


Cannabis or hemp has been employed medicinally in Ireland since at least the Anglo-Saxon era, more than 1000 years ago. Its use came to the fore, however when William B. O’Shaughnessy, an Irish physician in India, became familiar with the versatility of Indian hemp in the treatment of rheumatic diseases, tetanus, cholera and epilepsy in 1838. His knowledge, acquired through application of the scientific method combining ethnobotanical teachings, animal experimentation and clinical observations in humans, was quickly shared with colleagues in Ireland and England. This led in turn to rapid advances in therapeutics by Michael Donovan in neuropathic pain states, Dominic Corrigan in chorea and trigeminal neuralgia, Fleetwood Churchill in uterine hemorrhage, and Richard Greene in the use of cannabis as a prophylactic treatment of migraine. In each instance the observations of these past treatments are examined in light of 21st century advances in pathophysiology so that their rationale and scientific basis are clarified. The venerable Irish tradition of cannabis research is being carried on contemporaneously by numerous prominent scientists with the promise of important advancements yet to come.


Neuropathic Pain Trigeminal Neuralgia Delirium Tremens Irish Physician Infantile Convulsion 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I would like to thank Dr. Davis Coakley for his excellent scholarship on Irish medical history, as well as his provision of materials on Michael Donovan, and the hard-working staff of Inter-Library Loan, Mansfield Library, University of Montana for their assistance in providing rare and long-forgotten documents.


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.PHYTECSLos AngelesUSA

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