CANNABIS CULTURE – A glance again to the mid nineteenth Century when hashish extract (AKA ‘Rick Simpson Oil’) was being administered within the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

Scotland is making a return to rising hashish, with medical manufacturing beginning at Hilltop Leaf Ltd in Dumfries and Galloway, and the developments of farmers in Angus and Aberdeenshire working alongside the Scottish Hemp Association , Rowett Institute , SAOS and Rural Innovation Support Services to begin rising hemp in 2021, this text takes a glance again to the early days of hashish getting used as a drugs in Scotland. Whereas proof exists of hashish being grown for industrial functions in Scotland from around the 11th Century, the information of medicinal use begin within the mid nineteenth Century, with the West being launched to hashish extract by Dr. O’Shaughnessys 1839 publication ‘On the preparations of the Indian Hemp, or ‘Gunjah’ (Hashish indica), their results on the animal system in well being, and their utility within the therapy of tetanus and different convulsive ailments’. On the time Medical doctors had no concept what the energetic constituents of hashish have been, however that didn’t stop hashish getting used efficiently as a therapeutic. Information was constructed up by means of case stories, collated person expertise and self-experimentation. It’s hanging what number of issues have been ‘recognized’ about hashish a century and a half in the past however which have solely been ‘confirmed’ in recent times.

To grasp how hashish was being dosed, we are going to take a look at all of the related information, put observations in context, and attempt to get an concept of simply how a lot cannabinoids have been being administered to sufferers in Scotland within the mid nineteenth Century. We’ll check out paperwork from Dr. Christison, M.D, President of the Royal School of physicians, and Professor of Materia Medica within the College of Edinburgh, his 1850 Inaugural Dissertation, ‘On the Natural History, Action and Uses of Indian Hemp’, which was awarded a prize by the Medical Facility of the University of Edinburgh, and case stories.  

For reader context, ‘Indian Hemp’ was the outline for all hashish coming from India, its not referring to hemp crops similar to lower than 0.2% THC ‘European hemp’ varieties, for instance.

What amount of cannabinoids have been being administered to sufferers?

Right here, we have to pull collectively a variety of information factors to make an inexpensive evaluation of the possible composition of those extracts. Dr. O Shaughnessy describes the method of constructing the preparations in 1839, of the identical sort that have been utilized in Scottish hospitals.


“The resinous extract is ready by boiling the wealthy adhesive tops of the dried gunjah in spirit, till all the reason being dissolved. The tincture thus obtained is evaporated to dryness in a vessel positioned over a pot of boiling water. The tincture is ready by dissolving three grains of the extract in a single drachm of proof spirit.”


1 grains = 64.79mg (3 grains = 194.39mg)

1 drachm = 3.69ml

= 52.68mg of extract per 1ml of spirit

= 526.80mg of extract per 10ml (to make use of 10ml as some extent of reference for a tincture. ‘Simply over half a gram of extract per 10ml’) 

Beginning with 2 private accounts of Dr. Christisons personal self-experiments, the first of which he consumed ‘4 grains of Dr. Robertsons extract’ (simply over a 1/4 gram of extract) round 3am which produced ‘cessation of ache, a pleasing numbness within the limbs, giddiness, a speedy succession of unassociated concepts, and impossibility to comply with a practice of thought, frequent intervals of sleep, and slight improve within the drive of the heart beat; on the similar time felt no ache.’ He went on to explain feeling a bit torpid till round 2pm the subsequent day and that the signs ‘ceased solely in a couple of minutes after consuming lemonade.’

Within the second case report of self-experimentation from Dr. Christison, he consumed only one/4 of his authentic dose, ‘1 grain of the identical extract, dissolved in spirit’ a short while later, “I laughed heartily a number of occasions, answered questions incoherently, and instantly forgot what they have been about, and what I had answered. Pleasant reveries came to visit me, and no matter I take a look at grew to become misplaced, because it have been, in a maze: the lamp seem like slowly turning round: and once I overlooked this, the crimson traces on the paper of the room appeared to intertwine in a most stunning method. Probably the most outstanding impact was the fixed succession of latest concepts, every of which was virtually immediately forgotten. When roused to tea, I ate ravenously, with out feeling happy. I slept soundly at night time afterwards; and subsequent day was silly and forgetful, however was a lot improved by consuming lemon juice.” 

It was famous amongst medical doctors on the time that there have been a variety of results and therapeutic outcomes in sufferers. Whereas some didn’t endure any side-effects even at excessive doses, different case stories described profound results produced by solely a single grain of extract. In December 1845 within the Edinburgh Royal infirmary, a Highland Porter affected by power bronchial asthma and bronchitis was give a single grain of extract below the care of Dr. Robertson. Round one hour later the affected person referred to as the nurse, as was famous, ‘he appeared to have awaked immediately, and stared wildly about him… He knowledgeable them “that he had been transported to heaven”, and his language, normally commonplace, was fairly enthusiastic.’

So, we will safely assume there was THC current in these extracts. With case stories utilizing doses of 65mg of extract producing such outcomes, there have been clearly respectable ratios of THC current. These results don’t match with case stories of utilizing CBD dominant extracts in such doses.  

In a letter dated seventeenth August 1849 despatched to Dr. Christison, Mr Jameson, Director of the Botanic Gardens at Saharunpore gave an account of hemp rising in India, “In Kimaon and Gurwhal hashish is grown in massive portions, partly to be able to receive its resinoid secretion, and partly for its bark, from which a powerful coarse fabric, referred to as ‘bungila’, is manufactured, for the costume of the poorer inhabitants, notably by means of Gurwhal.” Additionally that “In October, in crossing the Himalayas from Almora to Mussuri, I’ve handed by means of dozens of villages 6000 to 8000 ft above the extent of the ocean, and seen tons of of males, girls, and youngsters, all employed in making churrus. The plant grows to a top of from 10 to 14 ft.” 

The Gurwhal area in North India has a protracted historical past of utilizing hashish as a multi-use crop for meals, clothes and drugs, whereas the varieties within the South of India have been primarily advanced for medicinal/drug use with constantly greater cannabinoid content material and constantly greater THC:CBD ratios.  

Mr Jameson is understood to have despatched varied batches of ‘churrus’ to Dr. Christison in Edinburgh for experimentation, together with a block from Yarkand, Thibet, ‘as massive as two fists’.  

By the geographical and morphological descriptions, we will rule out these crops being of the quick Indica ‘Afghanica’ selection, typical of Afghanistan and Pakistan. We additionally know that European hemp varieties aren’t discovered rising wild in that area, and if the plant was grown for multi-purpose use together with meals and clothes then its metabolic potential wouldn’t solely be targeted on cannabinoid manufacturing. We will subsequently slender the possible number of hashish being extracted right down to the just lately labeled Cannabis sativa ssp. Indica var. Himalayensis. Previously referred to as Cannabis sativa ssp. indica var. Kafiristanica, or Cannabis ssp. indica feral biotype. The brand new classification possible doesn’t go far sufficient to distinguish between ‘wild sort mountain hashish’ var. Himalayensis which was harvested for textiles, ‘bhang’, and ‘jungli’, a decrease grade of charas, and the domesticated cultivars that are recognized to be greater yielding, could be even taller, and produce a superior grade of charas than their wild kinfolk. These varieties possible symbolize the ancestral supply of what grew to become cultivated Hashish sativa ssp. indica var. indica, Southern Indian excessive THC/low CBD ‘drug varieties’, generally known as ‘sativas’.

Wild-growing Hashish sativa ssp. indica var. Himalayensis, Northern Pakistan, 2019. {Photograph} courtesy of Landrace Genetics. 

A 2004 study of 157 Cannabis accessions from around the world discovered that the everyday Hashish var. Himalayensis/C.Indica feral biotype, contained 0.3-6% THC and 0.0-7.9% CBD.

A study in 2020 found the THC content in var. Himalayensis ranged from 0.06% to 9.3%, with various ratios of THC/CBD being discovered.

Averaging the recognized information, we’ll use 6% complete cannabinoid content material within the biomass for calculations. Throughout the assorted research of THC:CBD ratios there are some things to think about, the 2020 research famous a typical ratio of seven:1 THC:CBD, and whereas some specimens have been discovered with as much as 100:1 THC:CBD ratio, others have contained lower than 0.3% THC complete with a 1.28 – 1.56 THC:CBD ratio. The decrease THC content material, however nonetheless ‘THC dominant crops’ possible symbolize reacquired wild-type traits of East-Asian fibrous varieties. Asian hemp fibre varieties are sometimes THC dominant, the other of European hemp.


Narrowing down the contents of the extract and tinctures being administered. 

Varied extraction strategies, refinement strategies, and trials of extracts from totally different sources of crops have been properly understood on the time.

 Notes from an extraction technique developed by Dr. Robertson in Calcutta, India, and described by Dr. Christison state:


‘From 100 weight of gunjah he obtained 8 kilos of extract’

100 weight = 50.8kg

8 kilos = 3.62kg

= 7.12% yield of extract

 Dr. Christison commented in his 1850 dissertation on Indian Hemp, “the best extract I’ve seen, is one ready by Mr Robertson, professor of chemistry at Calcutta, which, nonetheless, is just not out there.” He went on


“the getting ready of it value him a lot time and hassle… he deserted the try to manufacture it this fashion. Specimens, nonetheless, have been despatched for experiment to varied components of Europe, and, amongst others, to Edinburgh, for Dr. Christison; – That is now 4 years outdated, yields a gorgeous inexperienced texture with rectified spirit, retains all its power, and is simpler than the extracts of the retailers usually appear to be.” He went on to doc additional points he had with the feel and consistency of ‘the brand new extracts of the retailers’ and concluded “in all probability feeble, if not inert”.

 To learn feedback from 1849 that the brand new extracts within the retailers are lower than the standard of an extract obtained in 1845, is kind of the flash again for 2021 as retailers within the UK are being pushed in the direction of promoting merchandise containing solely remoted ‘white powder’ CBD. A transfer away from the whole-plant solely hemp extract market that existed 4 years in the past, earlier than CBD isolate dropped in value and began to dominate the provision chain.


When Dr. Christison extracted hashish biomass in Edinburgh, he documented a ten% yield utilizing the unique technique as described by Dr. O’Shaughnessy. Dr. Robertsons extraction technique was famous to be superior, however with the decrease yield and economics being the deciding issue, the best extract was not made commercially obtainable.

 Dr. Christison was very aware of the vary of extracts obtainable, as he famous of M. de Courtive of Paris experiments, that ‘6 grains of Paris grown ‘Indian hemp’ produced the specified impact, whereas ‘French hemp’ required 8 to 16 grains.’

In 1846, The Messrs Smith of Edinburgh, a Scottish based mostly Pharmaceutical analysis firm based in 1815 and now one of the worlds leading manufacturer of opiate alkaloids, tried to pay attention the hashish extract right down to its ‘energetic compound’, of which they assigned the title ‘Cannabin’, solely with a question. The tip outcome, after a considerably “advanced course of”, was a 7-8% yield of extract, the identical as Dr. Robertsons, and regardless of varied processes to purify and focus the energetic compounds additional, Dr. Christison described the outcomes as “not appeared to me to make any materials distinction within the preparation… there may be little benefit in substituting a well-prepared extract the resin obtained by a so operose a technique as that of the Messrs Smith.”

Estimating cannabinoid content material:

To begin with we’ve got Dr. O’Shaughnessys decription of the extract that it “hardens at 90° (32C); softens at greater temperatures and fuses readily”. “the extract softens at a mild warmth, and could be made into tablets with none addition.”


Then we’ve got Dr. Christisons description that


“good extract thus ready, like all different good extracts that I’ve seen, has a darkish greenish-black color, a agency consistence… it softens within the hand, and adheres with nice obstinacy to the fingers; it isn’t in any respect miscible with water. It kinds a gorgeous deep inexperienced tincture with rectified spirit, wherein it’s simply soluble.”


Hardens at 32C, agency consistence, softens within the hand…. These extracts have been clearly not on the greater finish of the potential cannabinoid focus obtained by alcohol extraction. Larger concentrations, 70-80%+ cannabinoids in alcohol extractions wouldn’t be described on this means. A 70-80% cannabinoid purity extract dissolved into rectified spirit wouldn’t flip it deep inexperienced, however moderately golden. With out entry to freezers for extraction, and never filtering right down to as small a micron as can be frequent place these days, and being described as ‘agency and darkish inexperienced’, clearly a few of the weight was made up with extra plant materials. Going by the descriptions ‘adheres with nice obstinacy to the fingers’ and being ‘simply soluble in rectified spirit’, we will additionally assume these extracts additionally couldn’t be below 30% cannabinoids to suit these descriptors. Something within the 20% vary would have an excessive amount of ‘different’ plant materials current to be described this fashion, a resin in that cannabinoid focus vary wouldn’t be ‘simply soluble’ in rectified spirit. All thought of, an inexpensive evaluation of the proof would put these extracts within the 30-60% cannabinoid vary. For calculations we’ll use 50% cannabinoid focus as a working quantity.  

If the reader thinks this vary is unworkable for historic reference of therapeutic use, it’s price noting that now, in 2021 with Medical Hashish being obtainable as soon as once more on prescription within the UK, with (a few of) the energetic substances being recognized and quantified, and that “each batch is precisely the identical”, properly, it’s a plant and a variety of research could be discovered on-line for what is definitely contained in these merchandise, so lets take a look. 

Bedrocan, the first cannabis flower to be prescribed in the UK for vaping is labelled as ‘approx 22% THC’, with a earlier batch coming in at solely 17.6% THC, and one other latest batch testing at 24.8% THC.

 Analytical outcomes through official Dutch Cannabis Bureau.


17.6% THC, Bedrocan sativa, batch quantity: 18H06EY18H28

24.8% THC, Bedrocan sativa, batch quantity: 20CO2EY20D01

 Thats a distinction of 72mg THC per gram, which in a 5g product container involves a distinction of 360mg THC content material in a prescribed medical product, the place each batch is ‘precisely the identical’… Its price noting these batches did go all checks within the medical system for compliance of content material and labelling. To offer some client context to 360mg of THC, latest research that suggest to set a ‘standard THC unit’ say


‘On the idea of experimental and ecological information, public well being concerns and present coverage, we suggest {that a} ‘commonplace THC unit’ needs to be fastened at 5 mg THC for all hashish merchandise and strategies of administration.’


Whereas there aren’t any finish of issues with the proposed concept of setting a normal THC unit throughout all hashish merchandise; isolates, cannabinoid-rich/terpene-free distillates, and entire plant full-spectrum extracts, the instance given of 360mg THC variability per product would equal ’72 standard units of THC’ distinction in complete content material.

 One other instance can be the approx 14% THC Bedica indica, additionally prescribed within the UK, with a latest batch evaluation testing at 16.5% THC.


16.5% THC, Bedica indica, batch quantity: 19J28FP19L17

 UK medical hashish sufferers have just lately shared images on social media after receiving Medical Hashish flowers with a bundle stating 20% THC, 4% CBD on the label, however a batch evaluation exhibiting it to really be 21.3% THC and lower than 0.1% CBD. Fairly a variability of anticipated content material to labelling.


Pictures courtesy of @Matthew420Ross




When a sufferers information are up to date with the constructive suggestions, if they’ve been consuming a 213:1 THC:CBD ratio product, there’s little profit in writing down the product was a 5:1 THC:CBD ratio because it stated on the label, if it wasn’t that. Which simply proves how natural hashish, and its extracts, can be utilized therapeutically even when batches have variability. Regardless what the label says, though that could be a place to begin, the person suggestions loop is what guides the subsequent step ahead.

So all issues thought of, the estimated vary of cannabinoids current within the extracts hypothesised on this article are clearly not unworkable…

Oils which might be being made presently by mixing isolates of THC and CBD will be capable of constantly hit an correct milligram content material each time on the label, different producers are possible studying this and want to draw consideration to their ‘spot on’ cannabinoid evaluation, however all isolate blenders ought to take word; lengthy earlier than the (most important) energetic substances of THC and CBD have been found in hashish, it was properly understood that totally different extracts had totally different therapeutic properties. Some extracts have been clearly superior to others with climatic area, soil content material, and altitude all considerably influencing a crops cannabinoid and terpene manufacturing, and subsequent downstream therapeutic potential.

 In a letter to the British medical journal dated June 1883, Dr. G.C. Wallich famous that “the actual fact which got here to mild was, that the therapeutic effectivity of the (hashish) plant grown within the plains could be very markedly inferior to that of the plant when produced within the hill districts.” Commenting that he had these discussions with Dr. W.L. McGregor in 1841 and 1842.
 Simply an commentary on the time, but additionally confirmed in a recent study:


‘A mountain setting, with situation of UV size publicity and important situations, deeply influences the amount of the inflorescence compounds, favoring the manufacturing of CBDA and cannaflavins. Data relating to the variations in industrial hemp inflorescences phytochemical profile helps hemp cultivation in mountain areas as a supply of pharmacologically energetic cannabinoids, terpenes and cannaflavones which might be thought of additionally as promising nutraceuticals. Metabolomics approaches delineated this crop as resourceful and extremely adaptable to the variation of local weather/geographical situations.’

One other factor we’ve got to think about is that these extracts wouldn’t have been totally decarboxylated. All the manufacturing descriptions contain soaking plant materials in alcohol and utilizing boiling water to take away the alcohol. As a result of decrease temperatures concerned on this course of, we’ve got to imagine that these extracts couldn’t have been totally decarboxylated, and would possible have solely been round half-way decarboxylated, at most, which means nearly all of the cannabinoids current can be of their impartial acidic kind as THCA, or CBDA. A 2013 study by Arno Hazekamp evaluating the extraction properties of various solvents confirmed that ‘Most extracts contained solely a small proportion of THC (5-10% of complete THCA + THC content material), on account of the comparatively low warmth of max. 100°C utilized throughout the evaporation, or extraction.’

Because the extracts weren’t subjected to excessive sufficient temperatures to totally decarboxylate, but additionally factoring in varied components such because the dealing with of hashish in India, transportation to Scotland, the chance for oxidisation that may in any other case be minimised in a contemporary lab experiment, the time required to boil off all of the alcohol and so forth, we will safely assume the Indian Hemp extracts can be greater than 10% decarboxylated, however nonetheless not totally ‘energetic’. We’ll speculation the extract was round half means decarboxylated for additional calculations, with 50% of its THCA content material being activated into THC, likewise with CBDA and CBD.

The above research additionally explains Rick Simpson’s authentic well-intentioned, however misguided recommendation about utilizing the petrochemical solvent naphtha for extraction, which is price overlaying right here. Rick initially said naphtha was the very best solvent for extraction. In comparison with different solvents ‘the naphtha extracted 3x occasions extra THC’, based mostly on seizures by native authorities. This solely is smart whenever you additionally take a look at the THCA content material and realise its energetic THC content material that’s being referred to. Because the 2013 research found, the upper stage of energetic THC within the naphtha extract, over 3x greater than when extracted with ethanol extract, and 2x greater than that of olive oil, was brought on by reactions with different unknown chemical substances and contaminants current within the naphtha. Probably stabilisers current, performing as chemical catalysts inflicting decarboxylation on the decrease temperature. In any other case the ‘rice cooker’ technique described by Rick, being below 100C is not going to obtain full decarboxylation. Whereas most have moved on since then to utilizing the oven technique to decarboxlyate the plant materials previous to extraction, it’s at all times on the expense of terpenes within the commerce off. Comparisons of various extractions in the identical research present a major lack of terpenes when attaining full decarboxylation.

Now to grasp the context of simply how a lot hashish extract was being administered to sufferers in Scottish hospitals. To get a working quantity, the abstract of this evaluation to date involves assume the extracts contained round 50% cannabinoids, with 50% of the cannabinoids current have been possible nonetheless of their acidic kind. Proof suggests the crops used for the extracts have been of combined cannabinoid ratios, some 1:1, some CBD dominant, however usually THC dominant total with 7:1 THC:CBD being a typical ratio as famous within the 2020 research, so we’ll calculate it as 2 potentialities, 7:1 THC:CBD, and a much less possible 1:1 THC:CBD ratio.

At 7:1 THC:CBD ratio, 1 grain weighing 64.79mg, extracted from var. Himalayensis, containing 50% cannabinoids, half means decarboxylated, would possible include:

13.88mg THCA

13.88mg THC

2.31mg CBDA

2.31mg CBD

Or 1 grain at a (much less possible) 1:1 THC:CBD ratio, would include:

8.10mg THCA

8.10mg THC

8.10mg CBDA

8.10mg CBD

Begin low and go gradual?

Not in keeping with Dr. Christison, as he said “an error is, I imagine, typically dedicated in giving small doses.”

In November 1844, Dr. Lawrie of Glasgow wrote in to the “Month-to-month Journal” and described a number of instances the place “alarming signs offered themselves… The people so affected have been invariably females.” Professor Millar additionally made related observations.

From a 2017 review of published studies, ‘These sex-dependent physiological results could, partly, be attributed to intercourse variations in cannabinoid metabolism… however it’s unclear what neurobiological intercourse variations contribute to this phenomenon and extra research are essential.’

As Dr. Christison commented in 1850 “however maybe sufficient has been stated on this topic to stop anybody from being taken without warning by such occurrences.” He went on,

“it is not going to do, nonetheless, as a method of avoiding such penalties, to manage small doses. It seems to be significantly better to present full narcotic doses directly, by which implies this stage of pleasure will likely be as a lot as potential averted.”

Sufferers have been incessantly handled with hashish extracts for tetanus, with notes of utilizing ’10 grain doses’, and “One other affected person consumed 134 grains of the extract, and was finally discharged from the hospital cured.”

Case stories doc a lady age 7 being given extract each half-hour, “and typically many hours in succession, doses of hemp adequate to narcotise an grownup… essentially the most outstanding impact noticed, was the tolerance of the treatment.”

In different sufferers, doses have been frequently elevated till there was enchancment, or when dosing reached the purpose there was clearly no motive to proceed because it wasn’t working with that affected person. Tincture was given to some sufferers constructing as much as 100 drop doses, and dosed each half hour for a number of hours till they fell asleep.

In different instances of tetanus that weren’t efficiently handled, Dr. Christison commented “the doses at first have been evidently too small.” 

Dr. J Russell Reynolds, doctor to Queen Victoria, documented his experience after over 30 years expertise administering hashish to sufferers with feedback of its broad reaching advantages starting from “most markedly invaluable outcomes are obtained in sure psychological situations,” “in painful maladies it is rather helpful,” to “an assault of violent convulsions in an over-fed man, who has had a heavy supper, perhaps stopped by a full dose of Hemp.”

When Dr. Ethan Russo publish his groundbreaking paper “Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects” in 2011, it was the primary time the trendy medical institution took the idea of the entourage impact critically, pending extra information to be confirmed…

In line with Dr. Christison in 1850, “Lemon juice is said by varied authors to have nice affect in modifying the motion. For my very own observations, I’m persuaded that it possesses this property to a excessive diploma – that may arrest the motion solely in lots of instances, however not throughout the depth of the consequences, – and that, when it doesn’t arrest it, nice modification will likely be produced.” 

It’s clear these Medical doctors had a really sensible understanding of the therapeutic utility of hashish extract, and a shock to many the way it was being dosed in Scottish hospitals, 170 years in the past, for quite a lot of situations. The truth that it was used very efficiently whereas the contents have been utterly unknown, and is as soon as once more getting used efficiently by sufferers even when the labelling to contents have a 400x swing vary on sure cannabinoids.

Hashish is an amazingly versatile plant, and one which has had a long-standing, co-evolutionary, symbiotic relationship with mankind. That is only a continuation of that story, sufferers attaining therapeutic profit when all different medicines have beforehand failed.


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