Cannabis Legends: Irishman William Brooke O’Shaughnessy

1.7 min readPublished On: March 17th, 2021By

Sir William Brooke O’Shaughnessy (1809-1889) was an early pioneer of the cannabis industry

William O’Shaughnessy was born in Limerick, Ireland, during the days of the British Empire. Talented in science and medicine, he was accepted to the prestigious University of Edinburgh, in neighboring Scotland where he studied chemistry, toxicology, botany and anatomy.  

He joined the British East India Company as a surgeon and was sent to India where he discovered how medical cannabis had been used in India for centuries as a cure-all medicine. 

Between 1833 and 1841, O’Shaughnessy observed that the pain relief supplied by cannabis minimized convulsions, muscle spasms and menstrual cramps. O’Shaughnessy also noted that cannabis was a cheap, easy to grow weed, traditionally used as an analgesic. 

He became the first westerner to validate the traditional uses of cannabis in India, methodically studying cannabis as a medicine. Through his work, he was able to successfully recommended cannabis for a great variety of medical purposes.

In 1839, he presented his research into cannabis to the prestigious Medical and Physical Society of Calcutta. There, he impressed an audience of contemporary experts with his studies of cannabis, helping treat diseases that would otherwise be untreatable. He also presented his findings on treating convulsions in a baby with epilepsy.

His research was further endorsed by Sir Russel Reynolds- Queen Victoria’s personal physician. This endorsement greatly encouraged cannabis’s medical use in Britain in the 19th century, and earned O’Shaughnessy a knighthood. It’s because of his methodical scientific analysis cannabis became an indispensable part of the Victorian pharmacy. After a long career as a medical pioneer he died in 1889 at the age of 80.

While his research was eclipsed by modern chemical pharmaceuticals, cannabis itself was banned in the United States, and after that, in the rest of the world. The ban lasted for most of the 20th century. It’s only now the full benefits of cannabis are starting to attract the attention of scientists and medical professionals, once again.

Author: Sean Ryan for Highly Capitalized Copyright 2021 

About the Author: News Team

Newsteam at Highly Capitalized are some of the most experienced writers in cannabis and psychedelics business & finance. We cover capital markets, finance, branding, marketing and everything important in between. Most of all, we follow the money.

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