Chapter 4

Inspired by Nature: Modern Medicines Derived from Cannabis

Bruno M. Fonseca, Georgina Correia-da-Silva and Natercia Teixeira

Abstract

Phytocannabinoids as other natural products have been used as medicine for millennia. Although the advent of molecular biology and combinatorial chemistry reduced the use of natural products in drug discovery, nature continues to influence the design of new drug candidates. Cannabis sativa plant and its phytochemical products (hashish, marihuana) contain more than 100 cannabinoid compounds establishing an important family of complex chemical molecules that exert most of their actions by binding to and activating specific cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2). The identification of cannabinoid receptors has led to discovery of the endogenous ligands termed endocannabinoids (eCBs). Cannabinoid receptors, the eCBs and respective metabolic enzymes comprise an important endogenous system, called endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is widely distributed in the body and is considered to be responsible for the regulation of various pathophysiological functions. This makes ECS a remarkable therapeutic promise in a variety of pathological conditions and supported the regulatory approval of several cannabinoid molecules of natural and/or synthetic origin. This emergent interest in cannabinoid properties has been accompanied by a growth in the number of derived drugs in pharmaceutical development, with the most actively pursued therapeutic targets being pain, obesity, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy.

Total Pages: 119-155 (37)

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