William Brooke O'Shaughnessy the Cannabis O.G.
William Brooke O'Shaughnessy MD FRS was an Irish physician famous for his wide-ranging scientific work in pharmacology, chemistry, and inventions related to telegraphy and its use in India. Among his most notable accomplishments, however, is his medical research that led use of Cannabis sativa as a therapeutic tool for Western medicine, as well as his research on intravenous therapies.
At Calcutta in India, he was a member of the Medical and Physical Society of Calcutta. There he published one of his first papers on the medical applications of cannabis. In his work, he validated folk uses of cannabis in India, discovered new applications for the use of cannabis, and ultimately recommended its use for a variety of therapeutic purposes.
O'Shaughnessy established his reputation and demonstrated the power of cannabis as plant medicine by successfully relieving the pain of rheumatism and stilling the convulsions of an infant with cannabis oil. Eventually, he popularized the use of cannabis in medicine in England. His most famous success came when he used cannabis resin to quell the muscle spasm of patients with tetanus and rabies. While he could not cure tetanus, he observed that the cannabis mixture reduced their symptoms of spasticity and their suffering.
In 1842, O’Shaughnessy published The Bengal Dispensatory and in 1844, The Bengal Pharmacopeia about some of India’s plants. He dedicated 25 pages of these works to the cannabis plant and was described by James Mills in the Cannabis Britannica as, “the most comprehensive assessment of the properties of cannabis.”
Although there exists some mystery as to how O’Shaughnessy finished out his remaining years after disappearing from public life, his reputation as scholar and inventor outlived him. O’Shaughnessy’s capabilities as a researcher and scientist are the reasons that he had such a profound impact on cannabis research in his time. So hats off to O’Shaughnessy, the cannabis OG.