Much of our understanding of how cannabis affects the human body owes a great deal to the work of one man--Raphael Mechoulam. This Israeli scientist began researching marijuana in the early 1960s, looking for its active component.
He wound up finding more than he was looking for.
In 1963, he determined that cannabidiol (CBD) was an important and active constituent in cannabis. One year later, he became the first person to isolate tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) as another active component. Since then, he and his team continued isolating and naming the numerous compounds that give this plant the properties it has on us. We know of 480 in total as of now, 66 of which are unique to the plant. Experts say all these components of the cannabis plant likely exert some therapeutic effect, more than any single compound alone.
The first cannabinoid Mechoulam discovered that was made by the brain itself got a special name: "anandamide." In the Sanskrit language, ananda translates as "supreme bliss," which says a little about what Mechoulam and his team thought of cannabis in general.
While science has not yet shown the exact role or mechanism for all these various compounds, evidence is mounting that these compounds work better together than in isolation: the entourage effect.
Unlike other drugs that may work well as single compounds, synthesized in a lab, cannabis may offer its most profound benefit as a whole plant, if we let the entourage effect flower, as Mechoulam suggested more than a decade ago. He has recently nominated for the prestigious Rothschild Prize.