Tikun Olam

Tikun Olam is the flagbearer of the research and development of medicinal cannabis in Israel. The company was the first to receive a license to supply to patients, and has since created multiple strains — including the world’s first “highless marijuana strain,” Αϖιδεκελ — all of which are proven to treat certain disorders ranging from epilepsy to Crohn’s disease.
Tikun Olam, which means “repair the world” in Hebrew, is taking their brand to the
international marketplace, changing the face of medicine wherever they go.

Israel is the so-called promised land of medicinal cannabis – thanks to groundbreaking research done within it’s borders. The country’s connection to cannabis is one that’s rooted in ancient and modern history. It’s home to the isolation of THC; the discovery of anandamide (the bliss molecule), the first endocannabinoid to be identified; and to Tikum Olam – the world’s foremost, scientifically backed, medical cannabis brand.

The vertically integrated entity grows, breeds, manufactures, delivers, and studies their own proprietary strains of cannabis.

The company builds off of Israel’s vast history with cannabis. Thanks to the country’s favorable regulatory climate, research and development of the plant’s medicinal properties are leaps and bounds ahead of all others.

A Prevailing Pillar of the Past, the Present and the Future:

The connection between cannabis and culture is deeply rooted; it’s as ancient as medicine itself. History shows that cannabis was used for spiritual, medical, ritual and textile purposes throughout the world. All parts of the plant are recorded in historical Chinese medicine texts; the Egyptians used cannabis for glaucoma and hemorrhoids; the Greeks made wine steeped with cannabis to help treat ear problems and inflammation; and ancient Jews used it for colds, and for pain relief during childbirth, reported Boston-based geriatrician, Dr. Yosef Glassman, in “Haaretz,” an Israeli news site.

Modern applications for cannabis are driven by the work of Dr. Raphael Mechoulam and Yechiel Gaoni, the Jerusalem-based professors who first isolated THC. Their work paved the way for research and development of medicinal cannabis within Israel.

Today, Tikun Olam takes such foundational research into the future. The organization actively conducts trials and studies, develops their own strains, and holds the world’s largest patient database.

The Plantation:

Somewhere on a hilltop near the ancient city of Safed in Northern Israel lies the country’s first government approved grow operation. The exact locations of the Tikun Olam’s grow sites are kept underwraps; it does not have an address and is guarded 24 hours a day by armed guards and security cameras, explained Ma’ayan Weisberg, international relations representative with Tikun Olam.

The facility sits on nine acres of land; this is where all of its cultivation and manufacturing within Israel takes place. Most cannabis is grown in climate controlled greenhouses, though there’s a summer crop currently growing outdoors.

The company does not release figures as to how much cannabis is produced each year (for security purposes), but what they can say is that they serve 9,000 patients, who consume an average of 40 grams per person, per month, explained Weisberg.

Advancing the Science of Cannabis:

Tikun Olam officially launched in 2005 by Tzachi Cohen as a nonprofit organization. While Mechoulam’s earlier work set the stage for the examination and understanding of the plant, Cohen became a pioneer in the development of symptom-specific strains.

Cohen’s work was philanthropic; his volunteer-run nonprofit became the first to deliver medical cannabis to people in Israel where he reached more than 1,000 patients. But, it became too expensive. It was then that the company encouraged Israel’s Ministry of Health to permit the supply of medicinal cannabis to Israelis, who showed their support through demonstrations, explained Stephen Gardner, chief marketing officer of Tikun Olam USA.

“[Tikun Olam] was responsible, frankly, for doing a lot of the advocacy,” said Stephen Gardner. When the ministry finally agreed to licensing, Tikun Olam became the first to receive approval from the Israeli government to supply medical cannabis in 2007.

It’s now a private enterprise, which has grown to become one of the largest purveyors of medical cannabis, Gardner said, and they currently hold 40 percent of the market share in Israel.

This is in part due to their exclusive line-up of genetics. Tikun Olam has developed more than 19 different varieties — which include Avidekel, Alaska, Erez, Midnight, Or, and Eran Almog. All are tailored, and proven, to treat specific disorders with little to no side effects. Most strains come in flower, oil, topical or tincture form.

In 2012, Tikun released Avidekel, the CBD dominant strain which Reuters dubbed the first “highless marijuana.” The strain contains 15-18 percent CBD, and only one percent or less of THC — meaning it won’t get users high. The company’s clinical and observational data show the non-psychoactive strain to be effective in the treatment of inflammation, pain, seizures, migraines, and autoimmune diseases including ALS and MS.

The world renowned strain is currently used by more than 300 pediatric patients with epilepsy, cerebral palsy, cancer, autism, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Weisberg said.

The company conducted the world’s only successful phase two, double blind study of cannabis as a treatment for Crohn’s disease and colitis. This same study — led by Dr. Timna Naftali — showed 50 percent of Crohn’s patients underwent remission, said Gardner of Tikun Olam USA. Ninety percent of participants reported substantial improvements with the use of Erez.

Erez is one of the first strains to be developed by Tikun Olam, and one of it’s most popular. It’s named after one of the company’s first licensed cancer patients, explained Weisberg. The strain is potent, and particularly effective in the treatment of neuropathic pain and PTSD, she added. Erez is commonly used by Parkinson’s disease sufferers because “it really reduces spasticity in muscles,” Weisberg noted.

Midnight is another of Tikun Olam’s most popular strains. It has a ratio of 1:1 THC to CBD, and can be used both day or night. Patients most commonly use it to combat inflammation, treat PTSD, cancer and fibromyalgia. Weisberg explains that elderly patients have reported better sleep, and a reduction in pain and inflammation with the use of Midnight.

Alaska is also among Tikun Olam’s most popular varieties. The sativa-dominant strain is high in THC — it boosts a 20 percent THC and one percent CBD profile, and is most effective in combating pain, nausea and loss of appetite.

Such strains are used by Tikun Olam’s 9,000 medical cannabis patients in Israel including elderly patients at Hadarim Nursing Home at Kibbutz Na’an, a 36-bed health facility. The company conducted a four year study, with 19 participants ages 69-101; results showed that 72 percent of patients saw a reduction in medication with the use of cannabis, among other significant findings.

Results such as these are collected in Tikun Olam’s patient database — the largest of its kind in the world. It holds the records of more than 20,000 patients. Data is also collected through the use of surveys conducted before, one month after, and six months after the start of treatment. This data then helps to guide research and clinical trials.

One of the most exciting advancements currently undergoing research at Tikun Olam is the effect of cannabis on children with autism, Weisberg said, particularly Avidekel which is clinically tested to be safe for kids. “The results we’re seeing are emotional and scientific. It’s really changing lives;” not only for children, but in the parents too, she added. “[They’re] getting to know their children again, their teachers are saying [it’s working].” The results of this study have yet to be released.

Tikun Olam will soon release the results of its findings on the effects of its strains on PTSD sufferers. Before the use of cannabis, 73 percent of participants reported a bad quality of life; after cannabis treatment, 80 percent now report “very good” quality of life.

Weisberg said that with access to cannabis, PTSD sufferers report better sleep and reduced anxiety. The disorder, she added, is a global epidemic. Israel has high rates of PTSD, in part due to the fact that all citizens must serve in the army. “Sadly we have a lot of terror, we will encounter it either as soldier[s] or [as] civilian[s],” she said. 

Weisberg said that since the day Tikun Olam was founded, it’s seen itself as an advocate for medical use of the plant, she added, “we believe in our products, we see them work everyday; we see [cannabis] change lives. You can’t stay indifferent to that. Whenever we can, we shout it [from the hilltops].” Still, she said there’s a lot more research to be done, and patients without access.

Repairing the World:

Tikun Olam has grown into an international wellness brand with presences in Germany, South Africa, Australia, Canada and the U.S.

Tikun Olam USA launched in 2015. The move, explained Gardner, gives Americans access to research-driven, pharmaceutical grade cannabis otherwise unavailable due to federal restrictions.

Tikun Olam branded products are currently available in New York, Delaware, Nevada, Rhode Island, Washington state, Massachusetts Illinois, and soon, California. The company supplies the North American market via a partnership with MedReleaf, a Canadian-based pharmaceutical company licensed by Health Canada to supply cannabis. Currently, Tikun Olam provides approximately 30 percent of MedReleaf strains in Canada, said Gardner.

While Tikun’s rigorously tested products are gaining popularity in the Americas and across the world, Gardner hopes it will encourage more clinical trials. The company has already proven the efficacy of cannabis to treat a variety of ailments with its proprietary strains in Israel — more research is needed to see whether cures are possible.

For more information, visit Tikun-Olam.info or TikunOlamUSA.com

Emerald contributor since February 2016


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