CBD: A Brief History

With CBD taking over the news, it may seem that it’s medicinal benefits are a recent discovery. In reality, CBD has been around for thousands of years. The earliest documented use of cannabis-derived medicine was in China in 2737 BC. Even the iconic Queen Victoria used CBD to treat her menstrual cramps until the end of her reign in 1901. The cannabis plant itself has had endless uses for humans who began to cultivate it in the stone age. This brief history will go through when, where, and who discovered CBD.

The First Users of Cannabis

The history of cannabis and the development of civilization go hand-in-hand. In the Stone age when humans first started cultivating plants, marijuana made up a large portion of their crops. These plants became essential in creating their medicine, textiles, pottery, and rope.

Chinese Emperor, Sheng Nung, was the first to document the medicinal properties of CBD. He drank cannabis-infused tea to treat malaria, rheumatism, and gout. Ancient Chinese medical texts show that it was also widely used as an anesthetic during surgeries. Popularity soon spread throughout Asia, the Middle East, Africa and, India.

Although the first documented medicinal use of CBD was in Ancient China, many other civilizations also began to discover the many benefits in the years that follow. Later, CBD based treatments began to appear in documents from Egypt, Greece, Rome, and India.

  • Egypt: The Egyptians used cannabis to treat glaucoma, and administer enemas.
  • Greece: The Greeks applied it to wounds to reduce inflammation.
  • Rome: The Romans used it as a treatment for earaches, joint pain, and to suppress sexual libido.
  • India: In India, they used CBD to promote better sleep, sharpen the mind, and reduce fevers.

Discovery of CBD

There was a long line of doctors leading up to the discovery of the compounds that would eventually become known as cannabinoids. Beginning in 1839 and continuing through to 1940.

  • William B. O’Shaughnessy wan an Irish physician and medical researcher. He first piqued researchers’ interest with his studies on the therapeutic effects of marijuana. It all started when he moved to Calcutta to work as an assistant surgeon for the East India Trading Company. He never ended up leaving India and, instead, stayed to learn about the effects of cannabis from the indigenous people. They had been using Cannabis medically and recreationally in the region for thousands of years and the local people recognized its many benefits. O’Shaughnessy published his study in 1839, after living in India for six years.
  • Roger Adams was an American chemist who became famous in 1942 for successfully isolating CBD. He was a direct descendant of President John Adams and at 16 began to study at Harvard. He then traveled on a fellowship to study chemistry at an equally prestigious school in Germany. After completing his schooling in Germany he returned to the U.S. to lecture at the University of Illinois. Adam was given a license to work with cannabis oil in the lab two years after it was banned. The technology needed to discover the molecular makeup of THC wasn’t available in the ’40s and he never identified CBD’s partner in the marijuana plant.
  • Raphael Mechoulam was the Israeli chemist that is most commonly associated with Cannabis research. He was the first scientist to isolate and identify THC. He continued his research throughout his life and in the next few years, he discovered the stereo chemistries of CBD and THC. This was huge! It finally showed that CBD was not the mind-altering compound in cannabis. His next big breakthrough was in 1980 when he recognized that cannabidiol was effective in treating epilepsy. This research had the potential to change more than 50 million people’s lives. Unfortunately for these epilepsy sufferers, the stigma around marijuana caused this discovery to go unnoticed by most.
Raphael Mechoulam

CBD After 1980

In the 1980s, even though there were studies on the medicinal effects of CBD on seizures it did not become mainstream until much later.
“Who cared about our findings?” Mechoulam explains. “No one! …And that’s despite many of the epilepsy patients being kids who have 20, 30, 40 seizures a day. And what did they do? Nothing!”
After this, there isn’t much interest until 1996 when California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana. This sparked support from the public and led to further research into CBD.

CBD in Present Day

With CBD being legal in most places it’s been steadily growing in popularity. There’s ongoing research to discover all of the ways this magical chemical can help treat different illnesses. CBD is most popular for treating depression, anxiety, epilepsy, and shrinking tumors. We know that CBD does affect various ailments in positive ways but not how it works. What we know will continue to grow and change as more studies are conducted.

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