Read on to explore more about the history of CBD, going through the timeline of CBD’s historical uses from ancient history all the way through to its uses today.
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Ancient History of CBD
Many people are under the assumption that the use of CBD oil to treat certain medical conditions is a fairly modern practice, especially in areas of pain management. However, contrary to popular belief, the positive effects of CBD are not by any means a modern discovery and actually date back thousands of years.
The cannabis sativa plant has grown natively all across the world, thriving in climates such as tropics, mountains, and humid areas, and was most likely the first plant harvested for cloth and clothing materials. However, the versatile plant had many more uses throughout human history with ancient people having identified ways to treat different ailments with it for thousands of years.
We traced CBD's roots from Ancient Mongolia to Ancient Rome, to modern day USA and almost everywhere in-between. The following is a brief ancient history lesson explaining where in the world cannabis (and CBD as a byproduct) was used and how it was applied to everyday life.
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As previously stated, cannabis use traces its roots back thousands of years. The people of Mongolia and Siberia were actively growing and harvesting the cannabis plant as far back as 12,000 B.C.E. In fact, archeologists widely believe that cannabis sativa was one of the first plants grown and cultivated during the birth of agriculture.
Evidence demonstrates that the utilization of the plants was a crucial factor in the development of early civilization. It was used in almost every area of life, including clothing and building material, religious ceremony, and even medically.
Archeologists discovered evidence suggesting that cannabis oil and seeds were used as a source of food in China dating back to 6000 B.C.E. It was also found that the ancient Chinese utilized the plant for a variety of purposes – its main application being medical treatment. The positive effects of cannabis on those suffering from a wide variety of conditions was recorded and expanded upon.
Emperor Shen-Neng is documented as being the first known person in Chinese history to use cannabis as a form of treatment back in 2737 B.C.E. Unbeknownst to the emperor, it was the CBD in the cannabis that may have been successfully treating the symptoms that he was experiencing due to both gout and rheumatism. As the cannabis plant’s affect became more known, the more China began to incorporate it as a natural remedy.
Ancient Chinese records detail how different parts of the cannabis plant could be used to relieve different medical issues. For example, it was written that its roots could heal infections and clots, and how other parts of the plant could be used to calm stomach pain and even prevent hair loss. It is written in Shu King (an ancient Chinese book dating back to 2300 B.C.E.) how the cannabis plant can be applied medicinally to treat a wide variety of painful conditions including menstrual cramps.
The Chinese continued researching its therapeutic effect and by the year 140 A.D. had developed a cannabis-infused wine to use as anesthetic before surgeries. However, Chinese farmers had already introduced the plant to Korea around 2,000 B.C.E. From there, its cultivation and medical application continued to spread throughout all of Asia, into Europe, and even parts of Africa.
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In India, beginning anywhere been 2000 and 1000 B.C.E., the cannabis plant was widely used in both annual celebrations and religious ceremonies. It was used as a primary ingredient in Bhang, a drink used during celebrations, as well as in Soma, a different drink used during religious ceremonies. Bhang was also consumed to treat a variety of medical issues once its medical properties were realized. These ranged from stomach ailments to headaches.
The medical application of the cannabis plant was recorded on scrolls that date back to 2000 B.C.E. Pharaoh Ramses II reigned from 1279-1213 B.C.E. and encouraged the use of cannabis as a type of medication throughout his empire. Ramses found the plant so useful that cannabis oils were discovered buried in his tomb.
In fact, the ancient Egyptians are believed to have created the first cannabis-infused topicals that were used to relieve labor pains and relieve pain associated with inflammation. They also recorded their success using the plant to treat cataracts and eye sore. Additionally, it is noted how it can be used as a suppository to treat for hemorrhoids.
Ancient Middle East
The Middle East was introduced to the cannabis plant sometime between 2000 and 1400 B.C.E. It is believed to have been most likely cultivated and used by the Scythians, a nomadic Indo-European group of people. The Scythians utilized the plant to treat many different medical conditions, including the first record of the cannabis plant’s ability to successfully treat epilepsy.
The Scythians are also credited for introducing the plant to Germany and the rest of Europe about 2,800 years ago.
The cannabis plant was introduced in Greece around 200 B.C.E., where it was used to treat a wide variety of diseases and disorders. It was applied medically to treat conditions ranging for earaches to edema. While most records indicate how it was applied to humans, there are some that demonstrate how it was used on horses injured in battle as well. The plant’s roots were used to provide burn relief and heal damaged skin, and the leaves were used to treat nosebleeds and used as a remedy for sores on horses.
Seeds from the plant were even recorded successful on people suffering from tapeworms. The ancient Greeks even seeped the leaves and seeds into water or wine to provide general pain relief and treatment for inflammation as well as constipation. Finally, the plant was used in steam baths to help provide relief to soldiers after a battle or those near death.
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Roman records dating back to 77 A.D. indicate that parts of the cannabis plant were used as a general pain relief and as a way to remove bugs from ears. They continued to grow and cultivate the plant and by 200 A.D. applied it to treat many different ailments including headaches, stomach pains, and dehydration.
The ancient world long ago used the cannabis plant to treat many different disease and disorders. It was used for thousands of years, long before modern scientists identified cannabidiol (CBD) to be the therapeutic compound.
The United States
America’s founding fathers grew and harvested the cannabis/hemp plant, like all ancient civilizations before them, to help grow their young nation. It was widely incorporated into building materials, food supply, industrial supplies, as well as countless other applications. Hundreds of years later, Mexican immigrants fled their countries due to the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1911.
Shortly after, many state and local laws began to prohibit the use of cannabis for purely politically driven reasons. The plant was dubbed “marijuana” as a negative nickname to associate its Spanish name with the Mexicans. A federal law known as the Marijuana Tax Act was passed in 1937, effectively banning the sale and use of cannabis permanently in the U.S. (and 1928 in the United Kingdom).
To this day, the United States federal government still classifies cannabis (marijuana) as a Schedule I controlled substance – viewing it in the same light as heroin, ecstasy, and LSD. There has been a recent surge in the advocation for medicinal cannabis on a national level.
Despite federal law, the use of medical marijuana has been legalized in many states, including in the nation’s capital, Washington D.C. In the last decade, there has been a plethora of scientific research emerging about the effects of the properties of the cannabis plant – investigating what ancient civilizations had already discovered hundreds of thousands of years ago.
Modern CBD History
Welcome to a quick history on the first modern sixty-six years of cannabidiol. Here is an easy to understand the breakdown:
A Brief Chronological Timeline
CBD is isolated from cannabis by Roger Adams, though he didn’t exactly understand his discovery.
Raphael Mechoulam is widely accredited for the discovery of CBD (see below), however this is simply not true. Roger Adams was actually the first to isolate cannabidiol from the cannabis sativa plant in 1940 – twenty-four years before Mechoulam. Dr. Adams, a Harvard alumni and prominent organic chemist, devoted years of his career to the research of the chemical structure of cannabis.
When he first extracted CBD as an isolated chemical compound, he didn’t describe its chemical structure. It took years for the scientific community to look back and realize that Rodger Adams was actually the first to discover and extract CBD from the cannabis plant. Sorry, Dr. Mechoulam.
Hemp is among the world's oldest natural remedies for health and wellness. Hemp has a long and distinguished history of medical use throughout the world.
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Dr. Walter S. Loewe studies the effect of CBD on lab animals for the first time in history.
Six years after Dr. Roger Adams successfully isolated several different cannabinoids from the cannabis plant, researchers immediately began testing them on an animal model to better understand the type of chemical structure that they were working with. The most well-documented experiments at this early time were conducted by Walter S. Loewe in 1946. Dr. Loewe analyzed the affects of cannabidiol (CBD), tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and cannabinol (CBN) on rabbits and mice.
His results demonstrated that THC caused a type of induced trance known as “catalepsy” in mice and that CBD did not produce any observable affect on behavior. His experiments also concluded that THC causes a “central excitant action” while CBD did not in a rabbit model. This is the first time that CBD indicated a lack of any sort of psychotropic effect. Keep in mind that at this time the chemical structure of these cannabinoids had not yet been identified and scientist were unaware of which compound was producing which reaction.
Raphael Mechoulam describes CBD’s chemical structure.
As previously discussed, Roger Adams is technically the first person to exact cannabidiol as a chemical compound. However, it is tough to give him full credit for CBD’s discovery because he failed to describe the chemical structure of the compound – this distinction belongs to Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, an Israeli scientist who is responsible for identifying the stereochemistry of cannabidiol at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in late 1963. Some consider Mechoulam more or less the godfather of modern cannabis due to being the first to identify THC’s chemical structure in 1964.
Dr. Mechoulam and associates begin testing isolated cannabinoids on primates.
Primates were among the first laboratory subjects that Mechoulam utilized to test these newly-found cannabinoids. It didn’t take long for them to realize that THC is the compound responsible for causing the intoxicating and sedated cerebral effects of the cannabis plant. Without this discovery, it would still be unknown that CBD is a non-intoxication and therapeutic compound with hundreds of therapeutic applications.
The first cannabis tincture is released by the British Pharmacopoeia for medicinal use.
From the moment Dr. Mechoulam identified the chemical structures of these active cannabinoids unique to cannabis, the interest of using the plant as a potential form of medication began to skyrocket. In fact, in the early to mind 1970’s, The British Pharmacopoeia (a UK publication of quality standards for medical substances) released a cannabis tincture licensed for therapeutic application. It would be sound reasoning to suggest that this product most likely contained a full-spectrum CBD oil for its therapeutic effect.
CBD has encountered many ups and downs but the most significant upswing was undoubtedly California’s decision to legalize medical cannabis in 1996. This was revolutionary because it paved the way for the barrage of research and public support that was to come.
New Mexico is the first U.S. state to legally acknowledge cannabis as a form of medicine.
While New Mexico’s state law (known as the Controlled Substances Therapeutic Research Act) did not mention CBD specifically as an isolated therapy, this legislation was a milestone for medical cannabis approval in the U.S. due to its representation of the first time a cannabis compound was legally recognized for its medicinal potential.
Mechoulam and South American researchers team up to conduct a study on cannabis and epilepsy.
In what is believed to be one of the first ever double-blind trials of cannabidiol on clinical subjects, Dr. Mechoulam and a team of scientists from Brazil’s Sao Paulo Medicine Faculty of Santa Casa conducted a study that analyzed CBD’s affect on 16 individuals (many of the participants being children) that suffered from forms of severe epilepsy.
The study concluded that each subject who was administered CBD experienced a drastically improved condition with little to no adverse side-effects. This trial proves to be one of the most significant breakthroughs in the study of medical cannabis.
Dr. Mechoulam’s CBD for epilepsy publication goes widely unnoticed in the pharmaceutical and medical industries.
You would think that the research conducted by Dr. Mechoulam and colleagues would have sparked worldwide support and advocacy for the therapeutic application of CBD, however it proved to be virtually unnoticed. This was likely widely due to the growing stigma that surrounded the cannabis plant back in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
When speaking out in regard to this lack of interest in his team’s breakthrough discovery, Mechoulam is quoted as stating, “Who cared about our findings? 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!”
California is the first U.S. state to legalize medical cannabis.
California’s decision to legalize medical cannabis in 1996 was revolutionary because it paved the way for the barrage of research and public support that was to come. Fairfax’s Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana opened and became the first cannabis dispensary to open on U.S. soil. This quickly prompted many other states to follow suit, including: Alaska, Oregon, and Washington in 1998, Maine in 1999, and Colorado, Hawaii, and Nevada in 2000.
Over the last half century the climate for hemp products including CBD products has changed along with the political climates.
October 7th, 2003
The U.S. Federal Government patents CBD as a neuroprotectant under U.S. Patent #6,630,507.
This is perhaps the most confusing gestures throughout the history of federal legislation on cannabis use. On 10/07/2003, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was issued a patent on cannabidiol (along with several other active cannabinoids) for their use as a neuroprotectant therapy. While it’s excellent that the government is acknowledging CBD as an effective type of medicine, it was also very hypocritical in the sense that cannabis (or CBD) was not removed from the list of Scheduled narcotics.
Charlotte Figi’s story surfaces
Charlotte Figi was born with Dravet’s Syndrome (myoclonic epilepsy of infancy), an extremely severe and rare form of chronic epilepsy. This disorder is unique when compared to other child epileptic conditions due to the fact that it is intractable – meaning that it is exceedingly difficult to treat with medication. From three months of age until five years old, Charlotte would routinely suffer from over 300 grand mal seizures weekly, with no medication able to prevent the episodes or even reduce their intensity.
Desperate and out of options, Charlotte’s parents began treatment with CBD regimen (a strain now known as Charlotte’s Web). The results were almost immediate and wildly successfully – going from seizing 300 times a day to absolutely no seizures within the entire first week of application. The story surfaced back in 2013 and gained widespread attention on a national level and almost certainly helped galvanize legislation’s support for CBD as a recognized medical therapy.
Many states pass legislation to legalize CBD
In 2014 medical CBD was legalized in the following states (presented in alphabetically order): Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Wisconsin. This is a landmark moment in the history of CBD considering that it was now legally recognized in states where medical cannabis was not.
June 25th, 2018
FDA approves first cannabis-related treatment for epilepsy
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Epidiolex (a CBD oral solution) for the treatment of two rare and severe forms of epilepsy: Dravet syndrome, and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome in patients two years of age and older. This is the first time that the FDA approved a cannabis-related product and the first time a drug was approved for the treatment of Dravet syndrome.
A New Dawn Rises For CBD Oil
With the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of G.W. Pharmaceuticals’ CBD oil-based drug Epidiolex being deemed a “safe and effective” treatment option for certain forms of epilepsy, the DEA must now downgrade CBD on the Controlled Substances list.
According to a report in Business Insider, DEA public affairs representative Barbara Carreno recently claimed that the agency now has 90 days to drop CBD down to a Schedule II or III drug. And, according to Forbes, the change is already in progress as the action is now a prerequisite to the launch of Epidiolex.
The FDA approved Britain’s GW Pharmaceuticals' CBD oil-based drug — which is essentially pure cannabidiol — for the treatment of Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome — two severe and intractable forms of childhood epilepsy.
The federal government still considers all derivatives of cannabis — whether marijuana or hemp — as a Schedule I drug along with cocaine and heroin. However, a new order placed FDA-approved drugs that contain CBD derived from cannabis and no more than 0.1 percent tetrahydrocannabinols in schedule V.
According to a report on PotNetwork, although CBD was already on track to become a billion-dollar industry, analysts now predict that a “sea change” is coming to the CBD oil business. A report in the Hemp Business Journal estimated that U.S. hemp sales reached approximately $820 million in 2017, with the bulk of that coming from hemp-derived CBD oil.
Out of seven sub-categories, hemp-derived CBD oil came in at number one with $190 million in sales in 2017 accounting for 23 percent of total hemp product sales in the U.S. The market for hemp-derived CBD products accounted for about $591 million in 2018. Forbes estimates the CBD industry could reach over $20 billion by 2024.
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