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The Brief History of CBD

The Brief History of CBD

CBD has a long and rich history with mankind. Humans have been cultivating cannabis since almost 4000 years BCE. In 1533, scientists and physicians began studying the medical benefits of cannabis. In the mid-1950s, when scientists could extract cannabidiol and prove that CBD is a non-psychoactive component of the cannabis plant, the study and subsequent legal battle for CBD began. Now, almost 6000 years since the cannabis cultivation, it is now legal in all 50 states of the US and the FDA has begun to review CBD as a medicine.

Cannabis and hemp come from the same plant,Cannabis sativa. However, the cultivation and use of the plant determine whether the plant is the colloquial cannabis (your everyday pot) or more industrial hemp (used in textiles, papers, and ropes). Early Chinese records show hemp as a primary crop: “‘From the time of the earliest primitive societies (about 4,000–5,000 years ago) to the Qin and Han dynasties (221 BC to 220 AD) ancient Chinese techniques of hemp sowing, cultivation, and processing developed rapidly and became fairly advanced’’’ (Lu and Clarke 1995) [1]. In fact, the Xia Xiao Zheng (the oldest recorded agricultural treatise) referred to hemp as one of the main crops grown in China.

Records from 1533 show that King Henry VIII required that for every 60 acres of land, each farmer must set aside ¼ acre for hemp cultivation (otherwise face a fine of three shillings and four pence) [2]. Similarly, in colonial America, it was illegal for farmers to not grow hemp. Founding Father Thomas Jefferson demanded that an “acre of the best ground” be kept to grow hemp [3]. Colonists came to America on ships that used hemp ropes and drafted the Constitution on hemp paper. Cannabis continued to spread and grow throughout the world, with both its industrial and psychoactive effects being noted.

Although cannabis has been central to the development of mankind, the legal and medical uses of CBD seen today are a more recent phenomenon.  As early as 1563, Portuguese physician Garcia da Orta observed that: "Those of my servants who took it ... said that it made them so as not to feel work, to be very happy, and to have a craving for food". Around the same time, Chinese doctor Li Shizhen documented the anti-nausea effects of cannabis [4]. A common story is that Queen Victoria used to smoke cannabis in order to ease her menstrual cramps!

The TRUE history of CBD did not start until 1940 when American organic chemist Roger Adams isolated the CBD compound, but he was not able to determine what he had isolated. In 1960, Israeli organic chemist Raphael Mechoulam both isolated and described the chemical structure of CBD, thus enabling chemists to confirm that CBD was a nonpsychoactive constituent of cannabis. By the mid-1970s, the British Pharmacopoeia was referring to CBD tinctures for medical use [5]. The medical effects of CBD were really publicized in America once the story of Charlotte Figi appeared [6], in which a young girl's rare seizure disorder was treated by a CBD potent treatment.

Following this story, the battle for legal CBD ensued. By the 1950s, CBD had been outlawed in all 50 states. Following the developments in scientific and medical research, the legality of CBD was brought back into question. Major landmark events must be noted in the legalization of CBD. On October 7, 2003, the United States government patented the first CBD based patent (used as a neuroprotectant) under U.S. Patent #6,630,507 [7]. In 2017, the first steps were taken for the FDA to approve CBD for medical uses.

Today, CBD is legal in all 50 States. It has been demonstrated to help reduce stress and anxiety, relieve pain, promote sleep, and encourage a happier and healthier life. If you are interested in how CBD can affect anxiety, check out The Beneficial Effects of CBD on Anxiety. Or if you want more general information on CBD, check out A Quick Introduction to Cannabidiol (CBD)


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