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This History of CBD

Posted by Janna Champagne,RN on


Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of the hundreds cannabinoids found in the Cannabis Sativa L (hemp) plant. The use of CBD to target improved wellness has increased significantly the last few years, as patients receiving benefits realize they can freely share their results without legal ramifications.  However, the healing properties of CBD are well-established through historical use by our ancestors, spanning thousands of years across the globe.  

CBD Throughout History  

The first reported medicinal use of hemp dates back to around 2900 BC in ancient China. The Chinese emperor Shen Yeng, also known as the father of Chinese medicine, believed that hemp had medicinal properties that could help treat and manage a variety of ailments.

Yeng authored the text titled “Pen Ts’au”, which is still used today by practitioners of Chinese medicine. It was one of the first medical texts to document the therapeutic powers of the hemp plant.

The healing properties of the hemp plant continued to spread throughout much of the European, Arabic, and Chinese worlds for thousands of years. A Greek physician known as Pedacius Dioscorides detailed the potential curative properties of hemp in a book titled the “Materia Medica”. In Europe it was utilized to treat tumors and coughs and was consumed as an antidepressant in Egypt and much of Africa.

In the 1600s, colonists also discovered the medicinal benefits of the hemp plant. In Robert Burton’s book, “The Anatomy of Melancholy”, he recommended hemp extract as a treatment for mental disorders, while “The New England Dispensatory” and the “Edinburgh New Dispensatory” recommended it for pain, skin inflammation and coughs.

In 1753, hemp was given its scientific name, Cannabis Sativa, by Swedish scientist Carl Linnaeus. In the 1800s,  W.B. O’Shaughnessy conducted and recorded experiments on Cannabis Indica, a variety of the hemp plant. Because of this, hemp extract was listed in the U.S. Pharmacopeia as well as the U.S. Dispensatory as a patented medicine and was utilized to treat a variety of health issues.

Use of hemp for medicinal purposes became more and more common in Europe and across America from the 1850s to the 1930s. However, with the introduction of opiates at the turn of the century, hemp was pushed to the sidelines despite its many successes in the medical industry.

Hemp Cultivation

Evidence of hemp cultivation was discovered in an ancient village in Taiwan dating back over 12,000 years. 

In the 1500s, growing hemp was actually required by all farmers in England. In the 1600s, colonists in South Carolina, Virginia and Massachusetts were also required by English law to grow hemp and cultivate it for fiber. Early American leaders such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were huge hemp advocates and even grew it on their own plantations.

Up until the 1900s, hemp was a very important cash crop in the states.

Hemp Ban

In 1930, Harry Anslinger became the director of the newly formed Federal Bureau of Narcotics in Washington, DC. He was the godfather of America’s war on drugs and used his position to alter the public’s opinion on hemp and other cannabis based medicine.

Along with Anslinger, William Randolph Hearst, a newspaper owner who controlled most of the media in the United States in the 1930s, also advocated against hemp because he viewed it as a potential business threat. Because of this, Hearst published advertisements and articles in his newspapers citing made up dangers of cannabis and hemp. Many believe this played a direct role in the formation of The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, a law that banned both hemp and cannabis from being sold or grown in the United States.

The Formation of CBD

CBD is one of hundreds of possible cannabinoids produced by Cannabis Sativa L (hemp), and it was found in the 1940s by Dr. Roger Adams.  However, Dr. Adams wasn’t aware of the magnitude of his discovery at the time, nor the implications for human health. We gained more knowledge about CBD in 1963, when researcher Dr. Raphael Mechoulam successfully isolated Cannabidiol, mapped out its structure, and began studying its properties and effects. His work also resulted in the discovery and isolation of THC in 1964.

In 1998, the British government licensed GW Pharmaceuticals to grow cannabis and develop an extract for use in clinical trials. The founder of GW Pharmaceuticals quickly realized that by selecting highly CBD potent strains, he could produce a cannabis based medicine that lacked the psychoactive effect of THC.

Although much time has passed since its discovery, most medical professionals have never been educated or have any prior knowledge of how CBD interacts with The Endocannabinoid Sytem. This is much thanks to the cannabis prohibition that has been ongoing for almost a century in our country

Today, tens of thousands of scientific articles are available on the subject of CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids present in hemp. CBD has a long and storied history throughout humanity. Despite decades of scientific research and work by ardent scientists across the globe, it took 70 years from when CBD was first discovered for it to be finally appreciated.

Interested in learning what CBD can do for you? Click here for more information!

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