By Adam Jacques
CBD is a hot topic right now in the hemp and cannabis industry. CBD (Cannabidiol) is a cannabanoid that exists in the cannabis plant with high concentrations available in the trichomes of the flowers. CBD has been used successfully in treatment of seizure disorders, pain relief, PTSD, and many other issues. With hemp becoming legal, medical growers utilizing it for years, and recreational producers growing it for market, I was interested in finding out where the discovery of CBD and its uses started.
We know cannabis rich in various cannabanoids and terpenes has been used for thousands of years. In writing, the Chinese Emperor Fu Hsi (ca. 2900 BC), whom the Chinese credit with bringing civilization to China, seems to have made reference to “ma,” the Chinese word for cannabis, noting that cannabis was very popular medicine that possessed both yin and yang. But when did we actually discover what CBD was and begin actively using it as a treatment?
It was first isolated from the cannabis plant by Roger Adams in 1940. Adams was a Harvard alumni and a prominent organic chemist at the University of Illinois, spending several years of his career researching the chemistry of marijuana. However, when he separated the CBD chemical compound from the rest of the plant, he didn’t describe its chemical structure. It wasn’t until years later that other researchers went back and realized he was the first to find and isolate it.
After Adams isolated the first cannabanoids from cannabis, scientists began testing them. At this point, they didn’t even really know what they were working with. Walter S. Loewe conducted initial experiments in 1946. He tested cannabinoids on animals, specifically mice and rabbits. The THC caused, well, THC effects. The CBD, however, caused no effects, at least not the psychoactive effects they were testing for. At this time, these cannabanoids were isolated, but they were not named nor was it understood what they actually were.
Dr. Raphael Mechoulam was the first to actually identify CBD in 1964. He completed the work at his lab in Israel at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem is where he also identified THC. His work in cannabis science was a huge turning point for medical patients and the industry. He was able to discern that THC caused the “stoned” effect we associate with cannabis and that CBD did not.
In the mid ‘70’s, after Mechoulam identified the cannabanoids and their uses, interest in cannabis for medical uses increased immensely. A tincture was released in the UK at this time that was likely the first CBD-based medication to be purposely created.
Dr. Mechoulam and researchers from Brazil conducted the first known double blind study with CBD in February 1980. The 16 individuals involved helped find that CBD had a definite medical benefit with very little to no side effects. This was a huge turning point in medical cannabis.
“Who cared about our findings? No one!” Dr. Mechoulam is quoted as saying. “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!” This feeling was reinforced by the general consensus that cannabis was a recreational drug and had little to no medical value, or at least, that is what the government wanted people to believe.
On October 7, 2003, the US Government filed Patent No. 6630507. While maintaining to the public that CBD, THC, and other cannabanoids had no medical benefit, they patented it as a neuroprotectant. A very confusing move, considering it remained a Schedule I narcotic.
Since that time, many states that do not have medical or recreational cannabis laws have passed CBD-only legislation allowing the oil to be used. Breeding, breakthroughs, and laws continue to change so rapidly, it seems hard to keep up. But, it is nice to know where we started to gain a better understanding of this wonderful cannabanoid.