History and Cultural Significance of CBD

Explore the history and cultural significance of CBD (cannabidiol). Learn about its origins, traditional uses, modern applications, and its impact on health and wellness practices worldwide.

The Discovery of Cannabinoids

Cannabis has been utilized for various purposes, including medicinal, religious, and recreational, for over 5000 years. Cannabinol (CBN) was the first cannabinoid isolated by chemists, primarily forming from THC during the storage of harvested cannabis. In 1839, Irish medical researcher and physician William B. O’Shaughnessy published a study on the therapeutic effects of cannabis, despite the lack of understanding about cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system at the time.

The chemical structure of cannabidiol (CBD) was first elucidated by R.S. Cahn in the 1930s, and in 1940, Roger Adams and his colleagues in the USA successfully synthesized CBD in a lab. Raphael Mechoulam further detailed the structures of THC and CBD in the 1960s and synthesized them, marking significant advancements in the identification of other cannabinoids.

Who Discovered CBD?

R.S. Cahn first elucidated the chemical structure of CBD in the 1930s, but it wasn’t until 1940 that Roger Adams isolated CBD in its bis(3,5-dinitrobenzoate) ester form from Cannabis Sativa.

Initial Responses to CBD’s Discovery

The identification and isomerization of CBD were not widely recognized initially. In the 1960s, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam detailed the chemical structure of cannabidiol and concluded that CBD was not psychoactive but might have other potential uses.

How CBD Was Studied After its Synthesis

Early pharmacological experiments in the 1940s and ’50s involving CBD oil extracted from cannabis led to the first insights into CBD’s pharmacology. By the 1980s, research on CBD as a potential therapeutic aid began to intensify, with significant breakthroughs in epilepsy treatment.

In 1977, Brazilian researchers conducted a small clinical study on epileptic patients, demonstrating CBD’s potential in reducing convulsions.

Long-term Use of CBD

The legalization of CBD-based medications in the early 21st century led to widespread use. Today, CBD is ubiquitous, found in gas stations, drugstores, health food stores, and big-box retailers, and even prescribed as an FDA-approved medication for epilepsy (Epidiolex).

Historical Examples of Hemp Consumption

  • Ancient China: The Chinese herbal texts by Shen Nong emphasized the medicinal use of hemp for ailments like gout, arthritis, and malaria.
  • Arabia and Persia: Hashish was consumed for pleasure.
  • Ancient Egypt: Mummies have been found with traces of hashish, indicating its use around 1000 BC.
  • Ancient Iran: Hemp was used recreationally and called ‘hempwas’.
  • India: Hemp, considered sacred, was used to make a drink called Bhang for social and religious occasions.
  • 18th Century Ireland: William O’Shaughnessy popularized the medicinal use of cannabis.
  • 19th Century UK: Cannabis was sometimes prescribed medicinally, notably by Dr. J.R. Reynolds for Queen Victoria’s menstrual cramps.
  • 1978 Landmark Lawsuit in America: Robert Randall sued the federal government for using cannabis to treat glaucoma, resulting in the FDA setting up a unique program to distribute cannabis.

Path to Federal Rescheduling

CBD’s path to federal rescheduling is intertwined with marijuana and hemp legislation. Cannabis Sativa has long been a Schedule I drug, deemed to have no accepted medical use. However, the 2018 Farm Bill legalized the regulated cultivation and sale of industrial hemp and hemp-derived products, provided they contain less than 0.3% THC.

The DEA’s CBD Rescheduling Order

In 2018, the FDA approved the first CBD drug, Epidiolex, leading to the DEA rescheduling FDA-approved CBD drugs with less than 0.1% THC to Schedule V, the least restrictive category under the Controlled Substances Act.

Modern Use of CBD

According to a 2019 Gallup poll, 33% of Americans have tried CBD, with 14% using it regularly. A survey by SingleCare found that pain management is the primary reason for use, especially among older adults, while younger users primarily cite anxiety and stress.

Reported Reasons for CBD Use

  • Pain Management: 64%
  • Anxiety and Stress: 49%
  • Sleep and Insomnia: 42%
  • Arthritis: 27%
  • Depression: 26%
  • Migraines and Headaches: 21%
  • Recreational Use: 12%
  • Pets: 8%
  • Other Mental Health Conditions: 8%
  • Digestive Issues: 8%
  • Acne or Skincare: 6%
  • General Health Benefits: 5%
  • Other Reasons: 2%

CBD has found diverse applications and enjoys widespread popularity today, representing a significant shift from its controversial beginnings.