A brief history of cannabis and the discovery of CBD

A brief history of cannabis and the discovery of CBD

In order to fully understand the evolution of the use of cannabis and its emerging role in medical treatments, we have to understand the history of the plant commonly known as marijuana.

It is important to get to know this plant’s history in order to really appreciate its medicinal potential.

The beginning

The history of cannabis begins in ancient times; it is widely believed to have been used for over 8,000 years, though there is not much evidence of this until a little more recently; for example, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the plants main psychoactive cannabinoid, was found in ashes dating back to 500 B.C.

Since then, cannabis has travelled all over the world and has been used for various reasons, depending on the different cultures and periods of history that it has passed through.

Hemp, for example, which is the fibre obtained from the cannabis plant, has been used to make rope, paper and clothing. Archaeologists have found evidence of this material in ancient fabrics from China and Turkestan.

In Taiwan, hemp was used to produce pottery during ancient times and cannabis has also been used to make oil and food.

Brief timeline with key events regarding cannabis

Below is a brief timeline of the history of cannabis that outlines some key events:

Taking into account the various uses of cannabis throughout history, we can clearly see where this trend is headed: the medicinal use of cannabis

History of CBD

Cannabis contains over 100 cannabinoids, or main active ingredients, that are found in higher or lower concentrations depending on the strain of the plant. The most common are CBD and THC.

  • CBD (cannabidiol) is a useful cannabinoid for treating seizures, inflammation, chronic pain, anxiety and nausea. It does not produce the psychoactive effects of THC.
  • THC (tetrahidrocannabinol) is the plant´s main psychoactive cannabinoid. It has analgesic properties, so it can be useful for treating neuropathic pain. It also stimulates appetite and reduces side effects produced by treatments such as chemotherapy.

Apart from cannabinoids, cannabis contains Terpenes and Flavonoids, compounds with huge therapeutic potential that can enhance the effects of cannabinoids.

Here, we will explain the history of one very special cannabinoid: CBD

Although the use of CBD is considered modern, its history actually dates back to 1940, the year Roger Adams, a chemist from Harvard, extracted CBD from the Cannabis sativa plant for the first time.

However, at that time, he wasn’t aware of what he had found. It wasn’t until years later that Adams and his team of scientists realized the extent of his discovery and began to research the possible benefits of CBD.

In 1946, Dr. Walter S. Loewe became the first person to test CBD on animals. Through these experiments, it was discovered that CBD does not have mind-altering effects. That same year, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam identified the structure of CBD and became known as the doctor who discovered this substance.

Research continued and CBD started being tested on monkeys. In the sixties, the first CBD oil was released by British Pharmacopoeia. In 1980, Dr. Mechoulam made yet another scientific breakthrough, upon discovering that CBD could play a key role in treating epilepsy.

Subsequent research has confirmed that CBD has significant therapeutic potential. This component of the cannabis plant has been found to have the following characteristics:

  • Antiepileptic
  • Antipsychotic
  • Anxiolytic
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Neuroprotective

More recently, CBD has been used to treat chronic pain, neurological diseases, diabetes, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.  

Further research is also being carried out to determine its potential to treat other disorders, such as insomnia and social anxiety.  

Cannabis today

We are currently seeing the prejudice surrounding CBD and cannabis unravel, as more and more people are starting to recognize the huge medicinal potential of this plant.

On the 24th of January 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) suggested a change in the legislation surrounding cannabis. According to current regulations, cannabis and its resin are considered psychoactive substances by international drug control treaties.

However, with the changes proposed by WHO, CBD derivatives would no longer be considered psychoactive and would be removed entirely from international conventions for controlled psychoactive substances.

This means that even international health organizations recognize the medicinal properties of this component and wish to move towards the research and development of medicinal treatments using CBD.

On the other hand, new uses for cannabis have been discovered  using cutting-edge technology. The following have been the the main uses of cannabis until recently:

  • Textile fiber
  • Oil for lamps
  • Manufacturing of ropes, baskets, paper and clothes
  • Construction material
  • Thermal and acoustic insulation
  • Biomass for manufacturing biofuels
  • Manufacturing of microfibres (can substitute materials such as fiberglass in car manufacturing

Building the foundations for tomorrow

No one knows for sure what will happen with cannabis and CBD in the future, be we are optimistic. The fact that WHO has suggested new cannabis legislation shows that we are seeing a paradigm shift in the perception of cannabis across the world and that taboos are finally being broken.

This shift also means greater feasibility for the development of CBD products and derivatives, which may be useful for various sectors, especially the medical field.

The history of cannabis shows us that despite the controversy surrounding its use, current research and development points towards a future where all the extraordinary properties of this plant will be discovered and it will be used effectively for medical and scientific purposes.

Want to know more about which medicinal treatments have achieved amazing results with the help of cannabis?

Check out these research results from Dr. Marisol Duque that have proven very interesting for the medical community: How the active component CBD, contributes to the treatment of diseases such as Alzheimer’s

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The endocannabinoids system and its role in physiological regulation