How Was CBD Discovered? And When Did It Become a Viable Medical Alternative?
Considering that cannabis has been in widespread use for millennia, the fact that CBD had not been discovered until the 1940s may come as a surprise. Whether as a source of fibre, alternative medicine, or utilized for its industrial purposes, there’s concrete evidence highlighting its value throughout history.
From Ancient Egypt to the heights of the British Empire, and many native American tribes deeming cannabis as “a gift from the Gods”; its importance throughout history is apparent. Despite a lack of knowledge about cannabinoids and our endocannabinoid system, our predecessors were well aware that cannabis played an important role in our existence.
What is CBD?
All members of the cannabis plant contain molecules known as cannabinoids, CBD (cannabidiol) being one of the most common. There are more than 120 cannabinoids discovered to date, and with ongoing research, the molecule count continues. A few years ago, there were fewer than 100 cannabinoids in discovery.
Despite being one of the most abundant cannabinoids in existence, CBD is only the second most common molecule discovered within the cannabis plant; less bountiful and not as well known as its psychoactive counterpart, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the stigmatized cannabinoid, demonized for its reputation as a recreational drug.
Within the plant world, the cannabis family consists of a variety of plants, with CBD being ample in its more industrial member, hemp (a THC level of fewer than 0.2% is what determines the plant as “hemp” (0.3% in the US).
Until CBD’s discovery, hemp’s main value was a food source or utilized for its industrial flexibility. Do not get confused by various terminologies, each and every member of the family is defined as cannabis. Whether recreational or medical cannabis with high THC content, or the high concentration of CBD and virtually non-existing THC count that is hemp, they are at least siblings, regardless of the seed, or the cropped plant, each and every molecule derives from the mother of all cannabinoids, CBGA.
How was CBD discovered?
During the 1940s, an American Chemist, Dr Roger Adams, discovered cannabidiol. He was also the first to successfully isolate the molecule; In 1942 he was awarded a patent for his extraction method. The discovery of CBD is a sheer fluke, Dr Adams was seeking to identify the infamous and psychoactive cannabinoid, THC. Until now, CBN was the only identified cannabinoid, scientifically known as cannabinol. CBN had only been discovered a few years previous, by Dr Robert S. Cahn, a fellow chemist from the United Kingdom.
What Did Roger Adams Discovery of CBD lead to?
During an era of intolerance towards cannabis, Roger Adams risked both his reputation and career, in order to proceed with his research. Despite being granted a Treasury Department license in 1939, the mass campaign to both criminalize and stigmatize cannabis had succeeded two years prior. With further research, Adams can claim responsibility for the discovery of THC.
But despite his discovery, the true pioneer of THC research is Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, from Israel. Having utilized Adam’s previous research, Mechoulam can take the acclaim for the biggest breakthrough in cannabinoid history, as he identified the stereochemistry of cannabidiol, in 1963.
The following year, Mechoulam repeated his success with THC. This enabled him to fully clarify CBD as a non-psychoactive molecule, thus confirming THC as the euphoric cannabinoid.
It wasn’t until the 1980s that you could associate cannabis as a medicine on a scientific scale. Again, with Mechoulam and his team deserving the applause. Thanks to his further studies, CBD had proven to be effective for the treatment of epilepsy. After conducting a study on eight subjects, administering daily doses of CBD (300mg each), half had shown a significant decrease in the frequency and severity of their seizures, with the other half becoming seizure free altogether.
Scientific progress? Yes. However, the successful stigma campaign that preceded decades earlier, prevented the discovery from being publicized.
The real progress of cannabis research
Despite public view towards cannabis and legislation creating infinite hurdles, cannabinoid research accelerated immensely. Further cannabinoids had been discovered, and soon after, perhaps the biggest breakthrough of all, the discovery of the endocannabinoid system.
When California legalized medical cannabis in 1996, cannabis research witnessed a considerable expansion. With the negative opinion towards cannabis now shifting, the doors for extensive research into cannabinoid’s therapeutic potential had opened. Advanced research of CBD’s potential to treat a variety of ailments had begun, heavily focusing on epilepsy and chronic pain.
Still, public opinion hindered the acceptance towards CBD as alternative medicine. With information still lacking, the taboo that surrounded THC eclipsed the positive research of cannabidiol.
CBD in the 21st Century
Cannabis as potential medicine came on leaps and bounds during the turn of the new millennium. By the year 2000, cannabis was medically legal in various US States, that included:
Not only in the United States had we seen such a progressive movement, their northern neighbors, Canada, had not only legalized medical cannabis but also adopted a wide acceptance towards it at a recreational level. In fact, Canada’s black market began to thrive.
Public interest in cannabinoids as potential medicine came on leaps and bounds. Thanks to the explosion of the internet, the success story of Rick Simpson curing stage 4 skin cancer with high doses of THC cannabis oil, known as Rick Simpson Oil (RSO), went viral. Had we truly found a cure for cancer? The jury is still out there, but nonetheless, a natural substance providing a cure for cancer was a mouth-watering prospect.
Further cannabis success stories spread globally in an instant. CBD consumers claimed a variety of benefits; offering relief in fibromyalgia, arthritis, anxiety, depression, the list of ailments continued to grow. Has nature provided us with the solution all along? If so, why is it illegal? Where does the stigma come from? Conspiracy theorists are adamant that it’s due to cannabis’s capabilities to crumble a variety of industries, in particular, Big Pharma.
Does CBD cure cancer?
This is a topic that confuses many. The truth is, no. Just to make a quick buck, “snake oils salesman” have been making false claims, in order to boost sales. However, CBD is a viable treatment for cancer patients. Cannabidiol has proven to be effective in cancer treatment, it may not kill cancer cells, but enough cases exist for us to strongly argue the case that CBD does shrink tumors, whether cancerous or benign.
That isn’t to say that cannabis is not the answer that we have been hoping for. THC has proven to encourage cancerous cells to effectively commit suicide. There’s enough evidence out there to suggest that cannabis may be a serious contender to cure cancer. However, the required research may possibly take years.
Is CBD Medicine?
Essentially, yes. There’s plenty of scientific evidence in existence to back up the claims. With an estimated one million CBD consumers in the UK alone, seeking relief for a variety of conditions, CBD does have a future in modern medicine.
At this stage, retailers and cannabidiol providers are prohibited from making medical claims. In June of last year, the FDA approved the first cannabidiol product as medicine. Two forms of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome and Dravet Syndrome, now had an approved CBD product available in Epidiolex, as a viable treatment. Suggesting it is only a matter of time before we see CBD being approved as a medicine for a number of medical conditions.