History of CBD and Cannabis

What is CBD?

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a naturally occurring compound found in the cannabis plant. It is one of over 100 cannabinoids identified in cannabis, but unlike THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD does not produce the psychoactive effects often referred to as a "high." CBD is widely researched and used for its potential therapeutic benefits, including anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anxiolytic and neuroprotective properties. It is commonly extracted from hemp, a variety of cannabis with low THC content, and is available in various forms such as oils, tinctures, capsules, edibles and topical products.

There are two main species of Cannabis plant - C. sativa and C. indica. 

History of Cannabis

The cannabis plant has been around for tens of thousands of years and has been used by many different cultures throughout history for medicinal, religious and ritualistic purposes. 

Archeological evidence suggests that Cannabis was first cultivated as early as 12,000 years ago in Central Asia however the earliest known written records indicate it was used by Chinese Emperor Shen-Nung (also known as Shennong) in 2800 BCE. Shennong personally tried and catalogued over 365 species of medicinal plants including cannabis, ginseng, tea and Chinese cinnamon in an attempt to find better medicinal treatments. Shen-Nung noted the Cannabis plant's use for various medicinal purposes, such as treating rheumatism, malaria and "absent-mindedness".

Other key historical Cannabis references & uses throughout history include: 

  • Ancient Taiwan (circa 8000 BCE): Archaeological evidence suggests that hemp (a variety of cannabis) was used as early as 8000 BCE in Taiwan. Hemp fibers were found in ancient pottery, indicating its use in making cloth and rope.
  • Ancient India (circa 2000-1400 BCE): The sacred Hindu texts, the Vedas, mention cannabis as one of the five sacred plants. It was used in religious rituals and for medicinal purposes. The Atharva Veda (ancient Hindu scripture), in particular, refers to cannabis as "bhang" and describes its use for its psychoactive and healing properties. "Bhang" was a sacred drink that was made by grinding cannabis leaves into a paste and then blending it with milk, spices and other herbs.
  • Ancient Egypt (circa 1550 BCE): The Ebers Papyrus, an ancient Egyptian medical text dating back to around 1550 BCE, references the use of cannabis for treating inflammation and other ailments. The name ‘Shemshemet’ sometimes shows up in Ancient Egyptian texts and it's believed to have been the word they used for Cannabis. 
  • Scythians and Central Asia (circa 1000 BCE): Archaeological evidence, such as the discovery of cannabis seeds and residues in burial mounds of the Scythians, a nomadic group in Central Asia, indicates its use for both recreational and ritualistic purposes. Herodotus, a Greek historian, wrote about the Scythians using cannabis in steam baths for ritual purification around 450 BCE. The cannabis plant is believed to have made it's way to Eastern Europe via the Scythians. 

Cannabis was also mentioned in ancient texts, both religious and otherwise including Shen-Nung's "The Classic of Herbal Medicine", sacred Hindu texts known as "The Vedas", the ancient Egyptian medical text "Ebers Papyrus", Pliny the Elder's "Natural History" (ancient Rome) and the "Zoroastrian Texts" from ancient Persia. 

First Ever Cannabinoid Discovered

The first cannabinoid discovered was cannabinol (CBN). It was isolated and identified by British chemist Robert S. Cahn in the early 1930s. CBN was initially thought to be the active component responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis, but later research revealed that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the primary psychoactive cannabinoid. Following the discovery of CBN, other cannabinoids, including cannabidiol (CBD) and THC, were subsequently identified and studied.

Discovery of the Cannabinoid CBD

Dr. Roger Adams discovered CBD in 1940 while working at the University of Illinois. He isolated CBD from the hemp plant (Cannabis sativa) through a process of extracting and purifying the compound. Adams and his team used ethanol extraction followed by vacuum distillation to isolate and identify CBD as a distinct chemical compound from the plant. His team's work laid the foundation for future research into the chemical properties and potential therapeutic benefits of cannabinoids.