CBD is the current superstar of the medicinal cannabis world. Even in places where cannabis has been historically prohibited, CBD is enjoying a boom. The number of people enjoying its benefits ranges from professional athletes to stressed-out office workers. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, CBD is a veritable wonder-cannabinoid packed with a huge range of fantastic benefits that range from anxiety-soothing properties to anti-inflammatory abilities, all of this without being psychoactive.
Of course, at this stage everyone knows this, but what’s the history of CBD? It seems as if it appeared overnight. As with anything, CBD languished under obscurity for many years before we heard of it. In fact, its discovery is shockingly recent.
The Discovery of CBD
As with many of the medicinal properties of cannabis, research into CBD was severely stymied by the nearly global prohibition on marijuana. For decades, scientists couldn’t receive adequate funding or samples. It wasn’t until 1940 that CBD was isolated and identified. This was among a spate of discoveries that found that there were active compounds in the cannabis plant that were not associated with the psychoactive effects the plant was known for.
While this was amazing progress, the political climate would become increasingly hostile towards cannabis research. In the 1930s, federal prohibitions banned cannabis use in the United States. This hostility culminated in the War on Drugs in the 1970s. The Controlled Substances Act categorised cannabis as a schedule 1 drug, the highest restriction. This meant that obtaining samples for research became nearly impossible.
CBD and Medical Research
In the 80s and 90s, CBD gained some renown for its pain-killing properties. CBD was also explored by an international group of doctors, headed by Dr Mechoulam, as a potential treatment for people suffering from epilepsy. The study was regarded as a success, and patients were found to enjoy a reduction in the number of seizures they suffered as a result of CBD. However, this study languished in relative obscurity thanks to the taboo surrounding cannabis research.
It wasn’t until the end of the 90s that official, well-publicised medical studies into CBD were held. In 1998, the UK-based pharmaceutical group, GW Pharmaceuticals, undertook medical trials on the efficacy of CBD. This research lead to a boom in studies into CBD and the other benefits of medical cannabis. One notable development that emerged from this research boom was the work of Israeli researcher, Raphael Mechoulam. He began to categorise the chemistry behind the chemical structures found in cannabis. These are now well known as cannabinoids.
Cannabinoids and the ECS
Cannabinoids are interesting in how they interact with our bodies. Rather than binding to neurotransmitters like other drugs, cannabinoids interact with a network of receptors found throughout the human body known as the endocannabinoid system. These receptors can be found in the gut, brain, and many other areas of the body. They affect everything from appetite to inflammation.
Eventually, the story of Charolette Figi was covered by the media. This story would be instrumental in destigmatising and promoting the benefits of CBD. Charlotte was a young girl who suffered from a rare form of epilepsy known as Dravet Syndrome. She suffered nearly 300 severe seizures every month. Her parents reached out to medical marijuana producers. This lead to the development of a high-CBD strain of cannabis that was christened Charlotte’s Web. The high CBD content of this strain helped combat Charlotte’s Dravett syndrome, reducing the frequency of seizures to only 2 or 3 a month.
Charlotte’s story received widespread media attention and tens of thousands of people became aware of the benefits of CBD.
The Rise of CBD
With these discoveries, the popularity of CBD-high hemp began to grow. To get around cannabis prohibition, varieties of high-CBD, low-THC hemp plants were cultivated across the world. This allowed for the mass production of CBD tinctures and full-spectrum hemp oils. Through a combination of word of mouth and thought leader endorsement, CBD rapidly became a product in high demand.
In 2018, the groundwork for the current CBD boom was finalised with the introduction of the 2018 Farm Bill in the USA. This legalised the wide-spread cultivation of CBD-rich industrial hemp on a federal level. Finally, CBD could be produced on a scale that matched demand. Suddenly CBD products began to appear on the shelves of mainstream retailers like CVS, and CBD coffee became a cultural phenomenon. Of course, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. The FDA hadn’t approved CBD oil as a food additive, and many cafes in New York City ran into trouble when they persisted in serving coffee infused with the cannabinoid. This lead to police raids on several establishments.
Across the world, CBD was receiving a great deal of acceptance, even in countries that would otherwise prohibit cannabis products. The constant seems to be that as long as THC falls below a certain threshold, CBD is totally acceptable.
The Future of CBD
CBD is now a common consumer product and it is enjoying a boom. New products are invented every day, from topical ointments to candles. While yes, some are more effective than others, it is impressive to see this sheer amount of innovation. However, what would the future hold that would truly benefit CBD?
Regulation would be a great start. The history of CBD stretches back a long way, but its introduction as a consumer product has been incredibly recent. It grew so fast, so quickly that regulation hasn’t had time to catch up to it. This has lead to a breath of unregulated, low-quality CBD products. These are harming the industry and eroding people’s trust. CBD is fantastic, and proper regulation and high standards will ensure that it lives up to its reputation and guarantee people the quality they need and deserve. Whatever the future may hold for CBD as a product, it hinges on legislation enforcing high standards that benefit the user.