The existence of CBD, or cannabidiol, has caused waves ever since it was first isolated and identified. CBD discovery prompted patients’ rights groups and pro-cannabis groups alike, to mobilize and advocate for easier access. These groups hailed the CBD and cannabinoids, as potential natural remedies to modern ails. Now that CBD is more accessible than ever – CBD can be acquired in tinctures, edibles and even dog treats – this may leave a few curious investigators wondering. When was CBD first encountered, and who can we attribute CBD discovery to? It’s actually a pretty long story in the making.
Ancient Innovators – Early CBD Discovery
The first documented proof of cannabis use by human takes us almost 10,000 years in the past. Shards of pottery in Taiwan were found with braided hemp fibers as decoration. While this in and of itself isn’t the scientific breakthrough we’re looking for, it does establish precedent of cannabis’ use beyond recreational ingestion all the way in 8000 BCE.
The first written testimony of cannabis’ medical benefits has some interesting admissions. Emperor Sheng Nu of China published volumes on herbs, proper preparations and the remedies they provided. Specifically, Nu identified cannabis as a tool to combat menstrual pains, anxiety and rheumatoidism, and this is all the way back in 2373 BCE.
Despite being 4,000 years old, Nu’s accounts are impressively thorough. Plus, since Nu was so extensive in his experimentation and documentation, he included warnings about how therapy with cannabinoids wasn’t always suitable. In later volumes, he conceded that ingesting too many hemp seeds could yield some distracting side effects. Specifically, this could produce mind states that would put the user in the uncomfortable position of seeing and communicating with spirits!
While, none of that is established fact in scientific literature, Nu’s observations were mysterious to him then, as they would continue to be for thousands of years. How could a plant have so many applications for health, industry and technology? The quest was on to crack these mysteries and CBD discovery would play a huge role in solving them.
The Scientific Age of CBD Discovery
Isolating CBD and THC
Once we get to the 20th century, groundbreaking discoveries regarding cannabinoid compounds were kicked into overdrive. However, due to federal restrictions, most of these initial studies and discoveries weren’t made in the states but across the pond.
In 1964, a lab at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel, headed by Raphael Mechoulam, was able to reliably isolate cannabinoid compounds for the first time. THC – the psychoactive chemical in cannabinoid plants – was the first to be isolated, with CBD following soon after. This small secret from a plant yielded great leaps for mankind. Scientists had identified what they believed were the compounds necessary for cannabis’ storied effects. But science was still in the dark about they produced these effects, as well as how these compounds influenced one another and our bodies.
Identifying CBD Targets
20 years later, the next big breakthrough would take place in the States by accident. In 1988 Dr.s Allyn Howlett and William Devane of St. Louis’ School of Medicine in Missouri, discovered cannabinoid receptors in the rat brain, and unintentionally identified how the effects of cannabis were produced in the body. As it turns out, all animals, except for insects, have receptor systems that are specifically designed to bind to molecules that share characteristics with cannabinoids. This was a pretty eye opening find!
The questions of why cannabis use provided health benefits had been answered. There is a diverse array of cannabinoid compounds, like CBD, that all interact with the endocannabinoid system in their specific ways. Additionally, the question of how CBD produces these impacts had been answered as well, by the discovery of a distinct class of receptors that CBD acts on. However, the last question remaining was: why do we need these receptors?
In 1992, the first endogenous cannabinoid (endocannabinoid) was discovered. Endogenous means that the compound is synthesized in our bodies. Much like hemp and cannabis plants produce their own cannabinoids, so do we. Anandamide was the first endocannabinoid discovered. And with it’s identification and isolation, the puzzle of CBD discovery had been completed. It produces health effects due to the mimicry of essential signaling molecules that we produce in house.
So, who do we credit for CBD Discovery?
Much like the public action that made CBD more accessible for patients and everyday folk. The science that brought CBD into spotlights was all collaborative and all built upon one another. But there are a few principal investigators that deserve shout outs like Dr. Mechoulam, Howlett, Devane and Matsuda.
However, the fun isn’t over. There is still a treasure trove of mysteries contained within CBD and it’s potential applications. With enough reading, application, and CBD use maybe one of you could be included on that list soon.