History of Cannabidiol (CBD)

CBD is one of the products that many people think of as being a very modern invention, but nothing can be further from the truth.  Archeological findings have shown that cannabis, the plant from which CBD is distilled, was one of the very first agricultural plants. Being tended by mankind it is found in digs that date to 10,000 to 12,000 years ago.

A Little Bit of Ancient History

Cannabis Sativa, the plant from which CBD is distilled, is an extremely versatile plant. As far back as 6,000BCE, the plant was well known as a food source in China.  Within the next 2,000 years, its medicinal and textile properties were well known through China and what is today known as Turkey.  By 850 the Vikings used hemp ropes on their sailing vessels and by the year 1000AD the use of hemp for textiles and ropes was well understood throughout Europe.

The healing properties associated with cannabis are well documented in literature reaching back to the Greek philosopher Herodotus.  Napoleon and Queen Victoria were aware of the medicinal properties of this plant. Also, the medical treatments from the Portuguese and Chinese documented the medicinal use of the plant for its antibiotic and anti-nausea properties.

Unfortunately, in recent time the medicinal properties of the plant were largely ignored in favor of its more exciting partner THC. It is found in the cannabis that is smoked to give a high.  However, CBD is making a comeback and is now receiving the attention that it should have for the positive effects that it can have in treating many disorders.

History of the Cultivars Used

The CBD-rich cultivar of cannabis should have somewhere between 4% to around 18% of cannabidiol by volume. These levels of the oil were traditionally found in hemp that did not contain high volumes of THC.  Since THC was the property that was called for cultivating this plant, were unwittingly breeding CDB out of the cannabis gene pool.  With the emergence of gas chromatography, the cannabinoid potency of various cannabis strains could be determined.

The credit for re-establishing the high-CBD variety of cannabis can be traced back to 1998 to the British company GW Pharmaceuticals. It was headed up by Geoffrey Guy who managed to source a strain through a Dutch seed company that they could use to isolate CBD.

In 1996 California passed The Compassionate Use Act (1996 Proposition 215) and the emphasis on the usefulness of CBD moved to the West Coast of America.  The work being done in Britain was causing a great deal of interest. The American publication O’Shaughnessy’s credited GW Pharmaceuticals with the work undertaken to breed a high-CDB strain of the cannabis plant.

In 2006 Harborside Health, led by Steve DeAngelo, established in Oakland, California that was using gas chromatography started testing for the potency of CBD in various strains of cannabis plant.   The work done by Harborside Health in conjunction with Steep Hill Laboratories led to verification of high CBD strains.  This work, with the farmers submitted strains for testing, led to the first stabilized strains of high-CBD cannabis.

The publication, Seattle Hempfest interviewing Kevin Jowdry, who is the owner of Wonderland Nursery mentioned about the emergence of CBD-strong cannabis strains.  He attributed the beginnings of the stabilized CBD-strong strains to several things, but the most important was the release by Resin Seeds at the 2008 Spannabis event of the Cannatonic strain of cannabis.  This strain was proven to consistently produce CBD-strong progeny with CBD strength. It measured all the way up to 18% which ensured that it had a place at the top of the breeding charts.

In the interview, Jowdry said that the Cannatonic seeds were distributed to several breeder nurseries in California. This led to the first selective or genetic hybridization of the strain.  This led to many popular strains being created including the C6 line as well as the ACDC line.

CBD Oil use publicized

By this time cannabis and the oil derived was being examined for any number of uses, but it was still very much a ‘backroom’ exercise.  This was about to change as two cases caught the attention of the mainstream media. It focused the public’s attention on CBD oil and its effectiveness in treating ailments, especially in children.

The first case was that of Cash Hyde, a 20-month old little boy that lived in Missoula, Montana.  In 2010 he was diagnosed with brain cancer, and his parents were informed that his tumor was inoperable and that his condition was steadily worsening.  His parents quickly exhausted all the standard treatment options including radiation, methadone, and morphine.  None of these mainstream treatments worked and the little boy’s father, Mike Hyde, was desperate for anything that would give his tiny son some relief.

More in desperation than anything else he administered a concentrated cannabis extract to his son with the most incredible results.   The little boy rallied, and scans found that his tumor had actually decreased in size.  The medical profession applauded Mike Hyde who was interviewed by the press and openly advocated the use of CBD oil. Cash Hyde lived for another thirty months as his parents struggled to get hold of the oil that they needed for their son’s treatment.  After his death, Montana passed legislation making it easy for people to access CBD oil.

The second case that was given a great deal of publicity in mainstream media was that of Charlotte Figi from Colorado.  In 2013 this case came to the attention of the public when the little girl who was suffering from 300 grand mal seizures on a weekly basis started using CBD oil.  Again, she had endured every regime of pharmaceutical intervention and every painful procedure that the specialists prescribed, but nothing made a difference to her condition.  Her parents had seen documentaries on the work being done in California around the use of CBD oil and the first of the marijuana dispensaries.  They approached the dispensary, and CBD-strong oil was used to treat Charlotte with the result that 99% of her seizures were stopped.  In 2013, CNN aired a documentary on the medicinal uses of marijuana and Charlotte’s case was discussed in the documentary.

The future of medicinal marijuana

The effects of various compounds in cannabis oils vary. However, CBD has been scientifically proven to be effective as an anti-inflammatory, an antioxidant, an analgesic, an antidepressant, and an antipsychotic.  Obviously, the effectiveness of the compounds varies according to the strength, dosage and person’s reaction to its ingredients.

There is an argument that medicinal cannabis’ power lies in the unique way that cannabis oil interacts with other compounds. Raphael Mechoulam, a chemist, and professor in Medicinal Chemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has postulated that cannabis oil works better when combined with other compounds such as terpenes or flavonoids.

Mankind has only scratched the surface of the complexity of this plant and what it can offer to the world of medicine.  With increased calls for legalization, it will not be long before cannabinoids such as CBD are openly used in the research and manufacture of many medicines.

Those ancient medicine men from China and other countries that knew the strength of this plant can only look on in wonder as we have come full circle to acknowledge the potency and gifts that this plant has to offer.


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