Cannabidiol, better known as CBD, is becoming increasingly popular as more people, including professional athletes, embrace it. One reason why the use of CBD has become so popular is that some people believe it may provide several health benefits without the adverse side effects that often come with pharmaceutical medications. Even though health researchers are still investigating whether there is any truth to these claims, CBD is already being touted as a potential natural alternative to pharmaceutical drugs. CBD enthusiasts wonder why it took so long for the benefits of the cannabinoid to be discovered. But is CBD a new concept or it has been in existence for ages?

CBD is one of the popular cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. It can either be extracted from the hemp plant or the marijuana plant. CBD is more pronounced in hemp than in marijuana, and the marijuana plant is richer in THC than CBD. Unlike THC, CBD does not provide any psychoactive effects to users so it does not produce a “high” feeling. In fact, CBD is believed to counter the psychoactive effects of THC. This only makes it more popular among users. As CBD gains momentum in the health and wellness industry, it is important to understand its history.

A Walk Through the History of CBD

Contrary to popular assumption, CBD is not a new innovative wellness product. Its history dates to ages ago, and CBD as it is known today has been around for more than half a century. Just how far back does the story of CBD go?

Historically, cannabis was believed to provide valuable therapeutic benefits to users. As early as 2737 BC, people were already using cannabis plants for medicinal purposes. It is said that Chinese Emperor Sheng Nung would use tea infused with cannabis to help alleviate a variety of ailments such as gout, rheumatism, malaria, and even memory loss. It is also believed that Queen Victoria, whose reign ended in 1901, would routinely use CBD in hopes of alleviating menstrual cramps.

However, the rise of modern pharmaceutical medicine saw the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes relegated to the background. Those who promoted modern medicine over the use of natural remedies cited the lack of scientific evidence to support the suggested medicinal benefits of cannabis. Instead, they pointed out that cannabis use resulted in psychoactive effects on users and impacted their cognitive functions. As a result, cannabis was treated as an illegal substance that was generally only used for recreational purposes. In 1839, Irish medical researcher William B. O’Shaughnessy started investigating the therapeutic effects of cannabis. In the study, O’Shaughnessy claimed that cannabis could act as an anesthetic. His study sparked an interest in other researchers and opened up research into the medical use of cannabis.

The advancement of technology and research allowed cannabis researchers to discover the presence of compounds known as cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. The first cannabinoid to be discovered was cannabinol (CBN) by British chemist Robert S. Cahn at the end of the 19th century.

The extraction of CBD from the cannabis plant followed in 1940 by American chemist Roger Adams and his colleagues. The discovery of THC by Loewe, Wollner, Levine, and Matchett would follow two years later. The discovery by Adams was the beginning of research into the possible health benefits of CBD. The first CBD test, which was conducted on lab animals by Dr. Walter S. Loewe in 1946, determined that CBD did not alter the animals’ state of the mind when consumed.

Dr. Raphael Mechoulam identified the three-dimensional structure of CBD. Though research on CBD (conducted mainly on primates) continued in the 1960s and the first CBD oil for therapeutic use was released then, it wasn’t until 1980 that another breakthrough in CBD research was made. Dr. Mechoulam released a study that showed CBD could be helpful in the treatment of people suffering from epilepsy. In 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of Epidiolex, a CBD-based oral drug, for the treatment of seizures in epilepsy patients who are two years or older.

As research progressed, other cannabinoids were discovered, and researchers were also able to understand the molecular structures of the different cannabinoids. Furthermore, scientists were able to make a breakthrough in understanding the human endocannabinoid system (ECS) and how its receptors interact with these cannabinoids.

It is such research that led to the explosion of CBD into the mainstream wellness industry, not only in the United States but also the rest of the world.

The Rise of CBD in the United States

After California became the first state to legalize the use of medical marijuana by passing Proposition 215, other states such as Washington, Alaska, Oregon, Maine, Colorado, Nevada, and Hawaii followed suit. As patients received legal access to cannabis, health researchers were able to expand their studies into the medical benefits of cannabinoids. The result was that research started to investigate how CBD might be helpful in the treatment of conditions such as chronic pain, inflammation, and several neurodegenerative diseases.

CBD sometimes unfairly held the same stigma given to cannabis because of their close relationship. The law was also not quite clear on whether the use of CBD products was legal or illegal. The stigma towards CBD began to shift as research revealed the distinction between CBD and the other cannabinoids. As users began sharing experiences of how they were benefitting from the use of CBD products, the public began opening up to it and embracing it more. The national news story describing how CBD may have helped in relieving five-year-old Charlotte Figi of her seizures further helped in shifting public opinion in favor of CBD.

In 2018, the federal government legalized CBD derived from the hemp plant. The hemp plant contains negligible traces of THC and does not lead to psychoactive effects on users. In some states, marijuana-derived CBD products are legal provided they contain less than 0.3% levels of THC. The use of medical marijuana is, however, still heavily regulated in most states.

CBD has come a very long way. It is hoped that as research uncovers the truth behind the benefits of the compound, regulatory bodies will be able to relax their laws regarding the use of CBD products. As it stands now, it is yet to be determined how CBD can help in the treatment of mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, as well as pain and inflammation, among other illnesses. The marketing and sale of CBD products is regulated by the FDA. As such, vendors who definitively claim that their CBD products can treat any given condition usually find themselves on the wrong side of the law.

The Future of CBD

While nobody can conclusively predict the future of CBD, results from research has been positive thus far, and CBD enthusiasts have reason to hope for the best. Because there is minimal conclusive data on the potential benefits of CBD, the FDA has yet to develop a clear policy on best practices for CBD manufacturers and vendors, nor has there been clear decisions made regarding proper dosages for various conditions. For now, anyone using CBD products to treat any medical condition is usually advised to first consult with their doctor.

It is likely that CBD advocates will be successful in their campaign to give everyone the ability to access and enjoy the perceived benefits of CBD products. Even various sports associations have been relaxing their tight stand on the use of CBD by professional athletes. For example, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) struck the compound off its list of banned substances in 2018. The National Basketball Association (NBA), one of the few sports associations that still doesn’t allow players to use CBD, committed to review their stand once conclusive data is available.

Conclusion

CBD has a very rich history and its future is promising and bright. However, there remains a need to learn more about the compound and how we can get the best out of it. With the recent increase in interest, there are now enough resources and technology to fully research and explore how beneficial CBD can be to human beings. CBD could potentially change the health and wellness industry and positively impact the lives of many people.

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