An ancient remedy?
Although cannabis/marijuana has been illegal in numerous countries for a long time; it wasn’t always this way. It may seem that the therapeutic benefits of CBD and other cannabinoids has been a recent discover, but this simply isn’t true.
Cannabis or its derivatives being used as medicines has been recorded as far back as 4000 years ago. In fact, the first documents use of such medicine goes all the way back to 2737 BC when a forward-thinking Chinese Emperor named Sheng, used a cannabis-infused tea to help him with a number of issues including gout and rheumatism.
Throughout recorded human history, cannabis and cannabis-infused medicines had served as a valuable therapeutic means of treating various health complaints; however, during the rise of modern medicine, it was not recognized by most in the medical community – people knew it worked for a range of ailments but the scientific community had yet to prove this definitively.
Enter the Irish medical researcher and physician, William B. 0’Shaughnessy. In 1839 he published a study which investigated the plant’s robust therapeutic profile and off the back of this, research interest began to grow and the medical applications of cannabis began to be considered.
This study was considered quite controversial at the time and thoroughly examined the medical applications of cannabis with a main focus on its potential as an analgesic (pain reliver).
In a sense, he is the father of modern cannabis research and served to pique interest in the topic and open the door for further investigation into the robust therapeutic compounds found in cannabis known as cannabinoids.
Discovery and isolation of cannabinoids
Almost 100 years after the pioneering O’Shaughnessy study was published, increased analytical technologies elucidated the presence of numerous compounds within the cannabis plant.
Robert. S Cahn, a British chemist, was the first person to identify an individual cannabinoid when he reported the partial structure of Cannabinol (CBN). Soon after he identified and described the full structure of the molecule in 1940.
Discovery then flew back across the pond to the USA where the American chemist, Roger Adams, successfully isolated the first cannabinoid, Cannabidiol (CBD). The basis of his research also informed the subsequent discovery of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) a few years later.
Early research into the therapeutic potential of cannabis was difficult to eke out – scientists had limited knowledge of the molecular structure of cannabinoids and their knowledge was similarly lacking with regards to the biological composition of the plant. As such, researchers initially struggled to determine which compound was causing the observed effects.
A number of years later, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam took the field a great step forward when he successfully identified the stereochemistry (the three-dimensional arrangement) of CBD in 1963. By identifying this arrangement, Dr. Mechoulam took us much closer to linking specific cannabinoids to specific effects.
Dr. Mechoulam didn’t stop there. Using similar techniques, he discovered the stereochemistry of TCH. This work directly attributed psychotropic effects to THC and dissociated CBD as a mind-altering compound.
As research continued to unlock the potential of CBD, the 1978 Controlled Substances Therapeutic Research Act was passed in New Mexico. This bill legally recognised the medicinal value of cannabis and the compounds within.
This momentum built as Dr Mechoulam began to investigate the therapeutic utility of CBD in the treatment of epilepsy. In this important study, a group of 8 subjects received 300mg of CBD every day. After 4 months of treatment, half of the subjects completely stopped having seizers and the other half saw decreased frequency in their seizures.
This was an early glimpse into the true potential of CBD for serious diseases and this discovery had the potential to change the lives of over 50 million epilepsy suffers around the world. However, as can be guessed, due to prevailing negative attitudes towards cannabis, this result was barely publicised at all.
Despite not achieving world-wide recognition, Dr. Mechoulam nevertheless opened up a door of possibilities with cannabis research. Less than a decade after his ground breaking epilepsy study was published, additional cannabinoids were discovered and the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) was described – the system and receptors through which endocannabinoids and cannabinoids from cannabis produce their effects. Learn about how CBD interacts with the ECS here.
As research progressed, it would eventually lead to an explosion of interest across the United States.
The growth of CBD in the USA
With the legalization of medical marijuana, patients in those states now had legal access to cannabis, and researchers could expand their studies into cannabinoid medical uses; CBD now saw an explosion in research interest.
This prompted research into the potential of CBD for the treatment of a variety of ailments such as chronic pain, epilepsy, and numerous neurodegenerative diseases as well as mental health disorders such as anxiety, OCD and PTSD.
Although the distinction between CBD and the other cannabinoids had become more known throughout the scientific community at that time, it was not common knowledge amongst those who could actually impact these laws and who CBD could help the most — the public.
Based on 1998–2003 studies from the Pew Research Centre, more than 2 out of 3 Americans opposed cannabis legalisation. One of the main factors that contributed to America’s strong opposition (at the time) was the prevalence of stigmas and government campaigns including “marijuana is a gateway drug” – ideas like this were catchy and stuck, despite not being proved.
But, a few years later, attitudes slowly began to shift as people shared their personal stories with medical cannabis and CBD oils.
Charlotte Figi and Dravet Syndrome
Charlotte Figi, a young girl in Colorado, was born in 2006 with a very rare form of chronic epilepsy known as Dravet Syndrome. Dravet Syndrome is a devastating form of epilepsy that affects approximately 1 in every 16,000 to 21,000 infants.
By the age of just four, Charlotte had lost much her ability to walk, talk, and eat, and experienced 300 seizures per week. You read that correctly. 300 a week or approximately 40+ individual seizures a day. Every aspect of Charlotte’s life and those of her parents and family were consumed by this disease.
Her parents had tried every option modern medicine had to offer and by the time Charlotte was 5, they had come to the sobering conclusion that traditional doctors could not help their daughter.
In something of a last-ditch effort to help their daughter they turned to cannabis. After consuming a small dose of CBD oil extracted from a high-CBD cannabis strain, Charlotte’s seizures ceased almost immediately.
By the time hours had passed and Charlotte hadn’t had another seizure, her parents realized CBD had worked and worked incredibly well.
While not completely cured, today, Charlotte only experiences 2 to 3 seizures per month. A jaw dropping decreased from the 1000+ per month she used to have. Really quite remarkable. With life almost back to working order, Charlotte now has the opportunity to live a normal life.
In an interview with CNN, Charlotte’s parents confirm that their daughter is happy and thriving as any normal girl and they believe everyone should know about what CBD did for their daughter.
These inspiring stories from Charlotte and countless others has fuelled a massive level of support, awareness, and passion, which continues to drive the CBD movement forward today. On top of this, current CBD research is beginning to unlock new areas of therapeutic interest into common ailments which has the potential to positively impact the lives of millions of people who suffer from chronic pain, anxiety and more.
CBD in the UK
In the years since Charlotte’s story became well known, the stigma towards CBD in America has dramatically changed. Those that once opposed cannabis and CBD, now turn to CBD for relief, and its therapeutic properties are helping to change the lives of thousands of people around the country. The same is now becoming reality in the UK.
The boom of CBD in the USA has directly influenced the expanding market in the UK which continues to grow in double digit percentages year on year.
Here are just a few of the landmark events that have occurred:
- There has been a massive growth of awareness and surge in the retail sales of CBD: CBD is helping vastly more people than ever before.
- This has fuelled additional interest in CBD from the research community leading to more high-quality research being produced and more potential therapeutic applications being uncovered.
- The FDA in the USA has approved a CBD-based therapy called Epidolex for the treatment of severe forms of epilepsy; demonstrating the powerful potential of CBD.
The future of CBD
The CBD market in the UK continues to grow, but as we have alluded to before, this rapid growth and relative lack of regulation have led to a spate of scam, fake and low-quality brands flooding the market.
Cannabidiol has a wealth of genuine therapeutic properties and the industry needs to be a transparent as possible with careful regulation if cannabidiol is to fulfil its potential and help as many people as possible.
CBD is not a fad. It is very much here to stay.
Some businesses don’t like the idea of regulation but when it comes to health it is incredibly important. We fully promote regulation of the CBD industry because it protects you, the consumers. Just a few things increased regulation would mean include:
- Standardised labelling practises so you know exactly what’s in your product
- 3rd party lab reports so you get what you pay for
- Fair pricing
- Close regulation of farms that provide raw CBD to manufacturers, increasing CBD quality
- Approved mixing and extraction processes to guarantee safety
- Stop brands making unfounded and unfair health claims just to increase their sales