Looking Back on The History of CBD in Canada

History of CBD in Canada

This Canada Day Let's Look Back on The History of CBD

Although cannabis and hemp products have only just recently been legalized in Canada, the healing benefits from the plant medicine has been known for centuries. 

The very first documented use of medicinal cannabis dates back to 2737 BC, when Chinese Emperor Sheng Nung used a cannabis-infused tea to aid with a variety of mental and physical ailments such as his poor memory, malaria, rheumatism, and gout. The plant was popular back then throughout Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and India.

Throughout history, cannabis has been utilized for its natural healing properties. Ancient physicians commonly prescribed marijuana for pain relief, earaches, and even to mothers during childbirth.  However, during the rise of modern medicine, cannabis was not recognized by most in the medical community due to a lack of scientific evidence.

Investigation of CBD Began in the 1800s

An old drawing of cannabis plant from 1839

Drawing of Cannabis indica featured in O’Shaughnessy's article on the plant in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal (1839) 

Irish physician and medical researcher, William B. O’Shaughnessy, published a study in 1839 investigating the plant’s therapeutic effects. O’Shaughnessy explored the effects of cannabis and thoroughly described its potential medical applications, particularly as an anesthetic.

While the Irish researcher may have not realized it then, he had just opened the door towards the discovery of the compounds that would one day be referred to as cannabinoids.

The Discovery of Cannabinoids

In the 1940snearly a century after O’Shaughnessy published his studyresearch into the pharmacology of individual cannabinoids began as advancements in research and technology revealed the presence of compounds within the cannabis plant. 

This research led to the discovery of cannabinoids receptors CB1 and CB2, which then led to the realization that the endogenous cannabinoid system (ECS) has significant roles in both health and disease. Ultimately, this discovery solidified the belief that any substances which mimic, augment, or block the actions of endogenously released cannabinoids must have important therapeutic applications. 

Clinical mapping image of CBD compound

From there, the challenge was to continue investigations into the physiological and pathophysiological roles of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in the human body. Another objective was to extend current knowledge about pharmacology, firstly of endocannabinoids, and secondly of cannabinoid receptors.

Then Came Cannabidiol (CBD)

According to a study done by Roger G Pertwee called Cannabinoid pharmacology: the first 66 years, the first discovery of an individual cannabinoid was made by a British chemist named Robert S. Cahn. Cahn reported the partial structure of Cannabinol (CBN), which he later identified as fully formed in 1940.

Two years following Cahn’s discovery, American chemist Roger Adams made history when he successfully isolated the first cannabinoid, Cannabidiol (CBD). In 1942, he won a patent for his method of isolating CBD. 

Roger Adams patent for CBD isolation

 In 1942, Roger Adams (left) won a patent for his method of isolating CBD.

What Does CBD Do?

During the early stages of research, scientists had limited knowledge of cannabinoid structure and an only partial understanding of the biological composition of the plant. Early researchers could not accurately determine which compound was causing which effect until Dr. Raphael Mechoulam made the first breakthrough in 1963, when he identified the stereochemistry of CBD. 

Dr. Raphael Mecholam also discovered the stereochemistry of THC, which then revealed the cannabinoids direct relationship to the euphoric effects associated with cannabis use, subsequently disassociating CBD as a mind-altering compound.

In the years to follow, research advanced and the medicinal values of cannabis were hard to ignore. In the 1980s Dr. Mechoulam and his team conducted a study on the potential application of CBD for the treatment of epilepsy as a hypnotic which saw great success.

Unfortunately, due to the negative stigmas towards cannabis use during that time, the findings were not made public. However, the work of the early cannabis pioneers did not go to waste as the interest of the therapeutic applications grew due to the understanding of the plant’s natural connection to our body’s ECS. As research progressed, there was a surge of interest across Canada.

For more information, please check out our blog on "What is CBD? A Beginner's Guide for Canadians", and if you are looking to CBD for pain relief, read "CBD for Pain Relief | A Guide for Canadians"

The Rise of CBD in Canada

Canada celebrates cannabis legalisation

Photo courtesy of Darrly Dyck from The Canadian Press.

In October of 2018, cannabis products were officially legalized across the country for both medicinal and recreational use. The new regulations prompted research into the potential of CBD for the treatment of a variety of ailments such as chronic pain, epilepsy, and numerous neurodegenerative diseases.

While the stigma towards cannabis has only recently begun to shift, it is interesting to note an influx of positive information about the plant and its ability to deliver relief from conditions like anxiety, depression, insomnia, arthritis, fibromyalgia, and so much more. The genuine, organic nature of the success stories from those willing to share their personal and vulnerable experiences for the purpose of helping others fuelled a surge of awareness across the country.

The Future of CBD

While the misconception of CBD has changed dramatically over the years, CBD is not fully normalized or accepted yet. There are still many people who are opposed to cannabis likely due to a lack of awareness of their healing benefits.

Natural compounds like CBD have the potential to positively impact the lives of millions of people, and with continued effort from all of us, it can change the world!

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