What is CBD and where did it come from? How was it discovered? We give you a potted history of CBD (Cannabidiol) to explain better what it is and how it came to be.
An academic, 5 kilos of hashish and a bus ride.
In 1963 Raphael Mechoulam, a professor at The Weitzman Institute in Tel Aviv had an interesting thought. He considered that so many plant compounds are isolated and used in modern day medicine yet nobody had identified the active compounds in the cannabis Sativa plant. Despite its feature in many ancient texts for its medicinal properties, Cannabis remained a mystery. A keen researcher, Mechoulam asked his boss how he could source some cannabis to start his study. Some calls were made via the administrative director of the institute to the local police station and Mechoulam headed home on the bus with 5 kilos of seized cannabis in his bag.
The discovery of cannabinoids
In 1964 Professor Mechoulam successfully isolated 10-12 compounds and after testing them realized he had one active compound THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). This turned out to be the only active compound in cannabis and is responsible for the ‘high’ of cannabis use. At this time Mechoulam also isolated CBD (cannabidiol) from the plant. CBD remains a key ingredient with no psychoactive effect on humans. It was at this time that the research faculty began testing their find in both human and animal study.
How are these Cannabinoids working in the body?
Whilst the research was showing interesting and positive results the Scientists didn’t understand how. What was the mechanism in the body that interacted with CBD? By this time the research had spread to the United States and Europe in a committed collective effort to unearth more about cannabinoid science and how it could help us.
A receptor site is discovered in the brain.
In the mid 1980’s Allyn Howlet an American scientist discovered CB1 a receptor site in the brain that interacted with cannabinoids. It was thought that the CB1 receptor balanced neurotransmitter release in the brain. This prevents excessive or inhibited messages that control dopamine, 5HTP, GABA and serotonin. This was a big deal. They knew at this stage that there had to be a reason. The body didn’t have receptor sites that hung around waiting for a compound to interact with. Humans must produce compounds that worked with this CB1 site. The question was ‘did we have cannabinoids in our own body’?
Blissed out by Cannabinoids.
Dr Bill Devane working inside the Tel Aviv lab eventually found a compound in mammals that interacted with the CB1 receptor site. It was an important find proving we produce our own endogenous cannabinoids. They called this endocannabinoid anandamide. Ananda being the Sanskrit word for bliss as the receptor site seemed to contribute to mood, calm and relaxation levels through brain chemical balance.
A second receptor site is discovered.
In 1995 a further receptor site was discovered. This was named CB2 and thought to act as a protective system much like the Immune system. It became particularly active during disease, trauma and inflammation in helping our body overcome a threat or breakage.
The endocannabinoid system
So the two receptor sites in our body CB1 and CB2 along with our endocannabinoids form the endocannabinoid system. This system is believed to be Involved in all human disease. CB1 and CB2 receptors cover pretty much all of our functioning, both in the brain and at peripheral sites.
Here is where the CBD comes in.
Once our endocannabinoid system was discovered, Scientists understood better how Plant cannabinoids were working within the body. By stimulating CB1 and CB2 receptor signalling, plant cannabinoids function as a substitute “retrograde messenger” that mimics the way our bodies try to maintain balance (homeostasis). To date there are now over 100 recognised cannabinoids in Cannabis Sativa. Some seem to contribute very little and others such as CBD and THC have been researched in many diverse areas. Endocannabinoids (our internal cannabinoids) and their receptors are present in every animal except insects. Scientists have surmised that the endocannabinoid system must serve an important and basic function in animal physiology.
Let’s make CBD a medicine
In 2016 the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency) expressed an intention to classify cannabidiol (CBD) as a medicine. The MHRA is the UK Government body responsible for licensing medicine. They issued notice to 18 manufacturers/suppliers of CBD in the UK. This quickly lead to a discussion between the already operating CBD manufacturers/sellers and the agency. After some discussion the MHRA conceded that to withdraw CBD from those people benefitting from its therapeutic value might not be the best course of action.
Wait no, let’s make CBD Oil a novel food supplement
The outcome? The MHRA passed the regulation of CBD over to the Foods Standards Agency in making CBD a novel food supplement. This still stands today. There are 63 approved strains of CBD Hemp that can be used in the production of CBD oil. If we used a strain outside of the approval list, the CBD oil would be illegal in the UK. The MHRA also stated that medical advice should be consulted before taking CBD and no medical claims can be made by CBD manufacturers and sellers.
For further information see our CBD buyers guide