The History of CBD From Hemp to Cannabinoids: A Modern Ancient Tale - My Blissful Pet

The History of CBD From Hemp to Cannabinoids: A Modern Ancient Tale


  • CBD stands for cannabidiol, an active ingredient of the hemp and cannabis plants. Both have been used for thousands of years. Unlike its cousin THC from the cannabis plant, CBD doesn't make people feel high.
  • In the scientific history, CBD was discovered in 1940 by Roger Adams., but didn't know all its powers. Later on, scientists learned more about how it might help our bodies without the buzz.
  • The 2018 Farm Bill made hemp-derived CBD ok if it has less than 0.3 percent THC. Now, in the thriving CBD industry, you can see CBD products everywhere, even for pets!
  • Sales of CBD have hit $4.6 billion as people get excited about all the things it could do, like making skin creams or helping people and pets with pain.
  • There are some worries and debates about CBD’s safety and effects. Understanding which CBD products are legal to use can be challenging because laws around medical cannabis change frequently.


CBD, aka cannabidiol, is a unique and special component of the hemp plant that has an interesting and rich history. It goes back to ancient Asia, up to 12000 years ago! People saw that hemp helped them feel better, but at that time, they didn't know that hemp was rich in CBD and didn't have much THC—the stuff that makes you feel high.

The dispersal of cannabis over Eurasia from a central point is reflected by the fact that the plant is designated by related words in most languages of this huge landmass. English hemp and German Hanf are etymologically cognate with Greek κάνναβις , Latin cannăbis , Italian canapa , and Russian konoplja. Even non-Indo-European languages use related words, eg, qunnab (بﱠﻧُ ﻗ ) in Arabic, a Semitic language, kendir in Turkish, and kanap’is (კანაფის) in Georgian, a Caucasian language. (Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2020 Sep; 22(3): 223–228.)

During the Industrial Revolution, machines made using hemp fibers super quick and easy. Much later, in 2018, new rules said growing hemp with minimal quantities of THC (less than 0.3%) was okay again.



But that's just scratching the surface—CBD has stories deep enough for us to explore together step by step! Let’s get going!


How Did Cannabis and Hemp Come About?

how did cbc come about girl doing yoga on the grass relaxed


The earliest encounters with cannabis date back an astonishing 12,000 years, originating in the Altai Mountains of Central Asia. Nomadic peoples carried cannabis seeds with them on their journeys, unknowingly spreading the plant across the globe. Ancient civilizations readily incorporated cannabis into their cultures, not just for its intoxicating properties but also for its practical uses in religious ceremonies, textiles, and even rope-making. 

Back to the Scythians in 400 bc there are reports of burial ceremonies that included burning hemp seeds on hot stones, resulting in a smoke that was loved by the participants. 

The Scythians then take the seed of this hemp and, crawling in under the mats, throw it on the red-hot stones, where it smoulders and sends forth such fumes that no Greek vapor-bath could surpass it. (Herodotus, The Histories A. D. Godley, Ed.)

Getting to the Roman Empire around 20 bc, the Naturalis Historia, becomes an encyclopedia of the era and contains information about how hemp was used to build ropes and nets. It also contains records of how cannabis was used for medicinal purposes and to cure gout. This was probably the first documented use of cannabis-derived medicine in history.


Historical Uses of Hemp

historical uses of hemp mbp history of cbd


Throughout history, hemp wasn't just for medicine. It was also used for making things like clothes and ropes. Hemp-derived fibers had numerous applications in the textile industry. They were used for creating rugs, containers, cloths, and ropes. An interesting application was the one devoted to creating lines and sailcloths for vessels that could withstand the rigor of the sea. Hemp was the to-go source at that time.

The plant also played an important role in America's history. In fact, at the beginning of the 1600, settlers brought their hemp plants, just to find that the Native Americans were already using it. About 30 years later, due to the widespread applications of hemp fibers, the Virginia Assembly ordered:

that every planter as soone as he may, provide seede of flaxe and hempe and sowe the same (Act VIII, Laws Of Virginia, Aug, 1633, 9th CHARLES 1st.)

And there are even reports saying that George Washington grew hemp on his Virginia farm.

Later stories indicate that Betsy Ross may have sawn the first American Flag in 1776 using hemp. Yet, the story hasn't been fully validated by pieces of written evidence. Moreover, since the original flag doesn't exist anymore, it remains more of a fun-fact and myth, than a real and factual historical fact.


Psychoactive vs. Non-Psychoactive

Over the following several hundred years, cannabis and hemp kept popping up as a solution to maladies, for their medicinal properties, and also for their intoxicating effects. Yet, nobody knew the difference between the marijuana and hemp plant.

That was true until 1839 when William Brooke O’Shaughnessy wrote about the intoxicating effects of cannabis from South-Asia. O’Shaughnessy was a doctor at the Medical College in Calcutta, and he believed that this phenomenon was most likely caused by a resinous secretion that did not exist in the plants used in Europe at that time. You can see a section from O’Shaughnessy's original article below.

 shaughnessy cbd article mbp from original paper


Roughly 50 years later, J. Russel Reynolds published a paper in the medical journal Lancet, where he described the medicinal properties of Cannabis Indica. Reynolds was quite influential at the time, since he climbed the ranks to became Queen Victoria's personal physician. He was one of the pioneers that described the utility of cannabinoids in treating senile insomnia, where he writes: 

In this class of case I have found nothing comparable in utility to a moderate dose of Indian hemp. viz., one-quarter to one-third of a grain of the extract, given at bedtime. It has been absolutely successful for months, and indeed years, without any increase of the dose.


reynolds study on cbd therapy first paper


Reynolds also describes the beneficial effects in sensorial issues related to pain, and in muscular spasm similar to epileptic attacks. He concludes the paper talking about some of the side effects that he observed and the observed variability in response among individuals. I gotta say, it is quite of a treat to read, and I highly suggest you to give it a try, it's only two pages!

Jumping forward to 1940, a smart man named Roger Adams was the first one to isolate CBD from the Minnesota Wild Hemp plant, assigning it the formula C21H26O2, and publishing it in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. It wasn't until 1963 that another scientist, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam was able to figure out the chemical structure of CBD. His work was published in the journal Tetrahedron in 1963 (Tetrahedron,1963,19(12), 2073-2078).

Mechoulam was also the first on to characterize THC in 1965. Thanks to his inventive personality, he obtained 5 kg of cannabis that was seized by the local police, brought it to his lab, ran tests to isolate THC and even tested its psychoactive effect in about entrepreneurship! 


The Discovery of the Endocannabinoid System

In the past 60 years, hemp-extracted CBD became the subject of numerous studies aimed to identify the mechanisms by which CBD exerts its medicinal properties. This is especially true when looking at CBD as a natural aid for anxiety, or as an alternative treatment for inflammation or pain.

Part of the research performed focused on understanding how CBD works. The pioneer in this field was William Anthony Devane. Born and raised in Chicago, Devane was a graduate from the Saint Louis University School of Medicine. His thesis, that became a milestone paper in the field of CBD research (Mol Pharmacol1988;34:605–613), focused on the role of the cannabinoid receptor CB1. Devane was the first author in the seminal paper that identifies and describes the CB1 receptor in rats. CB1 and CB2 are two of the major cannabinoid receptors that help transmit signals inside the cell.

A few years later, Devane also discovered that anandamide was the first identified natural ligand to the cannabinoid receptor

Our results raise the possibility that anandamide is formed via an as-yet-uncharacterized route of arachidonic acid metabolism leading to compounds that act, at least in part, through the cannabinoid receptor. 

Interestingly, the initial name was arachidonylethanolamide, which was simplified to anandamide. Anandamide comes from the Sanskrit Ānanda. In the ancient Hindu religious scripts called Vedas, Ānanda refers to the eternal bliss that comes with the new rebirth cycle.

Thus, at My Blissful Pet, we couldn't be any more spot on !!


CBD Usage in Science

As the curtains of mystery were lifted, CBD became a prolific topic for research scientists that wanted to better understand how it worked and its potential therapeutic effect. 

Today (12/12/2023), running a search on the National Library of Medicine with the query "cannabidiol OR anandamide OR endocannabinoid" returns more than 40,000 articles, with over 13,000 of them funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH). I can tell you by experience that getting an NIH grant is really, really difficult. Managing to secure funds to perform studies on CBD and THC is a testament to their potential therapeutic uses in patients suffering from different conditions. 

 pubmed search endocannabinoid cbd anandamide mbp

As illustrated by the graph below, the relative volume of queries really skyrocketed after the 90s, followed by another large jump in popularity after the 2018 Farm Bill. That's when CBD from hemp became ok, as long as the THC content by dry weigh stays under 0.3 percent. 

graph search volume pubmed cbd anandamide endocannabinoid mbp


Note that this search I ran does not even address medical marijuana, even if cannabis use has been accepted for medical applications such as in preventing nausea for patients that are doing chemotherapy. Although CBD has fewer accepted medical applications, as research evolves, it may become more common to use CBD oil to treat daily issues like joint pain, or general anxiety.



Hemp and CBD have danced through history together, like old friends at a reunion. We've seen their journey from ancient wisdom to today's science labs. Sure feels like the tale of CBD is just getting started, and market projections are bullish on the ever-evolving landscape of cannabinoids for recreational use as well as for the potential of more accepted medical uses. 

Here's to the next chapters in this never-ending story–may it be as rich and surprising as its past!



Q: What is CBD, and where does it come from?

A: CBD is a compound found in hemp plants that people use for recreational and medical purposes. Its full name is cannabidiol, and it comes from both wild hemp and industrial hemp. Roger Adams is the scientist who both discovered CBD and identified the structure of CBD in the first half of the 1900.

Q: Is there a difference between Cannabis and Hemp?

A: Yes and no...Cannabis is the overall genus encompassing all varieties. Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica are two of the species within this genus. Hemp refers to varieties of Cannabis sativa that are grown for industrial and non-drug use. Marijuana, typically refers to cannabis plants (either Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica). The key distinction lies in their usage and THC concentration, which is naturally low in hemp. So, technically, saying that CBD is derived from cannabis requires further details to ensure that it comes from hemp.

Q. Is there any difference between THC and CBD?

A: Yes! THC and CBD are two major cannabis compounds, or cannabinoids, but they're different. THC can make you feel high, while CBD does not cause these psychoactive effects. 

Q. Has the government ever made changes about using hemp or CBD?

A: In history, laws like the Controlled Substances Act made using cannabis difficult, but now some forms are federally legal, including purified CBD, like the drug called Epidiolex used to treat epilepsy.

Q: How has legislation around CBD changed over time, in particular, in relation to the 2018 Farm Bill?

A: Before 2018, CBD was in a legal gray area. However, legalized CBD that is derived from hemp and contains no more than 0.3% THC. This was a significant turning point for the CBD market and for cannabis research overall.

Q: Was cannabis always used for its medicinal properties including CBD?

A: Historically, the use of cannabis has been used for a wide range of medicinal and industrial purposes. The use of CBD specifically for its medical benefits is a more recent phenomenon that falls within the broader historical context of cannabis use.

Q: Why was there a Hemp Pilot Program in relation to CBD?

A: The Hemp Pilot Program, or Industrial Hemp Research Initiative, was established in 2015 in New York state to explore the agricultural and economic potential of hemp, including CBD. It allowed states to start cultivating hemp on a commercial scale and researching the benefits of CBD in-depth.

Q: When was the first CBD drug approved, and what was it called?

A: The CBD drug called Epidiolex was approved in 2018 by the FDA for the treatment of two severe forms of epilepsy, Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.

Q: What is the future of CBD in the medicinal world?

A: The future of CBD is promising. Research into CBD is still ongoing, and we're learning more about its therapeutic potential in treating a range of conditions. As we progress, we can expect to see an expanded role for CBD in the medical field.

Q: What do other cannabinoids related to CBD, including CBN, CBG, or CBDA do?

A: CBD, first discovered in 1940, is one of over 100 cannabinoids that can be found in the cannabis plant. Other significant cannabinoids include THC, the most well known and psychoactive. Another cannabinoid called CBN (Cannabinol) is more for bedtime relaxation; CBG (Cannabigerol) has instead stimulating properties; and CBDA (Cannabidiolic Acid) has anti-inflammatory and anti-emetic properties. This tells you how molecules like CBD can be very versatile!

Q: What benefits can one get from taking CBD?

A: People take various forms of CBD for different reasons. The most common ones include addressing joint pain and inflammation, managing the discomfort associated with menstrual cramps, reducing anxiety, and stimulating appetite. The power of CBD lies in its ability to interact with receptors in our body's Endocannabinoid System (ECS). However, it's essential to note that research into CBD is still ongoing, and its efficacy can vary from person to person.

Q: How has the CBD market changed over time?

A: The CBD market has seen exponential growth in recent years, particularly after the Farm Bill of 2018. From tinctures and oils to edibles and topical products, the range of CBD-infused products has expanded significantly. With ongoing research and the possibility of more FDA-approved CBD drugs in the future, the CBD market is expected to continue its growth trajectory.

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