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A few short years ago, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who even knew what CBD was. But today, it seems like there are CBD products for sale everywhere, even lining the shelves at stores you never expected to carry them. Where did it all start? The history of CBD goes much further back than you might expect.

On the face of it, the CBD phenomena is completely understandable. After all, for millions of people this compound provides relief from a variety of conditions that would otherwise be debilitating. It is truly amazing how many conditions people have enthusiastically proclaimed that CBD has helped them with. And now science is beginning to back all that up, as more and more laboratory tests are performed. For example, children with epilepsy are able to live and play and have normal lives because CBD can block their seizures. People who have previously gone through the day sluggish and miserable as a result of insomnia say that they are finally sleeping thanks to CBD. Older patients who have struggled for years with chronic pain and arthritis have reportedly found that CBD has given back to them the freedom of movement that they enjoyed when they were much younger. The list goes on and on. CBD is amazing, but it sort of seems to have come out of nowhere. Of course, this isn’t actually true. While it’s making headlines now, CBD has helped people for thousands of years.

Here’s some brief, but fascinating information about CBD history.

What Is CBD?

CBD is an abbreviation for Cannabidiol, and it’s one of the active compounds in the hemp plant. While it is a similar compound to THC (the active ingredient in marijuana), CBD doesn’t get you “high” or make you feel “stoned.” Instead, it binds with the cannabinoid receptors in your body to achieve a variety of beneficial effects. CBD is usually extracted directly from the hemp plant and made into tinctures, oils, edibles, capsules, and creams, and it can be consumed in a wide variety of ways. It is vaped, eaten, used topically, and in any case it crosses the blood-brain barrier very easily. This is what makes it so effective for anxiety, depression, and chronic pain. CBD is also known for its safety; unlike pharmaceutical medications, and even some over-the-counter medicines, CBD will not harm the body in any way and produces very few side effects.

Humans and CBD

Nowadays, CBD is extracted from the hemp plant using several different, but equally sophisticated methods, some of which make use of advanced technology. But long before these extraction technologies existed, CBD was already helping thousands of people with their conditions.

The hemp plant was first cultivated by humans nearly six thousand years ago, in approximately the year 4000 BC. That’s around the time the first pyramids were built, and already ancient peoples had begun to discover the various benefits of this unusual plant. Ancient Greek historians describe the plant being used in steam baths – sort of a precursor to the modern practice of vaping CBD oil – and evidence suggests that hemp was popular throughout Asia, Europe, and Africa.

In the year 2737 BC, Sheng Nung, the Emperor of China, was documented as using a cannabis tea to help with his rheumatism and gout. Although he didn’t know it, the Emperor was enjoying the benefits of CBD, and sipping a CBD-infused tea to help with rheumatism is a practice that is still done today.

Of course, when the hemp plant was first cultivated, no one was looking for “CBD”. There wasn’t a concept of what CBD was, nor was there a scientific method for studying it. Our ancestors simply had discovered that this plant made them feel better when they were anxious or ill.

The Science of CBD

For hundreds of centuries, even as civilizations rose and fell, the hemp plant never went out of style. It has been discovered in many different places, from England, to Africa, to China and everywhere in between.

In the year 1533, while the techniques and practices that would eventually lead to modern medicine where still being developed, physicians of the time first began to study the benefits of hemp in earnest. Hemp was already an extraordinarily popular crop at the time; in fact, King Henry VIII of England actually required every farmer to set aside some of their land, specifically to grow hemp. While the world had enjoyed the benefits of hemp for centuries, only now were people starting to get really interested in the exact origin of those benefits.

Some Famous Historical Fans of CBD

While Chinese Emperor Sheng Nung may have been the first famous fan of CBD, he is far from its only convert across the thousands of years of CBD history. Thomas Jefferson was an avid fan of the hemp plant, growing it on his property. Queen Victoria used CBD – still not known by that name – to alleviate menstrual cramps. Cannabis has even been discovered in the home of William Shakespeare.

The Discovery of CBD

While there have been many people throughout history who have reaped the benefits of CBD, for thousands of years they did not understand exactly what was causing the beneficial effects. People simply knew that hemp helped them with chronic pain and other conditions. Finally, by the nineteenth century, when scientific methods had become advanced enough, doctors finally started to officially describe the cannabis plant as a “medicine.” It was Irish physician William B. O’Shaughnessy who first began to properly describe all the possible medical applications of the plant.

It would take almost a further 100 years before a British chemist by the name of Robert S. Cahn was able to begin reporting the structure of Cannabinol, better known as CBN. By 1942, an American chemist named Roger Adams had finally isolated both CBD and THC successfully. Although he was able to isolate these two compounds, he was still unsure of what they did for the human body. The effects of the plant were known, but no one was sure which of the two compounds did which thing.

The Modern Rise of CBD

In 1964, it was finally discovered which of the two active compounds in the cannabis plant were responsible for which effects on the body. THC was found to be primarily responsible for the psychoactive effects, while CBD had more effects on anxiety and pain. Over the next few decades, sporadic studies were done on CBD, but as cannabis was still considered an illegal drug, studying it was often discouraged. Sadly, millions of people who might have benefited from CBD missed out, due to an unnecessary stigma.

Finally, by the mid 1990s, several U.S. states began to legalize marijuana for medical purposes. This allowed research into the effects of CBD to continue. Even so, it wasn’t until the 2000s when CBD really began to take the world by storm. It was the story of Charlotte Figi, a young girl who suffered from an extremely debilitating form of epilepsy, that really cemented the idea of how powerfully CBD could effect people’s minds. Charlotte was four years old and was experiencing 300 seizures per week. She could not walk, talk, or even eat. Her parents, desperate and at their wits’ end, had tried everything to help her. However, nothing worked until, out of options, they acquired some CBD oil for her. It worked almost immediately. Charlotte’s seizures went from 300 per week to only two or three.


After inspiring stories like Charlotte’s made it into the mainstream media, the public attitude towards cannabis-derived products has become much more accepting and positive. As more and more states move to legalize, CBD has become a godsend for people suffering from many different ailments. Now CBD derived from low-THC hemp is legal in all 50 states, and is providing relief for millions of people, with more and more discovering the benefits every day.

About the Author: Britten Carrington was born and raised in Southern California. Britt has been a proud member of the Rooted Hemp Co. team for 3 years, and has great passion for creating the best CBD products.  


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