CBD History: Ancient Use, Modern Discovery, and Future Potential

The use of CBD dates back centuries, but researchers only began to fully understand just how much potential this cannabis-derived compound really had in the 1960s. Since that time, theories have been proposed that CBD may help with a wide variety of health and wellness issues. Below, we dive into the full history of CBD and take a look at where it's headed.

Early Days of CBD History: Discovering the Benefits of the Cannabis Plant as a Whole

The first mention of cannabis appears all the way back in 2900 B.C. in a Chinese medical textbook. Shortly thereafter, Emperor Shen Nung noted the health properties exhibited by cannabis —all things modern science is investigating 1.

It wasn't until 50 years ago that scientists would isolate the compounds within the plant and learn that the CBD compound was likely responsible for what had been noted over centuries.

The ancient Greek writings also described how cannabis was used for a variety of reasons from stopping nosebleeds to dressing wounds. In Islamic countries, there is evidence of cannabis being used in medicines as early as the 8th century. In ancient India, the plant was used in both medicinal and religious practices; it was believed at the time to help in childbirth. There is also evidence of the use of cannabis in ancient Egypt and the Netherlands.

Who discovered CBD?

Organic chemist Roger Adams isolated cannabidiol (CBD) from the cannabis plant while researching the chemistry of marijuana. Though he successfully isolated the chemical compound, he didn't actually describe it or document its structure.

In 1963, Israeli scientist Raphael Mechoulam documented the isolation of the CBD molecule, and is therefore credited with its discovery. He also is credited with identifying the structure of THC in 1964.
It was thanks to these isolations and research that scientists began to understand that THC is responsible for the "high" users feel, and that CBD has absolutely no mind-altering or intoxicating effects. The potential, however, for CBD was clear.

Legalizing CBD: A Timeline

Because of the stigma surrounding marijuana, access to cannabis sativa was limited — even for medical researchers. It was illegal to possess cannabis, even for academic purposes, due to the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which banned both hemp and cannabis from being sold in the United States.

By 1978, New Mexico passed legislation legalizing the medical use of the cannabis plant via the Controlled Substance Therapeutic Research Act.

In 1996, California passed Proposition 215, which legalized medical marijuana. This was huge for CBD research since researchers could now possess marijuana legally.

In 2017, the World Health Organization concluded officially that CBD is not harmful.

In 2018, the World Anti-Doping Agency removed CBD from its list of prohibited substances. Later that same year, the United States Senate passed the Farm Bill, which legalized the cultivation and sale of hemp and products derived from hemp, so long as they contain less than .3 percent THC.

CBD Today

With widespread access to CBD, research is exploding. Demand for CBD products, including topical CBD and CBD oil, is higher than ever. Though CBD has been misunderstood, it is finally gaining acceptance in the health and wellness space. Research has shown that CBD can help balance your body's endocannabinoid system. As research continues, we expect more uses of CBD to be unearthed.

GW Pharmaceuticals (one of the leading medical CBD businesses in the world) was acquired by a global pharmaceutical company, Jazz Pharmaceuticals, for $7.2 billion. This landmark transaction is the biggest foray into cannabis by a pharma company, signalling the potential for increased use of cannabinoids i.

The global hemp industry brought in $4.9 billion in 2019, and that amount is expected to quadruple in less than ten years2. FDA regulation is around the corner. In February 2021, congress introduced H.R. 841, a bill that compels the FDA to approve the use of CBD and other cannabinoids for use in dietary supplements1. When CBD is regulated as a supplement, it will open the door to more pharmaceutical patents around CBD. It’s only the beginning. At Dr. Kerklaan Therapeutics, we can’t wait to see what is next and be a pioneering voice in the CBD industry.


1. Axe, J. (2021). Ancient Remedies: Secrets to Healing with Herbs, Essential Oils, CBD, and the Most Powerful Natural Medicine in History (1st ed.). Little, Brown Spark.
2. Global Industrial Hemp Market to Garner $18.6 Billion by 2027: Allied Market Research. (2021, February 8). MarketWatch. https://www.marketwatch.com/press-release/global-industrial-hemp-market-to-garner-186-billion-by-2027-allied-market-research-2021-02-08
3. Runestad, T. (2021, February 8). Congress introduces bill to legalize hemp CBD supplements. Natural Products INSIDER. https://www.naturalproductsinsider.com/regulatory/congress-introduces-bill-legalize-hemp-cbd-supplements