While it seems like everyone is beginning to jump on the CBD bandwagon, the hemp plant has a long, storied history as medicine for our ancestors. In fact, early 1800s physician William Brooke O’Shaughnessy used hemp to treat epilepsy. Over two centuries later, CBD became an active ingredient in a pharmaceutical drug for the first time ever. This prescription, Epidolex, is used to treat severe forms of epilepsy. Now that hemp is declassified as a schedule 1 drug, could CBD really be the answer?
A Brief History of CBD
There is so much misinformation and miseducation about CBD because there was a century-long ban on cannabis. As a result, many of us have no idea that hemp was a source of food, clothing, and health for those who came before them. Unbeknownst to many, hemp is one of the oldest crops known to humankind. In fact, sacred texts, The Vedas, professed that hemp was one of the five essential plants.
Believed to have originated in the East, Indian and Traditional Chinese Medicine implemented hemp in many spiritual and health rituals. While hemp relics and drawings of cannabis have been found throughout the region, the first written text of hemp’s medicinal use dates back to the 1500s. Portuguese writer Garcia d’Orta described eating “bangue” in a 1567 document called Aromatum et simplicium … historia.
Around the 1800s, cannabis was all over Europe and Asia. Russia, France, and China became major exporters of the crop. Meanwhile, different regions used the crop for various reasons, such as making tonics to settle the stomach, stripping the fibers to make rope, and inhaling for spiritual purposes.
When English settlers set up the New World, hemp was a form of currency. As a matter of fact, it was illegal for property owners in Jamestown not to grow cannabis. So, how did we go from an excellent relationship with hemp to it becoming outlawed for a century? Even more, how did it become an active ingredient in medications to treat epilepsy? Let’s take a more in-depth look.
Why Did CBD Become Illegal?
The early 1900s saw a massive shift in the perception of cannabis. This change would render the crop almost obsolete. Seeds for cannabis prohibition began as far back as 1909.
At this time, wars were breaking out in Mexico. Seeking refuge, Mexicans started to cross the California border. This pilgrimage upset the young state who, at the time, was pushing an anti-narcotic agenda. They didn’t appreciate Mexicans’ penchant for smoking “marihuana.”
During this time period, cannabis was used in many over-the-counter medications, soaps, and toothpaste. Heck, the plant was included in the 1851 U.S. Pharmacopeia. However, the introduction of cultures from south of the border showed the American people that smoking the plant may also cause a hallucinogenic reaction.
In 1913, California banned cannabis. Many states, including Maine, Massachusetts, and New York followed suit. By 1937, the Marihuana Act was signed into law. This legislature put such a hefty tax on cannabis that many companies opted not to use it. Finally, in 1950, cannabis was classified as a schedule 1 narcotic. That put hemp in the same category as opium and LSD. It also led multiple decades worth of misinformation on hemp.
Realizing the Difference Between Hemp and Marijuana
The journey to legality was a long one. However, differentiating between hemp and marijuana was figured out not long after cannabis’ schedule 1 classification. In 1960, chemist Raphael Mechoulam isolated a few molecules that seemed to be unique to cannabis plants. Two of these molecules would forever change how we viewed cannabis — cannabidiol (CBD) and 9-delta-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
When Dr. Mechoulam made this discovery, he assumed that these molecules caused the psychoactive effects of smoking marijuana. It wasn’t until two decades later that scientists figured out how this happened.
St. Louis University School of Medicine scientist Dr. Allyn Howlett synthesized radioactive THC. They followed how the molecule moved throughout the central nervous system to discover what we now know as CB1 receptors. Current knowledge confirms that THC stimulates CB1 receptors, eliciting the psychoactive experience equated with marijuana.
Eventually, scientists found CB1 receptors in areas such as:
They also found that THC interacts less with another receptor, which science dubbed CB2. CB2 receptors are in other areas of the body that are essential for day-to-day maintenance.
Parts of the body that contain an abundance of CB2 receptors include:
- White blood cells
- Gut biome
The discovery of cannabinoid receptors was a monumental breakthrough for today’s hemp movement. Botanists and scientists were able to determine that hemp naturally produces small levels of THC, while marijuana fosters an abundance of this psychoactive molecule.
Understanding how cannabinoid receptors work was a small chip that led to a big crack in cannabis prohibition. Let’s discuss how cannabinoid receptors work so you can understand how CBD became legal and an active ingredient in epilepsy medication.
How Do Cannabinoid Receptors Work?
Mechoulam was fascinated by these discoveries. He likened them to how opiates influence the system. Our body has opioid receptors. We produce endogenous opioids that stimulate opioid receptors. As a result, we produce feel-good hormones that cause pain relief, such as dopamine.
However, plant molecules can also interact with our opioid receptors. This sentiment has been found painfully true with the poppy plant. When we take opiates, it stimulates the opioid receptors, mimicking what the human endogenous system does. Cannabis works much the same way, but without the addiction.
Since the discovery of CBD and THC, there have been at least 113 unique molecules found in cannabis plants. These are known as cannabinoids, and they go a long way in strengthening the benefits of CBD.
Mecholuam figured that cannabinoids in hemp interacted with our body in similar ways that opiates in poppy interact with our opioid system. He realized that our system produces endocannabinoids. The purpose of endocannabinoids is to bring balance (homeostasis) to the body.
Some of the purposes of endocannabinoids include:
- Emotional response
- Memory formation
- Immune cell activity
- Pain perception
When cells in the endocannabinoid system experience something out of place in their designated region, they’ll report back to the rest of the body. Based on this message, your body will secrete a particular endocannabinoid to bring back balance. Mecholuam found that cannabinoids in the hemp plant mirror the endocannabinoids in our bodies. Therefore, they may support us when our endocannabinoid system can’t keep up.
The Rise of Medical CBD
Increasing research on the endocannabinoid system led scientists to realize that CBD doesn’t provide the psychoactive effect that THC does. In fact, a majority of cannabinoids don’t. Furthermore, these cannabinoids have unique relationships with both CB receptors. All of these realizations laid the groundwork in the legalization of hemp. However, we still had a long way to go.
In 1992, Mecholuam became a senior scientist for a Brazillian study on epilepsy. It was here that the world saw firsthand the potential benefits of CBD. They noted the antioxidant-like capabilities of this molecule. In particular, CBD exhibited these qualities on neurons in the brain.
The researchers were amazed at how CBD blocked oxidative stress from attacking neurons. When oxidative stress breaks down peptides that comprise neurons, it can cause these communicators to go rogue. As a result, someone may experience a seizure. Therefore, this 1992 study broke open the door for medical CBD.
In fact, California ironically became the first to recognize cannabis as a treatment option for epilepsy. The Golden State started their medical cannabis program in 1996. However, it would be almost 15 years until other states would follow. Thankfully, CBD took center stage in the national spotlight when the world saw firsthand how it helped a young girl named Charlotte.
Charlotte and the Legalization of CBD
Since she was three months old, Charlotte Figi had seizures. At her worst, she was having 300 grand mal seizures per week. This poor child was diagnosed with a severe epileptic disorder known as Dravet Syndrome.
By five-years-old, Charlotte had tried a litany of prescriptions and even for a time adopted a ketogenic diet (high in fat and low in carbohydrates), which is pretty extreme for a child. Her health and cognitive abilities began to decline. Eventually, her parents, stark anti-marijuana advocates, decided to give CBD a try. The Colorado residents enrolled their child in the statewide medical marijuana program that was enacted in 2000. Much to their relief, Charlotte saw improvement.
While not seizure-free, Charlotte was only having a handful of seizures per week. Within a year, she was able to walk, feed herself, and even ride a bike. Without a doubt, CBD was a breakthrough for Charlotte. Her story served as an inspiration to many, and she even had her own strain of CBD oil named after her, affectionately titled Charlotte’s Web.
With the rise of Charlotte’s Web came a massive wave towards a cannabis movement. Medical marijuana programs popped up in more than half the country. By the end of 2018, agriculture hemp became legal in all 50 states, and CBD was included as a prescription drug.
Let’s take a look at the future for CBD.
The FDA, CBD, and Finding Reputable Hemp Oil
When it comes to CBD, the possibilities seem endless. After all, it’s popping up in everything from gummies to pet products to Carl’s Jr. burgers. While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Epidiolex, this creates a bit of a speed bump for CBD.
Since hemp extract is now a pharmaceutical drug, CBD can’t be classified as a supplement. This lack of regulation allows companies to get away with misrepresenting the potency of their CBD products. One analysis of 84 CBD products found that 26% had fewer cannabinoids than advertised. Furthermore, a whopping 43% had more CBD than consumers thought.
That’s why it’s essential to go with a brand that implements third-party lab testing. At Tranquility Labs, we operate with full transparency. Our full-spectrum hemp extract Serenity contains all of the cannabinoids necessary to promote homeostasis throughout your system.
Furthermore, our Sleep Fast Plus formula contains full-spectrum CBD oil, melatonin, and other all-natural botanicals. Together, these organic compounds help your system find balance. As a result, the stressors keeping you up at night take a chill pill, too. That way, your body and mind can get some rest.
In the ever-growing world of CBD, it’s critical to do your due diligence. Heavily vet a brand before investing in their products. While our CBD products are rich in anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antibacterial cannabinoids, they are not intended to treat epilepsy. They may support your quest for wellness, however, our CBD products won’t cure this condition. In the event that you feel you are a candidate for Epidolex, please speak to your physician. There’s no point in missing out on a quality life when there are viable options out there for you.