The history of CBD

Once upon a time the CBD…

Cannabidiol, better known by its acronyms CBD, is one of the main compounds present in the cannabis plant and one of the active sources of its precious qualities .

Although CBD is now known to both scientific and medical communities and cannabis users, this has not always been the case. At the beginning of the 19th century, it was not yet clear what components and active ingredients contained the “Cannabis sativa L” plant, even though the plant had been used for medical and recreational purposes for hundreds of years. Fortunately, the research of some pioneers of the time began to bear fruit. These early discoveries marked the beginning of the history of CBD and the advances in the study of this molecule.
Here is its evolution, punctuated by discoveries and highlights…

From the 40’s to the 60’s : first discoveries

CBD was first isolated by a team of researchers from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Illinois (USA) from cannabis extract. In their January 1940 article describing the process and structure of the molecule, they stated that  « cannabinol is highly toxic but has no activity in cannabis ».

Despite the success of Illinois scientists, it took 20 years for other specialists to re-focus on the molecule. Finally, in 1963, the chemist of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Raphael Mechoulam was able to determine its exact structure. The following year, her research team won more victories : team isolated THC for the first time and succeeded in synthesizing the two cannabinoid compounds. The work of this specialist and his collaborators has opened up a new field of research on the pharmacological activity of cannabis components.



Scientists at the University of Illinois are isolating Cannabidiol for the first time.


20 years later, new scientific teams became interested in Cannabidiol.


the first therapeutic studies to begin to be carried out.


CBD is beginning to be used as a treatment for psychosis and anxiety.


the scope of studies is broadening the therapeutic potential of CBD in the treatment of many diseases.

1970s : Therapeutic uses of CBD begin to be studied

In 1973, a group of Brazilian scientists announced that CBD reduced, and even blocked, seizures caused by epilepsy in animals, an effect it tested on patients with this neurological disorder at the end of that decade. Although most people who received a dose of the compound felt some improvement, the results could not yet be considered definitive. Only a year later, in 1974, researchers in the country discovered for the first time that CBD was acting as an anxiolytic, reducing the symptoms of this trouble.

By the mid-70’s, other clinical trials had focused on other medical areas, demonstrating that the administration of the compound eased nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy. During this time, the sedative effects of the chemical compound were also discovered. After confirming this phenomenon in animals, several studies have shown that it improves the sleep of patients suffering from insomnia.

80’s and 90’s: CBD in the treatment of psychosis and anxiety

Although CBD publications increased during the 1970s, interest in the molecule declined over the next two decades. However, several important events took place during this period.

Progress continued in Brazil: in 1980, a small study in Sao Paulo, in which Mechoulam collaborated, was one of the first to reveal that CBD reduces seizures in patients with epilepsy (in this case, it was children).

Another subsequent study, from 1982, described the first scientific evidence that CBD has antipsychotic effects. Its authors have proven on a group of healthy volunteers that the compound inhibits symptoms such as impaired perception, depersonalization and refusal of communication with other people. However, CBD was not openly administered to patients until 1995, in a clinical trial whose condition significantly improved after receiving treatment with cannabidiol.

But experts began to really consider the therapeutic potential of cannabis in 1988. That year, scientists discovered for the first time the endocannabinoid system of the human body, i.e. cannabinoid receptors that are naturally found in the nervous system. The discovery paved the way for new trials in different medical fields that were published over the next decade.

In the late 1990s, a group of researchers from the U.S. Instituts Nationaux de la Santé Mentale revealed that CBD is a powerful cellular antioxidant, while other later work indicated that this effect conferred on it, in addition, properties as a neuroprotector. These qualities make the chemical compound of cannabis useful in reducing the degeneration of neurons produced by diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.

In the last years of this period, progress has occurred in another area : the law. Voters in Alaska, Oregon and Washington legalized medical cannabis, a measure also supported by British proxies. In 1998, the pharmaceutical company GW Pharmaceuticals was licensed to produce the drug Sativex, with the same proportion of THC and CBD, for the treatment of pain and spasms in patients with multiple sclerosis.

2000s : CBD’s Role in Autoimmune Diseases

During the first decade of the 2000s, a lot of other research was done on the therapeutic potential of CBD. The trials, which used animals, focused on two axes: its effect on the cells of the immune system and its anti-inflammatory and calming power. Studies have suggested that the compound slows the advance of rheumatoid arthritis and is able to regulate the presence of certain molecules involved in tumor development, thanks to its immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory action. On the other hand, they demonstrated the effectiveness of CBD treatments for chronic neurological pain in rodents.

Although research on medical cannabis continues to be limited by legal restrictions, dozens of studies conducted over the past decade have found new evidence that CBD can treat diseases such as epilepsy, anxiety, schizophrenia, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Among these studies is the one published in 2011 by scientists from the Research Institute of the California Pacific Medical Center. They explained in their paper how they had found evidence that CBD can curb the metastasis of cancer cells. A year later, German researchers had reduced psychotic symptoms in patients with schizophrenia.

Today, studies continue to follow one another despite limitations.