Millenia before the FDA, there existed a much simpler, more Darwinian system for determining the safety and effectiveness of potential medicines: eat the berry and survive, or eat the berry and die. That was it. Fortunately, cannabinoids passed this test in multiple parts of the world and in different eras (obviously, the bar for determining a supplement’s effectiveness has been raised significantly since then). If you’re under the impression that this “new trend” in CBD is two or three decades old, this quick trip through the history of CBD will blow your mind.
Cannabinoids in Ancient Greece
Thanks to Hollywood, you know all about scantily clad men kicking each other into bottomless pits, but ancient Greece’s history of CBD use didn’t exactly translate to the big screen. In the second century CE, the Greek physician and philosopher Galenos of Pergamum regularly prescribed “cannabis juice” for a number of ailments, most notably for “pain of the ears.” Amazingly, even Galenos wasn’t the earliest recorded example of cannabinoid use by ancient civilizations. He credited his success with cannabinoids to the De Materia Medica, an influential encyclopedia of sorts penned in the middle of the first century by Dioscorides.
In Ancient Asia
By far the oldest recorded entry in the known history of CBD is that of ancient China. Records indicate that the plant was actually consumed by the Chinese as a food source as early as 6000 BCE. It didn’t take long for them to realize that this plant had medicinal properties, but they weren’t sure which component of the plant carried the most benefits, so they began experimenting. To this day, texts describing the history of CBD in China are still available. The Chinese even distinguished different parts of the plant in terms of healing properties. It was believed, for example, that the roots promoted and anti-clotting effect. Even a chinese emperor, Shen-Neng, used the product to alleviate his own arthritis and other musculoskeletal issues.
In Ancient Egypt
While Asia may take first prize for longest history of CBD use, Egypt should be crowned as the civilization that accomplished the most in terms of CBD research and development. In addition to the many medicinal uses uncovered by the Egyptians, which we will review in a moment, they also found a very interesting use for it in the highly in-demand field of rock-breaking. (Mystery solved folks, aliens didn’t help with the pyramids – weed did!) When the Egyptians wanted to break large boulders into smaller rocks for building purposes, they would stuff some dehydrated cannabis into the cracks before immersing the rocks in water. The cannabis expanded so forcefully under these conditions that the rocks would actually break from the inside due to the sheer pressure.
As it concerns medicinal uses of cannabinoids throughout the history of CBD, we know from the Ebers Papyrus, a text written in the mid-1500s B.C.E., that the Egyptians could identify the many applications of cannabinoids with surprising accuracy. They even correctly associated certain preparations of the herb with anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. Possibly the most profound among the Egyptians’ discoveries surrounding cannabinoids was its anti-anxiety potential. This was especially impressive because illness was usually seen as an act of holy wrath, not germs, and therefore couldn’t be remedied without some act of contrition (that had nothing to do with medical science).
The 20th-Century Resurgence
Of course, the 20th century is a big leap from ancient Egypt, but you can thank the crusades, the dark ages, and colonization for the lack of innovation in between. It wasn’t until the eve of World War II, in fact, 1940, that cannabinoids re-surfaced in an academic capacity. Chemist Roger Adams, while experimenting on the Cannabis plant, unknowingly extracted CBD oil. Eventually, he realized his discovery and aided in further research. In the decades that followed, cannabinoids research proved that CBD was non-psychoactive, and that it could treat epilepsy – both huge landmarks in the history of CBD that helped to drive yet more research. Today, of course, cannabinoids remain a focal point in many healthcare reform initiatives.