The cannabis plants, Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica, have been used for centuries for their nutritional value and medicinal properties. Cannabis also has a long history of use for industrial purposes. Cannabidiol (CBD) is a compound that can be found in cannabis and is one of the hottest topics in the medical, nutritional and supplement worlds right now! It’s a really exciting compound that can deliver a bunch of great benefits, but before we get into the nitty-gritty details on CBD, let’s look at the history of the cannabis plant in part one of this two-part blog series.
History of Medicinal Use
The flowers and resin of the cannabis plant have been used in China since roughly 2700 BC. The plant was used to treat rheumatism, malaria, constipation, menstrual disorders and even absent-mindedness. During the medieval period, from the fifth to fifteenth centuries, Islamic doctors used cannabis to treat epilepsy, nausea and vomiting, inflammation and pain. In the 1800s, western medicine began to use cannabis primarily as an analgesic (pain reliever).(1)
More Recent Uses of Cannabis
Most recently, cannabis has been used to treat epilepsy, anxiety, insomnia, pain, muscle spasms and glaucoma. The scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of cannabis for the different indications varies greatly. The strongest evidence supporting the beneficial effects of cannabis are found in research studies that look at chronic pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, muscle spasms and seizures.(2),(3),(4),(5) Many other medicinal uses for cannabis have been proposed, and although cannabis is indigenous to Central and South Asia, it’s now a crop that’s being grown around the world for its industrial, nutritional and medicinal properties. The medicinal benefits of cannabis are derived from a class of compounds called cannabinoids.
The 2 Major Cannabinoids
Research has identified over 100 cannabinoids in the cannabis plants. The two major cannabinoids in the cannabis plant are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is well known for its psychoactive properties. It’s the component of cannabis that gets you high. CBD, on the other hand, is non-intoxicating, meaning it lacks the psychoactive and “high” effects that THC delivers. Let’s be clear: CBD does not get you high. However, CBD is known to have anti-anxiety and other behavioral effects that can be beneficial.
The Potential Benefits of CBD
CBD is found in both species of cannabis plants, Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica. However, each strain of cannabis has a different THC:CBD ratio. THC binds with CB1 endocannabinoid receptors; however, CBD does not have a high binding capacity to cannabinoid receptors, which is one reason why it doesn’t have intoxicating activity. CBD acts more as an intercellular messenger in the endocannabinoid system and interacts with many other, non-endocannabinoid signalling systems. Scientists consider it a “multi-target” compound.(6) CBD can affect many different aspects of human health, including memory, appetite, energy balance and metabolism, stress response, immune function, reproduction, autonomic nervous system, pain relief, thermoregulation, sleep and physical exercise. Make sure you check out the next blog, in which we will get into more details on CBD extraction, pharmacology and mechanisms of action.
1. Abel EL. (1980). Marihuana, the first twelve thousand years. New York: Plenum Press.
2. Phillips TJ, Cherry CL, Cox S, et al. (2010). Pharmacological treatment of painful HIV-associated sensory neuropathy: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. PLoS One, 5:e14433.
3. Martin-Sanchez E, Furukawa TA, Taylor J, et al. (2009). Systematic review and meta-analysis of cannabis treatment for chronic pain. Pain Med, 10:1353–1368.
4. Machado Rocha FC, Stefano S, De Cassia Haiek R, et al. (2008). Therapeutic use of Cannabis sativa on chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting among cancer patients: systematic review and meta-analysis. European journal of cancer care, 17:431–443.
5. Flachenecker P. (2013). A new multiple sclerosis spasticity treatment option: effect in everyday clinical practice and cost-effectiveness in Germany. Expert Rev Neurother, 13:15–19.
6. Devinsky O, Cilio MR, Cross H, et al. (2014). Cannabidiol: Pharmacology and potential therapeutic role in epilepsy and other neuropsychiatric disorders. Epilepsia, 55(6), 791–802.