The Discovery of CBD

Learn more about the groundbreaking research that led to the discovery of CBD as well as its subsequent potential benefits and therapeutic value.


Cannabidiol, CBD, is an emerging medical breakthrough compound that features a comprehensive array of potential therapeutic benefits. Found within the cannabis family, CBD is a non-psychoactive, naturally-occurring compound that interacts with our innate human biology.

The Initial Discovery of the CBD Compound

CBD was first discovered by Dr. Roger Adams in 1940 at the University of Illinois. Adams was the first person to successfully extract CBD from the cannabis plant, although he wasn’t aware of his success until many years later. CBD research began in 1946 when Dr. Walter S. Lowe began conducting laboratory tests on the effects of CBD on animals. Lowe’s laboratory tests resulted in proving that CBD had no mind-altering effects.

Mechoulam’s Breakthrough Research on CBD and Other Cannabinoids

Many of the recent medical breakthroughs have been built from numerous studies stemming from the scientific development made the same year by an Israeli scientist, Raphael Mechoulam. Mechoulam was able to isolate and identify tetrahydrocannabinol, THC, for the first time during his significant cannabis research. This later led to the identification of CBD’s three-dimensional structure. Even though CBD was discovered more than 20 years before THC, THC has dominated cannabis research until recent years. Mechoulam’s research regarding cannabinoids additionally led to the discovery of the endocannabinoid system as well as endogenous cannabinoids found within human biology. In 1980, Mechoulam made another scientific breakthrough in a study that found CBD being a key factor in potentially treating epilepsy.  

The Re-Emergence of CBD Research

More prevalent cannabinoid research in the mid-1960s to early 1970s was due to the widespread recreational use of cannabis in the United Kingdom and other Western countries. Recreational usage led THC predominant research as well as the cultivation of strains with maximum THC content and marginalized CBD content.

The re-emergence of CBD began in 1998 when the British pharmaceutical company GW Pharmaceuticals obtained licensing to grow cannabis for clinical trials. GW Pharmaceuticals’ co-founder, Geoffrey Guy, wanted to test his theory that utilizing plants with high CBD content could help them produce a cannabis-derived medication with no mind-altering effects. Guy understood the chemical properties that CBD had in countering the mind-altering effects of THC and also believed that CBD itself had medicinal qualities.

Marijuana containing high CBD content has actually been used throughout history to remedy health concerns. The earliest recorded medicinal use of cannabis dates back to 1400-2000 BC.

Cultivating Industrial Hemp for CBD-Rich Applications

More and more promising preclinical research on CBD started emerging in the early 2000s, making more CBD-rich strains popular. Due to legality, many residents can’t utilize marijuana-derived CBD. This led to the mass cultivation of industrial hemp. While hemp and marijuana are both members of the cannabis family, they are two distinctively unique plants with different phytochemical compositions and applications. Hemp naturally has lower concentrations of THC and a higher rate of CBD, which inherently eliminates the mind-altering effects. Hemp is legal in all 50 states and due to its naturally high CBD content, hemp is now the most popular source for consumers. CBD has the same chemical properties regardless of where it is derived from– researchers are still currently studying this compound in addition to its interactions and benefits with other cannabinoids found within the cannabis plant.

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