The popularity of cannabidiol (CBD) has exploded in recent years. While it might feel like a modern phenomenon, humans have actually enjoyed CBD for millennia. For most of the 20th century however, its use was greatly suppressed. It was prohibited entirely in the 1940s in the United States. In the 1970s, it became a major focal point for the War on Drugs. It was not until the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, that Americans started rediscovering the amazing health and wellness benefits CBD provides. Today, CBD is enjoyed by Americans from coast to coast in a wide variety of formats, although laws regarding its possession and consumption vary state to state.
For now, let’s take a look back in time to see how humans reaped the benefits of CBD for generations. We will see how it was prized by cultures around the world for uses in construction, food, clothing, industry, and of course, health. By understanding how ancient humans used and enjoyed CBD, we can rest assured that using CBD is safe, highly effective, and provides enormous benefits to humankind.
Ancient cultures that used CBD
Did you know that the first recorded use of cannabis for therapeutic purposes reaches back to 2727 BC? The Chinese emperor Cheng Neng brewed a cup of CBD tea in order to help bring his body’s health back into balance. There are many recorded uses of cannabis for health and wellness from there on in Chinese history. Many of these instances are recorded in the Chinese Book of Documents, written by Shu King, which dates back to 2300 BC. Even at that point in time, CBD was used for common ailments. These included rheumatism, gout, malaria, improved memory, and higher brain function.
Mongolians are believed to be the first cultivators of cannabis. From at least 12,000 BC and onward, the plant apparently played a pivotal role in Mongolian culture. Everything from agriculture, textiles, religion, clothing, and food included some use of cannabis.
The region today known as India used cannabis heavily, especially in the period between 2000 and 1000 BC. The Atharva Veda states the plant is one of “five sacred plants” that is a “joy-giver” and “liberator.” This indicates the plant served an important religious and spiritual role in early Indian culture. During weddings and festivals in honor of the goddess Shiva, the plant was widely consumed. Additionally, Indian holy men used cannabis regularly, especially when preparing to enter a state of meditation.
The Middle East
Ancient Egyptians used cannabis for its health benefits at least as early as 1279-1213 BC. It was enjoyed greatly by Pharaoh Ramses II, who encouraged his people to use it regularly. It was also used extensively throughout Egypt for building and textile applications. How do we know this? CBD oil, cannabis plants, and other CBD-related items were discovered in Ramses II’s tomb. Numerous ancient scrolls also document the plant’s importance to ancient Egyptian culture.
CBD in Western medicine
As the ages passed and the world of modern medicine progressed, CBD was quietly shelved. In spite of this, some researchers enthusiastically pursued further uses for CBD, including Dr. William Brooke O’Shaughnessy. His work during the 1840s in India helped keep CBD prevalent in Western medicine for decades.
Observing how nearly everyone in India at that time used CBD, he observed, researched, and published findings that CBD helped people treat a wide variety of health issues. These included hydrophobia, tetanus, rabies, convulsions, cholera, rheumatism, and more. The biggest use for CBD in treating these ailments was its ability to relieve pain and inflammation. This induced a greater sense of calmness in the user, and improved their quality of life through ease of suffering. In the course of his work, he was not able to demonstrate CBD as a cure for any of these health issues.
His work also helped people understand the potential side effects of CBD, including vomiting, excessive fatigue, and blisters. By easing consumption to smaller doses, O’Shaughnessy found that the user would enjoy far greater results. Although details like this are common knowledge today, back then Westerners’ understanding of how to maximize the benefits of CBD was very limited. We can thank O’Shaughnessy for much of our understanding about how to use CBD correctly.
CBD has actually experienced a number of ups and downs in popularity over the past few centuries. During the 1300s, it was completely banned by Soudoun Sheikouni, the emir of Joneima, in Arabia. It was also outlawed in 1787 in Madagascar by King Andrianampoinimerina, decreeing its use punishable by death. Napoleon forbade his troops from ever using CBD in 1801, and during this time the cannabis plant was also outlawed throughout much of the Middle East.
Cannabis (and CBD by association) was thoroughly demonized in the mid 20th century as a major target of the War on Drugs. Perhaps this is one reason many contemporary Americans are still reluctant to use CBD today.
Regardless of past perceptions, today, CBD use is rebounding in great stride. By furthering our understanding, and sharing that knowledge with others, many people today are very accepting of CBD. Of course, it’s not hard to see why after people witness the profound ability CBD has to improve our daily lives.
Although cannabis has only recently come back into popularity among the general population, it has been enjoyed for thousands of years. People across the globe and history have already used CBD for a wide variety of applications. These include everything from physical and mental health, to clothing, food, and construction. As time passes, people are becoming more accepting of the benefits of CBD.
We continue to rediscover its many helpful uses. Today, humans are developing CBD-based products around many of the same applications our ancestors used it for. It is exciting to think about what the future has in store for CBD. Hopefully, we will continue to push the limits of cannabis into new areas of discovery, using the knowledge of those who came before us.