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A Guide to The Origins of CBD: From Extraction to Use

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A Guide to The Origins of CBD: From Extraction to Use

Since the discovery of CBD, or cannabidiol, it’s become a widespread phenomenon. In modernity, CBD is pretty well-known as one of the key cannabinoids found within the cannabis Sativa plant (also found in hemp- a variation of cannabis Sativa with the highest concentrations of CBD and lowest concentrations of THC). And despite its grand discovery in 1940 by Roger Adams, CBD’s real uses weren’t quite put to the test immediately after being discovered. In fact, it took six years longer to uncover the solid truths we know today- that CBD is, in fact, non-intoxicating, and one of over one hundred cannabinoids to be found in cannabis Sativa. 

But, what exactly was the original timeline in the discovery of the cannabinoids and their uses in cannabis Sativa? And how did chemists and scientists uncover the potential balancing effects of each cannabinoid and their individual traits? 

The History of CBD

Prior to the isolation of CBD (in the early 1940s), its impact was still felt by ancient nations. The earliest recorded uses of cannabis date back to 500 BC, alongside the birth of agriculture. Hemp has been around for a long time and, alongside it, the cultivation of hemp-based fabric, textiles, and tea. Cannabis tea and various other drinks are indigenous to Central Asia and India, but hemp was also used to cultivate fabrics and fibres in ancient Japan. In many parts of the world, cannabis was used for religious rituals due to its power to balance, centre, along with a whole host of effects which shamans of various cultures would use in their rituals.

The Scythians (who occupied Ancient Southern Siberia) would eat raw cannabis leaves. In contrast, the Indians would mix dried hemp leaves into drinks for Tantric rituals, and the Taoists would burn cannabis, sometimes with ginseng, to inhale its fragrance. Cannabis was a utilised plant for a variety of reasons, from rituals which required THC for psychoactive purposes, to individuals given CBD teas to personally experience their balancing effects. 

Hashish, a resin made from crushing trichomes of the cannabis plant, was introduced to Egypt in the Ayyubid Dynasty by supposed ‘mystic Islamic travellers’ (they were travelling Syrians). Unlike what we know about hashish today, up until the 1500s, this kind of cannabis was eaten and not smoked. Cannabis was also introduced to Africa via Hindu or Arabic travellers in the 1300s CE, where it was often smoked. 

As time progressed, the Spaniards brought industrial hemp with them into the Western Hemisphere, after having it cultivated in Chile in the 1500s. Recreational cannabis was introduced to the West through Napoleon Bonaparte, who invaded Egypt in 1798 with his troops. It was said that they liked smoking ‘hash’ so much they brought it back with them to France.

Cannabis and Rastafarianism

Jamaican Rastafarianism also has very close ties to cannabis, with the plant becoming an important cultural symbol for many Rastafarians. Many view the Rastafarians, and their cultural ties to cannabis, as the reason why cannabis is so globally popular.

Prior to the slave trade, Jamaica was mostly occupied by the indigenous Taino people (also known as the Arawaks: this occupation occurred between 4000 and 1000 BC). After Spain colonised Jamaica in the 1500s, they were subsequently replaced by the English in 1655. As a result, many of the indigenous people were wiped out due to mistreatment, inflicted disease and torture from the Spanish and English people. However, a small, resilient population of Jamaica still remains Taino. During the slave trade, African people were forcibly brought to Jamaica to cultivate crops, tobacco, cocoa and, most prolifically, sugar. Due to this, 90% of today’s Jamaican population is Black.

Post-slave-trade, 1920s Jamaica saw a rise in Afrocentrism, with many Jamaican people seeing the African continent as their true home. By the 60s and 70s, Rastafarianism became a globally-recognised religion, birthing reggae music and popularising the smoking of recreational cannabis (although in Rastafarianism cannabis is considered a holy herb). It’s powerful influence still has a hold on us today. Despite the shallow equation between Rastafari religion and cannabis use pop culture shows us, Rastafarians used smoking cannabis as a way to amplify ceremonies, which were held to create powerful music and discuss important topics (mostly centred around the anti-institutionalism birthed from this Afrocentric movement). It’s important to understand that the origin of Rastafarianism is one rooted in connectivity and resilience in the face of adversity and injustice. 

Reggae music, which often touched on breaking institutions, establishments, and war, became very popular in the USA during the 60s, and we can see how this sowed the seeds of dissent in the (pro-war, pro-establishment, pro-capitalist) USA at the time. The Rastafarians charged their cannabis with cultural pride and anti-establishmentism; the Americans charged theirs with the same old politically rehashed racism, with roots travelling back in time to Jim Crow. By the 80s and 90s, black people in the USA were vilified as drug addicts and, later, incarcerated on a mass scale for petty marijuana charges. And It’s vital to note that it wasn’t cannabis which divided America.

What Prompted The Acceptance Of Cannabis?

From vilification to self-care agent: what changed between the mid-1900s and now to allow many of us in the West to expunge cannabis’ so-called violent history and reap all its rewards when safe to do so? As is always the case in society, there comes a point where people recognise the harm done to others, and attempt to rectify the damage. Over the past few years, cannabis decriminalisation laws have been brought to life, arrest rates have fallen (although those incarcerated for petty charges remain in prison to this day) and there have been some haphazard attempts to gloss over the violence done to marginalised communities. Loosening the reins over a drug that has previously been used to target communities has resulted in a higher number of the population gaining access to this compound. Now, more people are starting to understand that cannabis contains some cannabinoids which may be hiding some potential to bring balance into our self-care routines.

This is not to say that science has been untainted by cannabis propaganda laws.

CBD for stress

The Timeline Of Research

Early 1940s: The Discovery Of CBD

When Roger Adams discovered the existence of CBD, he did so by isolating the cannabinoid from the rest of that plant. Pretty easy to do so, but back then, this discovery set off a revolution which would lead to the products so accessible to us today. Interestingly enough, when Adams set out to isolate a cannabinoid from the cannabis plant, he was seeking to find ‘a psychoactive cannabinoid’. Adams knew cannabis had psychoactive effects, and wanted to unpack which compounds were responsible for this within the plant. Adams succeeded in tweaking the molecular structure of the cannabinoids. Unfortunately, due to lack of advanced technology, he was unsuccessful in isolating THC, and was simply left to hypothesise on the existence of the psychoactive cannabinoid he was most hopeful to discover. Furthermore, Adams was unable to conduct further, more in-depth research as cannabis became more vilified in the USA.

The ‘Adams Scale’ still exists today: a means to measure the potency of cannabinoids.

1946: Lab Research Begins

It was in the latter half of the 1940s that Dr Walter S Lowe began to conduct tests on lab rats to determine the effects of CBD on the constitution of individuals. He found that CBD, cannabidiol, has no mind-altering effects. Lowe was responsible for kick-starting CBD research in the USA, at a time where The politically charged ‘Marijuana Tax Act’ (of 1937) was in full force. This act made cannabis-centred research really hard to undertake, as it heavily regulated the cultivation, importation, possession, and distribution of cannabis. This act impeded, significantly, information around CBD and other cannabinoids, delaying knowledge around the isolation, formulation, and a deeper understanding of individual cannabinoids. 

Any studies would have to be undertaken far from the West in order for any breakthroughs to really occur. And so it did in 1960s Israel.

From 1964 Onwards: Cannabinoids Are Synthesised

Israeli chemist, Dr Raphael Menchoulam, managed to synthesise CBD. This was a huge breakthrough in cannabinoid knowledge.

Menchoulam discovered the phytochemistry of CBD. This is an important word, as it encompasses what Adams sought to discover in the 1940s: a deeper understanding of the cannabinoids found within the cannabis plant. Other cannabinoids were also isolated and chemically synthesised, such as cannabigerol, cannabichromene, and carboxylic acids. Mechoulam was particularly focusing on expanding knowledge of THC, and became the forefather for discovering new groundbreaking information.

How Is CBD Extracted?

A common question after uncovering the colourful history and cultural significance, is then to ask how CBD (and other vital cannabinoids) are extracted from the plant in the first place. There is a range of ways in which CBD can be removed from cannabis or hemp, with varying results and degrees of efficiency. The most important factor to note, in each of these extraction methods, is how efficient in yield and environmentally friendly these extraction methods are.  

Olive Oil Extraction

This is done on a decarboxylated cannabis or hemp plant (where the carboxylic acids are removed prior to extraction). When a plant becomes decarboxylated, it has essentially been heated to such a degree that its acidic cannabinoids have been activated. Once decarboxylation has occurred, the olive oil is run through the plant and heated. CBD and other cannabinoids will bind to the fats in the oil, and infuse within. 

The mixture is filtered to remove the oil, and only the cannabinoids are left. This method of extraction is safe, can be done anywhere, needs few ingredients, and produces some pure cannabinoids. However, this method of extraction can’t be commercially sold anywhere. It’s an exciting procedure, one that many people might have the urge to try at home (though we here at MANTLE strongly advise against this), but not one which has produced any viable CBD products. Still, it’s interesting to know the chemistry behind CBD extraction, and how easy it can be to strip the leaf of its cannabinoids. 

Solventless Extraction

This is when heat, friction, and pressure are applied to the frozen leaves and flowers. Some pros of this extraction are: no high-powered, expensive equipment is needed, and it’s a cheap way to extract cannabinoids. Some cons include: it yields a low purity level of CBD. It is also not a very energy-efficient way to extract CBD.

Solvent-Based Extraction

This is when a liquid solvent is run through a decarboxylated hemp or cannabis plant. The solvents are usually butane, hexane, and ethanol, which are pretty safe to evaporate after extraction, leaving behind the cannabinoids. This method of extraction is typically cheap, easy, and efficient in producing pure yields. However, it’s not very popular for the people doing the extracting. See, working with a lot of solvents can be harmful to your health, as they are highly flammable and can produce unhealthy fumes. There’s also a chance that all the solvent might not have adequately evaporated (not good if you want to ingest the CBD oil) and higher temperatures can result in damage to the chemical composition of some cannabinoids, as well as being environmentally damaging.

Supercritical CO2 Extraction

CO2 can also be used, in gas and liquid form, to pump through the raw plant material and strip away all the essential cannabinoids. This is pretty safe, results in cleaner compounds, is environmentally friendly, and produces efficient yields. However, it’s an expensive mode of extraction, and requires close monitoring to be done right. 

CO2 extraction is hailed as the ‘gold standard’ method of extraction, due to the quality and quantity of CBD yield it can produce. It’s generally favoured by high end, great quality brands, such as ours here at MANTLE (if we do say so ourselves), as it produces the best quality oil. 

CBD for anxiety

It’s essential, when considering what type of CBD product is best for you, to research the quality of your product. Usually looking at the method of CBD extraction is the best way to get a good idea of what sort of quality you’re getting. Since supercritical CO2 extraction is the most efficient, safest and produced the highest yield of CBD, it’s considered the best method of extraction. However, this method of extraction requires specialised equipment, it tends to cost a lot more. Higher, more efficient yields are usually found in more luxury products; and you’ll usually be paying more for what you get.

Different Ways To Use CBD

There’s a range of different methods to take CBD, and it’s all according to your preferences. From oils to edibles, the range of different products is truly astounding. Here’s some of our favourite methods:

CBD Oil

Here, at MANTLE, we love the versatility of a great CBD oil. It can be mixed into drinks, or added to the tongue, it’s quick to enter the bloodstream and balance you out in no time, and the dosage can be adjusted according to personal requirement. Mixing CBD oil into coffee is a fun way to balance out caffeine intake (we even have an editorial on our experience) without having to compromise on taste or take any unnecessary time out of a busy schedule.

Capsules and Edibles

Another great way to get a concentrated dosage of CBD, without having to fiddle with drops. This can be ideal for some, who just want the same dosage per day. CBD edibles come in a range of flavours, and so can be versatile- you can even make your own, to suit your personal tastes on a whole new level.

CBD Vape

Vaping is a great way to unobtrusively take your daily dose of CBD. As far as efficiency goes, vaping is the fastest way to reap the harmonious rewards, as CBD’s balancing effects can take place in a matter of minutes. As far as convenience goes, you can take your vape anywhere and adjust your dose according to your needs. 

CBD For The Skin

If you’re a skincare junkie who loves the feel of creams, lotions and moisturisers, CBD skincare is the perfect way to reap some really lovely effects and to achieve glowing, nourished skin. CBD is nourishing, can potentially keep your skin glowing and youthful, and has many moisturising, anti-acne properties to allow your skin to thrive. Many CBD skin products are also infused with a range of different products from hyaluronic acid, to antioxidants such as bisabolol and niacinamide, to vitamin E, which can promote a lovely, hydrated moisture barrier for your skin.

A Comprehensive Understanding Of CBD

From its fascinating history to uncovering its uses, CBD has been through a lot. This cannabinoid is such an interesting, widely discussed compound, and is part of a greater debate with an even greater history to it. As we uncover more about CBD, one thing becomes clear: we can never disregard CBD’s potential balancing effects again.