With all this talk buzzing around CBD and CBD oil, its definition and terminology can be quite confusing. What is CBD oil? How does CBD oil work exactly? Where does CBD oil come from? How long has CBD been around?
Relax weary traveler, we’re here to answer some of your most pressing questions.
What is CBD Oil?
First things first, what is CBD Oil? “It’s weed!” yells the guy in the back. Well, he’s not entirely wrong; but, he’s not right either.
While Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a compound found in marijuana, it can also be cultivated in hemp, which has a higher ratio. CBD is one of at least 85 active compounds found in the cannabis plant and accounts for about 40% of the plant's total cannabinoid extract.
CBD is considered a derivative of the cannabis plant that has some quality benefits concerning the human body. In conjunction with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), CBD works to balance the internal functions of several bodily structures.
CBD oil can be derived from either hemp or marijuana and will have a different effect depending on which plant it was extracted from.
Marijuana-bred CBD will contain a concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). That THC content can range from less than 10% to over 30%, depending on its potency.
THC is the psychoactive component of cannabis that causes the euphoric, or unnerving, “high” sensation. This feeling can vary in intensity for every individual; the higher the THC content, the more potent the high.
Conversely, CBD oil can also be derived from hemp and is bred to contain very little THC—in fact, industrial hemp by definition must contain less than 0.3% THC.
Hemp plants can be cultivated to have a higher concentration of CBD to emit more of the beneficial effects.
When growing, hemp fields are simply cannabis plants placed under conditions where male plants are able to fertilize female plants. When male and female plants are separated, the females can’t pollinate.
Unpollinated female plants produce high amounts of THC (the psychoactive compound in marijuana) while those that are fertilized produce very little THC. This process results in a female plant that produces less than 1% of THC.
This information begs the question: why take CBD oil if it doesn’t get you high?
As recent studies show, the benefits of hemp and CBD oil can be widespread and universal.
As mentioned above, CBD oil interacts with the body’s natural endocannabinoid system.
This system is made up of endocannabinoids and receptors that can be found anywhere from the brain to microscopic immune cells. Messages are relayed back and forth between different parts of the body, allowing the body to strengthen signals and fortify responses as studies have shown.
Research has further shown how CBD oil and other cannabinoids found in hemp can have therapeutic value. There are several benefits of using CBD derived from hemp that can range from boosting brain power to benefitting bowel and gastrointestinal disease.
But without hemp, CBD—and possibly humanity—would not have been possible.
The Unabridged History of Hemp and CBD Oil
It may come as a surprise to some folks, but hemp has been around for thousands of years.
In 1997, a hemp rope that dated back to 26,900 BCE was discovered in what is now Czechoslovakia, making it the oldest known artifact associated with cannabis.
Traces of cannabis and hemp have been found littered across the planet among countless cultures that span thousands of years.
According to Richard Hamilton, the author of a 2009 Scientific American article on sustainable agriculture, “Modern humans emerged some 250,000 years ago, yet agriculture is a fairly recent invention, only about 10,000 years old ... Agriculture is not natural; it is a human invention. It is also the basis of modern civilization."
The well-known scientist and cosmologist Carl Sagan proposed in 1977 that marijuana may have been the world’s first agricultural crop, leading to the development of civilization as we know it. “It would be wryly interesting if in human history the cultivation of marijuana led generally to the invention of agriculture, and thereby to civilization.”
If CBD oil is good enough for science then it’s got to be good enough for modern day civilization, right?
Well, we’re still working on it.
Although hemp has provided an immeasurable amount of raw material for a vast variety of products, from clothing to rope, textiles, and building materials, it remains highly controversial.
Modern campaigns against cannabis and hemp—which are still clumped together as one drug classification, mind you—have all but halted production on the once popular natural material.
All this back-and-forth on hemp and cannabis legality begs the question: why? To better understand, you have to go back to hemp’s historical roots to determine what CBD oil is.
The Benefits of Hemp Date Back to Early Civilizations
Hemp as a production material made its way across continents and spanned many millennia.
One of the earliest signs of hemp use dates back to 8,000 BCE in what is now modern-day Taiwan where hemp cord was found in some pottery at the site of a 10,000 year old village.
The significance of this find lies in the fact that this date range puts it as one of the first, and oldest, known human agriculture crops.
With civilization just beginning to dominate and emerge, the fact that hemp appears at such an early stage is a strong indication that it was one of the first plants harvested for human use. This evidence points to the wise words of Richard Hamilton and Carl Sagan, who believed that hemp very likely could have been the catalyst that ignited human existence.
As previously stated, agriculture is a relatively new concept in the timeline of human history.
By verifying that hemp production dates back over 10,000 years, scientists were able to determine that hemp was one of the first crops humankind was able to cultivate for their benefit. But hemp use wasn’t only for pottery production...
Evidence shows that hemp seed and hemp oil (which would later develop into what we know as CBD oil) also were used as food product in early Chinese civilization around 6,000 BCE.
Hemp seed is edible and nutritious and supplies ample organic protein.
Hemp oil can be used in a number of different ways and dishes and provides plenty of essential vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
Civilization had begun to realize the true universal potential of the hemp plant.
By 4,000 BCE, hemp textiles were being used in China and Turkestan and Chinese excavation sites revealed some of the earliest forms of hemp fabric. Other materials that contained hemp were found in Turkestan and dated back to around 3,000 BCE.
Once civilizations realized how hemp could benefit their society in a large number of ways, they began exploring its other properties.
For example, Circa 2,800 BCE, the Shen Neng dynasty of China began experimenting with the plant’s medicinal properties. In the Pen Ts'ao (Pharmacopoeia), Emperor Shen Neng describes the plant as a ‘superior’ herb. It goes on to describe that ma-fen, or hemp fruit, would cause extreme hallucinations if taken in excess; some users even reported hallucinations.
When taken in lesser doses, it would be used as a medication for absent-mindedness, beri-beri constipation, female-related disorders, malaria, and rheumatic pains.
Another ancient Chinese herbalist by the name of Hao-Glio suggested mixing it with wine to create a powerful painkiller.
Around 2,000 BCE, the Hindu sacred text known as Atharvaveda, which means “Science of Charms”, refers to Bhang (dried cannabis leaves, seeds, and stems) as “Sacred Grass” and is named one of the five sacred plants of India.
It’s medicinal properties were further explored and it was considered an offering to Shiva.
By the time 1,500 BCE rolls around, the Scythians of central Eurasia began to cultivate cannabis and use it to weave hemp cloth and fabric.
Historians believe that the spread of hemp can be linked back to these nomadic tribes.
These transient tribes originated in central Eurasia and later migrated north and west, bringing with them goods and cultures that challenged the usual way of life for many.
These nomadic tribes were important because they brought with them many new ideas and practices.
They reached Europe not long after 1,500 BCE, bringing many useful herbs, including hemp. By 600 BCE, hemp rope had appeared in southern Russia, furthering the theory that the Swcythians were widely-known distributors of the hemp plant.
Not long after they began their migration, the Scythians started to use hemp and cannabis seeds as offerings in their funeral practices and ancestor worship. This gesture was meant to help relax and guide those in the afterlife.
Around 500 BCE, the Greek writer Herodotus made one of the first mentions of cannabis in western culture:
“... they make a booth by fixing in the ground three sticks inclined toward one another, and stretching around them woollen pelts which they arrange so as to fit as close as possible: inside the booth a dish is placed upon the ground into which they put a number of red hot stones and then add some Hemp seed… immediately it smokes and gives out such a vapour as no Grecian vapour bath can exceed; the Scyths, delighted, shout for joy.”
Once the Scythians started migrating, the rest of what is now Europe began to use hemp.
By 200 BCE, hemp rope appeared in Greece.
Imported hemp rope later appeared in England by 100 CE.
In 570 CE, the French queen Arnegunde’s burial shroud was woven with hemp.
And by the year 850 CE, the Vikings had brought hemp seed and rope to Iceland.
As history has shown, hemp traveled across the globe and back again, all before the start of modern history. The next 1,000 years of hemp history would truly define its place in society, setting the foundation for what would become CBD oil.
Modern History Experiences The Benefits of Hemp
In 1000 CE, hemp rope appeared on Italian ships and the word ‘hempe’ was first found in the English dictionary.
The first trace of hemp paper dates back to around 100 BCE in China, laying the foundation for the development of Europe's first hemp paper mill.
For the next 700 years, hemp would be the main source for paper — even the Gutenberg Bible, the first major book printed using mass-produced moveable metal type, was published on hemp paper in 1456.
Once societies began to realize the importance and universal capabilities of the hemp plant, they began to mass produce it.
King Henry VIII started to levy farmers if they didn’t grow hemp for industrial use in the year 1533.
‘Wilde hempe’ was found in North America by explorers in 1545.
By 1600, England began to import hemp from Russia to keep up with the increasing demand for production.
During the early 1600s, French and British settlers began cultivating cannabis for hemp production in the American colonies—Port Royal in 1606, Virginia in 1611, and Plymouth in 1632.
Home of Hemp and CBD Oil
Without hemp, there is no America.
Hemp played a crucial role in colonies where they used it to produce rope, sails, and clothing.
The famed Jamestown settlement used hemp to produce a wide range of products; hemp was even used as a form of legal tender throughout the colonies by 1631.
All of this was at the expense, and demand, of the British.
Before the Revolutionary War, American farmers were forced by the Crown to grow hemp to ship back to Britain to support their navy.
British sailing vessels never left port without an ample store of hemp seeds. Hemp fiber was the natural choice for sailing due to its natural decay resistance, adaptability, and overall strength.
Every warship and merchant vessel required miles of hemp line and rope along with tons of canvas made from hemp.
Hemp became a vital part of state economy leading up to the Revolutionary War. According to history, hemp was a major cash crop in New England, Maryland, and Virginia by the mid-1600s.
Colonies mass produced hemp to help make canvas, cloth, cordage, paper, and sacks - all destined for the Crown.
In 1762, the state of Virginia rewarded farmers with bounties for growing and manufacturing hemp while imposing fines on farmers who did not.
America’s first president, George Washington, produced hemp for industrial and recreational use.
Thomas Jefferson was also a famed supporter of hemp, even acquiring the first American patent for his “hemp brake”. This agricultural device was used to separate the fibers from the stalks at a much faster speed than than doing it by hand.
The American Revolution may never have been a significant moment in history without the hemp plant.
Ironically enough, the first draft of the Declaration of Independence was printed on hemp paper.
Hemp would enjoy a 150-year tenure as America’s top cash crop; then politics would intervene.
The Modern Age of Hemp Benefits
In 1797, more than 120,000 pounds (60 tons) of hemp fiber was used to rig the USS Constitution, America’s oldest Navy ship also known as “Old Ironsides.”
The early 1800s could very well be considered the “heyday” of hemp.
The cash crop—and industry as a whole—was booming.
Fresh off their newly minted independence, America was primed and ready to take over the burgeoning bud industry.
By early 1800, marijuana plantations were beginning to flourish in California, Nebraska, Mississippi, Kentucky, Georgia, South Carolina, and New York.
The demand for hemp fiber products began to diminish during the mid-1800s. That’s because, by the late 1800s, steamships dominated the seas and sails were no longer a necessity.
After 1850, hemp began to lose its prominence as cheaper products made from cotton, jute, petroleum, and sisal became available.
Hemp was still being processed by hand, which was expensive and labor intensive, causing the cash crop to become obsolete in the modern age of commercial production.
By the end of the Civil War, Kentucky would be the only state with a significant hemp industry until World War I and they would remain the nation’s leading hemp producer.
Although hemp production had tapered off in recent years, cannabis as a whole was spreading like wildfire across America.
From the mid-1800s to the early 1900s, marijuana was widely used across the U.S. as a medicinal drug that people could easily purchase at pharmacies and general stores.
But the this “high” was short-lived and would soon wear off.
Despite new hemp-handling tools and lower production costs, the demand for domestic hemp steadily declined following World War I. While hemp experienced a slight resurgence during the first Great World War, those production numbers would slowly drop in the following years.
Politics played a pivotal role in the crippling of hemp’s benefits for industrial use.
The federal government passed the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937. This legislation criminalized the “drug” and aimed to regulate the narcotic varieties of cannabis, including hemp.
The regulation of hemp production was then issued, interestingly enough, to the Department of Revenue.
It was now their responsibility to issue licenses to grow hemp, which became increasingly expensive and hard to obtain.
In response to the passing of the Marijuana Tax Act, Dr. William C. Woodward testified on behalf of the American Medical Association, stating to Congress, “The American Medical Association knows of no evidence that marijuana is a dangerous drug… [A prohibition] loses sight of the fact that future investigation may show that there are substantial uses for Cannabis.”
As history would have it, Congress ignored his comments.
That is until they desperately needed the benefits of hemp once again.
Hemp Benefits in More Ways Than One
Just as quickly as hemp became banned from mainstream society, the universal plant was back in production.
World War II ushered in a new era of hemp-fiber production.
A plant that was once obsolete came back into the line of duty.
The army and navy needed a reliable material to make supplies for the troops.
The hemp plant had helped the federal government before during World War I. So, in 1942, the U.S. government released a short film called “Hemp for Victory.”
The federal government's once staunch stance against the hemp plant was now flipped all in the name of freedom.
The new campaign encouraged farmers to plant a significant amount of hemp. In fact, in 1942, the government requested 36,000 acres of hemp—an increase of nearly 7,000%.
And the goal for 1943 was 50,000 acres of hemp.
Every U.S. Navy battleship required 34,000 feet of rope, most of which was hemp.
The hemp would go on to supply many materials for the U.S. troops during World War II.
When it was all said and done, more than 400,000 cannabis seeds were distributed to American farmers from Wisconsin to Kentucky by the U.S. government.
More than 42,000 tons of hemp fiber were produced every year up until 1946.
After the war ended, marijuana prohibition went right back into effect.
This ban also included hemp. The plant that had helped pave the way for American freedom was once again staunchly discarded.
Many Midwestern farmers and towns were left high and dry with empty facilities, canceled contracts, and half-finished construction projects.
By 1958, the very last significant U.S. hemp crop had been harvested and processed.
A New Era in Homegrown Hemp Benefits
Hemp would have its comeback though...
...But it took — and continues to take — quite a bit of convincing.
Not twenty years before being called back into action, the Marijuana Tax Act had made both hemp and marijuana illegal.
Legislators chose the name, “Marihuana Tax Act”, out of a growing anti-immigrant sentiment. The U.S. had recently experienced an increase in Mexican immigrants following the violent Mexican Revolution of the 1900s.
Mexican immigrants referred to the plant as “marihuana.”
While Americans knew the term “cannabis,” and openly used it as medicine, most were unaware that they were the same plant.
The media played to public fears regarding the influx of new citizens by making false claims that “disruptive Mexicans” had dangerous habits of marihuana use.
While the Marihuana Tax Act was deeply rooted in systemic segregation, this wasn’t the first time the government had created laws to control large groups of people.
This tactic echoes the earlier outlawing of opium which had been a calculated effort to control the influx of Chinese immigrants.
The government's efforts were futile as the Marihuana Tax Act was ruled unconstitutional not long after it’s 1937 enactment.
It was replaced with the Controlled Substance Act of 1970, effectively kicking off Richard Nixon's “War on Drugs.”
The Controlled Substance Act created classifications for drugs ranging from Schedule I to Schedule V—Schedule I being the most addictive, with a high level of dependence and no “acceptable” medical benefits.
Cannabis, including hemp, was placed in the Schedule I classification as a mere placeholder while Nixon commissioned a report for a final recommendation.
Heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), methaqualone, and peyote are all classified in the same category.
The Shafer Commission reported that marijuana should not be under the Schedule I classification, and should be reconsidered as an illicit substance altogether. Nixon ignored the recommendation which resulted in marijuana and hemp being stuck in the Schedule I classification ever since.
That is until now.
Legality of Hemp and CBD Oil
With each passing year, more and more states continue to realize the immense potential benefits of hemp that are growing naturally right in our nation’s backyards.
Hemp quickly began spreading across the U.S. and is once again becoming a burgeoning industry.
In 2004, after nearly 30 years of prohibition, businesses in the U.S. were allowed to import dietary hemp products.
U.S. farmers won the first big battle in 2007 when two North Dakota farmers were granted licenses to grow hemp—the first time in over 50 years.
President Barack Obama passed the Farm Bill in 2014. This bill allowed states to grow hemp for university research or through state agriculture departments.
Hemp farming had officially come full circle, once more.
The 2014 Farm Bill tested whether hemp would be a viable resource. As of 2018, 35 states have passed some form of hemp legislation and the facts show that the benefits of hemp make it an extremely viable crop.
Next up was The Industrial Farming Act, introduced at the federal level in 2015.
If passed, any restrictions on farming industrial hemp stand to become removed across all 50 U.S. states.
As of July 5, 2018, the bill currently awaits its fate in Congress.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was quoted as “hopeful and optimistic” after touring Kentucky facilities that made hemp products, ranging from insulation and other home materials to automotive parts.
“We don’t have a final bill yet and we don’t have a presidential signature yet but I’m optimistic,” said McConnell.
It could take several months before the bill works its way through the House.
If it passes in the Senate, hemp will become entirely regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and State Agriculture commissioners.
Hemp would then be eligible for crop insurance, and there would be no government subsidies.
All hemp-based products, including CBD oil, would be completely legal.
Industrial hemp would become removed from the list of controlled substances.
Once and for all.