CBD History 101: Past, Present, and Future of CBD and Hemp

In some circles, CBD is a new term altogether. In fact, it’s become a fairly recent addition to the USA’s vocabulary. As new as the freshly legal industry may be, though, CBD is not new to medicine, nor is it new to human interaction.

CBD has had an incredibly long history with humanity in the form of hemp and other cannabis plants. For millennia, there have been records to indicate its use by humans – even hundreds and thousands of years ago. And as incredible as CBD and hemp’s past has been, we have no doubt that its future is going to be even more fascinating.

Today, we look at the history of hemp, CBD, and human cannabis use. How long have we been taking advantage of the plant’s potentially promising properties? In its long history, what has hemp been utilized for? When did we first take advantage of the cannabinoid compound found in the plant? We look to answer all these questions and more, so let’s dive in!

What is Hemp?

Hemp is the non-psychoactive variety of the Cannabis sativa L plant. “Non-psychoactive,” in this case, simply means it has less than 1% THC, which is the psychoactive compound found in cannabis plants. Hemp refers to any variety of plant from the Cannabis genus that contains negligible amounts of THC.

In the USA, the new, legal definition of industrial hemp means any cannabis plant that contains 0.3% THC or less. The laws differ by country, though; the UK defines industrial hemp to mean any cannabis plant that contains 0.2% THC or less.

Field of Hemp Plants

Hemp is genetically distinct from marijuana plants, but it’s also distinguished by its use, chemical makeup, and by the methods used for growing it. This is further explored with the specific uses of some cannabis plants.

For example, high-potency marijuana strains are used for medicinal or recreational purposes, while specific hemp strains are cultivated for seed production or fiber. Hemp can be genetically engineered for multiple purposes, which is what makes it such a useful and promising plant.

What has Hemp Been Used for Throughout History?

In the past, hemp has been put through a massive range of different uses. In fact, the plethora of things industrial hemp can be used for is never ending, with new hemp-derived concepts coming out every day. We’ll touch on the most common, effective, or influential uses hemp has provided humans throughout the centuries, though.

Jason Lauve, a strong advocate for hemp and founder and director of Hemp Cleans, a hemp company, stresses that “any product that contains petroleum could be produced from hemp – and it’s renewable.”

According to Lauve, fabrics made from hemp fibers have better insulation for cooling and for heating. Hemp-derived clothing is also water absorbent, though the water evaporates quickly, as well as more durable than standard fiber materials.

Essentially, hemp can be made into ballistic material, car parts, simple animal bedding, a petroleum clean-up product, and a wide spectrum in between. In most of these cases, hemp is made into better functioning, more efficient products than the primary material every provided.


Hemp has a high amount of cellulose with an equally as high tensile strength that makes hemp into a great thread, string, or rope. It can be made into textiles, different fabrics, paper, and much more. Interestingly, the word “canvas” actually derives from the word “cannabis.” When harvested correctly, some suggest that hemp could also be stronger than steel, providing a powerful combination for a tremendous variety of uses.


Hempseed and the hemp plant are both considered “superfoods,” so they’ve been used for millennia as a food source. The primary nutritional source of hemp derives from the oil of the plant and the seeds, as well as the heart. Hempseeds are well-known as extremely nutritious. Some even speculate ancient Indians and Chinese were some of the first to consume these hemp seeds as food.

How is Hemp a Superfood?

Okay, wait – what’s a “superfood,” and how does hemp qualify? There are a few things that point towards hemp owning the title. The plant is high in L-Arginine, L-glutamic Acid, magnesium, and potassium. It’s also packed with protein, but more digestible than other high-protein foods because of its added fiber material.

As a superfood, data from studies suggests it may have anti-inflammatory properties, may balance cholesterol and lower blood pressure, and may even improve brain production. To go even further, hemp is also rich in minerals and antioxidants, so you’re sure to get a dose of riboflavin, vitamin B6, thiamin, vitamin E, magnesium, calcium, and carotene just with hemp seeds alone.

The heart of the hemp seeds, referred to as hemp hearts, is the nutritionally dense section that offers a sunflower seed taste and a satisfying crunch to any meal.

Building Material

As the name might suggest, “hempcrete” is a new type of concrete-like brick that’s made purely of hemp. With this type of technology, hemp can be made into entire housing building materials, electronic, any wood replacement, and biodegradable plastics. The possibilities are virtually endless when it comes to hemp.

It makes sense, though – hemp is windproof, it’s incredibly strong with durable insulation, and its carbon footprint is astronomically lower than equivalent alternatives. In the literal building blocks that is your home, what more could you ask for?


Industrial hemp is the primary source for CBD products because hemp strains often contain high percentages of CBD while remaining low in THC. This makes them perfect for CBD products. The cannabinoid is often extracted from the plant with other cannabinoids, as well as terpenes, flavonoids, and other hemp compounds.

These compounds paired alongside CBD can stimulate an Entourage Effect in some. While more research is certainly needed on the Entourage Effect, we mostly have anecdotal data to go on for its legitimacy. The Entourage Effect enhances the medicinal properties CBD has to offer, extends how long a CBD product can last, and intensifies the experience.


Hempoline, or biodiesel, is a biofuel oil made from hemp stalks and seeds.

This fuel can be used to power engines, though it does currently take quite a lot of raw material to produce any substantial amount.

More research is needed, but we’re a few decades behind, so there’s sure to be a breakthrough in the near future on a viable fuel option made entirely out of hemp.

History of CBD

Hemp being used to extract CBD oil from is one of its most popular and by far most accepted uses in our present day. There’s been a long battle since cannabis prohibition, but the 2018 Farm Bill finally legalized both industrial hemp and hemp-derived products. This makes CBD extracted from hemp 100% legal as long as it contains 0.3% THC or less and meets all other US regulations on the matter.

But what is CBD’s origin story? When did humanity first start taking advantage of such a promising cannabinoid that’s been simply concealed within a plant for millennia?

CBD’s Potential Roots

The first recorded case may actually date back to around 2727 BC. Chinese Emperor Sheng Neng was rumored to use a cannabis-based tea to aid in a variety of health ailments. This included gout, malaria, poor memory, and much more. Its use since then has, obviously, spread, though documentation of Sheng Neng’s use is still up for debate.

Promise, Potential, then Prohibition

Within the same few years, Queen Victoria was cited as using cannabis to help alleviate monthly menstrual cramp pain, and William B O’Shaughnessy published a medical paper documenting the “modern” uses cannabis had.

In 1911, though, some states in the USA started requiring prescriptions or outright banning the sales for “marihuana” or “Indian hemp.” The bad press for hemp had already started in an effort to staunch hemp’s progress, led in force by the paper and petroleum industries that were threatened the most.

Then, the Marihuana Tax Law went into effect in 1937. This made federal law in the US prohibit the usage of marijuana within the United States. Press also used scare tactics and fearmongering to try and worry the people into obeying the law and accepting cannabis prohibition that was slowly easing into law.

Isolating the Cannabinoid

In 1940, CBD was isolated for the first time by a team from Illinois University. This brought to life the astounding fact that there were other active compounds in the cannabis plant besides THC. Furthermore, this uncovered that these other active compounds didn’t contain the same psychoactive effects that were commonly associated with the cannabis plant.

Halted by the CSA

Unfortunately, progress for research on the plant was halted harshly with the passage of the Controlled Substances Act paired alongside the War on Drugs campaign. All of this took place in the 1970s. After that, cannabis research became incredibly difficult for doctors, scientists, and any other person to obtain.

Decriminalization Starts a New Path

While cannabis was dealing with negativity on a federal front in the ‘70s, it got attention on a state level that pushed it forward anyway. In 1973, Oregon was the first state that led other states to follow in decriminalizing cannabis use. Not legalized, this was still a step in the right direction.

Potential Properties Uncovered

In the 1980s and 1990s, research for CBD was fresh and in its infancy, where it gained traction for its potential pain-relieving qualities. A big win for the cannabis industry, this research proved effective in helping legalization push ever-forward.

It wasn’t until 1998 that a British pharmaceutical group began official medical trials for using CBD. Then, things started happening in quick-time, moving fast as technological and medical advancements started to skyrocket. A little girl who suffered over 300 seizures a week found relief from CBD, and this launched progress for medical history. Medical marijuana and CBD started to go mainstream, and other patients suffering seizures found similar relief to the little girl who started it all.

Present Day for CBD

Now, there are multiple states across the USA that have legalized marijuana on a recreational level, with many more legalizing it for medicinal use. CBD is legal across the nation and reports state that 14% of US American adults are already taking CBD as part of their daily routine.

The future for both hemp and CBD are bright, and we’re excited to see progress continue as more people accept the plant’s potential. There’s so much promise found in a plant that can be made into hundreds of different things, and we know we’re just touching the surface.

Hemp is an incredibly interesting topic that only becomes more popular with each passing day. We hope this guide helped answer some questions on hemp and CBD’s history, how long humans have been utilizing the plant, and anything you might’ve been wondering in between.

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