CBD is an abbreviation for Cannabidiol. This substance is named after the plant it comes from, Cannabis sativa, as first described to science by the eminent Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1753, and known to Central Asian communities for at least 2,500 years.

CBD – The Chemistry

Cannabidiol is an abbreviation itself for a still longer official IUPAC (International Union for Pure and Applied Chemistry) name – 2-(6-isopropenyl-3-methyl-2-cyclohexene-1-yl)-5-pentyl-1,3-benzenediol. This name may seem unwieldy, but describes the atomic structure of CBD accurately to organic chemists, and describes all of its functional features. This helps in determining how it can be used and in predicting its behaviour before experimentation.

This complicated molecule is a colourless crystal at room temperature. CBD is one of a large family of substances known as the cannabinoids, of which there are over 100. These are all produced by plants of the Cannabis genus directly from carbon dioxide and water, through photosynthesis – powered by sunlight.

The Biology of Cannabidiol

CBD is non-toxic to humans, and to the other mammal species it has been tested on. Recent research has uncovered some potential medical benefits of using CBD in the clinical environment. It may have been shown to be antimicrobial and antibacterial. CBD is being used in treatment in a number of countries for neuropathic pain caused by Multiple Sclerosis (MS), and for muscle spasms caused by the same illness. Similarly, it is seen to have the potential to treat seizures occurring as a result of conditions such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease.

CBD has been implicated in helping to alleviate social anxiety disorder in certain situations, such as in public speaking. Rats with a lab-induced dependence on heroin have been observed to have their symptoms and dependence reduced by the administration of CBD.

CBD Production and Administration

Historically, CBD was generally administered through the inhalation of the burning plant material, or orally in food or drinks as in the Indian custom of producing bhang – effectively a milkshake containing the compound. Although well aware of the health benefits, previous cultures had no knowledge of the active ingredients in their herbal medicines. CBD was first isolated in 1940 in the USA, independently, by two organic chemists: Roger Adams and Alexander Todd, from Mexican C. sativa and Indian Charras respectively.

For over two decades, no further research was carried out until, in 1963, the absolute chemical configuration of CBD was determined by a research group led by Raphael Mechoulam in Jerusalem, by nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, a newer and more accurate method for mapping molecules. This has allowed CBD to be administered more safely in a purer form. Since this time, multiple studies have been carried out on the molecule, and a picture is emerging of its potential as a pharmaceutical product.

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