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.
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.
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. 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.
READ MORE: What Is CBD?
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.