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Supplement Godfather

Don Gauvreau MSc, CSCS
Don Gauvreau, A.K.A. The Supplement Godfather, is one of the leading researchers and product formulators in the sports supplement industry.
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The History and Science Behind CBD

Part I: The promising medicinal effects were detected nearly 5,000 years ago

Cannabis plants, Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica, have been used for centuries for their nutritional value and medicinal properties. Cannabis also has a long history of use for industrial purposes. In fact, hemp fibre can be used to make ropes, clothing, and even paper.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a compound that can be found in cannabis and is one of the most talked-about topics in the medical—and political—worlds right now. It’s a compound that can deliver many effects, but before we get into the science on CBD, let’s look at the history of the cannabis plant.

History of Medicinal Use of Cannabis

The flowers and resin of the cannabis plant have been used in China since roughly 2700 BC. The plant was used to treat rheumatism, malaria, constipation, menstrual disorders, and even absent-mindedness. During the medieval period, from the 5th to 15th centuries, Islamic doctors used cannabis to treat epilepsy, nausea, vomiting, inflammation, and pain. In the 1800s, Western medicine started to use cannabis primarily as an analgesic (pain reliever).1

Most recently, cannabis has been used in medicine to treat epilepsy, anxiety, insomnia, pain, muscle spasms, and glaucoma. The scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of cannabis for the different indications varies greatly. The strongest evidence is found in research studies that look at chronic pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, muscle spasms and seizures.2–5 Many other medicinal uses for cannabis have been proposed, and although cannabis is indigenous to Central and South Asia, it’s now a crop that’s being grown around the world for its properties.

Two Major Cannabinoids

The medicinal benefits of cannabis are derived from a class of compounds called cannabinoids. Research suggests that over 100 cannabinoids have been identified in the cannabis plants. The two major cannabinoids in the cannabis plant are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is well known for its psychoactive properties. It’s the component of cannabis that gets you “high.” CBD, on the other hand, is non-psychoactive, meaning it lacks the psychoactive and “high” effects that THC delivers. Let me be clear: CBD does notget you high. However, CBD is known to have anti-anxiety and other behavioural effects.

The Effects of CBD

CBD is found in both species of cannabis plants, sativa and indica. However, sativa strains usually have a higher THC-to-CBD ratio than indica strains. THC activates the endocannabinoid system; however, CBD doesn’t activate cannabinoid receptors, which is likely why it doesn’t have psychotropic activity. In fact, CBD interacts with many other, non-endocannabinoid signalling systems, and scientists consider it a “multi-target” compound.6CBD can affect many different aspects of the human body, including memory, appetite, energy balance, metabolism, stress response, immune function, reproduction, autonomic nervous system, analgesia, thermoregulation, sleep, and physical exercise.


1. Abel EL. (1980). Marihuana, the first twelve thousand years. New York, NY: Plenum Press.
2. Phillips TJ, Cherry CL, Cox S, Marshall SJ, Rice AS. Pharmacological treatment of painful HIV-associated sensory neuropathy: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials.PLoS One. 2010 Dec 28;5(12):e14433.
3. Martín-Sánchez E, Furukawa TA, Taylor J, Martin JL. Systematic review and meta-analysis of cannabis treatment for chronic pain. Pain Med. 2009 Nov;10(8):1353-68.
4. Machado Rocha FC, Stéfano SC, De Cássia Haiek R, Rosa Oliveira LM, Da Silveira DX. Therapeutic use of Cannabis sativa on chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting among cancer patients: systematic review and meta-analysis. Eur J Cancer Care(Engl). 2008 Sep;17(5):431-43.
5. Flachenecker P. A new multiple sclerosis spasticity treatment option: effect in everyday clinical practice and cost-effectiveness in Germany. Expert Rev Neurother. 2013 Feb;13(3 Suppl 1):15-9.
6. Devinsky O, Cilio MR, Cross H, et al. Cannabidiol: Pharmacology and potential therapeutic role in epilepsy and other neuropsychiatric disorders. Epilepsia. 2014 Jun;55(6):791-802.