They took the fractions containing CBC and re-chromatographed them twice before distillation. Using this process, they isolated CBC and proceeded to identify the molecular structure of the cannabinoid. Reports also state that a team of German researchers—Claussen, Von Spulak, and Korte—managed to isolate CBC during the same year using benzene percolation of hemp.
Both Roger Adams and Alex Todd managed to synthesise molecules extremely close in structure to THC in the 1940s. These researchers never managed to isolate the cannabinoid, but used cannabinoids such as CBD to create similar molecules. Mechoulam states they were likely limited by the literature and techniques available to them at the time.
They described the result of this process as “amber-coloured when seen in thin layers but ruby red when seen in mass”. They found the substance to possess psychoactive effects in doses as low as 0.05g. After conducting acetylation, they discovered CBN.
• CBC (1966)
CBC (cannabichromene) makes up around 0.3% of cannabis plant extract. However, breeders have developed cultivars expressing significantly higher amounts. A non-psychoactive cannabinoid, researchers have explored the pharmacological actions of CBC, finding some intriguing potential.
Scientists were on the trail of a new compound, but they couldn’t quite figure out what was generating these effects. Many argued cannabis housed alkaloids, with Preobrajensky claiming the plant to possess nicotine.
Before individual cannabinoids were isolated and identified, an early group of forerunner scientists laid the critical foundations for these discoveries. Investigators started achieving crude cannabis extracts in the early 19th century, which would soon evolve into capturing specific molecules.
Decades later, in 1963, researchers made another important discovery regarding CBD—the molecular structure of the cannabinoid. Raphael Mechoulam, organic chemist and professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, made this important finding.
The 1940s and 1950s saw the rise of pharmacological experiments using CBD oil extracted from cannabis. “Raphael Mecholulam carried out the first CBD oil experiments when testing various extracts of cannabis, including THC,” explains Dr. Tom Ingegno, integrative health specialist and medical cannabis practitioner. “THC was proven to be the distinctive psychoactive compound in primate testing, but Mechoulam discovered some milder effects in CBD.”
“CBD oil’s popularity has skyrocketed in the last 20 years,” says Ingegno. “We now have a better and more specific understanding of how it works to help people with various conditions.”
How was CBD oil first used?
“The endocannabinoid system, or ECS, is a group of neurotransmitters made by the body and cell receptor sites,” explains Ingegno. “The neurotransmitters look similar to exogenous cannabinoids (the ones we get from cannabis). The cell receptor sites activate when we ingest cannabis, or our body produces endocannabinoids.”
Research into CBD oil’s therapeutic uses gathered momentum in the 1980s when Mechoulam and other scientists began conducting game-changing research on CBD for epilepsy. “The compound (CBD) turned out to be of extreme interest,” said Mechoulam in the interview. “We found, after a lot of preclinical work in rats and mice, that CBD had anti-epileptic qualities.”
Ultimately, CBD’s popularity boils down to the molecule’s purported therapeutic effects on the body. The endocannabinoid system is critical to understanding how and why cannabis may be well-suited as a medicine for the human body.