When their children couldn’t sleep, ancestral mothers would, no doubt, sing lullabies as they rocked their wee ones. They may also have given them small doses of something the adults used regularly. They knew that something in the hemp plant soothed anxiety and helped to induce sleep. We know it today as cannabidiol, or CBD.
Hemp and its History
The ancients knew a lot about the positive aspects of hemp. Archeologists have found evidence that cannabis sative cultivation goes back 12,000 years–one of man’s earliest crops. They used it for a variety of things including textiles, rope, paper and for medicinal purposes. Egyptologists uncovered some of the oldest records of hemp use in that country. Going back 2,000 years BCE, they found mummies with traces of cannabis. One such mummy was that of Pharaoh Ramses II. Interestingly, too, the Egyptian goddess of wisdom, Sishat, was often painted with a cannabis leaf over her head.
Medicinal use of cannabis continued through the centuries. The chief physician to Roman Emperor Nero kept cannabis in his store of medicines. King Henry VII encouraged English farmers to grow cannabis by fining them if they didn’t. Early Jamestown settlers faced the same dilemma. Queen Victoria used it to reduce menstrual pain and help her sleep. The herb became so popular in the U.S. that in the 1800s, the U.S. Pharmacopeia placed it on its list from 1850 to 1915.
The Rocky History of Hemp Continues
Unfortunately, in more modern times, the popularity of the psychoactive effects of the plant pushed its helpful, medicinal effects to the background. In 1940, scientists at the University of Illinois separated CBD from THC, the psychoactive part of the plant. Nothing much followed the discovery at the time. However, prolific drug use in the 1960s and 1970s led growers to concentrate on breeding to increase THC levels and intensity.
In 1998, British scientists started a project to produce hemp-based medicines without an accompanying “high”. Their efforts resulted in the modern business of growing plants rich in CBD. Such production has increased research into CBD use in pill, oil and cream forms and has promoted the legalization of growth in many areas.
Hemp’s Medical Comeback
Both sleep deprivation and CBD use share the fact that they are relative newcomers to the world of medical research. In 1913, Frenchman Henre Pieron wrote the first comprehensive paper examining sleeplessness based on physical causes. More serious studies on the subject didn’t start until the ’50s. Nathaniel Kleitman, often called the “Father of American Sleep Research”, studied insomnia and circadian rhythms in the human body. In 1953 he discovered REM sleep.
Using Kleitman’s work, researchers have since found many causes of chronic insomnia. Most of these causes fall into four categories, pain, anxiety, stress and several medical disorders. The more common disorders showing sleeplessness as a symptom include respiratory problems such as allergies and asthma, reflux or GERD, hyperthyroidism, arthritis, Restless Leg Syndrome, sleep apnea, MS, Parkinson’s, Depression, Schizophrenia, PTSD and Bipolar Disorder.
Research involving CBD as a proponent to reduce insomnia in humans is relatively recent. Such studies began less than 30 years ago, using rats as subjects. Therefore, they have not produced much reliable information regarding human use. Furthermore, most of the experiments involved CBD with a combination of other drugs and focused on insomnia related to health disorders like the ones listed above. These studies have repeatedly shown that CBD combined with other appropriate medications have reduced anxiety and pain, two of the primary causes of sleep loss.
Only one study by researchers Carline and Cunha in 1981 concentrated solely on CBD and sleeplessness in humans. Results of that study using human subjects revealed that CBD increased total sleep time with fewer awakenings. Thus far, however, this study has not been replicated to prove the findings.
There seems to be general agreement among medical researchers that CBD has a potential for reducing the problem of insomnia, but additional research is needed before large-scale proof is available.
In the meantime, as more and more legislation passes to allow legal medical application of CBD, many modern users, like the ancients, are finding it a solution to their own sleeplessness.