There are, arguably, five ingestible plant molecules that have changed the course of how we eat and live, and which have had a massive impact on human history. Here’s why I predict cannabidiol (CBD) is the sixth.
What we essentially know about wellness is this: the treatment of the whole person includes emotional, mental, spiritual, physical and environmental factors, and it aims to promote well being through the whole person rather than just the symptomatic relief of a disease.
Plant medicines may be linked to some of the most substantive wellness tools that we have. These medicines may provide support for human biomes because of their connection to local flora, because the human body has adapted to its environment and, in return, the flora in our midst can provide what we need the most. Local remedies for complex health issues are important because they provide a social support system for changing care needs, in addition to the fact that they may be medically very effective.
Historically, we, as a species, have had a significant relationship with a number of plants that have had a massive impact on our social support systems, and on our lives.
Alcohol, the molecule derived from plant fermentation, was the first of these plant molecules. Around the world, over and over again, we discovered how to make alcohol or import it. In fact, the human archaeological record reveals that alcoholic drinks existed as far back as the Neolithic period of human history, and perhaps even earlier, as we ate alcoholized fruits from trees. Distillation of these fruits was made widely possible in European and Asian societies by the tenth century CE,[i] and it continues to be used for both recreational and medical purposes to this day.
Sucrose is another such molecule. Derived from sugar cane, beets, and corn, by the eighth century BCE in India, the human species discovered how it could be used for medical purposes as an Ayurvedic laxative and diuretic and to increase the production of breast milk in order to support children’s survival through infancy.[ii]
Theobromine, the feel-good plant molecule in chocolate, was once confined to ritual uses for the Mayan peoples in Mesoamerica around 500 CE, but Spanish conquests around the sixteenth century CE brought it to Europe, where it was used as both a medicine and as, eventually, a highly sweetened treat.[iii]
Tobacco-based nicotine, a molecule used by Indigenous populations throughout North America, was also adopted by Spanish colonizers. It wasn’t only a cash crop facilitated by the US slave trade from the seventeenth century onwards but was known as a means to cure a common cold as well as rid whole cities of communal infections such as cholera, whether or not it was actually effective.[iv]
Caffeine also made an impact, as you well know. A plant medicine prized by Sufi tribes in Yemen and the Oromo in Ethiopia as early as the fifteenth century CE, coffee became part of the world diet after being quickly sought after by the Dutch East India Company, who imported it to Europe in mass quantities not only as a means to cure headaches and as a diuretic, but also as a pathway to increased attention.[v]
Cannabidiol (CBD) is the newest plant molecule that can, and will, have an impact on our global wellness.
Derived from the cannabis plant, CBD has no psychoactive properties. That means it doesn’t get people high. It simply works. Until recently, CBD has been legally suppressed under an 80-year prohibition because of its wrongly perceived association with marijuana. Unlike anything we’ve known before, CBD offers a bounty of health benefits. In fact, evidence-based research shows that it can benefit people with stress, cancer, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, obesity, pain, insomnia, and countless other health challenges. We are still just scratching the surface of what it can do.
Awareness of how CBD can have a positive health impact may allow health care professionals to predict the needs of individuals in their own home communities and create proactive solutions that will help people feel well, and it may shift the way that we think about plant medicines forever.
Join me as I present a series of articles on CBD and how it’s changing lives, here and around the world. CBD provides us with what we’ve been searching for all along a healthy and simple way to prevent and treat disease and to make us well. It has no side effects and no associated deaths, and there have been over ten thousand research studies conducted on CBD in the last thirty years using the same evidence-based standards required by the American medical establishment that show what it can do to help people with a variety of complex and series illnesses. It’s just that good.
We need to create healthy lives for ourselves every day through our choices to live better and more fully aware of our opportunities to become our best selves. Plant medicines and wellness go hand in hand, and it’s time to discover just how much we can gain.
[ii] Faas, P. (2003). Around the Roman Table: Food and Feasting in Ancient Rome. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, p. 149.
[iii] Solis y Ribadeneyra, A. (1685). The History of the Conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards, T. Townsend, Trans. London.