In addition to focusing on the science behind how cannabis has been shown to benefit children with many conditions, one of the goals of this issue is to provide in-depth and relatable context to parents. Even parents who have children without conditions can relate to what it’s like wanting nothing but happiness for our kids and can understand the heartbreak other parents go through when they see their children struggle. Families who endure these struggles deserve to know they’re not alone, and we’re very proud to introduce you to Ashley Davis Markum, who is the founder of Missouri NFP, Ayden’s Alliance. She’s here to share the story of her son Ayden, who has seen success in treating his cerebral palsy and epilepsy with the use of CBD oil, and she offers advice to parents considering cannabis therapies.
GRAM Tell us a little about how you got to where you are now.
Ashley Gosh that is a long story, but I will try to shorten it! When Ayden was 18 months old, he was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy and a rare form of Epilepsy. Being born 14 weeks too early, we knew he would likely have some delays, but we were not prepared for the challenges that we were about to face. We started right away with seizure medications because we were told if we didn’t get them under control, the prognosis was grim. Medication after medication—not only didn’t help with seizure control—they caused horrible side effects, some we are still dealing with today. After failing multiple medications, we started looking into alternative therapies, and that is when we came across CBD oil. Thankfully Ayden’s neurologist was supportive as long as we got Ayden a Hemp Card. At that time, the Hemp Card program was the only thing available, and it was only for patients with uncontrolled epilepsy. After starting the oil, we discovered the Amendment 2 campaign and got involved right away.
GRAM If you don’t mind sharing, what have been some of your biggest struggles as a parent, either emotionally, financially, etc. that you’ve had to endure?
Ashley Being a parent is hard. Being a Special Needs parent to a significantly involved child is next level hard. It’s more than being physically tired, it’s soul exhaustion. From the big things like recovering from surgeries, to the little things like mornings when you’re thankful the day hasn’t started with Ayden crying in pain from muscle spasms, but you also panic inside from the quiet because Sudden Unexpected Death from Epilepsy is a real thing and a constant worry.
GRAM Were there any struggles in your daily life because you chose to treat Ayden with cannabis?
Ashley When we first started Ayden on this therapy, nobody knew what CBD even was. Now you see CBD on every corner. I think the fear was the biggest thing. We didn’t tell many to begin with because it was still such a taboo topic. I worried a lot if the wrong person was going to find out and what would happen.
GRAM How did family and friends react to this treatment?
Ashley We didn’t tell a whole lot of people to begin with. The family that did know were very supportive. My mom even helped us get Ayden’s first bottle of oil.
GRAM Did you receive any encouragement or support in your journey? Where and when?
Ashley After getting involved with the Amendment 2 campaign, we couldn’t hide it anymore that we were giving Ayden oil. Surprisingly most of our friends and family were very supportive. Most of our church even signed petitions both times we ran the campaign. My mindset has now changed to “Of course, why wouldn’t the people that love us sign it?” but back then, when we first started out, the fear was very real. I think seeing Ayden benefit so much from the oil was enough for even the doubters in our circle to become supportive. I will say the cannabis community has been one of the most caring and helpful groups we have ever been involved with. Even fellow patients that had little to give, have blessed our family immensely.
GRAM Is there help or resources you recommend for other parents?
Ashley We started our non-profit, Ayden’s Alliance, to help Missouri patient families, financially and with educational support. Surprisingly social media groups have been great, not only for cannabis support, but for the unique challenges we face as special needs families.
GRAM What are some ways people could help a family going through similar circumstances?
Ashley Just be there. Listen, reach out and just love on them. If you see a need that you could help with, just do it. Don’t wait for us to ask for help, because most of the time, we won’t.
What would you tell other parents considering cannabis as an option for their child?
Ashley Gather all the information you can, and talk with other families that have been using cannabis for their children. Most of us have learned from other parents. Knowing what has worked for children similar to yours is a great place to start. And don’t get discouraged if one or two things do not help. There are so many cannabinoid options, and sometimes it takes trying several strains or even strain combos to see some positive results.
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Turmeric is a root vegetable commonly used as a spice in various Indian and other cultures’ dishes. Turmeric is in the zingiberaceae family, as is ginger. The turmeric plant is native to the southeastern region of Asia and commonly harvested in places like India, Sri Lanka, China, Indonesia, and Taiwan. It is responsible for curry’s signature orange color, and its vibrant pigment will give essentially any meal an orange hue.
Turmeric contains a substance called curcumin, and curcumin has been shown through research to offer anti-inflammatory and other therapeutic benefits. The scientific name for the turmeric plant is Curcuma Longa, and likely where the name curcumin comes from. When people are talking about the health benefits of turmeric, they are referencing curcumin so you may hear the two names used interchangeably. Curcumin is part of a group called curcuminoids, with curcumin being the most active and the most beneficial for health. Flavonoids are another substance found in various plants and give these plants their color. Curcumin is a flavonoid and is responsible for providing that bright orange color to turmeric. In addition to providing aesthetic value, flavonoids are also strong antioxidants with anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties.
The Journal of Biological Chemistry published a study done by Sanjaya Singh and Bharat B. Aggarwal of the Cytokine Research Laboratory at the world-renowned cancer hospital, M.D. Anderson. The study found that curcumin suppressed NF-κB, a protein complex responsible for controlling inflammatory responses. In other words, turmeric shuts off the body’s inflammatory response. Anti-inflammatories can be beneficial for many different ailments, including chronic pain and digestive disorders. A lot of CBD companies even put curcumin in their products because of its benefits. It is believed to be a synergistic pair with complementary therapeutic properties. The thought is that the two plant medicines are powerful on their own; as a combination, they can deliver even more anti-inflammatory and medicinal benefits.
Many people simply add turmeric to their dishes as a way to easily incorporate it into their daily routine. It is pretty mild in flavor and can be added to many dishes without changing the overall taste too drastically. Some say that turmeric isn’t strong enough on its own to receive the anti-inflammatory properties that curcumin provides, and therefore recommend a curcumin supplement. Research varies on that, so in the end it is just up to personal preference and your doctor’s approval. Curcumin supplements come most available in capsules. Pregnant women can safely use turmeric as an addition to their food, but should avoid taking high-dosage supplements. Those who are interested in supplementing with curcumin products should talk with their doctor first.
M.D. Anderson Cancer Center did another study in 2007 exploring curcumin for cancer treatment. The study found that curcumin inhibits ovarian cancer growth and angiogenesis (the development of new blood vessels). It does this by targeting and manipulating the NF-κB pathway, the same protein complex responsible for controlling inflammatory response. According to a report published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, “The nuclear factor NF-κB pathway has long been considered a prototypical proinflammatory signaling pathway, largely based on the role of NF-κB in the expression of proinflammatory genes including cytokines, chemokines, and adhesion molecules.”
The trend with curcumin seems to be it’s ability to control inflammatory responses in the body. It does this by multiple pathways, but a commonly researched one is the NF-κB protein complex. Because this pathway is able to be manipulated by curcumin to encourage anti-inflammatory expressions, its potential for successfully treating various ailments is there.
Psilocybin + Magic Mushrooms
When many think of plant medicine, specifically those plants with psychoactive effects, they think of “magic mushrooms,” or fungi containing psilocybin and psilocin that can cause hallucinations depending on the dosage consumed. In many states, there are active efforts to decriminalize these otherwise scheduled substances, lowering penalties for their use and possession. But what value do psilocybin-containing mushrooms offer? New research suggests a range of therapeutic and psychological value ranging from the treatment of substance abuse to anxiety and depression management.
What are Magic Mushrooms?
Magic Mushroom use dates back to 10,000 BCE and references continue throughout the era. Their modern popularity began when the term “magic mushroom” was coined by two etnomycologists who learned of a Harvard study on local doctors in Mexico using these substances, noting the substance’s ability to affect the nervous system. These findings were eventually published in Life magazine in 1957, and the term became the universal reference for psychoactive fungi and truffles, specifically those containing high concentrations of psilocybin and psilocin.
Psilocybin & Psilocin: The “Magic” in Magic Mushrooms
Psilocybin and psilocin are part of a family of psychedelic compounds found in magic mushrooms. Psilocin is pharmacologically active, and psilocybin is converted into psilocin when consumed or activated. Similar in structure to serotonin, there are more than 50 species of mushrooms and a variety of truffles that produce both the precursor, psilocybin, and the psychoactive compound, psilocin. Unlike LSD, magic mushrooms do not affect dopamine receptors, solely targeting serotonin sites.
How are Magic Mushrooms used?
Magic mushrooms are often used for recreational, therapeutic and medicinal reasons. “Effects range from mild feelings of relaxation, giddiness, euphoria, visual enhancement (seeing colors brighter), visual disturbances (moving surfaces, waves), to delusions, altered perception of real events, images and faces, or real hallucinations.” Recreationally, this is often known as “tripping.” As an alternative health option, these fungi are being used for anxiety, depression, PTSD, and trauma, as well as psychological disorders such as substance abuse disorders, and science is beginning to back the potential for these applications.
Research on Mushrooms
Evaluations of currently available scientific studies suggest a growing number of therapeutic benefits and treatment options. “In the past few years, a growing number of studies using human volunteers have begun to explore the possible therapeutic benefits of drugs such as psilocybin…looking at psilocybin and other hallucinogens to treat a number of otherwise intractable psychiatric disorders, including chronic depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and drug or alcohol dependency.”
Magic mushrooms have been respected as a “safe & natural healing sacrament for millennia throughout Mexico, Central America and the world,” and are known to be beneficial for depression, recidivism (the tendency to repeat past transgressions), and encourages openness, creativity, as well as personal and spiritual growth. UCLA and NYC have done studies on the applications of magic mushrooms in the treatment of end-of-life anxiety and other studies have backed up the use of psilocybin and psilocin in the treatment of substance use disorders, depression (especially in cases of terminal conditions like cancer as well as treatment-resistant depression), and reducing depression and anxiety overall.
Best way for people to consume?
When it comes to the consumption of mushrooms, advice on dosage is about as specific as it was with cannabis under prohibition. Consumers must purchase on the black market and are subject to whatever may be available.
“Recreational doses range from 1–5 grams of dry mushrooms depending on the species and individual strength of the specimens… After ingestion, the psilocybin is enzymatically converted to psilocin. Absorbed from the gastro-intestinal tract, hallucinogenic effects usually occur within 30 minutes of ingestion with a duration of effect of 4–6 hours.”
My recommendation as someone who has used magic mushrooms both for recreational and therapeutic purposes, is to grind the mushrooms into a fine powder and either encapsulate them in small increments and/or combine with lemon juice. Capsules will allow you to titrate your dosage as needed with a recognizable increment, while lemon juice will expedite onset time.
The Legality of Magic Mushrooms
In the United States, psilocybin is a Schedule I controlled substance, with no accepted medicinal value and a high potential for abuse. In contrast, the Drug Policy Alliance states that “Physically, psilocybin mushrooms are considered to be one of the least toxic drugs known.” With that being said, local efforts such as Decriminalize Nature – Oakland and Decriminalize Denver have pushed for and successfully passed initiatives and legislation to reduce penalties and make enforcement a low priority, as was done in the early days of cannabis activism. This has spurred multiple local and international efforts to “Decriminalize Nature,” efforts that we learn more about in this month’s feature.