Recently GRAM sat down with Golnesa Gharachedaghi, from the television show, Shahs of Sunset. We discuss why she is becoming a part of the growing cannabis industry with her new business, Wusah, and learn about her personal experience using cannabis for symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Many people deal with the pain of RA every day. There are currently 1.5 million Americans suffering,1 many of whom suffer in silence. The joint tenderness and fatigue is sometimes unbearable. RA is an autoimmune inflammatory condition that causes severe pain, stiffness, swelling and redness to the joints.2 RA can affect other tissues of the body as well, including the eyes, lungs, and heart.
For Golnesa, her symptoms started with her hands. “Up until my diagnosis, the doctors thought what I had was tendonitis from years of being a gymnast. I am sure that was because I started as a gymnast at age 3. Doctors considered it to be normal wear and tear. They began putting steroids into every single tendon in my fingers through injections. The pain eventually found its way to my shoulders. I went to see an orthopedic doctor and he told me I had bursitis.”
The pain then made its way to her knees. Her doctor assumed it was the same issues she was experiencing in her shoulders and began steroid treatment injections to her knees. Finally one doctor had an idea, “The doctor said to me, this has to be something systemic. He sent me to a Rheumatologist. It took two years before I was diagnosed with RA. This was after two years of getting these injections with little to no relief. I remember my fingertips were blue, and I could barely bend my knees. My rings wouldn’t come off my fingers. Two years after injections, finally I understood I had RA in 32 joints in my body.”
“When having an autoimmune condition, your body can build up an immunity to certain medications after a while. So for me, every medication had a lifespan of about 1 1⁄2 years, and then it just stopped working for me. They tried several pharmaceuticals, so many I can’t remember all of their names. The methotrexate was a mild chemo drug that I had to inject into my stomach once a week in conjunction with all of the pharmaceuticals. That was my booster for everything. There were times I received biweekly transfusions as well.”
It took two years before I was diagnosed with RA.
All of this treatment was still not enough. The inflammation in the tendons of her hands was still too much. “The doctors told me I had too many steroids previously injected into my hand, and the inflammation was so bad, and the tendons were so damaged they had to go in there and scrape it all out.” If trigger finger3 is severe, the finger that is affected can become locked in a bent position. The surgery for trigger finger is called “tenolysis” or “trigger finger release.” Golnesa had this surgery to release the tendon in her hand.
Rheumatoid arthritis patients suffer not only from pain but also from swelling, redness, stiffness or the joints that are affected may misshapen. For Golnesa, all of her fingers were so stiff she could barely straighten them. Before cannabis she would have to use her teeth to open bottles of water for herself.
After 8 or 9 years of medications and then finally requiring surgery for trigger finger, she made the life-changing decision to listen to her holistic minded mother. Her mom had been reading a lot about CBD and its benefits. Five years ago, as she began to read about the plant, she felt that it was still just considered cannabis, “You would hear weed or marijuana or pot and would think, so I am just going to get high. I told my mom no, what would it mean if I went back to this drug?“
This was not her first experience with the cannabis plant. Her experience began at a young age, “younger than anyone in my grade, I was about 11.5 the first time I ever smoked pot; my older sister knew it was something that was going to come up, and she wanted my first time to be secured, safe and with her.” She experimented with the plant over the years but discontinued use in 2005.
Dr. Frankel has treated just under 80 conditions using cannabinoid therapy.
That was until her mother found Dr. Allan Frankel. Dr. Frankel has been a doctor of Internal Medicine for 35 years and is a worldwide authority on dosed cannabis. He is the founder of Greenbridge Medical in Santa Monica, California. The clinic claims that 80% of the people that come to them have had no previous relationship with cannabis. Dr. Frankel has treated just under 80 conditions using cannabinoid therapy. He provides a customized treatment plan to each patient he sees because he understands the varying needs for each patient, and that plant medicine can require some “tuning.”
Golnesa’s mom made her an appointment with Dr. Frankel. “He really broke it all down for me three and a half years ago. I started with a CBD capsule that was a 5 (CBD):1 (THC) ratio. I was really scared of getting high and that I was going to have a horrible experience, but having the mindset that it was going to help me medically was the significant difference for me. I then went from taking the capsules to buying the flower. As I kept consuming, the THC ratio continued to increase, and after about 8 or 9 months, I noticed my fingers were able to straighten out.”
Even though she began seeing mild results from cannabis, Golnesa continued with conventional medicine, using mild doses of chemo and going to her rheumatologist regularly. After 11 years of treatments, some of those in conjunction with the use of cannabis, a severe situation led to emergency surgery and the loss of both fallopian tubes. “That somehow put my body into some sort of shock. My rheumatologist said he had never seen my body flare that badly before. They put me back on infusions, but this time they used medications that were safe for pregnancy because at that time I was trying to get pregnant and the body must be rid of methotrexate for at least three months before you can attempt pregnancy.”
Golnesa continued using cannabis and was able to get all of her blood levels where they needed to be so she could try IVF again. During this time of trying to heal her body naturally, she started thinking about how much cannabis improved her quality of life. She started to brainstorm ideas for a product line so she could share this type of healing with others. Two years ago she launched the CBD company, Wusah.5
I am pleased to tell you she shared with us that she is now pregnant. “I read that CBD vapes were the safest way to consume because its more controlled as far as how much goes into your body while you are pregnant so I was using my Wusah vapes whenever I feel like I am irritable, or like my hands are too much with pain, I would just take a couple puffs. I recently just went three months without consuming. Then, just a few nights ago, I took a few puffs to help with my insomnia”, she tells us about using a CBD vape during her pregnancy.
“I have been so lucky I have not had any morning sickness, so I have been fine with using CBD only products. Had I been one of those women that did have nausea and they would have wanted to prescribe a medication for that, I would have absolutely just taken a few puffs off of a joint instead.”
Embrace the fact that it is not a drug. Destroy the taboo.
There is currently a lot of controversy surrounding the use of vapes. Vape pens that contain Vitamin E Acetate or MCT oil have caused severe health issues and in some cases, death. In fact, thousands of deaths have now been reported in the US from the use of adulterated products. Golnesa confidently tells us, “unlike all the stuff going on in the outside media, my vapes do not mix with any outside oils, and I don’t dilute it with anything else. We make sure our CBD oil is really good and broad spectrum. It’s hard because of what the media and the government is putting out there, I feel like they are doing it to control the market for a lot of people. I can tell you though, at Wusah, we have no byproducts in our vapes.”
Vapes are not the only thing she sells. She says her focus is wellness. The Wusah product line includes capsules, oral sprays, a balm, patches, and drops for your water. Her plan is to stick with what internally is the most medicinal and to focus more on symptoms, to help people internally. She says, “Think more like anti-inflammatory, joint pain, and health and wellness.” She wants to put out products that are designed for whatever each individual may need; she feels her cause is to help people internally.
“To stay current, I read every single day. I read everything. I receive as many cannabis newsletters from as many publications as I possibly can. I go to every possible convention I can in California and in neighboring states. I constantly educate myself on what’s out there. I tend to follow a lot of what Israel is doing since they are so advanced when it comes to cannabis, as well as some of the information coming out of Australia. You really have to dig deep right now because there is a very big dollar sign on this plant.”
Golnesa is an advocate for people suffering from RA. She has worked with the Arthritis Foundation and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles to help support others, particularly children, who suffer from the disease as well as raise money for research to develop a cure. Most recently, she established a nonprofit foundation, Little Warriors, to support children suffering from a variety of autoimmune diseases. “I would love to be able to advocate publically for the use of cannabis for RA, and I look forward to it.”
She leaves us with a bit of advice, “My best advice is to educate yourself first, understand all the components of the plant. Read about it. Try it. Ask around. Talk to people. Embrace the fact that it is not a drug. Destroy the taboo. Educate first and foremost. Don’t believe me, do your own research, read the fucking ingredients, know what you are taking. Research and educate yourself, don’t just trust any product because it says it has CBD in it. Once you fully understand the plant, you will then understand why certain products hitting the market can’t be real.”
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.
Ginkgo biloba is an ancient tree; its roots originate in China. The ginkgo biloba tree is also sometimes known as the maidenhair tree or the Japanese silver apricot, and it produces a foul-smelling fruit commonly harvested for its seeds known as “ginkgo nuts”. Ginkgo nuts are popularly used in Asian cuisine.
The ginkgo biloba tree’s fan-shaped leaves are used to make ginkgo biloba extract, a supplement traditionally used in Chinese medicine, but has since garnered the attention of cultures worldwide. The supplement comes in liquid extracts, capsules, and tablets. The leaves can also be dried to make tea. The type of ginkgo biloba extract supplement someone takes is all a matter of personal preference, and depends on the user’s already existing regimen. If you do not already drink tea, a ginkgo biloba tea may not implement easily into your lifestyle, thus a greater chance for inconsistency or erratic results. But if you take vitamins or other supplements regularly, after a doctor’s approval you can easily incorporate an additional capsule or tablet into your daily routine.
The 16th-century Compendium of Materia Medica or Ben Cao Gang Mu is revered as the most comprehensive text ever written in the history of traditional Chinese medicine. This text reveals that ginkgo biloba seeds were used as a topical extract for antimicrobial purposes on the skin. Traditional Chinese Medicine also uses the leaves for tea and attributes it to soothing coughs and activating blood circulation, as well as other benefits like respiratory and digestive ailments.
A common use for ginkgo biloba is to preserve memory and prevent cognitive decline. Dr. Hiroko Dodge of Oregon State University at Corvallis and his research team followed 118 people for three years aged 85 years and older, in good health, and showing no signs of dementia or memory loss at the beginning of the study. Half took ginkgo biloba and half took a placebo over three years. The patients taking it regularly had a 70% lower risk of developing dementia. According to the study, the other variables included considered “basic demographic variables including age, sex, years of education, and living arrangement (living alone vs living with someone).”
The National Center for Biotechnology and Information published a study exploring ginkgo as a potential remedy for anxiety and, “The authors reported a significant improvement in psychopathological symptoms. Response rates were 44% in the high-dose group, 31% in the low-dose group, and 22% with placebo. Additionally, the percentages of clinically significant responses were 81%, 67%, and 38% for the high-dose, the low-dose, and the placebo groups, respectively.”2
A 2008 study reinforced the idea behind Traditional Chinese Medicine that ginkgo biloba improves blood circulation. The study shows ginkgo biloba extract to improve coronary artery circulation in patients with coronary artery disease. The study notes, “GBE (ginkgo biloba extract) treatment demonstrated a significant improvement in maximal diastolic peak velocity (MDPV), maximal systolic peak velocity (MSPV) and diastolic time velocity integral (DTVI) compared with controls.”3 In other words, ginkgo biloba extract is a great contender as a treatment to improve blood flow.
Like cannabis and other medicinal plants, ginkgo has terpenes and flavonoids. Both of these compounds have therapeutic properties, and can provide anti-inflammatory benefits as well as being packed with antioxidants. Anti-inflammatory effects can serve many different ailments, especially relieving pain of various kinds. Antioxidants are thought to protect our bodies from free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can cause harm to the body. Terpenes are also responsible for giving plants their unique and flavorful smell. Flavonoids are the compounds that give plants their vibrant and diverse colors, and are the largest group of phytonutrients. There are approximately 6,00 different types of flavonoids.
A few years back, the National Toxicology Program released a detailed report on ginkgo biloba extract. It dissects the toxicity and carcinogenic properties of ginkgo biloba using rodent test subjects. The report made its rounds as proof that ginkgo biloba causes cancer, because the rodents developed cancer at high-rates over two year periods. Per the American Botanical Council, “Adjusted for bodyweight, dosage levels given to the animals were up to 55 to 108 times higher than levels of ginkgo normally ingested by human beings taking ginkgo supplements.” Many people have been using this report to warn against the supplement, but Bill J. Gurley, Ph.D., a professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Arkansas School for Medical Sciences, Little Rock said, “Almost anything will create cancer in rats and mice when it’s fed to them at high doses for two years.” The American Botanical Council also claims the ginkgo biloba extract used in the rodent experiment was of lesser quality, and not meeting European standards.
Though this seemingly negative research on ginkgo can be explained, it is still important to discuss any kind of supplement addition with your doctor, especially if you are on other supplements or pharmaceutical prescriptions.