Throughout my life, writing has always been a form of self-expression. I used journaling to help process life’s events beginning at age 10, thanks to some incredible advice. As the years went on, my writing evolved just like I did. Poetry was one of my favorite things to write for a long time, and it always rhymed. No matter where life took me, as long as I could get out what I was feeling on paper, I could figure out what my next steps were. Until I got sick.
I would try and write, but I was so lost, scared, and in so much pain every single day my attention span did not allow me to. Reading became difficult too. Before I knew it, books, magazines, even articles on my phone were no longer interesting. My mind was so distracted by being in pain and uncomfortable that I could barely verbally communicate what I was experiencing, let alone journal it.
One day I sat down, and the only thing that poured out of me were three words: gutted, insulated, and rebuilt. Those three words described me and the journey I had been experiencing. I wrote them over and over. I didn’t even understand their meaning at the time. Honestly, I may not have understood completely until right now, as I am telling this story for GRAM. This is a journey of barely surviving to thoroughly thriving, all thanks to cannabis plant medicine.
Gutted. In 2010, the pain I had in my right side had become constant. Doctors ordered so many tests. I had x-rays, CT scans, upper endoscopy, colonoscopy, pelvic ultrasounds, kidney ultrasounds, blood tests galore, and so much more. I felt poked and prodded and confused. It seemed like every test they did, they found something–it just wasn’t the cause of the pain. Finally, a test done on my gallbladder called an ejection fraction was completed, and it showed that my gallbladder was not functioning at all. Although I showed zero signs of gallbladder issues, the doctors insisted it was the cause for the pain and made the decision to remove it.
That was just the beginning. During the procedure they found a tumor on the underside of my liver. The size of the tumor pushed my gallbladder out of its way and caused the malfunction of the organ itself. Several specialists told me the tumor was inoperable. I made the decision to leave my home state of Florida and head to Colorado as a medical marijuana refugee. I knew the state had a medical program. The 13 pharmaceuticals I was on didn’t help me, but everytime I consumed cannabis, I felt some sort of relief.
Not long after arriving in Colorado, I obtained my medical marijuana card and began consuming the plant in all of its forms; topicals, smokeables, tinctures, capsules, edibles, all of it. The pain in my right side reached an all time high. This time the emergency room doctors in Colorado would find what was causing my pain all along, what all the other agonizing tests had missed–a massive stone in my right kidney. I was prepared for emergency surgery. That surgery led to another one due to the fact I have two ureters on my right kidney. Stents were placed and then removed and along with the stent went the stone.
I was finally out of right sided rib pain and was expecting to make a full recovery, that was until my menstrual cycle returned with a vengeance. I had been diagnosed with dysmenorrhea and polycystic ovarian disease years prior, and both conditions began wreaking havoc on my body. The only option I had left was a total abdominal hysterectomy. I was only 29 years old and had to make one of the hardest decisions of my life: my health or the ability to, one day, have a child.
An error was made during the hysterectomy, and my right ureter was sutured down and after four weeks I became septic. I ended up in emergency surgery again, but this time to have a nephrostomy tube placed in an effort to save my kidney. After almost seven agonizing months of wearing the tube down my thigh, they repaired my bladder and ureter in a non-refluxing ureteral reimplantation.
This is a journey of barely surviving to thoroughly thriving, all thanks to cannabis plant medicine.
I was mad at my body and tired of having surgeries. I felt hollow. So many organs had failed me. I felt gutted. I just wanted to be well. My chart had been submitted to the Porter Hospital in Denver, Colorado. They had a specialist transfer from Emory University by the name of Dr. Thomas Heffron. He felt he could remove the tumor from my liver. So, in a 7.5 hour operation, they removed the “inoperable tumor.” This started a whole new chapter of my life.
Insulated. Once the physical pain passed, it became one big mental obstacle. I would need to do so much internal work to come back to who I was, or at least who I wanted to be. I studied herbalism and tried to understand the herbs and plants I had been using that replaced my pharmaceuticals. I took online courses in self healing. I tried to write and journal, but the words would not come out. I sought professional counseling to help me through the roughest patches, and I relied heavily on my friend, cannabis. I studied everything I could about the plant.
I knew that my body could not perform massages or be a nurse for that matter. I went through too much in a short period of time. So, I stepped outside my comfort zone, and I volunteered for a cannabis themed concert being put on for the consumer holiday known as 4/20. That fateful night led to a job offer and before I knew it, I was managing a medical marijuana dispensary. Day by day, I worked to make myself feel whole again.
Rebuilt. Days at the dispensary taught me so much, including why so many people were choosing to use medical cannabis. After a year, my body and mind were ready to return to being a nurse or massage therapist, but with everything I learned, there was no way I could go back to working in a hospital. In 2014, out of pure frustration and an effort to combine everything I had learned, cannabis-infused massage was born. Headlines were quickly made, and Primal Therapeutics took off faster than I could have ever expected. Fellow massage therapists from around the world began reaching out and asking me to teach them.
As of December 2019, I have taught massage therapy in 23 states and in several provinces in Canada and New Zealand. The curriculum I created is called Cannabis Massage 101. Every student remains hungry for more, so I have been working on 102 and plan to release it in 2020. The joy of writing has finally returned, and now my writing has a purpose. A severe fall in 2018 took me away from bodywork and allowed me to focus on creating new products for Primal Healing, the product line I initially created for Primal Therapeutics patients. We now make high CBD products so they can be available to anyone who may need or want them.
I made the transition from barely surviving, to living, to thoroughly thriving all thanks to the cannabis plant. I could have given up. Instead I chose to dedicate my life to the cannabis plant by furthering its education to the masses. Cannabis saved my life on so many levels. The multitude of surgeries did leave me with some side effects. But, now I use cannabis for the symptoms I experience including daily nausea, pain, and discomfort.
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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.