One of the most promising aspects of the current global wave of cannabis legalization is the hope for relief it sometimes provides to the desperate parents of extremely sick children. In many cases, conventional drugs and therapies are found to be ineffective, forcing their parents or caregivers to seek alternative avenues of treatment.
One of the alternative therapies frequently investigated is hemp or cannabis. Many patients have demonstrated significant and life-altering relief from special concentrates and oils derived from the cannabis plant. A slew of anecdotal reports—and an increasing volume of pre-clinical research studies and clinical investigations—has revealed children who suffer neurological disorders, including epilepsy, autism, and mitochondrial disease sometimes experience surprising levels of relief from cannabis or hemp oil.
Improvements gained from the administration of such plant-based oils include relief from symptoms like seizure activity, loss of motor control, and one of the most common results of any disease, pain. Some caregivers have reported cognitive and motor coordination improvements in sick children who are given cannabis oil, including the onset of speech, basic problem solving skills, and even milestones such as the ability to feed themselves or walk.
The analgesic properties of the various cannabinoids and terpenes produced by cannabis are of obvious appeal to patients and their caregivers due to the commonality of pain in such a wide variety of disease and condition profiles.
One family knows the benefits of cannabinoids so well, they are fighting for legalization in the United States. Jagger Cotte is a nine-year-old boy living in Georgia who suffers from mitochondrial disease (also called mitochondrial disorder), a rare congenital condition that, according to the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation (UMDF), results from “failures of the mitochondria, specialized compartments present in every cell of the body (except red blood cells).”1
According to the Cleveland Clinic, one in every 5,000 people suffer from a mitochondrial disease. “Each year, about 1,000 to 4,000 children in the United States are born with a mitochondrial disease,” states the organization.2 Due to the sheer number and type of symptoms involved in this disease, including the specific organs involved, it is often mistaken for other ailments.
Many patients have demonstrated significant and life-altering relief from special concentrates and oils derived from the cannabis plant.
The criticality of mitochondria in the maintenance of human health and wellness cannot be over emphasized. Responsible for “Creating more than 90 percent of the energy needed by the body to sustain life and support organ function,” genetic disturbances to the functionality of this cellular mechanism typically result in a significant impact to human health.
Disturbances to mitochondrial functionality can result in severe impacts to cellular function and energy levels. In severe cases of mitochondrial disease, patients suffer cellular breakdown that results in organ failure.
Jagger’s cognitive and motor skill developmental level is roughly that of a six-month-old infant. He is relegated to a feeding tube, having never been capable of feeding himself. At the age of one, doctors predicted that he would not survive until his fourth birthday. He was declared terminal and placed on hospice.
His parents refused to give up their efforts to help their child. Their options within the mainstream medical community having been exhausted, the 30-something couple began pursuing alternative treatments and therapies.
Children with neurological disorders such as Jagger’s suffer from a wide range of symptoms, including severe pain (resulting from muscle cramps and other complications, including paralysis), respiratory failure, and reduced mental capacity. The combination of these conditions paints a bleak picture for parents and their loved ones. Few children suffering mitochondrial disease live beyond the age of four.
During an exclusive interview with GRAM, Jagger’s father, Sebastien Cotte, told us, “Before cannabis, Jagger had episodes of cramping where his pain level was so great that he would scream. He’s nonverbal, so he screams when he’s in pain.”
Sebastien explained how these episodes would occur, on average, four to five times a week, with each featuring a duration of between five minutes and one hour. During the episodes, Jagger suffers extreme cramping and high levels of pain. “His legs were so tight and hard, we couldn’t even bend them,” said Sebastien.
He explained how, after beginning to treat Jagger with cannabis, including THC, he and his wife were able to reduce the occurrence of his episodes to only one or two per week. In addition, treatment with cannabis oil resulted in shorter episodes lasting “only a few minutes.”
When asked how cannabis has helped, Sebastien responded that he believes it has saved his son’s life. “Jagger is alive today because of medical cannabis. We had to move to Colorado to do it, but we got him started on cannabis right before his fourth birthday.”
Sebastien explained how Jagger remains on hospice and is very frail, but “Cannabis has given him a much better quality of life, which in turn is giving him a longer life.” When queried about the specific benefits gained from Jagger’s consumption of cannabis oil, Sebastien cited significant pain and seizure reductions. For seizure activity specifically, occurrence has decreased from about a dozen per day to only two to four. “He’s just a happier, more aware kid overall.”
In a heartwarming testimonial endorsement of the efficacy that cannabis has afforded Jagger, Sebastien explained how, for a brief period, Jagger achieved the motor and mental coordination necessary to achieve the simple act of smiling. Unfortunately, the progression of Jagger’s disease now prevents the coordinated muscular expression of which most parents are the daily recipients.
The genesis for the Cotte family’s investigation of the potential benefits of cannabis oil for Jagger was the 2013 CNN documentary Weed hosted by Dr. Sanjay Gupta. The famous investigative news segment, which brought the issue of cannabis efficacy for human diseases center stage, featured a young child suffering debilitating epilepsy and the significant relief gained from the use of a hemp oil containing CBD.
The Gupta documentary motivated Sebastien to travel to Denver to learn more about how Jagger might gain life-saving benefits from cannabis or hemp oil. While in Denver, he spoke with “anyone who would listen,” including cannabis cultivators, dispensary owners, researchers, and other caregivers. Sebastien and his wife were in the desperate position of having exercised all conventional treatments in Georgia. “We were clearly out of options,” he said. “Everything we could do… anything possible… we had done.”
“We were medical refugees, forced to relocate from Atlanta to Denver to obtain legal cannabis oil for our son, Jagger. Our use of cannabis oil resulted in an extension to Jagger’s life, well beyond the predictions of medical professionals,” he continued.
Unfortunately, the high altitudes of Denver were detrimental to Jagger’s respiratory system. Only 13 months after fleeing to the mountainous Centennial State, the Cotte family was forced to return to Georgia. Not merely disruptive and expensive, the relocation more significantly forced the Cotte family to become criminals, purchasing hemp and cannabis oil on the underground market in an effort to decrease their child’s suffering and extend his life.
In 2013, Sebastien and his wife co-founded Georgia’s Hope, a group comprised of parents fighting for access to safe, legal medical cannabis for their children. The group has an impressive record of helping pass a number of medical cannabis laws in the state of Georgia, some of which achieved national precedents.
We were medical refugees, forced to relocate from Atlanta to Denver to obtain legal cannabis oil for our son, Jagger.
“We are the main group responsible for passing the medical cannabis bills in Georgia during the past five years,” said Sebastien during his interview with GRAM. He explained how the group lobbied the state for improvements in how it regulates its medicinal cannabis program. Georgia’s Hope helped write HB 324, the bill that legalized the cultivation and distribution of medical cannabis in Georgia. “The law is officially called the Georgia’s Hope Act. We are very proud of that.”
The couple’s success in improving Georgia’s medical cannabis program has resulted in additional qualifying conditions for participation in the state’s relatively limited system. “We were able to get mitochondrial disease added to the list of qualifying conditions in Georgia in 2015,” said Sebastien, explaining that their effort resulted in the southern state becoming “the first in the country to add mitochondrial disease” to its list of conditions that permit patients to legally possess and consume cannabis medicine.
In addition to their role in Georgia’s Hope, the Cotte family has joined others in the lawsuit against the U.S. federal government on the grounds that cannabis prohibition is unconstitutional. The outcome of this legal effort, which is slowly progressing through the legal system, could have major implications for the parents of children like Jagger nationwide.
Given a terminal diagnosis and put on hospice at the age of only one, Jagger Cotte celebrated his ninth birthday in September 2019. His parents attribute the simple fact that he is alive to his consumption of cannabis oil.
New research, including human trials, will inevitably reveal more about the complex biochemistry behind the interaction of cannabinoids such as CBD and THC with the human endocannabinoid system. As long as children sometimes gain such marked relief—including reductions in pain and seizure activity and improvements in mobility and cognitive function—parents like the Cottes will continue to do whatever is necessary to legally obtain and consume these health-giving molecules.
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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.
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