Like many women who enter the cannabis space, Mary Carniglia strives to reverse the negative stigma associated with the plant, and as Patient Educator and Administrative Coordinator for a cannabis evaluation clinic in Denver CO, she gets plenty of opportunity to do exactly this. But her motivations have even deeper roots.
One day, Mary learned through a cousin that her great-great uncle Harry Anslinger had taken a major role in cannabis prohibition. “All I could say was, WHAT?!” Mary says. “At that point, I felt an obligation to be a part of un-screwing-up what he screwed up.”
Mary’s first experiences with cannabis came suddenly, and with some unexpected side-effects. While waiting for a friend to arrive home, she was offered a gravity bong hit by her friend’s husband. “I fell asleep before my friend came home,” Mary muses. “At that point, I began to unravel what I had been told about cannabis vs. what it was really like.”
“All I could say was, WHAT?! At that point, I felt an obligation to be a part of un-screwing-up what he screwed up.”
Over the next several years, Mary began exploring cannabis more actively and found her life enriched more and more. From the long, dynamic conversations she had with her boyfriend shared while on medicated walks, to the nausea relief she experienced during occasional migraines—cannabis was becoming an important and positive part of Mary’s life. She was eager to speak out about how it was helping her and others around the world, until her voice was stifled by an unsettling experience.
After being pulled over for having out-of-date plates, Mary was illegally searched by a police officer who found a leftover joint in her purse. The officer forced her into the back of his police car, took $80 out of her wallet, and threatened to assault her if he ever caught her again. Mary walked away from the experience physically unharmed but frightened for her rights and well-being.
“After that, I clammed up. I was terrified of letting anyone know I consumed or supported. It was unsafe on a completely different level than I had ever imagined,” Mary says. “So, I decided to bide my time.”
When laws in her home state didn’t gain as much traction as she hoped, Mary decided that she needed to take a more active role in the movement. And so, move she did – to Denver, CO.
“My main focus when I relocated was to have a safe place to be loud,” says Mary. “To be loud about updating wording on laws – to be loud about helping to unroll and end prohibition and give language to other states to help legalization efforts – and to openly learn and educate about the science behind the plant.”
This passion ultimately landed Mary a position as Volunteer Coordinator for a large medical cannabis conference in Denver.
“It was my first job in the industry and provided me a huge education on the science behind cannabis, what studies were happening, and where the industry was as a whole,” says Mary. Today, Mary spends her days in a dynamic role at the clinic answering patient inquiries on cannabinoid education, cannabis law, and other varied topics while scheduling patients.
“Sometimes they are calling from out of town, sometimes they are flying in for an evaluation, and sometimes they are in other states and want to know what to do and how. Those can turn into lengthy conversations, but I give them the best and as much info as I can,” Mary says.
When she has a chance, she heads to the capitol to help provide testimony on behalf of the clinic for bills involving qualifying conditions, patient rights, and other topics designed to provide ease to the patient population. She also gathers with local doctors and members of the community for Cannabis Clinician Colorado’s monthly meeting, where presentations and lectures are offered to provide updates on recent research and legislative changes that may affect doctors writing cannabis recommendations.
Mary’s tireless advocacy and bubbly passion for patient care is admirable, but at the end of the day, she just loves weed.
“Can I say that?!” Mary laughs, “Because I do! It makes everything better. It makes life in general more comfortable. I’m bummed that people have such poor misconceptions due to a fear of the unknown. Cannabis is not something that takes away, but enhances, your life.”
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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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