Utilizing the discipline she deployed as a U.S. Marine, Caroline Covone wakes up at 6 o’clock every morning in Southwest Florida and makes a piping-hot pot of coffee with a few drops of Girl Scout Cookies tincture in her mug to help with near-constant pain resulting from multiple unsuccessful knee surgeries. She then makes a fresh, healthy lunch from scratch for her daughter, complete with fruits and vegetables cut in fun shapes.
Before the family wakes up, she tidies the household getting everything ready for the day. When her daughter wakes up, she feeds her breakfast and takes her to school. Caroline then ventures to the gym to work out, followed by physical therapy. She focuses on her physical well-being by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly, believing that if you take care of your body it will take care of you. She smears CBD cream on her leg or takes a few drags from her vape pen to mitigate her pain. An individual with a strong motor, medical marijuana is the only pain relief that allows her to keep her high-functioning fast pace.
As devoted as she is to taking care of herself and her family, she is equally dedicated to helping others. Covone spends her free time volunteering with military veterans. She primarily works with The Grateful Veteran organization which, among many other services, assists veterans by getting them off of addictive opiates and on to medical marijuana to soothe their ailments; she is a weed warrior.
Covone spent four years as a Marine, enlisting straight out of St. Bartholomew Catholic High School in Pittsburgh, Pa. “As soon as I could, I did.”
She became adamant about joining the service 18 years ago. Nuns pulled students out of class and ushered them into the cafeteria to inform them that the twin towers of the World Trade Center had fallen and America was under attack. Covone had a friend at the time whose father worked in one of the buildings. She recalls the girl getting picked up by her mother in tears and never seeing her friend again.
That “shook me to my core,” she said, because she couldn’t understand why all those innocent people died. As she got older, she heard bits and pieces about the incident until she was old enough to take to the Internet and fully learn the grim truth. “I just made my decision and said I’m going to do something,” she said.
Unfortunately, during her time in the service, she experienced non-combat mental trauma and still suffers from PTSD as a result. As is the case for many veterans, she was prescribed multiple medications to combat her diagnosis, then more medication to counteract the side effects of the original. She couldn’t stand the feeling of not being clear-headed and present in the moment.
Around this time, she also had knee surgery. Then she needed three more to correct mistakes made in the first. She was prescribed more medication. During her recovery, she commiserated with fellow veterans about all of their medications and heard that some of them were getting the same pain relief by using marijuana instead. At that point in time marijuana was illegal in just about every U.S. state, shrouded in the stigma that has surrounded weed for decades.
Florida voters legalized medical marijuana in 2016, yet the stigma still plagues the patients who use it simply to make it through the day. Covone not only struggles with that and the judgement that comes with being a mother who uses marijuana as medicine. “I think people are scared to say anything, especially women, and especially mothers because they know that people still view marijuana as a drug and people think that you can’t function… but that isn’t true in the least bit.
“If it was not for the medical marijuana,” Covone says, ”I wouldn’t be able to get up and do the things that I do.”
In the future, Covone wants to study to become a nutritionist, a desire based in her love for using food to keep her body as strong as possible. She says she will likely never stop helping veterans. As Covone speaks, her passion for helping others is evident. For her, volunteering is a choice but also a compulsion. She seems very aware that though she has her struggles, there are people out there who have circumstances far worse. Worse yet, they are not getting proper guidance and support. In her eyes, the least she can do is volunteer some time and knowledge to help people find the right path for them.
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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.