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Tommy Chong

It’s cannabis time!

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Tommy Chong is an icon who continues to lead the cannabis community. His comedic career took off in the 1970s when the legendary Cheech and Chong characters were first born and lived out in their live performances, records, and trailblazing movies like Up in Smoke. Together, the duo began leading a generation and took the cannabis counter culture movement mainstream. They shined a humorous and positive light on cannabis consumers, which shed some of the fears surrounding cannabis and its use. Chong, now 81 years old, continues his journey helping people laugh alongside his longtime comedic partner, Cheech Marin. “Now it’s cannabis time. It’s gone mainstream,” says Chong. The duo went on tour this fall and audiences saw throwbacks from their classic work and heard their thoughts on cannabis legalization as it’s rapidly growing across the world. Chong says, “Oh I’m still in love with cannabis. She’s been so good to me. I love every bit of her. She’s still my best friend. She’s my lover. She’s my angel. She’s my everything.” He first tried cannabis at age 17 and has consumed cannabis his entire life, with the exception of 3 years. He recently overcame rectal and prostate cancer and says, “As far as everything goes, I’m in better shape than I’ve ever been.” 

At the beginning of Cheech and Chong, the country was fighting the Vietnam War, which continued through 1975. Chong currently serves as an Advisory Board Member for NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, which was founded in 1970 by Keith Stroup. Their mission is to move public opinion sufficiently to achieve the legalization of cannabis in the United States so the responsible use by adults is no longer subject to penalty. Chong says, “It really affected life, especially during the Vietnam War. It actually helped stop it, or at least brought people’s attention to it. I’ve always said marijuana will save the world, and I’m right.”

He became a leader during the 1970s and continues to advocate through comedy. Out of everything he’s accomplished he says he’s most proud to be, “Working with my family. My wife, Shelby, is my partner on stage and as a wife. When Cheech and I broke up she stepped in and she became my partner. That’s one of the proudest things that ever happened to me, because it’s very rare. So, my proudest accomplishment is being on stage with my wife every night. I’m very proud of that.” He continues working with his family and is starring in a new television show called, Tommy Chong’s Pipe Dreams. He feels the show is changing a lot of things and is among the most unforgettable shows of our time. Shelby stars on the show alongside him. Shelby doesn’t smoke cannabis and never did, but she does use edibles. “She loves her gummy bears and chocolates and has her own private stash that I better not go near. She also likes topicals and she’s planning on launching a line of her own marijuana based creams.” He’s excited for the future and says, “I just scratched the surface of my comedy, even though I’ve done all the movies. There was never a one and done, one always led to another. So the new show is a game changer for everybody that sees it. My aim is to reassure people that you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be. Every one of us. There’s no one that’s out of place. If you feel uneasy about where you’re at. That’s a good sign. If you feel comfortable where you’re at that’s also a good sign. What it means is that we’re all alive and we’re experiencing it.”

In reference to the rise of cannabis use in seniors, Chong tells us, “We all have aches and pains and we all need to sleep and eat. Cannabis helps with all those areas. We all need to be healthy and we all need to forget our problems. So it just works perfectly for seniors.” For others interested in using cannabis, he recommends edibles at bedtime. “If they have pain they can use marijuana salve, which is also good for sleeping. You can put it on your head or the back of your neck and it works really well. If they’re smokers, they can smoke a joint or a bowl. I wouldn’t recommend dabbing right away. When you smoke you put your ‘worry brain’ on vacation. That’s what you want to do. You forget bad habits and that’s what it helps you do. I quit smoking because every time I felt like a cigarette I would light a joint and I would take a couple of tokes and I’d be fine. When I felt like a cigarette again. I’d light it up again. It took a year before the nicotine got out of my system, but I quit smoking with the help of cannabis.”

The plant continues to help Chong daily, and he smokes live with his fans on his Tommy Chong App once a day. He says, “Now you go to any dispensary, and it looks like a lineup to see Jesus to get healed. They’re on their crutches or on their canes. There’s MS patients and people with mental problems. There’s people with epilepsy and all those people with neurological problems. They need the cannabis. And it’s not a joke. It’s very serious to these people.” In addition to advocating for legal cannabis use for others, Chong knows the value hemp brings to the world. “We wouldn’t have all these plastic problems we have now had we kept hemp, because it made the best paper. Anything could be wrapped in hemp paper and it doesn’t hurt the environment. Hemp can also be used like plastic. Henry Ford made a car and the body of the car was made out of hemp and it ran with hemp oil.” He says having hemp in the supply line was beneficial, but they broke the chain and now we’re going through the climate crisis because of the fossil fuel industry and paying the price for it now.

I’ve always said marijuana will save the world, and I’m right.

Looking back on his life, some of the best advice he should’ve taken, but didn’t, was the warning he received in 2003. “We got the warning, but I figured, nah, they aren’t going to bust you for making bongs. But they did.” Chong spent 9 months in jail and says he really enjoyed his time there and learned a lot. This was during the time he was required to quit smoking cannabis for around 3 years. While serving his time in jail, he was often offered free cannabis. “They tried to bust me. They had snitches offer me free weed, and I turned it down each time. After each time, they drug tested me right afterwards. I would have been doing more time in jail had I fell for it, but I resisted.”

Chong has decades of cannabis experience and launched his own line of cannabis in 2016. “Cannabis works on the brain with our receptors. Cannabis and humans have a lot in common. Cannabis really reminds us constantly of who we are and slows the brain down and makes us appreciate life.” During his time consuming cannabis, one of the most surprising locations he’s ever smoked was at George Bush Sr and Junior’s house in Midland, Texas. He’s also smoked a joint on top of the empire state building. If he could introduce one person to cannabis, it would be Melania Trump. “I think she needs it.” He also fondly remembers smoking with George Harrison of the Beatles. “He was the only one of the Beatles I got to know personally. He played the guitar on one of our Cheech and Chong Basketball Jones. George played the introduction to it. I almost got high with John, but he was worried about his immigration status. Ringo was a recovering alcoholic. I haven’t got high with Paul yet. That’s on my bucket list, to get high with Paul.” Chong has a long list of memorable people he’s smoked with, “Cheech and I played basketball, and we smoked up with Bob Dylan.”

Throughout his life, one of the people who inspired him is Moses. He used to think it was Jesus, but his life was cut short. “Moses made it to the end. He was the one the burning bush talked to. Moses is my inspiration because he was raised in a royal family and he was taught all the secrets of the Pharaohs, and then he led his people out of bondage into freedom.” Chong says he’s a student of the Bible, both the old and new testaments. “The secrets are all there. I’ve been shown the proper way to interpret the bible and it has gotten me to where I am today. I went to Bible camp when I was 8 years old. I learned how to pray and that’s very important. Prayer is much like meditation. You’re really talking to yourself. That’s why you eliminate the thought of a far away God or some kind of god you can deal with. Like, hey God, you do this and I will do that. There is no such thing, it’s just you. I realized that early in life when I was very young and therefore I found the path to success and I’m still on it and I still will be on it. Part of the knowledge I gained was to forgive and let people live their own lives. As they say in yoga, stay on your own towel. That’s what I’ve done all my life, and I’ll continue to.”

It took a year before the nicotine got out of my system, but I quit smoking with the help of cannabis.

Part of Chong’s success comes from his superpower. “I have a superpower. I do, and I know it. The superpower really is keeping your mouth shut. That’s the superpower. That’s the hardest thing in the world to do, you know, because you can’t tell a spoiler for a movie. I have a bad habit. I see a movie and I want to tell everybody all about the movie. My son tells me, ‘Shut up Dad. Don’t tell me anything.’ That’s what life’s all about. My superpower is knowing that everybody’s on their own path. Everybody’s on their own journey and the best you can do is encourage them and help them when you can, but the best thing is to keep your mouth shut. That’s my superpower. Knowing that. Also knowing that you can’t help people. You know people have to struggle through life. Unless they ask you, but people have to learn the lesson, whatever the lesson may be. You’ve got to remember that we are eternal beings. We’re not just here the one time and then we’re gone forever. Nothing ever leaves this earth. Every drop of water that was here in the beginning is still in one form or another. We’re 90% water. We’ve always been here. We’re just like a thought in a mind of a god. That’s exactly what we are. All of us are just one thought. One grain of sand, each of us. Knowing that and then knowing you can’t give other people your experience. They have to experience everything themselves. It’s so maddening sometimes. But it all works out.” 

What we have to do is try to help the other person. That’s your only job on Earth is to help others.

Chong recalls his Bible studies and shares, “There’s all good, there’s nothing bad. The Bible says everything that God made was good and everything that God did not make was not made. You see, everything else is an illusion. You can’t have positive without negative when you live in a physical world. You’re going to have both. You’re going to have good and bad. Each experience that we go through is exactly that, it’s experience. And you know how they always say you only learn from your mistakes? Well, for instance, if you’re perfect like say Jesus was, because Jesus never made a mistake. Everybody else did. But Jesus could never make a mistake, because he was only here to show us what it’s like to be godlike on Earth. And that’s what he did. When it was time for him to go, he had to leave. He said something like, ‘If I do not go, the comforter will not come to you.’ In other words, if you keep looking to me for all your goodness, then you’re not going to be able. We are all gods, basically, but we’re all here to learn and learn what it’s like to be whatever everybody’s going through. We’re all going to experience it because eternity gives us the ability to go through every possible physical change that you could think of on this planet. Then, when that’s done, there’ll be another and another and another; it never ends. The only thing there is an ending to is our knowledge. A lot of us are limited. We are only shown so much and then we have to figure everything out ourselves. That’s the way it is with life. This is very advanced teaching by the way. There is no such thing as good or bad. There just is. And when you realize it like I do, then you do what you gotta do. You shut the fuck up and let everybody figure it out for themselves, because everybody will and can.”

Experience and figuring things out himself have clearly helped shape and define Chong’s career, and outlook on life. Another big influence in his life is obviously cannabis. He has love for the plant and believes in its ability to inspire others. “Cannabis inspired Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and they changed our world.” The movement isn’t just about cannabis, it’s other plant medicine and expanding knowledge. Chong even says cannabis legalization is leading the way for other psychedelic plant medicines and has been for decades. He isn’t finished and has a goal to be on stage a lot longer. “I’m 81. George Burns said he wanted to be on stage doing standup when he was 100. I want to get on stage and say, ‘Hey George, I beat you.” 

After he and Cheech took the stage for their comedy tour across the US and Canada in 2019, he’s already working towards that goal! More than just a comedian, we’re honored to share Chong’s knowledge and insight while he continues to lead a movement for freedom through comedy. Chong may have became an inspirational leader through his legendary comedy long ago, but he still continues to lead in advocating for the plant and making people laugh along the way. “What we have to do is try to help the other person. That’s your only job on Earth is to help others.”

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Turmeric

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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.

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Psilocybin + Magic Mushrooms

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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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Ginkgo Biloba

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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.

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