At some point in our lives, most of us will or have suffered from chronic pain, inflammation, fatigue, stress, or just a general lack of motivation. As the legalized cannabis industry grows, and the stigma around cannabis diminishes, the plant’s potential as a natural source of relief is becoming increasingly recognized. So, how is it being used effectively?
Connecticut-based registered nurse practitioner Kebra Smith-Bolden has found several real-life examples of how cannabis can effectively address medical issues. As founder of the state’s Women Grow chapter, Kebra has also established CannaHealth, a medical cannabis certification and advocacy business. These experiences have informed her of how the rise of medical cannabis is supporting a wide diversity of people dealing with different ailments.
These benefits have even extended to Kebra’s own family. In 2012, her 88-year-old grandmother suffered a brain aneurysm. “She was very active – she drove, had a boyfriend, was a pillar of the community,” said Kebra, “but the aneurysm devastated her mind and body.” After her hospital stay, she came to live with Kebra, but had motivational issues as she continued with home-based rehabilitation. “They were about to discharge her because of lack of progress. She just wouldn’t participate,” recalled Kebra. “I wanted to figure this out.”
One day, the answer came to her. Kebra remembered her grandmother telling her that, as an arthritis-remedy, she used to smoke a joint and take a bath to get her body active in the mornings. “Luckily, the caregiver that was supporting my grandmother also happened to be a cannabis consumer. So [as a remedy], she integrated cannabis into my grandmother’s morning routines, and eventually she was able to participate again in rehab. She was no longer despondent.”
Kebra was amazed by the transformation. “She started using a walker, and her appetite returned; she was engaged with family and friends, and was even able to attend church,” said Kebra. “It just opened my eyes to the power of cannabis.”
The experience made a big impression. “As a registered nurse practitioner, I would go to people’s homes and give them piles and piles of pills, which was [often] ineffective. The results I saw from integrating medical cannabis were extremely effective,” Kebra said. She decided to attend the Massachusetts-based, North Eastern Institute of Cannabis, to learn more about the science and medicinal qualities of the plant.
“Cannabis is a medicine, and I wanted to find a way to integrate this into my work, as a nurse,” said Kebra. So she started CannaHealth, a medical cannabis certification center. Founded in July 2017, her health and wellness business began supporting communities throughout Connecticut, with the goal of going national. “We need to have access to safe, natural medicine for our communities, but we also need to be safe from criminalization. So I want to help everyone get their medical cannabis cards.”
Strong evidence is showing support for the benefits of medical cannabis, primarily through the plant’s relationship with the human endocannabinoid system (ECS). Endocannabinoids are naturally occurring chemicals produced throughout the body, serving a wide variety of functions, ranging from improving metabolism to treating the inflammatory immune functions to seizures and more.
Studies are finding that consuming cannabis can increase the presence of endocannabinoids, which are often reduced as a result of chronic stress. Some research points to the possibility that the reduction of endocannabinoids could be a major cause of anxiety issues.
Tanya Osborne, Market Leader of the Women Grow New York chapter, has witnessed this first-hand. She uses cannabis to ease anxiety, and has also witnessed the plant’s diverse benefits from her uncle’s personal experience of using cannabis as a source of support during his cancer treatment.
“He was already a consumer so he just knew that cannabis was going to be part of his protocol, in addition to chemotherapy and all the traditional treatments,” explained Tanya. “He lived for a full 16 years with cancer. He was also a Vietnam Veteran, and cannabis helped him manage post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) tremendously well. It was just amazing what the plant did for him.”
Regarding Tanya’s personal consumption habits, she has found a balance that works well for her. She uses a combination of primarily CBD-based strains in the morning or daytime, and THC-based strains in the evening to help her sleep soundly. “For me, with my anxiety, the effects of cannabis just give me a moment to breathe.”
“What I’m learning is that CBD is very effective for symptoms that have to do with nerves, inflammation, arthritis, knee pain, and back pain,” said Tanya. “I have carpal tunnel syndrome, and literally every time I get a flare up, I slather CBD oil on.” Prior to that, she would get an annual steroid shot. “I haven’t gotten a shot since I first joined the Women Grow community in 2015!”
As cannabis becomes normalized as a common source of support for the medical community, it will benefit from the input of scientific experts to illuminate exactly how and why cannabis can support a myriad of health conditions.
“I just see people getting relief,” said Tanya. “And it’s a testament to the power of the plant.”
By Anicee Gaddis
Photo by Saty + Pratha
Van der Pop does not condone or endorse the illegal consumption of cannabis. This article is not meant as medical advice. Prior to using cannabis for medical purposes, please consult your physician.