If there are any synthetic or plant-based medicines that are deserving of the lofty term miracle, it would indeed be CBD. It’s been a long time since a new molecule, one that has such a broad spectrum of applications, has entered the world food supply. For almost five hundred years, we’ve waited for the sixth member of this rarified pantheon of plant molecules, and every new discovery about it astounds.
The miracle aspect of this plant medicine is threefold.
First, we know that the reason cannabinoids act so profoundly on perhaps more than 30,000 different disease conditions is because the endocannabinoid system itself is a linchpin. It’s enhanced by the entourage effect from all of the other cannabinoids working synergistically alongside it. That is, an enormous number of diseases are closely associated with the broad array of subsystems in the body that the endocannabinoid system controls. This is the system which controls mood, inflammation and a score of other important bodily functions, which in turn can be mapped to a large host of diseases.
Second, it is remarkably safe. This is primarily because plantbased chemicals evolve in a biosphere with the kind of synergy and balance with which we have also evolved. It is not hard to understand why a chemical compound invented in the computer of a pharmaceutical company laboratory and then synthesized is not only foreign to the human body, but that the scientific method cannot, even in principle, discover all of the ways that this non-synergistic molecule can cause side effects, some of which only become apparent after many years. Evolution works in a gentle experimental process of trial and error and balance and synergy that takes millions of years to perfect. The endocannabinoid system, along with all the plants that interact with us in nature, is, in this sense, harmonious. This is in stark contrast to the risky experiment of placing a synthetic compound in the body that was produced overnight, relative to the synergistic process that nature exhibits over millions of years.
Third, this particular plant medicine is also produced by our own bodies. Using it optimizes our endocannabinoid system. Just as all roads led to the ancient city of Rome, countless “roads,” in the form of other bodily functions and related disease conditions, lead directly or indirectly to this system. It is crucial to our health for it to work well.
In the last days of writing this book, we still to continue to discover new ways that CBD can make us well. We’ve found that mice with pancreatic cancer that were treated with CBD alongside chemotherapy survived almost three times longer than those treated with chemotherapy alone.1 Every year, 55,440 adults in the US are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, with that disease inordinately affecting people of color. Professor Marco Falasca from Queen Mary University of London says that the low life expectancy for pancreatic cancer patients has barely changed in the last forty years. “Given the five-year survival rate for people with pancreatic cancer is less than seven percent, the discovery of new treatments and therapeutic strategies is urgently needed. If we can reproduce these effects in humans, cannabidiol could be in use in cancer clinics almost immediately,” he says.
Journalist Martin Lee agrees. “You’re talking about life and death,” he says. “You’re talking about very difficult choices that people have to make. How am I going to deal with my cancer? Am I going to go the whole natural route? Make the decision based on information that’s reliable, that’s proven and that makes some sense, so you can make a determination. When you combine CBD with a standard chemotherapy agent, typically what happens is that it makes it work more powerfully, meaning they you don’t need to use as much. If you can pursue a course of treatment with a lower dose of a very toxic chemotherapy agent, because you’re combining it with cannabinoids CBD, THC or both, wow, that’s a great way of taking advantage of a drug interaction.”
In 2018, we’ve also found new ways for CBD to decrease tumor growth, inhibit and destroy cancer cells and decrease cancer cell migration.2 We’ve explored how it can decrease and, in some cases, eliminate the effects of neurodegenerative disorders.3 We have also found that it can have extremely positive effects on patients with schizophrenia who have had difficulties with standard pharmaceuticals.4 We’ve started to unpack how CBD can solve the autoimmune impacts of multiple sclerosis on the human body.5
A new mission for health in America
My mission is to use plant medicine to heal a nation in mental and physical pain.
In the United States, we need a new set of rules. We need to make a radical difference in how we look at our health and our priorities for making ourselves well.
The US spends $3.3 trillion on health care per year, and, as we now know, an enormous amount of our disease is directly caused by the pharmaceuticals and food chemicals we put in our bodies. Safe and often far more effective plant medicines should be displacing a large amount of the dangerous, side-effect-laden Big Pharma products. We need to prioritize individual health education. For those worried about their personal health and lifespan, this education and the resulting changes to how we live will result in a profoundly better life with less disease and longer lives. There is no higher calling than helping to alleviate our mental and physical disease state.
The first time that we heard about CBD in the mass media may have been when Janie Maedler’s daughter Rylie’s bone cancer reached the evening news. Even the story of Charlotte Figi, who was having 300 grand mal seizures a week, didn’t permeate the media stratosphere until very recently. It took these children, however, to ensure that the message about CBD began to take hold.
Given the strain that we put ourselves under, I’m not proud to be an American sometimes, but I am grateful to be an American. I support our democracy, but I also need to argue that democracy and capitalism are not the same thing, and I believe that, when it comes to our health, these doctrines have become conflated. It would be easy for someone who confuses those two terms to accuse me of being anti-American or anti-democratic, but I believe that we benefit from our freedom to make choices that result in our health and wealth. While there are dogmatic practitioners of medicines on both sides of the herbology and allopathic medicine spectrum, patients and health consumers have long been being victims of the exaggerated hype presented as fact from both sides. I’m grateful to be a part of this nation because, like all of us, I think we can do better.
I think we can achieve the health and wellness we deserve as human beings, and I think that we can achieve this with the mentally and physically soothing qualities provided by CBD.
But that’s the thing: I think we’re already doing it.
The world is maturing ethically as we shift from me to we, although sometimes it seems like that change is not happening fast enough. The thing about exponential change is that it sneaks up on you. We already know that the health landscape will change far faster than one can anticipate by looking at the last few years of research into CBD and its effects. The reason that we know we’re at this tipping point is because we can see the critical mass shifting the status quo in the medical, research, social and even the political realms of our lives. Exponential change looks linear for a while, but we’ve recently entered into the inflection point, where an exponential curve shows its true colors of radical and nearly overnight sweeping change.
We talked about punctuation events earlier in this book. Remember, we’re literally built to change our behaviors and our minds when we’re exposed to a massive change in our world. But here’s the amazing thing. Once we started on this pathway of change, the sharing of information between everyone on the planet, and their new needs and interests, is creating exponential growth of connection and consideration of plant medicine.
Consider this example.
You’re deciding where to put nametags at each of the sixteen seats at a circular table for the immediate family members of a bride and groom at a wedding banquet. You play around with different combinations to make sure that the dinner conversation is as lively as possible. You may try one combination where you sit your mother next to your mother-in-law and decide that that doesn’t work. But how many possible ways can you arrange these people around the table? Exponential combinatorics tells us that there are about 21 trillion ways to position the people. Adding only one additional person to increase the table numbers to seventeen people increases the number of possibilities by 334,764,638,208,000 more than the original 21 trillion.
As we think about how the quantity of species and resulting complexity of a biosphere increases, the complexity of decision-making and information sharing in our world increases. As we add new websites and knowledge and humans exchanging information on the internet, the emergent flows of information, which are in no way the sum of the individual parts, grow at a rate so exponentially fast that all of the world’s supercomputers could not possibly compute it or model it even if given a computation time equal to the age of the universe.
And it is this mysterious and non-computable form of emergent information, almost an intelligence, that is strongly guiding the evolution of this mind-like neural network formed by the unprecedented connectivity between members of the human species.
In this new punctuation event context, the appropriate role of government is not to enforce certain standards of morality through the restriction of medicines to a specific corporate-driven space. What the history of Prohibition has shown us is that the broad application of moral standards to a diverse population is likely to have deleterious effects, especially in a country where personal freedoms are highly valued. A moral high ground is not possible when people do not all share the same beliefs, and, in fact, historical evidence shows that imposing values and ideals fails because it makes a population question why that imposition is necessary. The reality of our collective psychology is that we, as human beings, want to push back against such controls. Instead, the government needs to act as a social structure that is the ultimate safety net when things go wrong. Through preventative and reactive health care, those few who need help could be served without dampening the ability of the individual to choose their own life pathway.
Why is it that we are more mentally and physically sick then the rest of the world if our medical technology and our pharmaceutical solutions are supposed to be world-leading? Social beliefs have an impact on our physical and mental health, and money-driven corporations are allowed unprecedented freedom to profoundly influence the dietary behavior of an entire nation.
We need healing at a mass population scale, and we need it fast. We’ve let corporations take control of our health. We’ve taken drugs that cause depression, delusion and paranoia on a broad scale. We’ve eaten things we shouldn’t. We have lived a life of self-inflicted trauma because of bigotry and sexism.
Even worse, we continue to feed the beast. We’re sick, stressed and all fucked up. People are prematurely dying after living lives full of mental and physical pain. Our bipartisan, divided government isn’t about to fix the health care crisis. Big Pharma and Big Food, which helped get us into this state of dire sickness, are entrenched in their do-harm-for-profit model. We constantly remind ourselves of the danger and fear out there, and now we’re stuck with such a high level of subthreshold PTSD that our nervous systems are telling us there’s constant danger out there. We feed off these processes more than most nations in the world. Our needs have not been met, and we don’t know how to get out of the fearful place we’re in.
As inarguable data shows, in large part, we Americans are wasting our health and enjoyment of life simply by virtue of what we put in our bodies. The problem is pandemic in this country. And the deep question is “Why?” If the science and statistics are truly as clear as they are, how is it that our state and federal governments, doctors and nonprofit health organizations are not attacking the problem? How is it, in a democracy, that food and drug corporations can get away with preventing facts from being clearly communicated by health agencies and doctors there to protect us? We place too much authority over our health in the hands of doctors. If we’re dying of diabetes or heart disease or suffering from depression, we typically see them for a few minutes to get prescription to a drug with serious side effects. Then we see them again until it’s time for surgery or a harsher drug “upgrade.”
I know that we’re not going to solve these problems easily. The public should support the efforts of the lobbyists trying to do the right thing to change our laws. But as health consumers, we deserve better. As members of a democracy, we deserve better.
Old pathways to new knowledge
How much kinder, gentler and happier could America be if we weren’t influenced by the psychosis and fear-inducing side effects of prescription opioids, amphetamines and antidepressants? What might we be like if we were more relaxed and stress-free as a nation?
As ethnobotanist Nancy Turner says, the United States has been shifting slowly but surely toward accepting Indigenous knowledge patterns about plant medicine and its value since the 1960s. By the 1990s, non-Indigenous people had started on a path to a definite revitalization and renewal in learning Indigenous knowledges. We know that there are medical care and self-care options available to us that we haven’t considered for hundreds of years.
So let’s do better.
Washington state biologist Jennifer Lanksbury is still concerned. She says that we need to look at the big picture. She says we need to be aware of the pharmaceutical products we use and how they make their way into the environment, because if we don’t shift now, the toll will be enormous. “Humans take drugs in all the places that we live. Anywhere where there’s a dense human population, you’re likely going to be seeing these chemicals making their way into the water and the soil. Wastewater treatment plants can only remove some of them. We have to find a way to reduce the input of those chemicals into our waters because they’re affecting all of us,” she says.
Hemp is an unusual plant, though.
The same plants that we use to grow CBD act to actively pull up toxins from the soil that have been there for millennia.6 We’re not going to use those plants as medicine, but they have the exact same effect on our ecosystems that they have on our nervous systems. Hemp has showed a phytoremediation potential of 126 grams of cadmium and 50 milligrams of chromium, and it directly degrades aromatic hydrocarbons, nitroaromatic compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls, dioxins, PCBs, PAHs and even nitroaromatic explosives at a rate that cannot even be compared to other agricultural crops like wheat or corn.
Hemp is environmental medicine.7 We can use hemp for healing and remediating the damage we have done by releasing toxic chemicals on every square inch of the land mass of this country that we hold so very dear. Hemp is one of the most logical solutions for our contaminated soils worldwide, as much as it can help us personally.
There is no top-down conspiracy in American health care.
The conspiracy lies within ourselves. We have simply chosen, in large part, not to educate ourselves on how to make ourselves well, how to eat, how to live in our changing environment and what we can do to change our lives for the better. As a result, we have become sheep being herded by the mindless machine of a complicated system of laws that allows corporations to do what they’re designed to do—make money in any way that is not illegal. By allowing ourselves to remain ignorant, and passing this responsibility to family doctors who are surprisingly uneducated on the medical literature connecting diet to disease, we end up allowing our two forms of power to go to waste: our voting dollars as consumers, and our power to create laws by calling our congresspeople and using our political voting rights. Even as technology exponentially increases, our education about the most foundational cause of our alarming mental and physical health crises only improves at a snail’s pace.
We deserve better. But it is up to us to take our health education into our own hands.
When we think about the impact of CBD on an individual, as we have seen in the case studies in every chapter of this book, we can observe that it changes lives. It makes the very ill well, and it offers a second chance at a happy, healthy life to some people who have been given a death sentence by their physicians. It’s provided a lifeline to small children and to the frail elderly.
Stop for a second and think about what will happen when group of people are able to take CBD. A community. A nation. Think about our political conversations, our flows of goods and services, entertainment, international relationships and the way that we manage our relationship with our biosphere and everything in it, including plants and animals. Think about what could be possible if everyone had access to this plant medicine. To all plant medicines.
The only way to get there is through cooperation. How we cooperate is linked to our state of health and consciousness. How we bring humanity back into harmony with ourselves, with others, with the world and the universe is connected to our ability to align ourselves with what is healing. Once we have healthy and happy cities and nations, we can begin to dance harmoniously with everything in our biosphere.
We must begin with our own bodies, with our own self-knowledge and awareness of what is possible.
Know that it is possible.
1. [Queen Mary University of London. (2018, July 30). Cannabinoid improves survival rates of mice with pancreatic cancer. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180730160618.htm]↩
2. [Capozzi, A., Mattei, V., Martellucci, S., Manganelli, V., Saccomanni, G., Garofalo, T. , . . . & Misasi, R. (2018). Anti-proliferative properties and proapoptotic function of new CB2 selective cannabinoid receptor agonist in jurkat leukemia cells. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 19(7).]↩
3. [Fernández-Ruiz, J. (2018). The biomedical challenge of neurodegenerative disorders: an opportunity for cannabinoid-based therapies to improve on the poor current therapeutic outcomes. British Journal of Pharmacology. https://doi.org/10.1111/bph.14382]↩
4. [Crippa, J.A., Zuardi, A.W., & Guimaraes, F.S. (2018). 17.4 Possible mechanisms involved in the antipsychotic effects of cannabidiol (CBD). Schizophrenia Bulletin, 44(Suppl 1), S28; McGuire, P., Robson, P., Cubała, W., Vasile, D., Morrison, P., Barron, R. , . . . & Wright, S. (2018). 17.1 A randomized controlled trial of cannabidiol in schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 44(suppl_1), S27.]↩
5. [Elliott, D.M., Singh, N., Nagarkatti, M., & Nagarkatti, P. (2018). Cannabidiol attenuates experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis model of multiple sclerosis through induction of myeloid-derived suppressor cells. Frontiers in Immunology, 9, 1782.]↩
6. [Linger, P., Müssig, J., Fischer, H. & Kobert, J. (2002). Industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) growing on heavy metal contaminated soil: fibre quality and phytoremediation potential. Industrial Crops and Products, 16(1), 33–42; Singh, O.V. & Jain, R.K. (2003). Phytoremediation of toxic aromatic pollutants from soil. Applied microbiology and biotechnology, 63(2), 128–135; Ramana, S., Biswas, A.K., Singh, A.B., Ajay, Ahirwar, N.K., Prasad, R.D. & Srivastava, S. (2015). Potential of Mauritius Hemp (Furcraea gigantea Vent.) for the remediation of chromium contaminated soils. International journal of phytoremediation, 17(7), 709–715.]↩
7. [Singh, O.V. & Jain, R.K.]↩