There are, arguably, five ingestible plant molecules that have changed the course of how we eat and live, and which have had a massive impact on human history.
Alcohol, the molecule derived from plant fermentation, was the first. Each society discovered how to make it or imported the technology over the course of generations, with the archaeological record showing us that alcoholic drinks existed in the Neolithic period of human history. Distillation, that heady and rich process designed to make alcoholized fruits even more potent, was discovered in the Arabic world. It’s credited to the chemist Al-Kindi, with its application widely known in European and Asian societies by the tenth century CE.1
Sucrose, from plants like sugarcane, beets and corn, was the second of these molecules to be refined for human consumption. While honey was also used to sweeten food, once we learned how to refine sugar in the eighth century BCE in India, all bets were off. The Roman writer Pliny the Elder, describing refined sugar at the time of the explosion of Mount Vesuvius in the first century BCE, said that although there was sugar made in the Arabic world, “Indian sugar is better. It is a kind of a honey found in cane, white as gum, and it crunches between the teeth. Sugar is used only for medical purposes.”2 The health doctrines to which Pliny was referring were linked to Ayurvedic medicine, which suggested that sugar, known as iksu, could be used as a laxative and diuretic, and as a means to increase the production of breast milk. But once it became known how sugar could act as a mental as well as a physical stimulant, its medical use became secondary. Sugar and salivary desire became synonymous, and by the eleventh century CE it was on every family’s table in Europe.
Theobromine, the feel-good plant molecule in chocolate, also became a widely used substance in fast succession. Although it was once confined to ritual uses for the Mayan peoples in Mesoamerica around 500 CE, attacking Aztecs quickly adopted it for both religious and personal uses. It’s likely that the Spanish conquests in the region in the sixteenth century CE influenced its global adoption, but, at the time, Jesuit missionary José de Acosta couldn’t stand the stuff. “Loathsome to such as are not acquainted with it, having a scum or a froth that is very unpleasant to taste,” he said of the chocolate beverage. “Yet it is a drink very much esteemed among the indigenous peoples, wherewith they feast the noble men who pass through their country. The Spaniards, both men and women that are accustomed to the country, are very greedy of this Chocolate.”3
Nicotine is also a plant molecule that has reached global proportions in use. After finding Indigenous communities using tobacco as a medicine, a ritual plant and as a general relaxation practice, Spanish colonizers adopted it and began to plant it near modern Toledo for the personal supply of King Philip II in the sixteenth century CE. It was so popular that it was used as a currency in the Virginia colonies of what was to become the United States,
and it made its way around the world as a cash crop facilitated by the US slave trade from the seventeenth century onwards.4
And finally, there’s caffeine which was used as a plant medicine by Sufi tribes in Yemen and the Oromo in Ethiopia as early as the fifteenth century CE, and it then made its way westward through trading in Turkey. Known as an Arabic beverage, coffee became part of the world diet after being quickly sought after by the Dutch East India Company, which realized its potential for financial gain as early as 1711, when it started to import it to Europe in mass quantities.5
And now, there’s cannabidiol (cbd).
CBD, which has no psychoactive properties, is a possible cure for the American pandemic of physical pain and psychological illnesses. Until recently, cannabinoids (including CBD) were legally suppressed under an 80-year prohibition: a ban of the cannabis plant from which it hails. CBD offers a bounty of health benefits: evidence-based research shows that it can benefit people with cancer, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, obesity, pain, insomnia and countless other health challenges.
This book is the story of uncovering the why behind our American health care legacy in the hope of finding a set of synergistic cures, with CBD being the cornerstone.
come to this exploration from my vantage point as a 23-year veteran of the plant medicine industry. I spent the first phase of my life gaining plant medicine knowledge and building a nutraceutical company, Irwin Naturals, into a market leader that is carried in more than 90,000 stores nationwide including CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, Whole Foods and Costco. Along the way, however, I shifted gears: learning about the plant world inspired me to move toward a role in which I could create high-impact change to understand our globe, and our universe, on a broad scale. I now lead a team at Quantum Gravity Research, studying
fundamental unification physics, doing the best I can to use my creativity and investments in change agency.
CBD is the answer to the question of how to create substantive positive change in the American health care system. After I researched CBD as a treatment for my own chronic pain and tendency toward attention deficit disorder, I knew that I had to find a way to share it with the world. I perceive a beautiful synergy between the personal and societal harmonizing effects of CBD and the need to address our deep pain as a nation.
In this book, we’ll discover why America is a country on the brink, wracked by record levels of mental and physical pain. A din of false pessimism and fear is part of our collective conversation and group psychology as a nation.
We’ll explore why stress and fear influence two important things. The first is our health. Stress creates a breeding ground for disease in our bodies. The second is related to our individual and collective psychologies. Stress changes the way we treat one another and the policies we adopt. It ramps up our conflict with each other and with other nations around the world, as we struggle to find a sense of safety and direction. Nonetheless, physicians treat our mental problems, such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression with prescription opioids, antidepressants, amphetamines and other drugs as if they were candy. These drugs have side effects that include anxiety, kidney damage, heart problems, psychosis and even suicidal and homicidal tendencies.
Despite our financial and scientific prowess, however, we’re still set on continuing on the same health pathway we’ve always followed: blind trust in our ailing health care systems and powering through to wellness by amplifying our reactive health care strategies, like surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and pharmaceuticals. Only by understanding why we follow this path can we hope to evolve toward a new understanding of what it means
to use preventative care practices instead. Preventative care, of which CBD and other plant medicines are a crucial part, is by far the less expensive, more effective and less problematic option.
On our way through this analysis, we will meet inspiring people who reached the end of their ropes with various mental and physical illnesses and who have found CBD to be a virtual miracle cure. We will learn how it may be the single most impactful thing we can consume to reduce our outrageous rate of mental illness and other diseases—even weaning ourselves off our record-breaking consumption of the majority of the world’s prescription drugs. We will discuss an optimistic but realistic vision of how much kinder, gentler and happier America might be if plant medicines were at the center of our health care system.
What might we be like if we were more relaxed and stress-free as a nation?
I hope to play a critical role in this process by increasing access to CBD in the United States and around the world—by trying to make CBD much more affordable and easily available to everyone. I’ve been dipping back into the business realm for a few months, temporarily distracted from my physics mission, to help my company Irwin Naturals move CBD into the mass market. We’re actually trying to make CBD products more accessible than any other company in the business, setting pricing as low as we possibly can, literally a tiny fraction of what it currently costs in the open market. In doing so, our company is buzzing with the excitement of a new purpose: service to others. Our team of long-time employees in Los Angeles have undergone a cultural shift from me to we, toward a new commitment to altruism and societal purpose. We’re fighting for people to have universal access so that they can be healthier, more productive and happier.
To that end, I’m not publishing this book to make money. All proceeds from the book will go to support cannabinoid-related research. I will do whatever it takes to serve others and contribute toward making our community a better place, where everyone has access to the plant medicines we need. CBD is only the beginning of this journey.
I want to thank a number of people for assisting in the research and development of this book. I would not have been able to move forward in this process without the long-term support of my closest advisors, Stephanie Nadanarajah and Keith A. Powers. The development of the book owes a debt of gratitude to Lisa Thomas-Tench for her mastery of language and research, as well as my amazing editor, Amanda Lewis. I am thankful for the commitment in supporting the quick launch of this book provided by my publisher Trena White and her team at Page Two. I am grateful for the in-depth social research completed by Carolyn Schmidt and David Jakubovic, and the interview transcript work led by Tamarah Ackland. Without the heartfelt and moving contributions of all of our interviewees, listed at the back of this book, this story could not have been written. I also want to give thanks to my mother. She made sure that I had access to a good education despite not having the means for much else. In her last days living with breast cancer, she learned about and encouraged me to look into CBD. I just wish we had known then how powerful this molecule is and how to use it. Finally, I owe my thanks to my friend Peter Diamandis for challenging me, over ten years ago, to think differently about making an indelible impact on the world and, in fact, on the universe.
Los Angeles . August 2018
1. [Al-Hassan, A. (2001). Science and Technology in Islam. Paris: UNeSCo.]↩
2. [Faas, P. (2003). Around the Roman Table: Food and Feasting in Ancient Rome. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, p. 149.]↩
3. [Solís, A. (1685). The History of the Conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards (T. Townsend, Trans.). London: Printed for T. Woodward . . . and J. Hooke . . . and J. Peele. [Pdf ] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/ item/16005370/]↩
4. [Appleby, J. (2010). The Relentless Revolution. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.]↩
5. [Ukers, W. (1922). The Introduction of Coffee into Holland. New York: Tea and Coffee Trade Journal]↩