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Healing Rheumatoid Arthritis With Cannabis

Healing Rheumatoid Arthritis With Cannabis

I really shouldn’t read articles about Rheumatoid Arthritis anymore and I absolutely should NOT read any comments that might be posted. Even when my RA was severe, I could only handle so much time on forums because it was too depressing. Rheumatoid Arthritis sucks. When it took over and became severe, which it remained for thirteen years, my entire life changed. The fatigue alone was like nothing I had ever experienced, more along the lines of mononucleosis than feeling over-worked or having gone without sleep for too long. It was like all the energy I had to even breathe was compromised or missing. I immediately had begun retaining fluid at an alarming rate and my normally frail appearance was replaced by someone I didn’t recognize and since I wasn’t on steroids, this was the disease itself doing this. I felt as if I was sloshing about in boiling hot water. It was horrible. And none of my doctors did a damn thing to deal with that.

I’ve had six rheumatologists over the years with most eventually moving to other areas leaving me wondering what fresh hell I would go through upon meeting a new doctor. My current rheumy never saw me when I was so ill, having come on board after I achieved clinical remission. I’m sure it’s frustrating when there’s not much she can do for me now, but it is what it is.

When I read articles discussing the different issues we experience and then the solutions they offer, I want to scream. But when I read the comments RA sufferers leave, I want to scream and cry. I understand extreme pain because I experienced it 24/7 for all those years. It’s a pain so all-consuming that you enter a new normal that few can relate to. Until joint damage becomes visible, we don’t necessarily look sick. We might walk more slowly and we might forget what we’re saying in the middle of a sentence or where our car is parked or be unable to dress ourselves or walk without help, but it’s all good because most people have all sorts of suggestions for us that if we’d only just try what they suggest our lives would be oh so much better. Right. And then here I come telling people that cannabis can change everything.

After thirteen years with severe rheumatoid arthritis, I became a cannabis patient in 2010 and by the middle of March 2011, I was in clinical remission, something the drugs I was prescribed could never achieve. I never told my rheumy at the time why I was well because he wasn’t interested in signing off on my cannabis card application. If he had ever confronted me about why I suddenly got well, I would have told him. But he never did that and moved away before we legalized recreationally here in Oregon. After that happened, I felt comfortable telling my current rheumy about how I healed. It made no difference, however, because we don’t discuss it, only when am I going to go back on biologics. I’m not. Or how much pain and stiffness do I have upon rising and for how long. None and none unless I overdid it in the garden the day before. I turn sixty in October. I walk four miles per day, sometimes more. I got well. By myself. I fail to see why that’s a problem or why folks just can’t be happy for me.

I want so badly to tell everyone who responds to these articles that they can step off the chronic illness train and take command of their healing. But I know that not everyone has access to the amount of cannabis necessary with which to saturate their bodies in order that they heal. It’s the approach I took, but then I grow my own. I was unable to grow for myself initially so my husband took care of everything until I could finally help with the garden. I processed the cannabis into medicine, but even with that, he would pitch in when my hands gave out or the fatigue was too much. In addition to the plants I have for processed medicine, I keep a few smaller plants to pull leaves from to include in fruit smoothies. Raw cannabis leaf or bud still contains healing plant acids that dissipate when the plant is dried or processed. It also has the advantage of medicating without the psychoactive effect that smoking or ingestion of processed cannabis creates. So it’s a great way to medicate with cannabis during the daytime and I still use it in my daily smoothies.

I also know what it’s like to worry about everything when we’re ill with this awful disease. Could I do all of my grocery shopping or would my husband have to park me in the produce department while he ran around the store getting everything we needed? Or could I even get out of the car and walk into the store at all? Doctors tell us that they understand this disease only so far. I’m not suggesting that these folks aren’t caring or compassionate or good at their jobs, but that there’s an option that many aren’t in a legal position to embrace given the federal issues they and their DEA license could possibly face, particularly with the current Attorney General. And potential cannabis patients face the same concerns when the state in which they live keeps cannabis in all forms illegal. So as much as I would like to flood the comments section for articles on rheumatoid arthritis with how I healed or a link to my first book, Confessions of a Back Porch Herbalist, I don’t. Instead, I head over to the blog and work out my frustrations here.

Before I became a cannabis patient, I had been reading Bruce Lipton’s The Biology of Belief. One day I decided I was fed up with this bullshit disease and I told my body that this had to stop. I began speaking to my cells and telling them that playtime was over and it was time to get on with it. I was done with chronic illness, and I meant it. It was then that I ordered my medical records and sent them to the cannabis clinic in Portland. I received an appointment after they reviewed my records and we drove to Portland on the day of my appointment. I met with a nurse and then the doctor and we chatted about my RA and how cannabis could help me heal. With my signed paperwork in hand, I mailed everything to the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program office and waited a little over a month for my card to arrive. It took a little over a month and then it arrived. And in the time it takes to have a baby, I was in clinical remission. We grew over the summer and after harvest, I had enough to begin making medicine and at the end of December 2010, I was ready to create a medicating program for myself. By the middle of March 2011, I was in clinical remission. I had begun gradually discontinuing my prescribed medications remaining on the biologic until September 2015 when I injected my last dose on September 13.  I’ve had no return of symptoms in almost two years and I continue to support my recovery with cannabis medicines along with herbal tinctures and teas I formulate to keep my immune system functioning normally.

It’s hard to deal with RA even when we have support from the medical community. Because as nice as they all are, all that seems to happen is that we stay in one place. We might fluctuate back and forth and have better days now and then, but we seem to stabilize somewhere and it’s never in the direction of remission. I’ve read about some folks for whom RA is either acute and then over or never seems to dominate their lives, but for many of us, it’s a forever thing. I just decided to reject that premise and try something different. And it worked. And even though not everyone can take that same approach, in time laws and beliefs may change so I’m going to say it anyway:

Cannabis can heal chronic illness. Life can be lived either without or with fewer limitations. After thirteen years of pure hell, I can barely remember what I went through now, probably because I don’t want to, but still, it speaks to a recovery that I didn’t plan on. I thought I would be ill for the rest of my life and I couldn’t have imagined I would feel as I do now. And cannabis did that. A plant that never should have been made illegal has brought healing and a sense of peace that I thought was gone forever.

So, let go of what you think you know about this plant. It just might save your life.

 

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Healing With Cannabis Is Worth The Risk

Healing With Cannabis Is Worth The Risk

It felt as if my body wasn’t my own. I had retained so much fluid that it felt as if I was sloshing about in boiling hot water. My thirteen-year nightmare with rheumatoid arthritis was surreal. It exploded into my life preventing any further training in Kenpo. Although my husband and I had closed our school, as a Black Belt I still trained daily, but that was over when the debilitating fatigue and pain began. I still had no idea what was happening to me but it was clear that something was terribly wrong.

I began to walk slowly, experiencing excruciating pain in my feet. I had always been a high energy person so this was concerning. By the time I saw my primary care doctor, my hands were also painfully swollen but his response was less than supportive. I would discover much later that I was experiencing all of the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, but on that day, my doctor diagnosed nothing. By his estimation I was fine.

Eventually, I would be diagnosed with RA and prescribed drugs that only made my body even more toxic. Disease modifiers, anti-inflammatory drugs along with two different injectable biologics were my primary medications until I became insulin resistant and needed another prescription for that. I was on blood pressure medicine but it wasn’t enough to keep my blood pressure in check given how much fluid I was retaining. It wasn’t until my blood pressure skyrocketed after seven or so years after beginning treatment that a second medication was added, this one containing a diuretic. Along with my blood pressure normalizing, the diuretic caused so much fluid loss in the first two weeks that I woke up one morning engulfed in a flare that would go on to last slightly longer than one year. My C-Reactive Protein test was 46.5; normal, I was told, is 5 or less. The medications weren’t helping me. I was a mess and only getting worse.

My husband had been encouraging me to become a cannabis patient throughout my treatment. He had been researching the success others had using cannabis to treat all sorts of conditions and begged me to apply for my OMMP card. I resisted for some time but when the year-long flare began, I was so ill at that point that I really didn’t believe I would survive, so I decided to throw caution to the wind and apply for my card, receiving it in June 2010.

While my cannabis grew I used raw leaf in my daily smoothies. From my research, I learned that raw cannabis contains plant acids that transform into other compounds through the drying process. Plant acids are healing and patients were reporting success including raw leaf and bud in their self-treatment so I did that as well. When my harvest was done I began making concentrated medicine. I infused dried bud into coconut oil for capsules and made glycerin tincture to use in tea. At the end of December 2010 I began my own treatment plan using raw cannabis, tincture, capsules, as well as smoking for pain relief and by the middle of March of 2011, I had achieved clinical remission. Just like that.

I never told my rheumatologist at the time what I was doing. He wasn’t interested in signing off on the application so I decided it was none of his business. I began slowly discontinuing the medications I had been prescribed, waiting for symptoms to return. They didn’t. The last prescribed medication I discontinued was the biologic I was injecting twice monthly. I had reduced that to once a month with no return of symptoms. Since I’m also a herbalist, I was supporting my remission with herbal tinctures I formulated, so I felt comfortable discontinuing the biologic in September 2015. To date, I’ve had no return of symptoms and the only change I’ve made with my cannabis medicine along the way was adding actual cannabis oil to the mix. That’s the thick, sludgy oil that’s so helpful with cancer, Crohn’s and other issues. I use a small amount now to keep things in check.

I was expected to buy into their program and not think for myself. But if I had continued along that path, I believe I wouldn’t be writing this now. And now we have a president and an attorney general who seem to want to put my life and the lives of other patients at risk again by suggesting that cannabis is dangerous. The new attorney general apparently believes that it’s almost as bad as heroin addiction which is ludicrous.

The entire west coast has legalized recreational cannabis and over half the states have legalized medical. The tax revenue alone has opened the floodgates to legalization across the country. Seniors opting to medicate with cannabis are discovering that they can reduce the number of prescriptions they’re taking, a concern of Big Pharma I’m sure. But that’s too bad considering what this new regime plans to do to everyone’s healthcare. We must have options when they seek to give us none.

I know first hand how well cannabis replaces any number of prescribed medications. If the destructive health insurance changes the Republicans are insisting upon are voted into law, seniors will have even greater difficulty purchasing their medications. If cannabis can replace those medications then they need safe access to that without fear of arrest.

Veterans, my husband included, need safe access as well to help relieve the crippling effects of PTSD from which so many suffer. Because if the Republicans have their way and privatize veteran’s health care, safe access to cannabis will become more important than ever. These men and women served us honorably and with dignity. Their return home should reflect the same commitment and respect they gave our country. The last thing any of them needs is to face uncertainty over their healthcare concerns.

To say the government lied about the safety of cannabis is an understatement. Lives have been ruined through incarceration and for what exactly? To preserve a lie told long ago? How many people would be alive and well today if they had cannabis as a treatment option? Ideally, raw cannabis should be considered as a dietary staple, available for purchase in any produce department. I’m convinced that had my mother had access to cannabis oil, she might still be alive instead of dying at sixty-five from COPD and congestive heart failure. Children who have survived cancer using cannabis oil go on to live healthy lives. A boy in Colorado with Crohn’s has become a vocal advocate for healing with cannabis and is living a happy and healthy life. Families move across the country to live in states with medical cannabis when it’s the only thing that will save their child.

Cannabis is safe to use medicinally or for recreation. Research from around the world supports this truth. CNN did a three-part investigative series where Sanjay Gupta discovered the truth about the efficacy of cannabis in treating so many conditions. But Congress, the DEA, and the new attorney general have other ideas. Truth matters not to these people, but the stakes are too high to give up now. Too many of us have had our lives saved by this blessed plant and we’re not going away anytime soon. We’ll stand up to the nonsense because as we all know, healing with cannabis is definitely worth the risk.

So give it your best shot, Mr. Sessions. A veritable cannabis army awaits, many of us silver-haired and not done living yet.

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Comfrey and My Possibly Broken Toe

I won’t bore anyone with the picture of my toe. It’s on my Facebook page and anyone can see it there. I confess I unintentionally kicked a stool that I didn’t see was in my way after listening to a clip on the television from that crazy guy running for President. I’m a Democrat and it’s no secret that I’m with her. But he had been particularly insulting and I wasn’t looking where I was going when I shouted an expletive on my way into the kitchen for some tea. I’m sure there was a gesture involved as well aimed for the television. It wasn’t until a few hours later that I realized what I had done when the toe was purple.

While my rheumatoid arthritis was out of control for all those years, my feet were never not swollen. None of my rheumatologists even responded to my concerns until one of the last ones finally referred me to a neurologist to have him tell me why my feet are numb from the toes to the middle of my arch. But after testing, all he could come up with was fibromyalgia. Well, that’s nice and all, but it would have been better if someone would come clean about how this happened because I don’t always know when I’ve been injured. I don’t always know if I’ve stepped on something that’s injured me, or even if my foot is bleeding. It’s weird because my feet aren’t completely numb in that area, only partially. But since 1998 or so, I’ve experienced this numbness.

However, on the day in question which was around two weeks ago, I felt the full impact of my klutziness. When I realized how much damage I did I immediately got out my comfrey root oil and smeared it all over my toe, the toes surrounding it and part of my foot just for good measure. Then I hobbled around collecting various herbs for tea. I chose the most healing herbs I could find with comfrey leaf as the main ingredient.

Comfrey has mucilaginous properties that heal both internally and externally. And if you run a rototiller through your comfrey patch, you’ll have it forever. All it takes is a smidgen of a root and you’ve got a comfrey patch that will provide you with healing medicine forever. The bees love it, particularly the bumblebees, and it makes a wonderful green mulch for the garden. I lay fresh leaf on my raised beds and I not only have fertilizer, but it helps keep the weeds down. I have a plastic garbage can full of comfrey compost tea that’s several years old. Of course I have to dilute it and hold my nose when I remove the cover, but it’s wonderful in the garden.

I included some horsetail that I gathered from my younger son’s new home over in the valley. It grows like it should over there instead of the smaller, more stunted version that I have up by my irrigation ditch. He and his wife bought the place last fall and with three acres, they’ll have plenty of room for the horses my beautiful daughter-in-love wants to raise. Her mom has horses and competes in various long rides near her home in Australia. Horses are in her soul and I can’t wait until they have some.

Horsetail is a source for silica and treats both internal and external bleeding and acts as a vulnerary to treat wounds. I included milky oats, both the seed and the stems, to nourish and protect my toe. Its demulcent and vulnerary properties are healing and as a nervous system herb, milky oats helps soothe the pain.

Red Clover grows throughout my property and my bees just love it! But they have to share because red clover is a wonderful herb for tea. It’s an alterative, anti-spasmodic, and an anti-inflammatory making it perfect to include in this supportive tea blend.

Dandelion and chickweed are wonderful diuretic herbs and I tend to include them in most tea blends I make. Chickweed is great for inflammation as well, so although delicate, chickweed is a real powerhouse for healing as is dandelion. Dandelion is a liver alterative and balances and tones the master cleanse system.

Lastly, I included both spearmint and lemon balm in my nutritive tea blend. Spearmint is an adaptogen and lemon balm a nervine and both add a lovely delicate flavor to the tea. Lemon balm is said to kill the Epstein-Barr virus, the probable instigator for RA, so I try to include it in everything. I also use it daily as a tincture in support of the RA tincture I formulated.

The idea behind formulating is that 70% of the herb(s) used should focus on the primary complaint. 20% should be nutritive and the remaining 10% should stimulate the action of whatever effect we’re trying to have. I’m not the most exact herbalist who ever lived, so I tend to do things in parts. I might measure parts out using a tablespoon, or just grabbing the herb with my fingers, but I decide on how much a part is and then I try to remain consistent from there.

For this blend, however, I confess that the excruciating pain I was in made me probably weigh a little heavier on the nutritive portion of the formulation but that’s okay. Here’s what I came up with. I’ve been drinking it along with putting comfrey root oil on my toe since I did this to myself and on Wednesday I walked five miles, nine days after possibly breaking my toe. So, I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that it worked for me and I’m thrilled with the results.

  • Comfrey leaf – 3 parts
  • Milky oats – 2 parts
  • Horsetail – 2 parts
  • Red Clover – 2 parts
  • Dandelion – 2 parts
  • Spearmint – 2 parts
  • Lemon Balm – 2 parts

Now, had I truly observed the formulation strategy, I probably would have used one part each of spearmint and lemon balm, but given the pain I was in, I just didn’t care. And now I have a wonderful tea blend that I can drink daily if I want. I have an elbow and a finger that suffers from RA damage and this tea should help with it.

Oh, and one last thing. A Facebook friend recommended a Tens-like unit that her father is using to increase the circulation in his legs and feet. It’s called Revitive and I bought one. I’ve been using it for the last few days and I’ve noticed a change in how my feet feel. If things progress as I hope, I’ll do another post sharing how all of that went. If I can get ANY feeling back I’ll take it.

Blessings to all!

feverfew

 

References and Links:

  1. Confessions of a Back Porch Herbalist
  2. Grimoire of a Crone
  3. Revitive Circulation Booster
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Cannabis Infused Coconut Oil

cannabis and coconut oil

It’s time again to make some cannabis infused coconut oil. It’s one of the concentrated forms of cannabis that I make and use to keep my rheumatoid arthritis in clinical remission. I used to ingest the infused oil in capsules, but that’s messy to do even with the capping tray I have. I’ve tried all kinds of methods to fill the capsules with the infused oil, but it’s still messy. Eventually I poured the infusion into plastic containers to keep in the refrigerator. I add some to smoothies and I’ve also used it in cooking. And yes, it’s awesome as a personal lubricant which is all I’m going to say about that. Except that I’ve seen a liquid form of coconut oil at the grocery store that may stay a liquid after infusing which might be interesting to try.

Cuvee

To begin with, I selected a gallon jar’s worth of Cuvée, a lovely strain from TGA Genetics Subcool Seeds. It’s such a beautiful plant that I chose a picture of it for the cover of Confessions of a Back Porch Herbalist. In fact, a picture of the full grown plant that I’m making this infusion from appears in the book and in the picture on the right.

The bud structure is dense and tight, full of resin, yet gives a soft, feminine appearance and isn’t messy to harvest. A primarily indica dominant strain, Cuvée is a cross between Blackberry Kush, Romulan, and Cinderella 99. The smell is a blend between chocolate and cherry in this phenotype, and it’s probably one of my most favorite cannabis plants from which to make medicine.

decarbingInitially I heated the oven to 240º, frantically searched for my oven turkey bags, and after finding them, I poured in the dried Cuvée, tied off the end and put it in the oven for 40 minutes to decarboxylate. Decarbing is important with cannabis so that the THC activates. You can make medicine without decarbing, but your medicine won’t be as potent, so take the time to decarboxylate your bud.

I use an oven turkey bag in my convection oven because it keeps the terpines from escaping during the decarb process. It’s important to open the bag immediately upon removing the bag from the oven so that moisture doesn’t collect. I typically open the bag and pour it out in a large bowl as soon as it comes out of the oven. From there, using latex gloves, I crumble the cannabis with my hands. I don’t grind it like some folks do because the trichomes tend to stick to whatever I’m using to grind with and I’d rather they end up in the infusion. So I try not to disturb the decarboxylated cannabis any more than necessary.

melting the oilWhile the cannabis is decarboxylating in the oven, I melt the coconut oil in my crockpot. When I became a patient six years ago, I played hell trying to find a crockpot with a keep warm setting on it. Low wasn’t low enough evidently, but I persevered and found one. Now I see them everywhere.

Anyway, temperature is important when infusing cannabis because you don’t want to cook the medicinal properties out of it. The keep warm setting does the job without burning the cannabis.

After crcannabis infusingumbling the cannabis bud, I poured it into the melted coconut oil in the crockpot. I’ll let it infuse for the next 24 hours and then when it’s cool enough, I’ll strain the mixture and pour it into containers. After trying various methods of straining, I finally settled on using a fruit press. It presses the spent cannabis into a nice compostable cake which makes clean up a breeze. Other options require more hand strength than I have so this press has been a life saver for me.

The coconut oil can be strained even more using either cheesecloth or a coffee filter, but I like to have a little herb in my infusions so I only strain the infusion with the fruit press. Cannabis likes to infuse in fat and coconut oil seems to bind well with the plant’s constituents. Besides, it tastes good. So use it in capsules or use it in anything else you want. Ingestion is ingestion. All that matters is that cannabis interacts with your body’s endocannabinoid system so that health returns.

It’s not about getting high. It’s about healing. And there’s nothing like cannabis for that!

Blessings!

cannabis infused coconut oil

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Liver Cleanse Tea

Liver cleanse tea

My knee was hurting this morning so I decided to make a tea to help with that. Years ago, when my rheumatoid arthritis was severe, I fell, tearing my inner meniscus on my left knee. Many years earlier, I had done the same on the outside meniscus of that knee while teaching karate. So I have to be careful when I walk because my knee isn’t particularly stable.

I think my entire property is comprised of uneven ground. Cottonwood roots have decided they prefer above ground living in lieu of where they’re supposed to live. So I have constant opportunities to trash my knee on a daily basis. I think our daily five mile walk which we increased to between six and seven today took its toll. But that’s okay. It’s Friday and Ancient Aliens is on the History Channel for the next ten hours. I love Fridays.

I chose herbs with a liver alterative focus for my tea. Many of them are also diuretic and some are analgesic. The roots and bark were decocted first for 45 minutes after which the mixture was removed from the heat and the remainder of the herbs added and infused for another 30 minutes. I strained the mixture and sat down for a nice cup of cleansing tea.

The idea behind prevention is that we keep our bodies in balance so that we don’t become sick in the first place. So herbalists tend to choose herbs that deal with ground floor issues and our liver provides our bodies with their master cleanse system. If we’re ill, then odds are we can begin there when bringing things back to balance.

In autoimmune diseases like RA, the liver basically doesn’t function correctly, nor does anything else. The body begins attacking itself and there’s nothing in the body that’s not affected by the disease. So much of autoimmune based arthritis is this way. People hear the word arthritis and think osteoarthritis, but RA and other types of autoimmune based arthritis are all-consuming and so destructive.

Fluid retention is a problem with RA so I always include herbs with diuretic properties to keep my fluid level in balance. Due to the constant swelling in my feet, ankles, and legs during the years I was severe, my feet are somewhat numb from my toes back to about the middle of my feet. So half of each foot is partially numb all of the time. My doctors over the years did nothing about the fluid retention and now my feet feel so odd.

Because I’ve used herbs that require different processing, I decocted (simmered) the bark and roots first, and then added the more fragile herbs to the decoction after removing it from heat for the final infusion. Typically I decoct roots, bark, seeds and berries. Valerian is one root, however, that has high volatile oils so that one needs infusion because boiling it reduces its effectiveness. But in today’s tea, everything is fairly straightforward.

I have a bunch of yellow dock root that my husband keeps digging up and bringing me that I used in this morning’s tea. It’s a wonderful liver alterative, cleansing the blood and aiding in chronic skin disorders like psoriasis. Folks who suffer from psoriatic arthritis, another autoimmune arthritic disease, would benefit from teas that include this herb.

Dandelion root is another wonderful herb that I included that has both liver alterative and a diuretic properties. From Grimoire of a Crone

Dandelion contains vitamins and minerals including Vitamin s A, C, E, and K, and calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium. It also contains glycosides, terpenes, flavonoids, and is bitter. (Wikipedia, Taraxacum officinale, 2016) If all we had were dandelion to use for medicine, we’d be just fine. It basically covers all the bases. It’s diuretic, laxative, antirheumatic, and tonic; you name it, it does it. It increases bile, and reduces fluid retention and fever. (Barton, 1844)¹

I have a lot of Oregon Grape Root growing around my home but I can’t bear to dig any of it to harvest the root so I buy it from Mountain Rose Herbs. Another liver alterative, Oregon Grape Root cleanses the blood and is extremely useful in rheumatic complaints. It’s also has anti-inflammatory properties. I include it in an RA tincture I formulate and use.

Various willow varieties grow on my property, but the white willow bark I harvested from my weeping willow trees. Because it’s a bark, I decocted it with the other roots. It contains salacin giving it analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties so I included it specifically for pain. It also has alterative properties as well.

After letting the roots and bark simmer for 45 minutes, I removed the pan and added the following herbs.

Dandelion leaf  has the same properties as dandelion root, but I threw in some fresh leaf for additional diuretic and alterative support. Yarrow is flowering all over my property and I’ve been gathering it daily for tincturing and salves. It heals wounds and has anti-inflammatory properties.

I include red clover in everything. I have almost three acres of it growing so it’s prolific. From Grimoire of a Crone, “red clover acts as an alterative, anti-spasmodic, expectorant, and anti-inflammatory”² so it’s perfect for rheumatic conditions like RA.

Another herb that grows everywhere is comfrey. I use the root for external oils and the leaf for tea and tincture. Comfrey heals. Period. And it does it both externally and internally. It’s mucilaginous nature is soothing, nourishing, and healing and I include it in many teas and tinctures.

California Poppy is a fun herb to use. It’s analgesic, sedative, and anti-neuralgic although not as much as its cousin the opium poppy so it’s safe to use. I grow a lot of it and its perennial nature makes it a favorite. I added white California Poppy in my medicinal herb garden this year at the tips of each point on the pentagram as well as various poppies over in the apiary. The bees love them and the fact that they’re medicinal is just awesome.

The last two herbs I included were chickweed and cleavers. Last year, I thought it would be nice if I could grow both herbs because they grow naturally over in the valley. That’s Oregon-speak for everything over on the west side of the state, typically along the I-5 corridor. But in Central Oregon, we live on the High Desert and I live at about 3000 feet above sea level and it only goes up in elevation from there. It’s volcanic and dry, hence the desert part. At least on my property, I’ve not seen chickweed in a long time, if ever.

And then this spring, I saw both chickweed and cleavers growing. It was odd. My husband says I call for certain plants and they show up. I had already ordered seeds from Strictly Medicinal Seeds (formerly called Horizon Herbs), a medicinal herbal seed source, thinking I would need to plant both, and then there they were. Now I have so much of both that I’ll have no need to order any. I hate ordering herbs that should be growing on their own. It’s like ordering dandelion root. For an herbalist, it’s embarrassing.

Both herbs are diuretic and alterative. I include them to control the fluid retention that comes with RA. As a salve, both cleavers and chickweed are also useful for skin conditions, burns and rashes.

liver tea in jar liver tea strained

After straining the tea, I poured myself a cup. The rest I poured into a quart mason jar which I’ll keep in the refrigerator to use over the next couple of days. It’s a fairly strong tea, so it’s fine to dilute it a bit with water before reheating. I don’t really use specific amounts when I make teas. I usually just gather up some herbs, throw them in and don’t look back as my husband would say.

So the next time you feel a little off, wander about and look for some dandelion leaf, some chickweed and cleavers. Maybe you grow some California Poppy as well. Even if you don’t have a veritable herbal materia medica growing around your home, you probably have at least these herbs. Gather them up. Put your fresh herbs in a jar and pour boiling water over them. Steep them at least 15 minutes or longer for a more intense brew. Then strain and enjoy. That’s all there is to it. And you do this often, you just might notice a change in how you feel. And I don’t know about the rest of you reading this, but after thirteen years of excruciating pain with my RA, I’ve had enough of that.

Blessings to all!

~ Jan

Cup of liver tea

  1. Erickson, Jan. Grimoire of a Crone (Kindle Locations 1666-1670). Kindle Direct Publishing. Kindle Edition.
  2. Erickson, Jan. Grimoire of a Crone (Kindle Location 1858). Kindle Direct Publishing. Kindle Edition.

 

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Medicating with Cannabis – an Update

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I thought I would do an update on how I’m medicating with cannabis. I’ve been a patient now for almost six years and over that time, I’ve modified how I use cannabis for my rheumatoid arthritis. I’m in remission now and I don’t need to use as much as I once did.

As a herbalist, I prefer natural methods of healing. I even make my own toothpaste, face scrub, face cream, and deodorant. Almost daily, I can be found wildcrafting dandelion or some other herb that’s normally thought of as a weed. My husband knows not to kill weeds without discussing it with me or spells will be cast. Immediately. I mean who doesn’t love a good binding spell anyway?

Initially, I adopted the saturation approach to healing. I used cannabis concentrates daily as well as smoking and vaping. I used raw leaf and bud in smoothies and juice. I made cannabutter and used it in my cooking. And a year into the process I began making cannabis oil. From my research, when folks are seriously ill or have ongoing chronic conditions, saturation works best to give our body’s endocannabinoid system the best support to begin functioning properly again. A few hits off a pipe every day certainly helps but isn’t enough to deal with this level of illness. Otherwise, all we’re really doing is alleviating symptoms, not curing the problem.

I prefer to grow and medicate with indica-dominant strains, although it’s nice to have a sativa-dominant plant in the mix. Then I can do a blend when making tincture. I like making cannabis tincture with glycerin over alcohol, although I do make it with alcohol. The process is different, however. Alcohol tinctures are made using the shake the jar method and glycerin tinctures are made using a crockpot on the keep warm setting. At one point, the cost of glycerin had risen to around $50.00 per gallon, but thankfully prices on Amazon have come down substantially, back to at least half that price. I prefer a glycerin-based tincture in my tea. The alcohol version is too bitter.

I continue to make and use oil, but I no longer use it in a vape pen. It works and all, but after a point, I felt uncomfortable using it that way. It’s one thing to have the body break it down and assimilate it via the digestive tract by ingesting it in capsule form the way I do, or as a rectal suppository as many folks with cancer do, but to inhale it felt too much, so I now only use it at night in a capsule. I leave one side off the capsule so that the oil is absorbed more quickly. Besides, any alcohol that might still be in the oil can be digested in the stomach far better than with inhalation. I don’t want to take the chance of breathing in any solvent in the event I didn’t get all of it out when making it.

Vaping dry cannabis is another thing though and I still do that from time to time. But it’s a hassle to get out the vaporizer, etc, so typically I use a pipe or a bong and medicate that way. I’m not a fan of medibles so I don’t make much cannabutter anymore, although I may make some canna ghee soon. Medicated ghees are great and I think infusing cannabis into ghee would be really healing. Ghee is great for Pitta type doshas. I’m a Pitta/Vata person so with Pitta dominant, ghee is wonderful for me to use.

I also love to make cannabis-infused honey. I have a lovely large mesh tea infuser I purchased through Mountain Rose Herbs that I can put cannabis in for infusing. You never want to simply put the cannabis in the honey the way you can in other menstruums. It’s too difficult to strain out, so using an infuser of some kind, even if you put the cannabis in some cheese cloth, is recommended.

Cannabis infused coconut oil is still a staple in my medicine cabinet, or actually my refrigerator. I use it in smoothies and as a base for medicated salves. It can be used in the boudoir as well. Just sayin’. Seriously.

I must say, however, my primary focus now is on remaining in remission. Cannabis is part of that process, but it’s not the only herb I use. I formulated a tincture that includes herbs such as cat’s claw, sassafras, and Oregon grape root that I use daily. I also use lemon balm tincture because it’s said to be effective for EBV, which I believe to be the underlying cause of my RA.

I use liver, adrenal, and diuretic support tinctures I formulate as well. I prefer to approach health from the standpoint of nourishment and support of body systems that focus on assimilation and elimination. Somewhere that process became imbalanced and with the presence of EBV, eventually I became ill. So I focus on that now. Also in menopause, I’ve formulated a tincture for that along with using herbs such as motherwort and nettle in teas.

Medicinal mushrooms have also become a part of my daily regimen. I made some double extract reishi tincture and some chaga is currently in process. I grow turkey tail, reishi, and shiitake mushrooms as well as oyster in my cannabis room to give the ladies some much needed CO2 and then dry and either use them in cooking or for tincturing. I recently added powdered maca root to my smoothies for Crone support. It’s reduced my hot flashes immensely.

I use salves and oils I formulate for use on my joints when they become sore. Comfrey root, St. John’s Wort, and Arnica are favorites of mine to use and they work well. I infuse them into olive or almond oil or into cannabis-infused coconut oil for additional pain relief. And I still use raw cannabis in smoothies. Raw really is the best form of cannabis to use. I get all the healing plant acids that dissipate when dried. And there’s no high when ingesting cannabis in raw form, only healing.

It’s been an interesting experience, my return to health. I couldn’t have done any of it had I not grown my own cannabis. I would have never had enough to make any of the concentrates I used. It takes a pound of bud to make a quarter cup of oil, so having to obtain cannabis from a dispensary wouldn’t have worked and buying oil in one of those places is extremely expensive.

I’m no longer taking any prescribed medications, ending my last one six months ago and I continue to do well. If anything, it proves that a more foundational approach to health deserves a second look. Allopathic medicine treats symptoms which can be an appropriate choice at times, but it can also send the patient down the proverbial rabbit hole of endless symptom treatment. After nearly thirteen years I healed using cannabis when nothing else worked. And now I keep myself well with diet, exercise and all things herbal.

Our bodies and our health belong to each one of us. Taking control of both is not only responsible but necessary.

~Greenest blessings to all!

 

 

 

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Chronic Illness is Unacceptable

cannabisThe world has lost some cool people in the last few days. First it was David Bowie, then Alan Rickman, Mic Gillette from Tower of Power, and now Glen Frey. Shocking, all of them. But Glen Frey’s death hits close to home for me. I suffered from rheumatoid arthritis for around fifteen years, thirteen of those years it was out of control. Medications prescribed by my doctors did nothing but keep me in the severe range. I would hear commercials on television about medications for moderate to severe RA and dream of the day I would actually be moderate. Because mine went from minor to severe practically overnight.

RA is debilitating

I read that Glen suffered for fifteen years with RA. Fifteen is such an interesting number. My first doctor (I’m on my sixth) told me that most RA patients die fifteen years sooner than other folks. He also was angry that I didn’t get a pneumonia shot before beginning Enbrel, a biologic he prescribed a year into my treatment. Evidently, he couldn’t seem to comprehend that it was his responsibilty to tell me about it and to then have one of his nurses actually give it to me. Instead, he yelled at me. I walked out and never went back. I contacted my primary care doctor and I was able to get the pneumonia shot from her.

My second, third, fifth and sixth doctors are/were nice people. I’m sure they did well in school and know all sorts of things about rheumatic conditions, but they missed the boat with me. Cannabis made the difference, not the drugs they all have prescribed. And it’s sad that it’s taking so much time for the medical community to catch up with what cannabis patients all know. Politically, cannabis legalization doesn’t typically line campaign coffers so to date, it’s not a relevant issue on the campaign trail.

Secondary illnesses are common

Secondary illnesses are common with RA. In my case, fibromyalgia, but for others, excessive inflammation attacks our vital organs and is so destructive. I developed insulin resistance, resulting in Metformin three times a day. My fluid retention that my illustrious doctors NEVER dealt with caused my blood pressure to rise so much that after 10 1/2 years I insisted that the second blood pressure mediation prescribed contain a diuretic. I lost so much fluid in the first two weeks that it triggered a flare that would last two weeks longer than a year.

I developed an infection in my jaw that would result in two dental implants a year later. By then, I was juicing cannabis leaf and including it in my daily smoothies. The flare ended a month before the dental implant surgery. Any surgery is potentially a problem with RA sufferers because we don’t heal well. An autoimmune disease, RA is treated with immunosuppressive drugs. A few days prior to receiving my cannabis card in the mail, my fifth doctor prescribed CellCept which did nothing to end my flare and was a complete nightmare to experience. It’s typically for lupus and to prevent organ transplant rejection. More immune suppression and the side effects were just horrible. So it’s easy to see how we become sick with other issues on top of the RA. How any of us survive this is a miracle.

There must be a better approach

So I’ll end with my premise. Chronic illness is unacceptable. Health is our natural state, but we spend billions each year supporting an industry built on the belief that it is. We become our illness. And it’s easy to see how that happens with RA and conditions like it given their debilitating nature. And it’s not like we’re given a choice in the matter unless we explore other methods of healing.

Anthony William, the Medical Medium, tells us in his new book, Medical Medium that lemon balm kills EBV, the virus that may be the actual cause of RA and other conditions. A article in Science Daily from a study published in 2004 by University of South Florida Health Sciences Center discusses how EBV may be involved in RA’s disease process, and that THC reduces EBV’s effect. Given that I went into clinical remission so quickly after beginning my treatment with concentrates, I have to believe it does more than reduce symptoms.

Last summer I created an herbal formula involving cat’s claw and some other herbs to take daily for my RA. Herbs tone and nourish our bodies, bringing balance and stasis, so that disease finds no purchase. I’ve always been drawn to lemon balm and now I know why. An empath, I naturally gravitate to what heals me. So, I’ve added some lemon balm tincture to my treatment.

I’m lucky to live in a state where cannabis has been legal medicinally since 1998. And last year, we fully legalized. And with all the problems associated with legalization unfolding, at least we all have the ability to choose cannabis in Oregon. I have no idea if other folks can heal the way I did, but why not? Why shouldn’t everyone have that same chance? Instead, those in control appear to want everyone to remain chronically ill. After all, it’s where the money is, and profit rules everything in this country.

And why should any of us run out of time when there’s so much life yet to live?

~ May Goddess bless all on their journey of healing.

 

 

 

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Walk A New Path..A Joyful Challenge

It’s always nice to change up the walk route. My husband and I have been walking daily for almost three years now. The new route is nine miles. The old route was eight miles, but the new one has fewer cars to contend with, and it’s more secluded. We trek to the pollution control plant and back. In other words, we walk to the poop plant. We can continue on, through the canyon where the picture below was taken, but we discovered that route home is a mile less, and once we’ve walked the longer distance, we feel as if we’re slacking somehow if we take the shorter route.

A walk reveals a fall blooming canyon desert plant
Desert plant in fall bloom

The town runs its sewage through pipes underneath the canyon floor. There are areas smellier than others, but primarily the canyon is a wonderful place to walk. It’s peaceful and walkers and bicycles share the path. A dog park is at one end where people gather daily to visit and enjoy their pets as they play, and further on, some local high school students painted a lovely mural in a tunnel that goes under a main road by the high school. All in all, the canyon itself is approximately eight miles in length, and walking through at least part of it makes my day.

But then walking anywhere makes my day. There was a time my rheumatoid arthritis was so bad that I used a cane to walk. Even walking from my chair at our shop to the bathroom was excruciating, and I truly never believed I could walk again without a cane let alone nine miles. My husband, at 62, is in better shape now than when we taught karate, as am I at 58. So we walk, even in the snow, although I draw the line at rain unless I have a hat.

It’s a blessing that gives me such pause. And there are times I can’t remember how bad I felt, or how difficult it was for me during those years. But now we plan our vacations around places where we can either hike or walk. We spent our vacation a couple of years ago in Incline Village at Lake Tahoe. Everything is on an incline, hence the name. We had been walking six miles per day at that time, thinking we would be prepared. We were wrong. It was exhausting. But after a week there, six miles at home wasn’t enough. We had no choice but to go further.

I thought my life was over. But then I found cannabis, everything changed, and now I have more energy and more of a life than ever before. When you experience the not-so-good big things, it can be the little things that give us the most joy. Even a nine mile walk to the poop plant and back.

~Blessings to all!

 

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Back Porch Herbal: Dandelion and Plantain

My two favorite herbs cost nothing at all other than time and presence. Dandelion and plantain grow prolifically around my property because I never use herbacide. And I view them not as noxious weeds, but as herbs necessary for my health, so they are welcome. Used internally, both contain diuretic properties, but dandelion, a natural source of potassium, doesn’t deplete that from the body the way chemical diuretics seem to do, and is one of the best natural diuretics around.

Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale, is a perennial herb found everywhere. UnapprecHerbal Medicine - Dandelioniated and typically viewed as a weed, few seem to understand how including dandelion root or leaf daily protects and tonifies the liver. For me, with rheumatoid arthritis, it also has antirheumatic properties which is a plus. One of the most difficult symptoms I dealt with was fluid retention. Because allopathic medicine focuses upon symptom reduction instead of root cause, there were no conversations about how I became ill in the first place. No one asked about my state of mind, or what my life was like up to the point when I became so ill. I chose to not complicate my treatment and I refrained from ingesting too many herbs. I didn’t want to upset any balance the meds were supposedly trying to create and additional herbal preparations would at the very least influence that balance. Now that I’m off all prescribed medication, dandelion, along with other diuretic herbs, has become a daily part of my herbal tonfication regimen. Herbs heal by balancing and bringing stasis back to the body. Disease is a lack of balance, and herbs gently heal by bringing stasis back to the body. A body in balance has no need for chronic illness.

Fresh dandelion leaf can be added raw to salads, gently sauteed, or infused in tea. Dried leaf also works well for tea. The root, fresh or dried, should be prepared using a decoction instead of an infusion. Infusions are typically used for more fragile herbs, while roots, seeds and bark are typically decocted on the stove over simmering heat for 30 to 40 minutes. Infusions are made by pouring boiling water over the herb and letting it steep covered for ten minutes or so in whatever vessel you’re using. Simmering over heat has a negative affect on fragile herbs. If using a combination of herbs, one would decoct roots, etc. first, then after removing the mixture from heat, add the more fragile herbs that require infusion, steeping for ten minutes or so.

Leaf can be collected any time during the season, but toward season’s end, one must be choosy because they don’t always look as good in the Fall. Roots should be dug in the Spring or Fall. All gathering should be done with respect and dignity, thanking the plant for bringing health to your life. Take only what’s needed, leaving smaller plants to grow into their fullness. Roots may be sliced to promote quicker drying, but typically I don’t unless they’re really big. I like the look of whole root. Plus, the root doesn’t degrade as quickly if left whole. But be prepared to have some heavy duty pruners on hand; whole root doesn’t necessarily break easily.

Herbal Medicine Herbal Medicine - sliced root

On the left is a picture of some whole dandelion root drying. It takes longer to dry this way, but I like it better. On the right is an example of slicing some of the larger pieces. After drying, I’ll store the root in a glass jar in the herb cupboard. I prefer glass jars to anything else, and have been known to purchase items at the grocery store for the jar they’re in. Amber is better than clear, but it doesn’t really matter if the jars are kept in a closed cupboard. Leaf can also be dried and stored for future use in teas, capsules and tincture.

Now plantain is the most amazing herb I’ve ever used. It can be used internally as a diuretic or expectorant, its anti-inflammatory property useful in hepatitis and dysentery; externally it’s used in salves, liniments and poultices on wounds, scrapes and insect bites. I love that all I have to do is to walk out into my backyard and find a nice plantain plant to harvest a few leaves from and itchy mosquito bites are a thing of the past. Plantain makes a lovely addition to salves and skin sprays and combines well with herbs such as calendula, mullein and comfrey. Infusing plantain alone or in combination with other herbs into witch hazel makes a nice cooling and refreshing skin spray for use in summerHerbal Medicine - plantain. Infused into a light carrier oil such as sweet almond or grape seed creates an oil that works well for inflamed muscles and joints.

There are two types of plantain. Greater plantain, plantago major, is shown at the right, while ribwort plantain has leaves which are slender. Both are medicinal and I include both in my herb cupboard. Infusions into oil can be accomplished by simply adding herb to a jar and covering it with your choice of oil. I prefer to set my infusions out by the she-cave in a tub of sand for a solar infusion. I let it blend for at least a month, preferably two if I can overcome my impatience, after which I strain, bottle and label it. Some herbalists can tell what a particular blend is by looking at it and smelling it. I’m not one of those herbalists. I need crib notes and labels.

Controlling inflammation and fluid retention are primary issues in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Fortunately I have a head start with cannabis as my primary medicine, but herbs such as dandelion and plantain to support stasis are a welcome addition to round out my treatment approach.

~Blessings to all, and blessed be the mighty herb!

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Back Porch Herbal: Horsetail and White Willow Bark

 

I love wildcrafting herbs. Not all plants that grow in the valley grow on the high desert of Central Oregon. Nettle, chickweed are two that I typically have to purchase, although I found some nettle growing in a pot this year that I plan to cultivate. It probably came in a nursery plant I bought. I may end up with some chickweed that way next year if I’m observant enough. Or I’ll go over to Portland and find some growing. Chickweed grows everywhere over there.

I do have willow and horsetail, among other herbs, growing on my property and it’s wonderful to walk about, gathering what I need for my materia medica without having to order any of it. The horsetail, or shave grass as it’s also called, grows up by the irrigation ditch near the juniper trees. Various willow varieties grow on the property including three weeping willows from which I harvested the bark.

The aerial portion of horsetail, or shave grass, is best harvested in early summer. I dried the horsetail I gathered on some bamboo mats on the floor of a grow tent I have. With its astringent properties, horsetail has a mild diuretic property to it, and also helps ease hot flashes and is helpful with prostate issues. With its high silica content, it acts as a vulnerary, healing wounds and reducing bleeding, and protects bones from osteoporosis, and its anti-inflammatory properties protect the lungs and may also be helpful in rheumatic conditions.

I use horsetail as part of a blend for tea or tincture. It can also be incorporated into salves for skin conditions.

Willow bark contains salicin, a compound similar to aspirin, and as an anti-inflammatory and analgesic, is used for general pain and fever as well as pain associated with rheumatic conditions. I love my willow trees. I know I have weeping willow, and I believe I have black willow growing wild all over my property. At least I think that’s what it is. I also have a more delicate type of willow, the name of which escapes me, that hasn’t done well where I have it planted. But it’s still alive, so that’s something.

I watched a video of an herbalist named 7 Song show how he strips the bark off of willow. He sliced it lengthwise, and then carefully lifted the whole thing off the branch. I tried this. I failed. So, I whittled both the outer and inner bark off the branches. I read that it’s fine to use the outer bark as well and given that I didn’t take anything from the main tree itself, but instead took smaller branches, I couldn’t see any real way to separate the outer from the inner, so I left the shavings as they were.

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The process took hours. Horsetail is much easier. Okay, I’ll admit that I can be a little obsessive about things, but I really didn’t know how much I’ll be needing, particularly if I use some of it for tintures, so I wanted to be certain that I had enough. I gathered/whittled enough to fill a half gallon jar. I was surprised that my hands weren’t in any more pain than they were after my marathon whittling session, but I probably absorbed some of its painkilling properties as I worked with it. It’s worth it though to know that I chose those willow trees nearly twenty years ago and brought them home to plant next to the ponds. Three in total, they p2015-09-18 07.42.31rovide the first food for the bees in the Spring, in fact, we put our new apiary next to them just for that purpose. It’s cool knowing that next year it will be our bees making the willows hum. This is a picture of one of the bees gathering pollen from a pumpkin blossom. Next year, I plan to use a small greenhouse frame with webbing or something over it with pumpkins and gourds growing up over it, maybe some beans as well, creating a living cover for the greenhouse structure. It’s sitting in the apiary, so I think it would be a great source of food for the bees. And it’s cool.

In New Menopausal Years The Wise Woman WaySusun Weed recommends extracting willow bark with vinegar, with one teaspoonful considered the same as one aspirin. I plan to use apple cider vinegar for the menstruum. Apple cider tinctures are gentle and have the added advantage of being food, so they’re often used in herbal remedies for children.

I’ve chosen these two herbs to help with both rheumatoid arthritis and menopause/postmenopause issues. Both are anti-inflammatory, helpful with both issues. Fluid retention is helped by the diuretic properties of horsetail, something that happens with both RA and menopause. And it’s nice I can walk outside my house and gather them instead of buying them.

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I’m really enjoying all that I’m learning. Below are some of the books I’ve used in my research and formularies. I ended up with enough horsetail to fill two 1 gallon jars and enough willow bark for a half gallon jar. I’ll continue sharing my research and everything I’m making in future posts.

~Blessings to all!

 

 

Recommended reading that can be found at Amazon:

Medical Herbalism and Holistic Herbal both by David Hoffman are excellent.

A Modern Herbal Vols 1 & 2 by Mrs. M. Grieve, also found online.

The Way of Herbs by Michael Tierra

Anything by Rosemary Gladstar

Anything by Susun Weed

Anything by Michael Moore