Herbalists are generally trained in the traditional uses of plants as medicine. Scientific study is also used for guidance. It is my belief that we learn from both our personal experience and from others. There is another aspect of learning that uses intuition, or an inner voice. Many herbalists develop a relationship with a plant that influences how they cultivate it, make medicine, and use it to help others. Many herbalists tune into the plant’s messages and respond to what they say. The mutually beneficial evolutionary relationship is discussed in Michael Pollan’s book The Botany of Desire.1
Tammi Sweet is an experienced herbalist, educator, and grower of CBD-dominant cannabis. She uses experience, science, and intuition to create a model for the relationship of cannabis and the endocannabinoid system (ECS). She says the ECS is the wizard behind the curtain to provide safety and resilience by modulating the activity of the autonomic nervous and endocrine systems. It does this by protective and regulatory actions for our body, mind, emotions, and spirit. These actions include decreasing inflammation and anxiety, increasing neuroprotection and neuroplasticity, influencing feeding behavior, increasing ease and hope, removing emotional tags (forgetting to be afraid), and opening the mind and spirit to new possibilities. She believes that cannabis is a master plant along with coffee, tobacco, coca, and poppy. This means that they have a high potential for adverse effects when used improperly. She also believes that cannabis has the potential to evolve consciousness and make the world a better place. 2
Our journey to health can be a quest to discover who we are and our relationship to the world. Understanding the cannabis plant and its relation to human health may be more complicated than scientific studies can address. From this simplest to the most complex forms, there are correlations that are bidirectional. COVID-19 may not just be a viral disease passed from one individual to another. It may be a symptom of an unhealthy population and planet. There is an energy seeking balance within our cells, tissues, organs, and ultimately our world.
Some health care practitioners will consider the energetics of spirit, mind, and body to achieve a balance and harmony. I believe a patient does the healing and the physician collects the fee. The word “doctor” originates from the Latin word, docere, meaning “to teach”. This is why patient education is so important. It not only builds trust, but may act as a medicine in itself. Perhaps the cannabis plant has more to teach us…. we only need to listen.
I recently heard a quote: “Treat the patient that the disease has, rather than the disease that patient has”. This approach uses concepts advocated by Functional Medicine and Personalized Lifestyle healthcare practitioners. They believe that improved outcomes for the patient can be achieved when all aspects of a patient’s life are evaluated. These include mindset, sleep habits, diet, exercise and movement habits as well as their relationships with other people and the environment.
Being a retired dentist and herbal student, I understand the value of studies which can provide some guidance for practice. Although published research provides some basis for therapeutic decisions, tradition and the reports of experienced clinicians should also be valued.
In-vivo and in-vitro trials are subject to intentional bias and other variables that can be misleading for practitioners and patients. Healthcare practitioners base their recommendations to promote healing not only through these lenses but also, unfortunately, through a medical legal lens.
Medicine can be defined as an experience that supports health, well being, and promotes healing. This could be laughter, companionship, changes in sleep, diet and exercise habits, chemical supplements, and surgical repair of tissue that cannot be healed. This may also include considering a patient’s mindset regarding their spiritual health and sense of purpose. The medicine needs to be prescribed to treat the person, not the disease. These same principles apply to cannabis as a medicine. Society of Cannabis Clinicians Founder Dr. Tod Mikuriya once said, “We should be thinking of cannabis as a medicine first that happens to have some psychoactive properties, as many medicines do, rather than as an intoxicant that happens to have a few therapeutic properties on the side.”
I consider cannabis a medicinal adaptogenic and tonic herb. Its phytochemicals serve the plant itself which we also use for our purposes. Botanicals produce these chemicals to improve their chances for survival and reproduction. The amount of the plant’s phytochemicals (secondary metabolites) are affected by the nourishment it receives from light, water, the growing medium, and perhaps the intention of the growers. I believe that the sun provides the broadest spectrum of light. This may provide the same benefit for plants when humans eat a wide variety of natural foods that those of varying colors. Many varieties of organisms that are found in a living soil may be compared to our own digestive tract and its microbiome. Even some insects and arachnids are beneficial in controlling damaging pests. 3,4
It is wise to consider all aspects of the growing environment when using cannabis as medicine. Quality is more important than quantity. Herbalists develop a relationship with the plant whether they are wild crafting or cultivating. The intentions of cultivators, medicine makers and prescribers can direct the medicinal effects from seed to patient.
I consider cannabis and other chemical supplements, whether herbs or pharmaceuticals, not as primary sources of healing. I believe that eliminating the root causes of disease and providing educational support concerning chronic illness will shift the mainstream approaches from disease care to healthcare. It is in our best interest to develop a relationship with the cannabis plant, and other botanical allies, to truly unlock its vast healing potential.
James Brent DDS is an SCC member who practiced dentistry for 43 years. He also studied alternative healing techniques including naturopathy, chiropractic, physical therapy, nutrition, and herbal therapy. Check out his blog for further exploration on these topics and more.
- Pollan, M. (2002). The botany of desire: A plant’s-eye view of the world. Random house trade paperbacks.
- Sweet, T. (2020). The Wholistic Healing Guide to Cannabis: Understanding the Endocannabinoid System, Addressing Specific Ailments and Conditions, and Making Cannabis-Based Remedies. Storey Publishing.
- Green Flower Media. (2018). Cannabis Cultivation Program.
- The Doctor’s Farmacy. (2020). How To Activate Nature’s Healing Potential. Episode 138.