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Treating Lupus Symptoms with CBD-Rich Tinctures and Topicals

AC/DC bud
AC/DC bud

What is Lupus?
Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that can last for many years. With lupus, the body’s immune system gets confused and instead of just fighting off bacteria and viruses, it attacks and destroys healthy tissue such as the heart, joints, skin, lungs, blood vessels and cells, liver, kidney, brain, and nervous system. People with lupus can experience flare-ups with mild to severe symptoms followed by periods of remission. Over 1.5 million Americans are living with this disease, with over 16,000 new cases reported annually. Ninety percent of the cases are women and eighty percent are between the ages of 15 and 45. Presently, there is no cure.

Symptoms may include fatigue, an unexplainable low-grade fever, skin rashes, hair loss resulting from inflammation of the scalp, chest pains from inflammation of the lungs, kidney inflammation which can cause swelling in the lower legs and feet as well as high blood pressure, painful and swollen joints, indigestions, thyroid problems that can show up as weight gain or hair loss, and dry mouth and eyes, to name a few.

Marcia’s Story
I met Marcia several months ago when she asked about Turtle Bud’s CBD-Rich Recovery Salve and AC/DC tincture. She is beautiful women in her 60’s whose face exudes hope and kindness despite her pain. She’s been living with Lupus for 20 years. I asked her to share her story with us. Here it is:

“My Lupus symptoms at the start were painful rashes on my face/neck/chest, along with fevers and severe fatigue. A few months later the joints in my knees and hands became painful and swollen. After about 5 years of dealing with all those symptoms, it got to be too much to deal with. So I quit full time work in an attempt to just feel better. During that time period my medications included:

Plaquenil (antimalaria),
stomach lining medications,
Ultram (pain medication), 
anti-depressants, and
sleeping pills.  

Gradually I was able to reduce some of the medications as I had less flare ups. That was until 2010 when my brain became involved with Demyelinating Disease of the Central Nervous System, and then I had mild cognitive impairment to deal with.  I worked closely with a neuropsychologist doing cognitive rehab for about 2 years. In addition to Lupus, I recently have been diagnosed with Trigeminal Neuralgia (a chronic pain condition that causes extreme, sporadic, sudden burning or shock-like face pain.)  That diagnosis started my pursuing cannabinoids for pain relief – with my neurologist’s blessing.

I am finding good relief using your CBD-rich recovery salve on my knees and hands as needed throughout the day. I have been able to reduce my anti-inflammatory medications and even my pain meds. I also use AC/DC tincture throughout the day to ease my face pain.  To help with being able to sleep thru the night, I am experimenting with CBD/THC edibles.  Being able to monitor my pain with tinctures and/or salves as needed is more effective than prescribed  medications without the side effects. Since starting your products I find myself being more physically active, which benefits me on many levels. I’ve only been using cannabinoids for about 3 months (yours for 2 months). My quality of life has definitely improved. Over time, I’ll be able to tell you to what extent.”

Testimonials like Marcia’s bring me immense joy and satisfaction and inspire me to grow and create more products. But they also make me sad and frustrated. CBD products like these, that have absolutely no psychoactive properties, should not be swept up into the federal and state cannabis laws, regulated,  and used as a vehicle for tax revenues. CBD-rich cannabis plants, such as AC/DC and others, are similar to hemp plants but contain far more of the beneficial CBD cannabinoids. Their topicals and tinctures should be readily available to everyone and be allowed for purchase at any health food, grocery, drug store or farmer’s market. They should also be allowed to be grown in everyone’s garden and cause no more concern to others than a zucchini, rosemary or tomato plant!




Raw Fan Leaf Pesto

Raw Fan Leaf Pesto
Fusilli with fan leaf pesto

Here’s another recipe that utilizes your fresh fan leaves.  A month before harvest, you should be thinning your cannabis plants by removing some fan leaves each day. Instead of tossing them out, use  freshly picked leaves in this delicious pesto.

Highlights of today’s recipe
The most common pesto is made from combining fresh basil, parmesan cheese, pine nuts, olive oil and garlic. Several simple changes were made to make this a healthier version:

  • Fan leaves are the dominant ingredient instead of basil, however, enough basil is used to provide the dominant flavor of the pesto.
  • This recipe is made dairy free by substituting parmesan cheese with nutritional yeast, an excellent source of B vitamins.  I avoid dairy completely as I, like most people, find it difficult to digest.
  • Omega-3 rich English walnuts are used instead of pine nuts. Todays pine nuts are mostly sourced from China. I have experienced “pine mouth” when eating Chinese pine nuts – an annoying metallic taste which appears about a day after eating them and can last from a few days to several weeks.
  • Lemon juice gives this pesto a refreshing taste and the grated lemon peel contains d-limonene;  a terpene with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

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Raw Fan Leaf Pesto
Vegan and Gluten Free
[makes 1 cup]

This versatile pesto can be used on pasta, rice, vegetables, baked potatoes and more. Use it to stuff mushrooms, to flavor baked salmon, or as a dip.

Requirements – Food Processor

1 1/3 cups organically grown fresh cannabis fan leaves
2 to 3 cloves garlic, peeled
2/3 cups organic fresh basil
1/4 cup raw English walnut pieces
1 tablespoon grated organic lemon zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons vegetarian nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Clean the fan leaves and remove the woody stems.


Run the garlic through the chute of a food processor until it is minced.

Place the destemmed fan leaves and the remaining ingredients into the food processor and process until fairly smooth.

Ingredients before processing
Process until the pesto is fairly smooth

This recipe makes 1 cup of pesto.

One cup of pesto - refrigerate or freeze
One cup of pesto – refrigerate or freeze

Use immediately or refrigerate. For longer storage, place in the freezer.

Since the cannabis leaves are raw, any THC that exists in the fan leaves would be in their acid form (as THCA) and therefore should not have any psychoactive effect.

Raw zucchini spaghetti with fan leaf pesto


The Ultimate Raw Cannabis Smoothie

If you’ve been following Dr. William Courtney‘s work on dietary raw cannabis, you may have gotten on the band wagon of juicing or blending raw cannabis into your smoothies. The main benefit of doing this is that you can consume cannabinoids without experiencing any psychoactive effects.

According to Dr. Courtney and others, raw cannabis can reduce inflammation, supports the immune system, is a source of antioxidants, is neuroprotective, and may improve bone metabolism.  And it can do all this without getting you high since you are consuming cannabis in its acid form. Raw cannabis contains THCA (Tetrahydrocannabinolic–acid) and CBDA (Cannabidiolic-acid). When cooked or smoked, these turn into THC and CBD. This “decarboxylated” form of THC causes the psychoactive effects, which often are not desirable.

Pretty much the only way to consume raw cannabis on a daily basis is to have a plant growing (or a friend with a live plant) so you can readily pinch off some fresh leaves each morning to put into your smoothie. Needless to say, these plants must be grown without any chemical pesticides/ fertilizers or other contaminants.

Why I Prefer Smoothies

Though many people discuss the dietary benefits of raw cannabis, such as the plant being a source of complete protein as well as other nutrients, and providing  omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the perfect ratio – eating 15 or so leaves a day will not be a significant dietary source of these critical nutrients. Their greatest contribution is the concentration of cannabinoids that they provide. Therefore,  I like the extra benefits of mixing raw cannabis with other superfoods and beneficial ingredients that provide substantial omega-3, protein, dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, probiotics, phytochemicals and more.

 Smoothie Basics

In my ebook, Health Begins in the Kitchen: Delicious and Easy Vegan Recipes and Seasonal Food PlanI talk about the major components of a good smoothie (this is not a cannabis cookbook, but one you should consider if you are fighting illness or being proactive about improving your health).

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First of all, every kitchen should have a high-speed blender, such as a Vitamix, especially if you are going to successfully blend cannabis leaves, kale, nuts, and other fibrous foods.

Every smoothie starts with liquid – I prefer an organic,  non-dairy milk or a blend of raw, soaked nuts and water.

To this I always add greens, such as kale, spinach, romaine lettuce, or a vitamin-packed herb such as parsley or a “weed” like purslane.

To make a thick and creamy smoothie, I select fruits that are in high in fiber – such as ripe pears or mangos. Frozen bananas add thickness and sweetness.

I always add berries, especially antioxidant-packed blueberries, since they deliver a strong nutritional punch, particularly for neuronal support. Blueberries are also low in terms of glycemic index so they won’t spike your blood sugar like some fruit. They also turn your “green smoothie” a nice shade of purple which, for some, is more palatable.

For omega-3, I add ground chia seed or, if using whole ones, soaked and hydrated. Cold pressed flaxseed oil is a very concentrated source of omega-3.

For protein, I like raw hemp powder, which not only is a good source of complete protein, but is also a source of omega-3 as well. I don’t use too much of this as it can taste a little chalky.

I almost always throw in a few Brazil nuts, which are an excellent source of selenium.

Don’t forget the probiotics! I like to add non-dairy yogurt. If you enjoy and can tolerate dairy,  goat yogurt is easier to digest than that made from cow’s milk.

Feel free to add additional superfoods, such as raw cacao, algae, and matcha powdered green tea.

For the type of raw cannabis to use, you’ll have to experiment with different strains and pick the one that provides the cannabinoids to which you respond well. I prefer leaves from CBDA-rich strains such as AC/DC, Cannatonic, or Ringo’s Gift. You may prefer ones higher in THCA.

A note about the internet claims of being able to consume a large amount of raw cannabis and not feel “anything.” Although you are definitely not going to get “high”, you may very well feel “something.” So start with just a few leaves and pay attention to the results.

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The Ultimate Raw Cannabis Smoothie 
Vegan, Gluten Free
[makes 4 (1-cup) servings]

This fresh combination of raw fruits, nuts, seeds, and  greens is rich in fiber, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids,  selenium and non-psychoactive cannabinoids.

Requirements  – High speed blender

Ingredients – Use organic ingredients where possible
1 ½ tablespoon chia seeds
3/4 cup room temperature water
1 ½ cups unsweetened almond milk
1/4 cup plain soy or other yogurt
15 cannabis leaves (more or less, depending on needs)
1 cup raw kale leaves, ribs removed
1 large pear
1 medium  banana
3/4 cup  blueberries
3/4 cup strawberries
2 tablespoons raw hemp protein powder
2 Brazil nuts

Mix the chia seeds with water in a small cup and stir vigorously. Stir a few more times until the seeds are well separated. Set aside until the chia seeds absorb all the water. This will only take about 15 minutes.


Place all the ingredients in a blender, blend until smooth, and serve!


Nutrition per 1-cup serving (4): 179 calories, 7 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 849 mg omega-3 and 1,623 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 5 g protein, 28 g carbohydrates, 7 g dietary fiber, and 73 mg sodium. (Nutrition from the cannabis leaves is excluded. )

How Cannabis Lowers Need For Opioids and Reduces Risk of Overdose

Cannabis opioid interaction
Medicinal Cannabis Conference
I attended the 2016 Medicinal Cannabis Conference in Arcata, California on April 23rd through 25th  where I heard from well known doctors such as:

Dr. Donald Abrams, chief of the Hematology-Oncology Division at San Francisco General Hospital and a professor of Clinical Medicine at UCSF.

Dr. Ethan Russo, a board-certified neurologist, psychopharmacology researcher, and Medical Director of PHYTECS, a biotech company focusing on the human endocannabinoid system.

Dr. Dustin Sulak, founder of Integr8 Health, an integrative health practice with 3 locations in New England that treats over 18,000 patients with medical cannabis.

The most exciting development from this conference, for me, was learning more about the interaction between opioids and cannabis and the enormous potential this has to help reduce the opioid epidemic in this country. My interest was already peaked by Dr. Sulak’s article I had read in O’Shaughnessy’s Journal of Cannabis in Clinical Practice. So it was really great to hear him discuss this in person, especially with all of the experience he has with cannabis patients. And with his practice in Maine, he is no stranger to the opioid and heroin epidemic and the urgent need to address it.

The Problem
Opioid medications are handed out like candy. In 2012, 259 million prescriptions were written, enough to give every adult in the U.S. their own bottle of pills.

Sale of prescription opioids in the US nearly quadrupled from 1999 to 2014 even though there was not an increase in the amount of pain that Americans report and overdose deaths have risen accordingly. In 2014, there were 18,893 overdose deaths related to prescription pain pills. Another 10,574 overdose deaths were related to heroin.

The problem is that when a person has surgery, or a back ache, or other forms of pain, their doctor prescribes them a pain reliever such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, or morphine. These drugs have many bad side effects, but the ones that are key here are:

* they are addictive
* people develop a tolerance to them, requiring them to increase their dosage
* they can cause respiratory depression which can lead to death
* as pain pills became harder to get, many turn to a more potent and cheaper opioid, heroin

How Cannabis can help
Like opioids, cannabinoids (the chemical compounds found in cannabis) can reduce sensitivity to pain. In animal studies, cannabis added to opioids increased pain relief significantly more than the opioids alone. In addition, co-administering cannabis with opioids prevents tolerance building. What this could mean for humans is:

* a person could take a much lower dose of opioids if they take a little toke of cannabis
* they may not have to increase their dosage of opioids as the cannabis may prevent tolerance
* Cannabis is also safe because unlike opioid receptors, cannabis receptors are not very prevalent in the brainstem’s cardio-respiratory center and does not increase the risk of respiratory depression or overdosing. No one has ever died from overdosing from taking too much marijuana.

Because cannabis is classified as a Schedule 1 drug, most of this research is still only confirmed by animal studies. As great as it is to prevent our rat population from opioid addiction, it would be far better to be able to prove this benefit in humans. Hopefully cannabis, with its many medicinal benefits will be rescheduled so this research can be done in the United States.

Some anecdotal accounts shared at the conference confirm these findings. Dr. Sulak described a patient who never needed to increase his small dosage of pain killers over a ten year period despite the severe chronic pain for the which it was prescribed. When the good doctor pointed this out, the patient readily pulled out a big joint from his pocket!

The Obvious Question
With all the risks of prescription opioids, and the relative safety of medical cannabis, why not just prescribe medical cannabis for pain and skip over the prescription drugs completely?

Recently my son had knee surgery and I’m sure went home with a big bottle of prescription pain killers. Luckily he lives in Oregon where cannabis is legal. He was able to completely control his post-surgical pain with cannabis alone. He didn’t get addicted to it (he much prefers bourbon) and had a speedy recovery.

A group of researchers in Canada published a paper “Cannabis for the Management of Pain: Assessment of Safety Study” in the Journal of Pain where patients using an average daily dose of 2.5g of dried herbal cannabis a day for one year showed improvements in pain, function, quality of life and cognitive function.

Last year an article by Dr. Kevin Hill in The Journal of the American Medical Association reviewed the medical literature over the past 66 years and found that “the use of cannabis for chronic pain, neuropathic pain, and spasticity due to Multiple Sclerosis is supported by high-quality evidence.”

Can Cannabis Cure Addiction?
We’ve discussed how cannabis can safely potentiate the analgesic effect of pain killers and how it can reduce pain all by itself. But can it cure someone who is already addicted to opioids?

This is certainly a critical area that needs far more research. But there are doctors who have shown that it can.

For example, Dr. Gary Witman of Canna Care Docs claims that he has successfully treated 15 patients with cannabis who have weened themselves off of opioids without relapse. And some individuals have told their own story of successfully using marijuana to cure their addictions.

Most states with medical marijuana now allow addiction to be on the list of qualifying conditions, showing the willingness to consider this as a viable treatment option. Maine Representative Diane Russel asked, “why take a solution off the table when people are telling us and physicians are telling us that it’s working?”

The irony is not lost when cannabis, a supposed “schedule 1 drug that, by definition, has no medical benefits” can help prevent and potentially cure drug addiction caused by legal pharmaceutical drugs.