Best Holistic Life Magazine Fall 2021

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With legalization happening across the nation, more people have access to marijuana. During Covid, rates of anxiety, depression, and mental health challenges increased. Many of these individ- uals turned to marijuana aka cannabis as a natural alternative to prescription pills to help them cope with their stressors. However, cannabis is a very powerful substance and many people that explore it as medicine are not utilizing its full therapeutic potential and may be putting themselves at risk for dependency. First, how does cannabis work in health and healing? Your body has an endocannabinoid system that is in charge of homeostasis. It is the way the body stays in balance for survival. For example, your body has a specific set point in temperature in order to keep all the systems of the body in sync. If you walk outside into 110 degrees the body temperature begins to increase, trigger- ing sweat as a way to cool down. The signal that communicates this balancing act is the endocannabinoid system. The body produces its own natural endocannabinoids like Anan- damide, also known as the bliss molecule. Lifestyle factors like stress, poor diet, and lack of exercise can inhibit the production of these endocannabinoids making it difficult for the body to achieve homeostasis. Over time, this can lead to chronic health issues like depression, chronic pain, autoimmune disease, and digestive disorders. One way to supplement this lack of endocannabinoids is through cannabis. The chemical compounds in cannabis are called phyto- cannabinoids or cannabinoids for short. There are over 150 differ- ent chemical compounds that make up this complex plant includ- ing THC, CBD, and CBN. THC produces the psychoactive effect and most closely resembles the bliss molecule, anandamide. I started using cannabis therapeutically back in my late 20s when I was diagnosed with anxiety and prescribed Prozac for treatment. Up until then, I had no idea what anxiety was. The only reason I learned about it was that I had been undergoing various treatments for chronic back pain. I was on the verge of back surgery when my

doctor suggested I see a Psychiatrist. The Psychiatrist said, “It’s all in your head.” I felt insulted like he thought I was lying about my pain. What he was trying to do was educate me on the mind and body connection. He went on to teach me about stress and anxiety. I thought it was strange that he prescribed Prozac, but I was desper- ate and willing to do anything to find relief. After a fewmonths on Prozac, I became depressed. Prozac may work for some people, but it didn’t work for me. I felt like a zombie and so I started searching for more natural alternatives. That’s when I learned about cannabis, which at the time, was referred to as medi- cal marijuana. What I know now that I didn’t know then, is that the therapeutic potential of cannabis is increased and supported by your lifestyle. Although cannabis can provide relief for something like anxiety, if you consume cannabis but don’t do anything to manage your stress, then your endocannabinoid systemwill still be impaired. You can be more susceptible to a cannabis dependency to compensate. The health benefits from cannabis become unlocked when you work to enhance your body’s endocannabinoid system and that comes from eating a balanced diet, exercise, and stress management. There is growing research that supports different cannabinoids like CBD for inflammation and THC for chronic pain. However, canna- bis is not the cure. It can be an ally in your healing journey when combined with a healthy lifestyle. Through my healing journey, I learned how to complement my cannabis use with yoga and mindfulness meditation, two prac- tices that reduce stress. That combination alleviated my back pain, anxiety, and depression. I also reached a healthy weight effortlessly (probably because I stopped stress eating). If you are looking for a natural alternative for health and healing and are interested in exploring cannabis, then be ready to make an overall healthy lifestyle change in order to get the most out of its therapeutic potential.

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