Health

3 Canadian Women Who Treat Their Health Issues With Cannabis

Chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety: Canadian women share their health issues, and the cannabis products they use to treat them

An illustration of the products mentioned in the story

(Background illustration: iStock)

Medical cannabis has been legal in Canada for about two decades, and there are more than 350,000 registered patients. Despite that, as we reported here, it’s still difficult to find information and guidance on using it.

So, we asked three women to tell us about the products that they say work for them. Note that not all of the products they recommend are licensed—even now, about 40 per cent of cannabis users buy from the black market, which is still a criminal offence for both seller and buyer. Licensed products are required by Health Canada to be laboratory tested to ensure they’re free of pesticides and other harmful contaminants, and to determine the concentration of cannabis’ two main active compounds, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). There are no guarantees that products from illegal dispensaries are safe or labelled accurately.

Brandi Cull, Sudbury, Ont.

Condition: Anxiety and eating disorders
Product picks: Mota Black Clear Sphere, Spark of Life CBD Tincture (these products are not licensed by Health Canada)

Brandi Cull has spent most of her life coping with the effects of childhood trauma. Several years ago, a friend gave her a couple of joints to treat insomnia. Not only did cannabis knock her out at night, but it also helped her process her emotions and motivated her to get fit.

“Cannabis, yoga and meditation helped me dive into my trauma and work through those feelings and be gentle with myself,” says Cull, a former mental health and addictions nurse who is launching a private cannabis nursing practice. “If a flashback comes up, I can investigate it without being scared and release the trauma in a gentler way.”

Now she uses a tincture with the cannabinoid THCV, which has been shown to decrease anxiety and regulate appetite. She also smokes and vapes dried flower and uses edibles. Cull says cannabis energizes her and helps her get in the zone at the gym. “When I was overweight, going to the gym was a huge source of stress because I was the big girl sweating,” she says. “Now I go into my own little world and don’t worry about what other people think.”

An added bonus: Cannabis has led to better sex. “A lot of women struggle with trying to be intimate because they’re thinking about their to-do list,” she says. “Cannabis allows you to be present in the moment. It will change your sex life and your intimacy with your partner.

Kelsey Watt, Edmonton

Condition: Chronic pain
Product picks: Aphria CBD 25:1 Softgels, Kolab Project CBD Disposable Vape Pen

A 2014 car accident left Kelsey Watt with post-concussion syndrome, chronic pain, migraines, muscle spasms, nausea, fatigue, insomnia and PTSD. The former financial planner was put on a cocktail of opioids, sleeping pills and other medications and left unable to work. Despite all the meds, her pain persisted, making eating difficult and leading to dramatic weight loss.

After years of suffering—including grappling with suicidal thoughts—she tried cannabis, which she first accessed on the illegal market before her pain doctor referred her to a clinic for a prescription.

“Cannabis completely changed my life,” says Watt, who became a cannabis educator last year. It reduced her pain, allowing her to decrease other medications, and improved her mood, appetite, sleep and overall quality of life. “I was finally able to laugh again, which was something I hadn’t done for a long time.”

In the early days, she only had access to dried flower. Today, her go-tos are CBD softgels, which she takes three times a day, and a CBD disposable vape pen for breakthrough pain as needed. She has reduced her dose over the years—from three to two grams of flower or equivalent per day—and believes cannabis is helping her heal rather than just masking her symptoms.

Annie MacEachern, Charlottetown

Condition: Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Product picks: G Pen Dash Dried Herb Vaporizer, Skosha Mirage Plus dried flower

Annie MacEachern has been using cannabis to ease her IBS symptoms—stomach cramps, nausea and lack of appetite—since 2008. She self-medicated with recreational cannabis for years before getting a prescription in 2017. “Cannabis is the one thing that consistently makes me feel better,” says MacEachern, a communications professional and cannabis advocate who was involved in the legalization push. Her symptoms have lessened over the years, leading her to the conclusion that cannabis is treating her underlying condition.

Her daily routine involves vaporizing dried flower: in the morning to stimulate her appetite, after lunch to relieve stomach cramps and before dinner. She opts for CBD cultivars during the day so she can work with a clear mind. In the evenings, MacEachern usually vapes a cultivar that’s high in the terpene linalool, which is derived from lavender and has a relaxing, sedative effect.

She also uses an oil topically close to her period, when she experiences increased sensitivity in her gut and digestive system. “I just lather up my stomach and my lower back and get in a warm bath. The relief I feel from that is incredible.”

This story was updated to add information about illegal cannabis products, and note which products are not licensed by Health Canada.

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