The Benefits and Uses of Hemp

Dear Nurse Susan,
I’m kind of new to this cannabis thing and I’ve heard people use “hemp”, “cannabis” and “marijuana” interchangeably. From what I’ve read it seems that they all are not the same, but I’m not clear about the whole thing. Can you set me straight on this….so to speak?
Thank you,
Just the Facts

Dear Fact seeker,
The cannabis sativa plant has many different uses, but don’t confuse hemp with marijuana. Hemp is the cannabis sativa L plant that contains less than 1% of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), whereas the cannabis that is sold in dispensaries can have up to 30% THC. THC is the only compound in cannabis that causes psycho-activity. Today I want to talk about the many uses of hemp! After a high-level review of some of the many uses of hemp, I will talk about why and how you can take advantage of this wonderful plant. Here is a quick review of the many benefits of hemp:

Although hemp has been used for centuries in the paper, textile, rope, biodegradable plastics, food, auto-parts, fuel, and construction industries it was banned as an agricultural crop in the US in 1937. There was a reprieve of this illegal status in 1942 as hemp had many uses during World War 2 and the government again encouraged it as an agricultural crop. After the “need” for hemps many uses receded it again became illegal in the U.S. in 1957. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Public Affairs produced the following film in 1942 - “Hemp for Victory”

In the 2014 Farm Bill, universities and state departments of agriculture became able to grow hemp for research and limited industrial purposes. Legislation continued to open up for hemp and as of 2017, 38 states have considered some type of legislation related to hemp and it is now legally grown in fifteen states.

Hemp is also a bio-accumulator, meaning that it is very efficient and effective at removing toxins and heavy metals from the soil (it was used at Chernobyl after their nuclear accident). As a multipurpose highly efficient plant, this ban as an agricultural crop was believed to be due to competitive interests with the petroleum and other multi-national companies like DuPont, as well as its association with marijuana.

Hemp is a Superfood!
Hemp seeds are a densely nutritious food that contains fiber, highly digestible protein, edestin and albumin, that convert to amino acids in the gut, and contain significant amounts of essential amino acids. Hemp can be consumed as hulled hemp seeds (also called hemp hearts), hemp oil, and hemp seed protein. The shelled hemp seeds, contain chlorophyll, fiber, protein and fatty acids, and have a nutty, sweet flavor.

Here is a short video from Dr. Axe on the benefits of hemp seeds. If you are intrigued by the information in this video, then continue reading this article for more in-depth information!
Hemp should not be heated, roasted or baked because it will affect the digestibility. 100 grams or ½ cup of hemp seeds contain between 31-33% protein and meets 73% of the Daily Value for protein, based on a 2,000 calorie diet.
Hemp protein powders are produced from seeds by removing the omega oils via expeller pressing methods. Hemp protein powers can be used as a substitute for whey and soy proteins.

Hemp is an excellent source of all 20 amino acids including the 9 essential amino acids. Essential fatty acids are called “essential” because the body does not produce them so we must ingest them from the foods we eat. They support neurological functioning, cell membrane stability, oxygen transfer, immune response, inflammatory regulation and cardiovascular stability.
Omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids are in a perfect ratio which is between a 4:1 or 1;1 ratio. Too much omega 6 from refined vegetable oils and grain-fed animals, can cause chronic inflammation. That is why it is important to add omega 3 fatty acids to balance the omega 6 fatty acids. Hemp seeds are also high in Vitamin E, an important antioxidant, moisturizer, and it supports the cardiovascular and neurological systems.

Good for the Heart! – Hemp normalizes high blood pressure, lowers LDL cholesterol, reduces inflammation, and is good for weight loss and diabetes due to its long-lasting fuel source. The fatty acids in hemp seeds regulate blood sugar levels, and is high in magnesium that relaxes muscles and supports proper brain function. The following article from the U.S. National Library of Medicine further explains the heart benefits of hemp.

Whichever form of hemp you use, make sure your product is certified organic, made from raw hemp seeds, cold-processed (never hexane processed), unrefined and chemical free. Here is a link to an in-depth video from Superfood Evolution on the benefits of hemp:

Fact Seeker, this should set you straight about hemp and hopefully encourage you to include it in your quest for good health. I enjoy a number of hemp products including hemp seed in my smoothies and hemp protein bars widely available at natural food stores, Amazon, etc.
To your health!
Nurse Susan

Sources for good quality hemp products:

How To Use CBD Effectively

Dear Nurse Susan,
I recently bought a CBD sublingual tincture for my arthritis pain and inflammation. I have used most of the bottle but have not noticed any benefits. Is this expected? Does that mean that CBD doesn’t work for me?

Dear Skeptical,
Great question! People often ask me about cannabidiol (CBD) and if it really works. CBD is a cannabinoid found in cannabis and has many therapeutic effects, without the intoxicating effects of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). In addition to pain and inflammation from arthritis, CBD is frequently used for conditions that are difficult to treat, such as Crohn’s disease, PTSD, anxiety and Multiple Sclerosis. CBD interacts with 65 targets and receptors in the body. CBD does not bind to the CB1 receptor, but it reduces the intoxicating effects of THC, while boosting THC’s pain killing and anti-inflammatory properties. Due to its lack of intoxication, it is ideal for use by the elderly, children, and those who need to be clear-headed. If you prefer to consume CBD using infused beverages, remember that plastic absorbs CBD so you may end up with more CBD in the plastic than the beverage!
Let’s start with a short video of what some doctors have to say about CBD:
I want to address your question in a couple of different ways:
First, what did you buy? There are more and more CBD products flooding the market every day. Unfortunately, some manufacturers are less scrupulous than others and are making low-quality products. Some products have been tested independently and have little to no CBD in them! According to a recent report by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), discrepancies between federal and state cannabis laws have resulted in inadequate regulation and oversight, leading to inaccurate labeling of some products. You can read about it here:
The FDA has tested the chemical content of cannabinoid compounds in some of the products, and many were found to not contain the levels of CBD they claimed to contain. It is important to note that these products are not approved by FDA for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of any disease. Consumers should beware purchasing and using any such products:
It is important to only use cannabis products that have been lab tested for purity, potency, safety, and consistency. The most comprehensive testing measures the levels of cannabinoids (THC, CBD, etc.), terpenes (myrcene, pinene, etc.), residual solvents (ETOH, butane, etc.), pesticides and microbial content (mold, bacteria, etc.).
So, how do you get lab results? Go to the manufacturer’s website and see if they post their lab results. For example, go to and under Products, click on Strain Results and you can review lab reports on each of their products. If a manufacturer does independent lab testing they are happy to show the lab reports because it is instant credibility. If a manufacturer cannot provide lab reports, don’t use their products. Ask your dispensary which testing laboratory they use and look into that laboratory. If your dispensary cannot provide lab results on the products it sells, maybe it’s time to find a new dispensary.
Second, what dose did you use? If a 30ml bottle lasted 6 months, you probably weren’t getting an optimal dose. Just as with many traditional pharmaceuticals, every individual must find the dose that is best for them, because dosing is the most important factor in a successful cannabis experience. That is one of the services I provide to medical patients who want to use the appropriate cannabinoids and need help finding their optimal dose. The general rule for dosing is to start low and go slow. That means slowly increase the daily dose until you get the results you are looking for. If you aren’t feeling as well as you did with a lower dose, go back to the lower dose and make a note of how many milligrams of CBD, THC etc. work best for you.
Finally, cannabis is not a miracle drug and does not work for everyone. Don’t expect cannabis to cancel out your less-than-optimal lifestyle choices. To obtain the optimal effects of CBD for arthritis, combine cannabis/CBD therapeutics with healthy choices such as
• minimal consumption of sugar
• no tobacco
• minimal caffeine
• limited consumption simple carbohydrates like bread, pasta and rice
• eat lots of vegetables and berries
• use healthy fats like avocado, coconut, olive oil etc.
• avoidance of night-shade vegetables (peppers, eggplant, tomatoes etc.)
• minimal alcohol consumption
• plenty of good-quality sleep and exercise
Skeptical, don’t give up! Make the effort to find the best products and dose for your optimal cannabis experience. The exploration of all the different products and methods of consumption can be educational and fun!

Cannabis for Chronic Pain

Dear Nurse Susan,

I suffer from Fibromyalgia and as you would expect I have good days and bad days…..and the bad days are really hard. I support my family so missing work isn’t an option and I use  prescription meds to get through most days. I’ve read that cannbis is an alternative to opioids, but I don’t want to trade in one problem for another. Can you explain how cannabis can replace the current pain medication I’m using. Thank you,

Looking for Help


Dear Looking,

The cannabis plant is more than 70 million years old, and has been used for fiber, food, medicine, paper, clothing, textiles and in spiritual practices. Human’s and cannabis have evolved together which may be why we have a natural attraction to the plant.

Many chronic pain sufferers are turning to cannabis for relief. The standard therapies for pain relief include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Advil, Motrin, Celebrex, Naprosyn, aspirin, and Alleve; Tylenol; and opioids such as morphine, Vicodin, OxyContin and fentanyl. All these therapies come with significant risks. For example, NSAIDs can cause stomach ulcers and bleeding, cardiac arrest, and stroke. NSAIDs are intended for short-term use, i.e., less than 10 days. Tylenol or acetaminophen can cause liver failure leading to death and is toxic to the kidneys. Opioids can cause vomiting, constipation, depression, loss of appetite, and respiratory depression leading to death. In 2017, 65,000 people died of opioid overdose. Eighty percent of heroin addicts were addicted to prescription opioids before starting heroin.

Cannabis side effects are transient and considered mild to moderate, and include dry mouth, euphoria, short-term memory impairment, anxiety, paranoia, relaxation, sedation, heightened sensory perception, altered perception of time, increased appetite, tachycardia, pain relief, lowered blood pressure, tolerance, dependence, tooth discoloration with smoked cannabis, diarrhea, constipation, urinary retention, dry eyes, hallucinations, impaired coordination, and increase phlegm production in cannabis smokers. Cannabis overdose has never led to death; a person can be extremely uncomfortable for several hours, but they do not have to worry about dying.

That is not to say that opioids don’t have their place in pain management. Nothing is better than opioids for acute post-operative or traumatic pain, but opioids are highly addictive and need to be used with caution. Addiction can develop after only 7 days of continuous use, and for some people as few as 3 days. Opioid withdrawal can be a life-threatening experience with nausea, vomiting, seizures etc. They are not appropriate for chronic pain management, and have very little effect on nerve pain, such as trigeminal neuralgia (also known as the suicide disease), sciatica, shingles etc. If you have never experienced nerve pain and have difficulty understanding how bad it can be, here is a short video clip of a trigeminal neuralgia attack:

Fortunately, cannabis is effective and appropriate for chronic pain. It is only slightly more addictive than coffee, tolerance can be reversed by abstaining from using cannabis for 48 hours, and although it can cause psychological dependence, the physical withdrawal symptoms are like caffeine withdrawal: 2 weeks of insomnia, irritability, and headaches.

Cannabis is effective with nerve pain, it reduces nerve inflammation, and protects the nerves. See my earlier article on cannabis for migraine headaches. Cannabis is a powerful anti-inflammatory, twice as strong as hydrocortisone, and 20 times stronger than aspirin, so it is very effective for arthritis and auto-immune pain, such as fibromyalgia and Crohn’s disease.

If you have been using opioids to manage chronic pain and have developed an addiction there is some good news. When cannabis and opioids are given together there is a synergistic effect which means you can get the same pain control using less opioids. Over time, it is possible to reduce your opioid dose while you increase your cannabis dose, without the withdrawal. If you are thinking of using cannabis to relieve opioid addiction working with a physician is a must to ensure a safe and effective process.

I have a client with chronic pain who had been taking 180mg of oxycontin for more than eight years. By using cannabis as I just described, he was able to get his oxycontin dose down to 20mg/day, almost eliminating his risk of death by overdose of oxycontin. It took almost one year, but he was able to continue working and have adequate pain control.

If you suffer from chronic pain and want to try cannabis, I recommend working with a cannabis nurse to discover your ideal protocol for cannabis therapy. If you are currently using cannabis for pain management but you aren’t getting the results you seek, here are some ideas to consider:

  • For inflammation, raw cannabis, THCA and CBDA are the most effective cannabinoids.
  • For auto-immune issues, THCA is also your go to cannabinoid.
  • Whole-plant cannabis medicine is hugely more effective than isolates.
  • Some people with nerve pain respond best to a combination of THCA, THC and CBD.
  • A 1:1 ratio of THC and CBD is sometimes more effective at relieving pain than a THC dominant medicine.
  • Often, pain is relieved with a low dose of cannabis, and can increase the pain if you take too much, so remember to start with a low dose and slowly increase.
  • If you need a high dose to control your pain, but don’t like the psychoactivity, use a THC-dominant suppository at night, and a CBD-dominant suppository in the morning.

Chronic pain of any sort is a complex and potentially debilitating condition to live with. When you have something that works it’s a great relief and most people are willing to face the double-edged sword of pain reduction and the often significant negative side effects of prescription medication. Cannabis has proven to be a successful alternative for many. If all of what I’ve described here seems complex or confusing, please bear in mind that treating chronic pain and the often complex symptoms that come with it is often a challenge for the best medical professionals. If you are sincerely seeking cannabis as an alternative it is best to work with an experienced cannabis doctor or nurse and unfortunately they are few and far between. You can get more info at the American Cannabis Nurses Association ( or contact me at

I hope this is helpful to you and other chronic pain sufferers you may share this with.

All the best in your search to alleviate pain,

Nurse Susan

Can cannabis get rid of this cold and flu?!?!

Dear Nurse Susan,

I have had this freaking cold/flu of almost 6 weeks and I still feel worn out. I have tried every product on the market. I even did the flu shot for a few consecutive years but always got the flu anyway. Can cannabis help?

Can’t stop coughing.

Dear Can’t Stop Coughing,

This year’s flu season has been a beast. It has caused a shortage of flu medications and packed emergency rooms. Symptoms of the flu include sudden onset of fever, body aches, sore throat, runny/stuffy nose, headache, fatigue, and non-productive (no phlegm/sputum) cough. According to the CDC, 114 children have died so far from this season’s flu outbreak. The flu can sometimes weaken the lungs and people can die of a secondary infection, usually bacterial, that causes pneumonia which is the worst complication of the flu. If you have any of these symptoms, go immediately to the nearest Emergency Department:

  • Any kind of breathing problem, such as shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, severe coughing, etc.
  • Signs of a lack of oxygen, including blue coloration/shading around mouth and fingernail beds, dizziness, lightheadedness, confusion.
  • Chest pain, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting.

So, what do we know about cannabis, and how does that relate to the flu? It is well-known that cannabis compounds (aka cannabinoids, terpenoids and flavonoids) have anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, pain relieving, immunomodulation, and anti-viral/bacterial/fungal actions.

  • Anti-oxidative: An antioxidant inhibits the production of free radicals that can lead to cell damage, thereby protecting the brain and body from the harmful effects of free radicals. According to the US Patent US6630507B1, assigned to the US Department of Health and Human Services, “Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties, unrelated to NMDA receptor antagonism. This newfound property makes cannabinoids useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.” Thus, cannabis protects our healthy cells and prevents diseases. I use cannabis (high CBD, low THC) daily to manage my neurological movement disorder, and I believe I am gaining prophylactic benefits which have resulted in fewer, shorter, and less severe episodes of the flu. I especially like spraying a 1:1 CBD:THC tincture on my sore throat for almost immediate relief from pain and swelling. Here is the link to the patent:
  • Anti-inflammatory: Inflammation is the body’s immune system response to injury, infection, and tissue injury. This is a protective process, but the results are pain, swelling, joint stiffness, redness and heat. When the inflammation is chronic, it can lead to diseases such as cancer, arthritis, bowel disease etc. With the flu, inflammation is associated with general flu-like symptoms including fever, headaches, body aches, chills, and fatigue. Inflammation in the lungs can cause shortness of breath. Thus, cannabis may relieve your flu symptoms. I can obtain long-lasting, daytime relief by using a microdose (2.5mg – 5mg) of a 1:1 CBD:THC edible with virtually no psychoactivity. At night, a little THC helps me get the rest I need without the negative side effects from products like Nyquil that contain alcohol (known to damage the liver), Tylenol (known to damage the liver), and Benadryl (known to cause thick bronchial sputum).
  • Neuroprotective: Protects nerves against damage due to injury or disease, which can inhibit brain function. Nerves die from several processes, some of which are oxidative stress (see above, anti-oxidative), and inflammation (see above). This does not directly relate to the flu, but in my situation with a neurological disorder, neuroprotection and slowing down the progression of my condition, is one of my top priorities. Any physical stress, including illness, exacerbates my tremor and adds another layer of unpleasantness to the underlying illness.
  • Pain-relieving: This is self-explanatory. The flu can be painful due to a sore throat, body aches, headaches etc, which can lead to sleep disturbances which can weaken our body and intensify the flu symptoms.
  • Immunomodulation: Immune system modulation means increasing (up-regulating) or decreasing (down-regulating) immune system activity. Immune cells express cannabinoid receptors and therefore, the cannabinoids in cannabis can modulate the immune system. For example, in auto-immune diseases, the immune system is overactive, attacking our tissues as if they were foreign invaders. Cannabis down-regulates the system, so it decreases the immune system activity and prevents tissue destruction. According to scientists, developments involving the cannabinoid system and immune regulation suggest that this system will be exploited for treatment of chronic diseases and immune deficiencies.
  • Anti-viral: Influenza is a virus and requires treatment with an anti-viral; it cannot be eradicated using antibiotics. Pneumonia, sometimes a complication of the flu, can be bacterial and is therefore treated with antibiotics. According to researchers, CBD, CBG, and CBC are cannabinoids in the cannabis plant that possess anti-viral, antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. Unfortunately, there is a dearth of human research into the anti-microbial effects of cannabis. In the lab however, these cannabinoids showed “exceptional antibacterial activity against drug resistant “super bugs” like MRSA. I routinely ingest a raw cannabis smoothie, using fresh cannabis plant material, to get all those cannabinoids without the psychoactivity.

So, Can’t Stop Coughing, you can use cannabis prophylactically to support your immune system and prevent free radicals, during illness to relieve your symptoms and inflammation, and as an ongoing nutritional super-food. Get well soon!

Nurse Susan

Dear Nurse Susan - Can Cannabis Help My Migraines?

Dear Nurse Susan,

I have been plagued with migraines for the last 20 years. I have tried everything and sometimes it helps, but most of the time it doesn’t. I’ve never tried cannabis and I’m a little bit afraid, but willing to put up with the high if it will ease my pain. I figure I can’t function with the pain, so what does it matter if I get high?

Thanks for your help,

Splitting Headache

Dear Splitting Headache,

You are not alone; migraine is an extremely prevalent headache syndrome affecting 14% of Americans, with a 3:1 female:male ratio with an annual cost of $20 billion. Ethan Russo, MD, a world-renowned cannabis researcher posits that migraines (and many other disorders) are the result of an endocannabinoid deficiency (ECD). The endocannabinoid system interacts with every other system in the body and is responsible for maintaining balance or homeostasis. Here is a link to a short video that explains the endocannabinoid system:

Migraine is a neurovascular disorder with neurogenic inflammation. Researchers have found that endocannabinoid (cannabinoids that we produce in our body) levels were significantly lower in chronic migraine patients. Serotonin levels were also strongly reduced in chronic migraine patients. This information supports the hypothesis that dysfunction of the endocannabinoid system is involved in migraine headaches and the fact that cannabinoid treatment, in the form of cannabis, frequently provided symptomatic benefit.

Significant differences in levels of anandamide (a cannabinoid that we make in our bodies) in cerebrospinal fluid have been documented in migraine patients, and advanced imaging studies have demonstrated below-normal function of ECS in post-traumatic stress disorder. Clinical data have also produced evidence for decreased pain, improved sleep, and other benefits to cannabinoid treatment and adjunctive lifestyle approaches affecting the ECS.

According to Dr. Russo, until recently, only case reports and surveys of use of THC and cannabis and its effects on migraine have been published but a more formal observational trial has been reported from a cannabis-oriented clinic in the state of Colorado. Among 120 adults with migraine for whom cannabis prophylaxis (prevention) was recommended, and of which 67.8% had previously used cannabis, the frequency of headache diminished from 10.4 to 4.6 attacks per month. Overall, 85.1% had decreased migraine frequency, with 39.7% reporting positive effects: prevention of or reduced headache frequency (19.8%) or aborted headache (11.6%) in this selected and uncontrolled population employing a mixture of administration techniques with unanalyzed but presumably high-THC cannabis. Here is a link to an interview with a neurologist from the world famous Cleveland Clinic discussing cannabis for migraines and other health concerns: Although the video is a little long, it is filled with great information from a very knowledgeable specialist.

It is worth remembering that cannabis was a mainstay of treatment of migraine in Europe and North America for a century between 1843 and 1943, similarly supporting claims of a high degree of efficacy of cannabis treatment in both acute and prophylactic treatments of migraine. The only thing that changes was the politics around cannabis…..not its’s effectiveness as a treatment.

The best results are usually found with a combination of preventive (ongoing use) and acute (when having an event) use of cannabis. A daily regimen of the lowest possible dose of THC combined with CBD whole-plant medicine (oil, tincture, sublingual spray for THC or CBD) will help prevent the onset of migraines, but when they do appear, treat immediately, as soon as you think a migraine is coming on. When a migraine hits, vaping or smoking is quickest way to ingest the medicine and get results.

So, Splitting Headache, cannabis does have promise for patients suffering from migraines. If you’re not a frequent cannabis user make sure you have something on hand for when the next migraine sneaks up on you. Experiment as needed to find out what works best for you.

Wishing you the best in your efforts to manage the pain of this debilitating and all too common problem,

Nurse Susan

p.s. Here are a few more informative resources – University of Colorado Pharmacy School - Article by Dr. Eric Baron of the Cleveland Clinic (speaker in the above video) - article - article

Dear Nurse Susan - Cannabis and the NFL

Dear Nurse Susan,

I am a huge football fan, from high school football, all the way to the NFL. I’d watch football 24/7 if I could! The Super Bowl is this weekend and I cringe every time one of those NFL players bangs his head. I’ve been hearing more and more about CTE and how devastating it is to football players, boxers and hockey players. Is medical marijuana really helpful for that? I saw in the news a while back that retired NFL player Marvin Washington is suing attorney general Jeff Session over marijuana! That’s bold!

Huge NFL Fan


Dear NFL Fan,

I know exactly what you mean; it hurts to watch (and hear) when a player lands on his head or careens with another player. My heart stops when they get knocked unconscious, because I know all that is happening in their brains, and its not pretty. When we watch football, its easy to think that that is the only time players suffer head injuries or concussions. We don’t think about all the practices when they are also experiencing repeated head injury. These videos convey the ongoing, repetitive nature of the injuries that lead to CTE.

To illustrate how helpful cannabis is for brain injury, let me first explain what is happening in the brain during trauma. Under normal circumstances, the brain is bathed in cerebral spinal fluid that helps to protect the brain and regulate the pressure inside the skull. During impact, the brain bounces off the inside of the skull and then flings in the opposite direction and bounces off the opposite side of the skull, also known as coup-contracoup. That force causes bruising of the brain at the points of impact and shearing of the nerve cells throughout the brain. This can lead to brain swelling, cell death, increased pressure inside the skull, and brain herniation. Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains:

Basically, the compounds in cannabis are neuroprotective, meaning they protect nerves from a variety of insults such as neurodegenerative diseases (Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, MS, Lou Gehrig’s disease etc.), damage from the lack of blood/oxygen to the brain (stroke, near-drowning and drug overdose) and traumatic brain injury (CTE, car accident, etc.). The compounds in cannabis are also neurogenerative, meaning they stimulate new nerve cell growth, and anti-inflammatory; all important processes that protect the brain and facilitate healing.

For all you medical nerds out there interested in the scientific literature on the use of cannabis compounds following brain injury, here are a couple of my favorites:

Ever wonder what it’s like to be an NFL player sustaining a concussion during a game? Watch this…

It’s important to note that when it comes to any of these brain injuries, there really aren’t any pharmaceutical drugs that protect, regenerate and reduce brain swelling; particularly without toxic or lethal side effects. For example, a common course of treatment following brain injury is the use of corticosteroids, i.e. Decadron, to reduce brain swelling. There is a list of 45 adverse effects associated with Decadron including potential rupture of the heart, psychosis, peptic ulcer, seizure, pulmonary edema, etc.  Yikes!

Every year, almost 2 million people suffer from traumatic brain injury (TBI) which accounts for about 30% of all injury-related deaths. Those that survive TBI suffer from headaches, mood swings, depression and anxiety, suicidal thoughts, memory loss, seizure disorder, attention deficits, extremity weakness, impaired coordination and balance, impaired hearing and vision, personality changes, impulse control, and more.

On a more personal note, and perhaps too much information, but I have given my husband instructions, if I have a brain injury, to pump me full of whole-plant cannabis extracts. If I am comatose or unable to take it by mouth, he promised to give it to me via suppository (TMI?). Anyway, I always try to weigh the risks and benefits of any medical treatment, and given cannabis’s low toxicity, and that it also helps manage the ongoing consequences of TBI by reducing pain and inflammation, depression and anxiety, sleep disturbances, muscle tension, etc., I’d say it’s a no-brainer! (Excuse the pun).

Listen to what retired NFL players say about the use of cannabis, in lieu of pharmaceutical drugs that are passed around like candy to the players.




I first met Eben Britton at the CannMed Conference at Harvard University Medical Center. This annual medical conference brings together medical researchers and clinicians from around the world to share their latest findings on medicinal cannabis. He was part of a panel of retired NFL players (Nate Jackson, Lance Johnstone, Ricky Williams) who are advocating for the NFL to revise their policies on the use of cannabis. I was so impressed with this group of warrior athletes who were crisscrossing the country to help the players that are currently in the game. Remember, the NFL policies have no impact on them now that they are retired, but they are so passionate about how this plant has helped them with the issues faced by players today, that they spend their time and money educating people.

Finally, have you ever wondered why we think man can create products that are better for us than what Mother Nature provides? Clearly the pharmaceutical companies benefit from this concept. I believe if the cannabis plant was discovered today and did not have an 80-year history of misinformation and stigma, the entire world would celebrate our good fortune. Isn’t it worth considering?

So Huge NFL Fan, I hope this information is helpful to you and everyone involved in contact sports. I couldn’t throw a football if my life depended on it, but I’m glad to know this information about one of the many therapeutic effects of cannabis that can help football players.

Hope your team won the Super Bowl!

Nurse Susan

p.s. Here are a few links related to athletes and organizations that are addressing the issue of how cannabis can help with sports injuries, pain, etc. - Athletes for Care is an organization of over forty professionals from various sports, united to provide support, information and care for athletes with injuries. – Our mission is to be on the forefront of medical research and development as it relates to Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Through research, treatment and education, change the NFL policy as it relates to medical cannabis. We will pursue treatment protocol with a greater focus on holistic medicines over pharmaceutical drugs. - Sue Sisley, MD, Nate Jackson, and Eben Britton: Cannabis: Banned Drug or Medical Treatment for Sports Injuries? Presentation at 2017 “Patients Out of Time” medical cannabis conference.

Cannabis in Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Dear Nurse Susan,

I’m a mom to my 5-year-old son and 3-month-old daughter. I’ve suffered from anxiety and depression for a majority of my adult life and have found that cannbis helps me feel grounded, present, and allows me to be my true self to my children, my partner, and myself. Since getting pregnant with my daughter nearly a year ago, I used cannbis to help with nausea during the first trimester (it literally was the only thing that actually helped), but cut back on my usage thereafter for fear of the “unknown.” Now, as a nursing mother, I’m really looking to learn more about cannbis and breastfeeding and if I’m doing harm to my baby girl by using in moderation. It’s hard to think that cannbis would be causing her harm when it is so helpful to me, but I really just don’t know and haven’t found any helpful literature. Can you help?

California CannaMom

Dear CannaMom,

This is an important question, and to cut to the chase, there really is no clear cut answer. As of now, this controversial topic continues to be an “unknown”. I have included numerous resources here so any moms with this question can weigh the evidence for themselves. Please check out as many as you like to make your decision. We’ll start with the clinical evidence I’ve found.

There have been a few research studies on the effects of cannabis use during pregnancy and the neonatal outcomes of cannabis exposure. The results have been inconclusive. One study, concluded that prenatal cannabis exposure was associated with fetal growth reduction and decreased head circumference. Some investigators have reported deficits in birth weight, length and gestational age, whereas other investigators observed no adverse effects:  Long-term consequences of prenatal cannabis exposure have been reported, including poorer performance on intelligence tests, increased depressive symptoms and increased likelihood of cannabis use during adolescence, but results of other studies have demonstrated no differences between prenatally exposed and nonexposed children and adolescents.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG, 2015) recommends screening and education regarding potential adverse effects of marijuana use in pregnancy. Women contemplating pregnancy or currently pregnant are encouraged to discontinue medicinal or recreational marijuana use and also discourages marijuana use during breastfeeding and lactation due to insufficient evidence regarding safety:

So, to paraphrase, we just don’t know. Another consideration is the possibility of intervention by the Department of Child Protective Services. Unfortunately, depending on the attitudes in your community, it is not uncommon for children to be removed from the home where cannabis is present when certain authorities are informed. Know what happens with your medical test results and your community politics to avoid this awful possibility!

In all medically related questions you need to weigh the risks and benefits of any intervention, including medicinal cannabis. For example, a child with intractable epilepsy, and having 300+ grand mal seizures per week, is at very low risk from using cannabis to control seizures, compared to the risk of continual brain damage from the seizures and pharmaceutical anti-convulsant medications. Conversely, in a healthy baby/child/adolescent, with a developing brain and nervous system, cannabis exposure may pose a higher risk than non-exposure.

A different option, with similar inconclusive evidence is using only CBD to relieve your symptoms. CBD has no psychoactive component and is an effective anti-inflammatory and neuroprotectant for healthy adults. We all know the incredible value that CBD plays in relieving autism and epilepsy in children. As well, both patient’s experience and the research shows that CBD effectively stops inflammation in the way of soothing the nerves and pain receptors as well as creating a way in which the body is able to relax. The following article does a good job of outlining how CBD use can be helpful in pregnancy and suggests that it is safe.  While it certainly seems there would be no ill effects, I have not found any conclusive research regarding CBD use during pregnancy being “safe”.

As all women know, everyone has their opinions of what is good and bad, helpful and not helpful during and post pregnancy. My experience with frequent cannabis users is they have made a lifestyle choice and presume “it’s all good” regarding cannabis. As a nurse, I do my best to stick with the facts and research. In my opinion, when it comes to babies and kids, it’s usually best to err on the side of caution. If you’re having insufferable symptoms I’d start with CBD only (oil, vaping, topicals, etc.) and see if that helps. After looking at the information I’ve provided here, if you want to use THC to help you out let your doctor and partner know of your choice so you’re going forward with as much awareness, openness and support as possible.

Pregnancy and babies are a beautiful time in your life…do what you think is best to insure the best outcome for you and the baby.

To you and your baby’s excellent health!

Nurse Susan

p.s. Here are some additional resources to check out on the topic.

Hayes JS, Lampart R, Dreher MC, Morgan L. Five-year follow-up of rural Jamaican children whose mothers used marijuana during pregnancy. West Indian Med J 1991;40:120 –3

Dear Nurse Susan: Understanding Cannabis as a Schedule 1 Drug

Dear Nurse Susan,
Cannabis (marijuana) is a Schedule 1 drug, according to the US Government, which states it is highly addictive with no medical applications. However, a lot of publications say it is only mildly addictive, similar to coffee. If that is true, then shouldn’t caffeine also be considered a Schedule 1 drug? I can’t imagine what people would do if the federal government declared a war on caffeine! So, what’s the real story, is cannabis highly addictive?
California Coffee Addict


Dear CA Coffee Addict,
There is a lot of conflicting information out there, not only between scientists and politicians, but also between different departments of our federal government. You are correct, the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has cannabis classified as a Schedule 1 drug. Schedule I drugs are those that have the following characteristic according to the DEA:

  • The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.
  • The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical treatment use in the U.S.
  • There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or substance under medical supervision.
  • No prescriptions may be written for Schedule I substances, and they are not readily available for clinical use. Other drugs and substances on the DEA Schedule 1 include: Heroin, LSD, Peyote, Ecstasy, Quaaludes, GHB (“date rape” drug), Bath Salts (similar to amphetamines), Psilocybin (mushrooms), and KHAT (plant with actions similar to amphetamines).
    Interestingly, Schedule 2 drugs include such names as: Oxycontin, Morphine, Amphetamines, Fentanyl, Adderall, Vicodin, Opium, Demerol, Methamphetamine, Deluded, Methadone, and Secobarbital, to name a few.
    Check out these clips of DEA testimony on marijuana:
    Also, the following

So, let’s look at the facts behind cannabis as a substance with a “high potential for abuse.” Below is a hierarchy of addiction, according to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science:

  • 32 percent of people who try tobacco become dependent.
  • 23 percent of those who try heroin become dependent.
  • 17 percent of those who try cocaine become dependent.
  • 15 percent of those who try alcohol become dependent.
  • 9 percent of those who try cannabis become dependent.


Now let’s look at the facts behind cannabis as a “drug or other substance that has no currently accepted medical treatment use in the U.S.” Below is a link to the patent that was granted to the Department of Health and Human Services, more than 20 years ago, on the compounds (cannabinoids) of the cannabis plant as antioxidants and neuroprotectants.
According to the US government, as stated in their patent application:
“Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties, unrelated to NMDA receptor antagonism. This new found property makes cannabinoids useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The cannabinoids are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and HIV dementia.”
That sure sounds like “accepted medical treatment use in the US.” Every year, more people die from Alzheimer’s disease than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. That is a lot of needless suffering for nonsense political reasons. Hopefully soon, science will triumph over ideology.
Finally, let’s look at the facts about cannabis as it relates to the third criteria of a Schedule 1 substance: “There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or substance under medical supervision.” Below are the number of annual fatal overdoses caused by alcohol, opioids, tobacco, cocaine, and cannabis:

  • Alcohol: Alcohol poisoning kill 6 people every day (CDC). More than 100,000 people die every year from alcohol related causes: drinking and driving crashes, other accidents, falls, fires, alcohol-related homicides and suicides. (NCAAD) Teen alcohol use kills 4,700 people each year – that’s more than all illegal drugs combined. (MADD) Alcohol abuse is the third highest cause of death in the U.S. (NIAAA)
  • Opioids: Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illicit drug heroin as well as the licit prescription pain relievers oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, fentanyl and others. As little as two grams of fentanyl, equal to a few grains of salt, has the potential to be lethal. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the US, with 52,404 lethal drug overdoses in 2015. Opioid addiction is driving this epidemic, with 20,101 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers, and 12,990 overdose deaths related to heroin in 2015. In 2015, 276,000 adolescents were current nonmedical users of pain reliever, with 122,000 having an addiction to prescription pain relievers. In 2015, an estimated 21,000 adolescents had used heroin in the past year, and an estimated 5,000 were current heroin users. Additionally, an estimated 6,000 adolescents had a heroin use disorder in 2014.
  • Tobacco: Cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States, including more than 41,000 deaths resulting from secondhand smoke exposure. This is about one in five deaths annually, or 1,300 deaths every day. Smoking causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. If smoking continues at the current rate among U.S. youth, 5.6 million of today’s Americans younger than 18 years of age are expected to die prematurely from a smoking-related illness (CDC).
  • Cocaine: 6,748 cocaine overdose deaths were logged in 2015. More than 1,500 were found to have also used fentanyl, an extremely potent opioid used to manage chronic pain in cancer patients.
  • Cannabis: According to the DEA Drug Fact Sheet on Marijuana, “No death from overdose of marijuana has been reported.”
  • In terms of safety, cannabis is the clear winner. All legal substances, alcohol, tobacco, and prescription opioids, kill more than 630,000 people every year. That is 1,644 people every day, and climbing.
    So, given the US patent and these facts provided by various US government agencies, why is cannabis a Schedule 1 drug? In a world of “fake news” and revisionist history it’s harder and harder to know what to believe. Take a look at this video and decide what you think about cannabis prohibition.

    Given all this seemingly accurate information about cannabis I say enjoy your coffee with no worries while you ponder these facts!


    To your health,
    Nurse Susan

Dear Nurse Susan: Does Cannabis Help with Menstrual Pain?

Dear Nurse Susan,

Every month, I experience horrible menstrual cramps that are debilitating. The only way I can get out of bed is by taking Vicodin or whatever prescription pain medication I can get my hands on. I work full-time and have a young daughter so it really bothers me if I feel out-of-it. Can marijuana help me?

Can't Wait for Menopause


Dear Menopause,
Cannabis can be a woman’s best friend. When used responsibly and strategically, cannabis can relieve menstrual pain, menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, weight gain and insomnia, hormonal headaches/migraines, depression/anxiety, and general aging. I have many female clients who have fallen in love with cannabis, because it does the job with or without the “high”. I plan on doing a series on cannabis for women, but for now, lets just talk about using cannabis for menstrual pain, without the “high”.
Cannabis is a well-know superior pain reliever for all kinds of pain including cancer, MS, Parkinson’s Disease, nerve pain, etc. The trick is to find what works best for you, including the best product/strain, dosage, and route of administration. The choices can be overwhelming, but I will narrow it down so that you have a good starting point.
When it comes to menstrual pain, your best route of administration is a vaginal suppository, especially if you want to minimize or avoid the high. Suppositories enable you to use a higher dose of THC for pain, without the psycho-activity.
There are some good products on the market such as Foria Relieve Suppositories (2 pack) which costs $24 for 140mgs, or $.17/milligram. If cost is a concern, you can make your own suppositories (and save 75%) for about $.04/milligram (see instructions below). All you need is coconut oil or cacao butter, and cannabis oil. Myriam’s Hope has an OG Kush oil with 1000mg of THC for $35, which will yield 20 suppositories with 50mg/suppository. If you’d like to add CBD oil for some extra anti-inflammatory effect, Charlotte’s Web or any quality CBD oil can be used.
Dosage is different for every person, you just “start low and go slow” until you find the lowest effective dose for you. If you use suppositories, 50mg is a good place to start. If you use sublingual tinctures or edibles, use 2.5mg to start and wait at least 2 hours before consuming more. For inhalation, start with ½ of a pull on the vape or joint; you should feel the effects in about 15 seconds. The disadvantage of smoking is you don’t really know your dose, and you will get high. The advantage of suppositories is no high (as with edibles) and it lasts longer than smoking/vaping.
Although cannabis suppositories (rectal or vaginal) may seem like an odd choice for administration, they are my go-to for cancer pain, chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting, and loss of appetite related to cancer and HIV/AIDS. Someone who can only tolerate about 10mg of THC due to the psychoactivity, is usually able to tolerate more than 100mg via suppository with little to no psychoactivity. That can make a huge difference in someone’s quality of life.
So if you are feeling adventuresome, and want to say goodbye to pain, give suppositories a try!


To your health!
Nurse Susan


Making Your Own Cannabis Oil Suppositories


  • 1 gram (1000 mg) of THC oil – Start with 50 mg per suppository. (Use whatever product you prefer. Use a lab tested product that you can use in a measured dosage).
  • 250 mg of CBD oil – Optional; Start with 10mg per suppository (The CBD oil adds anti-inflammatory properties, but is not required)
  • Coconut oil or cacao butter ½ cup or less – Amount depends on how many suppositories you are making.
  • Something to use as a mold for the suppository – Mini ice cube trays, suppository mold, empty 00 gelatin capsules (Choose your preference; all available on Amazon)

What to do

  • Melt coconut oil or cacao butter in a hot water bath.
  • Measure THC and CBD oil for your dosage.
    • You can either put the medicine in your mold first and then add the additional coconut or cacao oil to the mold (as in the first video below), or
    • Blend the medicine into the warm coconut or cacao oil and then add to the mold (as in the second video below).
    • Use whichever method you prefer so you can control your dosage and reduce waste.
  • Put in the freezer for an hour.
  • Use as needed.
  • As everyone responds differently experiment with the amount of THC until you get the relief you need.


Here are a couple of examples of how to make suppositories. There are many Youtube videos on making suppositories and they are often overly complex. These are two easy examples of how to make the suppository. – Very simple. He doesn’t even heat the oil! – She is making essential oil suppositories, but the process is the same and she has a simple trick for the mold. – A brief look at Foria Relief suppositories. - An article on Foria

Dear Nurse Susan: Is Cannabis a Treatment for Cancer?

Dear Nurse Susan,
My mother is battling cancer. She has lost 35lbs and now weighs less than 100 pounds. Watching this illness ravage her body has been devastating for our family. She has had chemotherapy and radiation, and it made her so sick. I heard that cannabis actually kills cancer. Is cannabis really a treatment for cancer, or just a way to control the nausea, vomiting, pain and lack of appetite from chemotherapy? I want so badly to help her in any way that I can.


Dear Heartbroken,


I am so sorry to hear about your mother’s illness. Unfortunately, cancer has become so prevalent that it has an impact on most people: either they have been diagnosed, or they know someone who has been diagnosed.
Traditional cancer treatments are very difficult to endure and are toxic to our normal cells as well as the cancer cells. It is possible to die from the treatment for cancer, and not the actual disease. Therefore, it is imperative to know all the tools and options available in this fight for life. This is a huge subject, so I will touch on several topics and provide resources for additional education and guidance. To really understand how cannabis fights cancer, its important to know how our Endocannabinoid System (ECS) works. Here is the link to a short but informative video on the ECS:


Originally, cannabinoids (compounds in the cannabis plant (phytocannabinoids), as well as those produced in our bodies (endocannabinoids) were used to manage wasting, nausea/vomiting, and pain for cancer and HIV patients. When it was discovered that cannabinoids were targeting and killing cancer cells, interest in the anticarcinogenic properties of cannabinoids surged. Since the discovery of the ECS in 1996, several cannabinoids have been shown to exert anti-proliferative, and pro-apoptotic (programmed cell death) effects and inhibit cancer cell migration, adhesion, metastasis, and invasion in several cancer types including glioma, lung, thyroid, lymphoma, skin, pancreas, uterus, breast, prostate and colorectal carcinoma.


Research on cannabinoids has contributed to the understanding of the biological actions of these molecules and of their medical significance, in almost every bodily function and disease process. To review the research on cannabinoids for cancer therapy, go to: In the search bar, type “cannabinoids cancer” and you will see more than 1,000 medical research papers to choose from. If you want to narrow your search, specify the type of cancer, i.e., “cannabinoids breast cancer.”


Scientists have discovered that cannabis kills cancer cells in preclinical trials by using several different mechanisms of action:

  • Apoptosis: the technical term for programmed cell death, or cell suicide, of cancer cells while leaving normal cells alone.
  • • Anti-proliferative: inhibits the rapid increase in the number of cancer cells.
    • Anti-neovascularization: interferes with the formation of new blood vessels that feed the tumor.
    • Anti-migration and invasion: interferes with tumor progression and migration of cancer cells.
    • Anti-metastatic: inhibits the spread of cancer from the primary site.
    • Anti-adhesion: interferes with cancer cells’ ability to stick to each other and to their surroundings.
    • Down-regulates (a decrease in sensitivity) Id-1 expression: The Id-1 gene has recently been shown to be a key regulator of the metastatic potential of breast and additional cancers. The Id-1 gene is active during human embryonic (unborn) development after which it turns off and stays off. But in breast cancer, and several other types of metastatic cancer, the Id-1 gene becomes active again, causing malignant cells to invade and metastasize.
    • Targeting Id-1 results in decreased tumor growth. CBD was the first non-toxic plant-based agent that could down-regulate Id-1 expression in aggressive hormone-independent breast cancer, and it also inhibits metastasis.


    Watch this short video on how cannabis and cannabinoids kill cancer cells:


    One of the outstanding cancer researchers, Dr. Christina Sanchez, explains the research they have done over the last 15 years on how the cannabinoids work to kill cancer cells:

    Cannabis during Chemotherapy

    Cancer therapeutic drugs (chemotherapy) are well-known to cause nausea, vomiting, pain, and loss of appetite. The video below is a brief overview of how chemotherapy affects the body:

    On the other hand, cannabis is well known to relieve nausea, vomiting, pain and loss of appetite (the “munchies”).

    Here is a video on how cannabis manages the side effects of chemotherapy:

    The nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy can be hard to describe. It can be horrible, depending on the chemotherapy drug. THC is the best cannabinoid to employ to relieve nausea. The quickest and most effective method of consumption is via vaporization. The onset of action is about 15 seconds, which is a godsend for patients. Unfortunately, it only lasts for a couple of hours, so whenever possible, follow up with an edible, which will have a much slower onset, 1 to 2 hours, but lasts for 6 to 8 hours. Ideally, the edible will kick in just as the effects of the inhalation start to diminish, and will last for several hours. Dosage is a very important factor in the success of cannabis therapy, so if you don’t have a medical professional to consult with, start with a low dose and increase the dosage slowly, until you find the lowest effective dose.

    Finally, because cannabis is a Schedule 1 drug (no medical application, highly addictive and unsafe; NOT true) along with heroin and LSD, very little human research has been done, but here are some personal accounts of how cannabis impacted cancer patient’s quality of life.


    Heartbroken, I hope these resources will bring comfort and benefit to you and your mom. Please contact me if you would like personal guidance on cannabis therapy.
    Nurse Susan