Ever wonder how cannabis can assist those struggling with Crohn’s? Peak Extracts CEO Katie Stem has been a medical cannabis patient since 2004. Her battle with Crohn’s disease led her to explore alternatives to dangerous biologic and immunosuppressive drugs. Cannabis has been a powerful tool to manage her disease and she is a passionate educator and advocate within the industry. In 2010, she completed her degree in traditional Chinese medicine and became a nationally certified licensed herbalist and acupuncturist. Stem’s skills as both a scientist and herbalist are invaluable to Peak in formulation, R&D, and educational outreach. We asked her a few questions about her experiences with cannabis and Crohn's for a new Cannabis Industry Spotlight feature.
Oh, and by the way, you may want to pick up a few of their hemp infused chocolate bars for your Valentine, Galentine or Palentine this year!
How does one go about finding the right products to treat symptoms of Crohn’s disease? For example, why does one strain/product work but another not work at all?
Many of the strains I found to be helpful I stumbled upon by accident, and trial and error. I’ve been experimenting for about 20 years now, and I have learned much about strain genetics along the way. I went back and tried as many landrace strains as I could, my experience with each taught me about the different branches of the family tree and how they contribute to our modern strains. I am also often guided by my nose, at this point I can tell what the experience of each strain is by the way it smells.
Our products and the color guide we developed are an attempt to guide people to the right effects to suit their needs. Each color category shares characteristics, and typically people have a similar description of its effects. There are, of course, lots of personal variations in how people respond, but at least with our system people can find a category that suits their needs and come back to it with the confidence it will produce a similar effect.
Each strain has a different subjective effect because of the myriad chemicals in the whole cannabis plant. There are hundreds of different terpenes and cannabinoids, and the way they interact with each other modulates the effects of the intoxicating cannabinoids such as THC. For instance, some terpenes act directly on cannabinoid receptors, and some alter the way that cannabinoids are absorbed or metabolized. Because of these differences, one strain might help with nausea, whereas another might be better for pain, anxiety, etc. This is why our company focuses so much on strain specific extraction and terpene preservation, we want to offer the most experiences possible.
What are the good short term vs long term habits? What’s the healthiest way to consume cannabis, for pleasure but also for appropriate homeopathy?
When it comes to pain mediation, I lean on the best medical practices for any drug/herb/therapy: use the lowest dose possible to achieve the desired effect, and then re-dose just before your dose wears off (and the pain returns). Pain management is much like setting the thermostat in your house, it takes less energy to make minor adjustments than major ones. Cannabis is an anti-inflammatory and analgesic, but not a cure for disease or injury. Most people who use it medically are seeking to control a chronic condition, which involves consistent use over long periods of time.
In order to avoid developing a tolerance, which is in this instance expensive rather than physiologically hazardous, a good practice is to make small alterations in the strains consumed, because the changes in minor cannabinoid and terpene profiles will slow the body’s resistance to the medicinal effects. Given the rate of opioid overdose in the country, there’s no shortage of stigma surrounding pain management through chronic use of substances, in general, but cannabis is a non-toxic analgesic, and we should support people in pain using it to manage their conditions rather than turning to something more toxic, cost-prohibitive or deadly.
As for recreational use, my philosophy is similar. First, use the safest method of consumption that is feasible for your circumstances. Smoking is hazardous, vaping is better but still not as safe as oral, transdermal or topical use. Dose in small increments until you find your effective level, and then re-dose as desired.
Although I come to cannabis as a medical user, I do not feel puritanical about it being used as a recreational intoxicant. Pleasure, insight and joy are necessary for humans to be healthy and fulfilled, and cannabis can provide all of those to consumers. However, as cannabis is a pain-reliever, it also can treat emotional pain. If someone is using cannabis to excess, I feel it is important to make an examination of the possible reasons, and determine whether or not a different therapy might be better. For instance, is someone over-consuming to mask the misery of an unhappy relationship, job, or mental health condition?
How does one navigate the deluge of novelty products?
The budtenders can be a fantastic resource, and it’s good to communicate with them about what you need in terms of effects. When selecting a product, it’s important to examine not only the company producing it, but the farm that grew the starting material. Many processors list the farms on the packaging, and you want to look for a well-established farm with transparent practices regarding testing, pesticide use, and hopefully their environmental impact as well. For me it’s also about the experience of the plant rather than the substrate (cookies, pop rocks, sodas, etc.) so I examine the extraction method (I avoid BHO and PHO because of environmental impact) and the ability to shape the experience. Does it provide something novel in terms of dosing, flavor, portability, control?
Has your own experience led you to produce products geared toward medicinal users with Peak Extracts?
Absolutely. The driving force behind our company was to produce medicine for people such as myself. Product development is slow and tedious and I lack the drive to put in that work unless I am passionate about the end product. Consequently, every product we’ve released in the last two years has been inspired by either my own needs, or needs expressed by those suffering in our community.