Ingrid was barely 26 years old when she was first diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). The first sign something was amiss came when she was on vacation in the Dominican Republic in the early 1980’s. She woke up in her hotel room with double vision- in both eyes. She walked over to the mirror but all she could see was a hazy gray cloud staring back at her. She went to a nearby clinic in Santo Domingo but they didn’t really know what to tell her. After a general exam, they asked if she had insurance back home and recommended she see a doctor as soon as she got back. She had just had her first baby and decided not to tell my parents about the incident. When she landed in Miami, with her vision back intact, she dismissed the experience as a one-off and went back to work on Monday. Six months later she was driving home from work during the tail end of rush hour. She remembers the night was warm and the flickering brake lights reminded her of the dusky, setting sun. As the traffic around her came to a stop, she placed her foot on the brake, or tried to, but her leg did not respond. She tried again. Nothing. She recalls how terrifying it was realizing she could not move her leg, it was as though her brain and body were not connecting. And she was right. She slammed into the cars in front of her but luckily no one was seriously hurt. After that incident she went to a doctor, got a spinal tap and was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
And that is how, on a warm summer night, her journey with MS began- as well as our family’s journey with MS. For the next two decades my sister would be in remission. She worked a full time job (took the train to work) and managed to have three more children. She just became a grandmother in her 50’s, and has a large, loving and supportive family around her. But this progressive disease finally caught up to her. She is now unable to stand on her own or bathe herself independently and spends most days in a wheelchair in front of the television.
Cannabis has been used for medicinal purposes throughout centuries and is now recommended and prescribed to manage the symptoms of multiple sclerosis and other neurodegenerative diseases. I have been researching the beneficial effects of cannabis in multiple sclerosis for years but there is still much to be done in the way of education and clinical testing. Even so, anecdotal as well as many randomized placebo-controlled clinical trials have shown the efficacy of various cannabinoid treatments in managing spasticity, pain, bladder problems, sleep disturbances and tremor due to MS.
Every case of MS is different as is every person affected. Thankfully my sister does not suffer from pain-related symptoms. She’s had two seizures though, back to back in recent years and because of them has suffered some cognitive loss as well as other progressive symptoms like tremor and incontinence. She was able to obtain a license for medical marijuana this year and was prescribed a medicine which contained some THC, the main psychoactive component of cannabis.
She accepted the recommendation of the clinician without question or doubt. However, in no time we noticed some disturbing side effects. Things like short-term memory impairment, some disruption in her psycho-motor control and a somewhat weird, and distorted sense of time. For example, in July she asked where the Christmas decorations were. Around the same time, her caretaker reported panic on my sister’s part during a routine hair-washing session. This was unlike her and was clearly not the intended result and definitely not what we expected. I felt guilt having been the one to propose the idea that she start this regiment in the first place. What did I miss? It was a big anti-climactic disappointment; we had waited months for the license and had high hopes that it would bring her some relief. But the opposite occurred- this prescribed cannabis treatment not only didn’t work, it actually made her worse.
I knew that cannabinoids mimic naturally occurring compounds in the body called endocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids have been widely studied and implicated in a variety of physiological functions specifically with MS. When we take in cannabinoids, they interact with the same receptors found in all human cells. What I didn’t fully appreciate was that THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) affects the central nervous system (CNS) through these receptors- most densely in the frontal cortex and hippocampus. Cognition, especially in certain groups, such as patients suffering from diseases of the CNS like my sister, were particularly vulnerable to adverse effects. However, some of the other constituents of cannabis, such as CBD (cannabidiol), have well-documented biological effects like anti-anxiety and anticonvulsive properties without any of the psychotropic actions. We realized that CBD might hold greater therapeutic potential for her than THC or any combination containing THC, since the psychoactive properties that accompany THC did not agree with her at all.
We decided to give it one more shot and take matters into our own hands. We were on the lookout for a high quality- hemp derived, Full Spectrum CBD product. We were fortunate to find RAW, a high-grade, cannabinoid oil tincture. It contains unfiltered industrial full spectrum hemp oil, coconut MCT oil, and vitamin E as well as a variety of valuable phyto-nutrients, synergistic cannabinoids and essential oils. With RAW, we hit the jackpot. Not only did it work well, but it began working almost immediately.
One of my focuses of my freelance writing in the cannabis and medicinal marijuana space was to help my sister combat her MS symptoms and to help her live a fuller life. I saw that start to happen with RAW. As someone who does consistent research on the subject, I recommend this product as well as encourage everyone to do their own research.
From my experience, and from interviewing others, I understand that the manufacturing and selling of CBD products has become big business. I now know how to discern the differences between high quality products and subpar products as well as understand the different extraction methods available. Other finer points like the question of full spectrum vs. isolate products are important to understand before making a decision.
Ingrid began using RAW in the morning and at night, taking .5ml under her tongue, twice a day. After about a week she experienced less spasticity, less fatigue and tremor, and was just more alert and lucid. We have also seen a big improvement with her MS-related urinary symptoms. Her increased sense of well-being is also visible; the other day she commented that she “felt really strong”. When she visits her daughters, we pack ETS’s new veggie capsules in her overnight bag- we find that it’s easier for her to manage when she’s traveling.
We were concerned initially how this new regiment would interact chemically with her other prescribed drugs- but so far, she’s had no issues. We are thrilled, over the moon, and grateful that we didn’t give up. And you shouldn’t either. Cannabis derived compounds can hold real potential for those looking to treat symptoms of MS. The most important points to keep in mind are quality and consistency. You need to do your research, seek out the highest quality product you can find, and stay consistent with the dosing. For those looking to try any of EST’s products, the great news is you do not need a special marijuana card or prescription to do so.