Cannabis for Senior Care

Three years ago, Carrie Tice had a hysterectomy and went through menopause unexpectedly. During her six-week recovery, she managed her symptoms with cannabis instead of opiates.

Carrie says her body did just fine until she went to a conference in Paris and had to travel without cannabis.

“All of my hormonal symptoms appeared, unfortunately, while I was onstage presenting,” she said.

So a year later, when her mother’s caregiver suggested trying CBD products to treat symptoms related to Alzheimer’s, Tice — who had experienced firsthand the healing benefits of cannabinoids — decided to take her mom to pick out some to try.

“It became immediately apparent that I hadn’t thought it all through,” Tice said. In addition to the unfamiliar environment of the dispensary, her mother was overwhelmed by the options. “She just didn’t know what to ask and felt intimidated by the whole process.”

Shopping online wasn’t any easier. But when they finally managed to obtain – and administer – an under-the-tongue tincture and topical, the change in her mom was instantly apparent.

“Immediately I could see that she felt better and that her anxiety lessened,” Tice said. “It felt like it was 10 years prior.” Over the holidays, relatives were amazed at the difference — and then they started calling and asking how they could get the same kind of results.

“I realized that there were so many people that needed this information,” she said.
With that, she and her mother sold the Victorian house they shared on Octavia Street, Tice left her job at video game giant Ubisoft, and a business was born.

Serving seniors and beyond

Two years later, Octavia Wellness has more than 700 clients in California and about 40 independent “wellness consultants” who facilitate sales, a 24-hour courier service, and a catalog of products ranging from cannabis-sourced tinctures and topicals to edibles to concentrates. Although popular with seniors (about half of Octavia’s clients, Tice estimates, are over 65), the company serves customers of all ages.

“What we’ve realized is that once one family member is helped by cannabinoid therapy, then it usually becomes a family matter, and people become believers,” Tice said. “We want everybody to feel welcome.”

As Tice experienced with her mother, the educational process is a critical service for clients who are new to cannabinoids.

“That’s our biggest task right now, making sure that people have as much education as possible,” she said. One of the common hurdles to clear is a fear many clients have about “getting high.”

Tice said it’s mystifying to her that people will accept mind-altering side effects from medications that come in an orange bottle but are fearful of simple cannabis tinctures that often contain very little THC (Octavia generally recommends starting with a 20:1 ratio of CBD to THC).

Tice jokes that the topical products Octavia sells are a “gateway cannabis drug.” At informational seminars, she’ll start by passing around a discomfort relief spray and inviting guests to give it a try. Later in the presentation, she’ll point out that the spray is working… and then watch as the audience realizes that she’s right.

Pain isn’t necessarily the most important symptom for which seniors are seeking relief, however. According to Tice, four out of five seniors live with insomnia, stress, anxiety or mood issues, or memory impairment in addition to chronic pain.

“If a senior doesn’t get sleep, it causes all of these other problems,” Tice said. “If we can deal with their insomnia … everything starts feeling better.”

Challenges, rewards and looking to the future

One of the most significant hurdles Octavia customers face, she said, is discussing their cannabis use with their doctors. The FDA classifies cannabis as a Schedule I drug, meaning that as far as the federal government is concerned, it has high risk of abuse and no medical benefits — despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Physicians, then, may have no knowledge of or experience with cannabis even if they personally approve of its use.

Even so, Tice said, it’s important for cannabis users to “come out of the closet to their medical doctors about what they’re taking … even if they’re dismissive.” For its part, Octavia is doing one-on-one outreach with doctors (a process Tice says has been “really rewarding”) as well as sponsoring Patients Out of Time, a clinical conference on the benefits of cannabis.

“The only way for this to change is for the doctors to be able to understand,” she said.

Octavia has also been working to resolve some issues tied to the relative immaturity of the cannabis market, such as consistency of testing, dosing and applications. The company recently raised over a million dollars in capital to do an across-the-board comparison of all of the products it offers, including lab results, cannabinoid levels, dosing directions and testimonials.

For now, Tice said, although it would be nice to be free to do business in other states, California’s population is large enough to sustain Octavia’s business. As more states legalize cannabis, however, the company is considering a revenue model being used by some other cannabusinesses.

“We would love to have a license model,” she said. “One of the things we’re discussing is using our technology and our platform and our educational strategy and then having a licensing model.”

“The only way for this to change is for the doctors to be able to understand (cannabis).”

Changing attitudes

Doctors aren’t the only ones who are starting to come around on cannabis.

“The population in general is getting more open-minded for sure,” Tice said. “Even in just the two years that I’ve been doing this, the stigma has definitely dissipated a lot.

“The more we go about this with our heads held high … the more that we have a clear message and deliver it with education and deliver it in a way that makes sense to people, it definitely combats that stigma.” And the fact that it works doesn’t hurt either, she added.

It’s the parents of Baby Boomers who seem to take the most convincing, she said, although they stand to benefit greatly.

“People in their 80s are the ones who are most hard-set (against cannabis) due to the War on Drugs,” Tice said. “They may have had children who were experimenting, and they were always told all of the demon qualities of cannabis.”

One of the things Tice likes most about the business is that it tends to foster communication across generations — a client in their 60s sees results, and suddenly younger and older relatives are asking what cannabis can do for them.

“It’s fun to be able to have these family conversations, being able to have all different types of people and serve all these different demographics,” she said, especially for a business that started out focusing on seniors.

“It’s really funny how one demographic that we are focusing on is actually opening up all of these other demographics for us. It’s been a remarkable journey, and we’re really feeling that things are just getting better and better in terms of spreading the news.”

As for her own mother, who was in a nursing home before she started using cannabis topicals — she lives with Tice now.

“She still has Alzheimer’s … but she has such a better outlook,” Tice said. “She calls herself our mascot.”


Interstitial Cystitis & Perimenopause

Lana was 49 when, after being intimate with a new sexual partner, she began experiencing sharp pain around one of her ovaries.

A few days later, a severely heavy and excruciating period sent her to the emergency room. She was later diagnosed with a condition called interstitial cystitis, or IC, an inflammation or thinning of the bladder lining that can be triggered by stress and exacerbated by sex or hormonal activity.

“I had all of the above,” Lana said. “The pain precluded me from running my business (which includes travel), working out, socializing, engaging in intimacy, playing with my dog, and living my life as I had known it.”

Lana sought assistance from multiple doctors, “from urologist to gastroenterologist, along with healers from acupuncturist to shaman,” and had “every diagnostic procedure you can imagine,” she said. “The words, ‘You have a $65 co-pay’ were reverberating in my head from so much repetition,” she add. Even her father and brother, a surgeon and an anesthesiologist, couldn’t find relief for her pain.

“I took OTC pain-relievers, wore magnets, received chiropractic adjustments, even endured internal pelvic physical therapy,” she said. “Don’t ask!” After she discontinued a “painful, barbaric” urological treatment of injections into her bladder via catheter, Lana’s brother suggested she try cannabis. She had almost no experience with it, but she was willing to put her trust in her brother, who has long been involved in the industry.

“I’ve never smoked and don’t care for smoking,” Lana said, so her brother suggested a combination cannabidiol (CBD) and Delta(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) patch. “I put it on and found instant pain relief.” Combined with a natural remedy of aloe and marshmallow root supplements, along with an anti-inflammation gluten-free diet, Lana said she managed to get control over her IC. But her story doesn’t end there.

Lana sought assistance from multiple doctors, “from urologist to gastroenterologist, along with healers from acupuncturist to shaman…”

Patches of relief

According to Dr. Elaine M. Burns, ND, a patch like the one Lana uses can be a great delivery mechanism for pain management. “The route of administration with the use of a patch provides a steady stream dosing instead of an escalation/de-escalation of dose as with other routes of administration, so it does tend to be a nice form of pain management.”

According to Burns, cannabis tends to have medical benefits that are consistent across conditions “regardless of the specific condition,” and its anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic and mood-enhancing qualities can be used to address anything from fibromyalgia to migraines to degenerative disc disease. That adaptability turned out to be beneficial for Lana as her symptoms multiplied. Pain and frequent urination from IC led to “horrific insomnia.” Sleep deprivation led to deep depression; which, coupled with the hormonal imbalance of perimenopause, brought on anxiety.

“I was prescribed three different antidepressants, HRT (hormone replacement therapy), bioidenticals, and more supplements than you can imagine,” Lana said. She figured it was worth a try to see if the CBD/THC patches would help with those symptoms as well – and they did, especially the anxiety. “I am still struggling, but blessed with perspective, patience, a spiritual practice, and an amazing support system.” I will be forever grateful for finding these patches of relief.”

Lana says she never would have considered the patch for her perimenopause symptoms if she hadn’t had such a positive experience using them for IC pain.

Searching for a source

The patches that Lana relies on aren’t easy to obtain. She lives in a state where cannabis laws are still being hashed out. After using the patches her brother gave her, she tried to get friends in California and Colorado to send her more. “They were wary,” she said.

She was able to obtain more patches. When she ran out, Lana tried edibles, but those didn’t work for her – a patch with a 1:1 ratio of CBD to THC seemed to be ideal. “Interestingly, I get daily reminders from Walgreens to pick up one or more of the plethora of prescriptions called in,” she said. “I only wish access to the patches and other cannabis products was so easy.”

Eventually, she found Mary’s Nutraceuticals, which offers a patch “comprised primarily of CBD and very little THC for obvious reasons,” Lana says. “They are very informative and honest about contents and differences in quality along with the lack of regulation.” Even the lower-powered patch is a vast improvement. Lana can’t afford to wear them all the time, and she says they do look conspicuous, but she wears them when her IC flares up or when she needs to take the edge off her anxiety or combat insomnia. The relief, she says, is “perceptible and beyond welcome.” With it, she has been able to return to work, begin a modified workout regimen, and enjoy a normal social life.

Filling the information void

Lana says she never would have considered the patch for her perimenopause symptoms if she hadn’t had such a positive experience using them for IC pain.

“I would not have known what they were or how to procure them,” she said. “I did know that I experienced not only pain relief during the IC, but also relaxation. So I figured I had nothing to lose, only relief to gain, in trying the patches for the perimenopause symptoms as well. What a smart decision. I wish more women knew patches may provide them relief, in addition to the hormonal therapies, antidepressants, and other prescriptions meds doctors are so quick to prescribe.”

Lana says she wishes the “dearth of information” about cannabis products, their formulations, and their uses could be addressed. “I have shared my patches with two other women dealing with pain issues, and they found them to be ‘miraculous’ as well,” she said. “I have so much compassion and now hope for people dealing with all types of pain, disease, physical or emotional illness.”

Additional Reading

Interstitial Cystitis Overview – Mayo Clinic

Interstitial Cystitis Association



Cannabis and Chemotherapy

Marijuana took away my nausea, so I could eat healthy. It took away the severe restlessness and anxiety, so I could relax.

It allowed me to eat, sleep and be up and active when I was awake — all of which are critical to recovery. It didn’t get me “high;” it made me feel halfway normal (as opposed to the prescriptions, which left me feeling drugged and weak). It gave me the strength to continue with chemotherapy when I had reached a point where I really couldn’t tolerate it anymore.

For me, the medical marijuana was a miracle drug, a life-saver. I wished I had used it from the beginning because it was so helpful. And according to our current law, I should go to jail for it.

From “Medical Marijuana Helped Me Survive Cancer Treatment” by Jeanette Bokland, a nurse working in medical software 
Huffington Post, Oct. 22, 2014

Chemotherapy Relief in Sight: A Conversation with Jeanette Bokland

We had the chance to connect with Jeanette Bokland, an RN who turned to cannabis during her chemo treatments back in 2014.

ELLEMENTA: About two and a half years ago, you published an essay on Huffington Post describing your use of medical cannabis during your cancer treatment. You live in a state where medical cannabis was not legal at that time. What made you decide to tell your story?

“Colorado yum-yum” (our code name for the edibles) saved my life. The effects were so stunningly subtle, yet pivotal in the decision to find the strength and will to continue treatment. My story had to be shared.

My first chemo treatments, nicknamed “The Red Devil,” left me increasingly severely nauseated. The prescriptions provided to me left me feeling quite sedated. The combination of sedated nausea threw me into a very dark, depressive state. I can best describe it as being assaulted by the Dementors, the joy-sucking beasts in the Harry Potter novels. The world went to black and white for me. I spent a lot of time researching what happens to women who don’t complete treatment. I just couldn’t take anymore.

My decision to try the edibles relieved my nausea, appetite-loss and depression-giving me the fortitude to finish my treatment.

ELLEMENTA: What kind of response did you get to your post?

The response to my story was overwhelmingly supportive.

Funny story: Just after I finished treatments, I applied for a job with a consulting firm I knew. They are a very conservative group, but my initial interviews went very well with the HR staff, and they were setting me up with follow-up interviews. On a Friday at 4:55 p.m., I got an abrupt call that they were no longer interested in speaking with me, and my file was being closed.

I was so gobsmacked. My wife suggested I Google my name. First several articles quickly identified me as a lesbian with breast cancer who admits to using medical marijuana.

ELLEMENTA: As a cancer patient, did you talk about your use of marijuana with your physicians? How important is it for a patient to be able to openly discuss cannabis use with a health care provider?

I did discuss it with my oncologist. He gave me a patronizing smile and let me know he was not supportive. We never talked about it again.

I think I shared in my article my heartbreaking request from a friend who was dying of ALS and wanted me to “hook him up.” He could not speak and could only type out his desperate plea for help. Although I gave him all I had left, I was not willing to traffic more for him over state lines. I was so guilt-ridden and really resented that I was put in a position to help myself only, not others.

I did inspire a woman who was also in a chemotherapy treatment to try cannabis to alleviate her symptoms. It did not go well for her! Because she didn’t have a reliable source, she went to her grandson to get her a joint. Because she did not know the content of what she was smoking, she became paranoid. She told me she sat on her kitchen floor, hiding from the flower delivery man who was attempting to drop off flowers. She was convinced it was an undercover cop.

ELLEMENTA: You’re on the board of an organization, Libby’s Legacy Breast Cancer Foundation, that is doing some work with Melissa Etheridge. Can you tell us a little more about that?

We had the good fortune of meeting Melissa Etheridge last fall. She is an activist and a proponent of cannabis and organic living. Since that meeting, she is now a co-founder with us of the Pink Garden Project, a shared organic garden for breast cancer survivors here in Central Florida. I believe we will have more conversations about this as Florida evolves in its cannabis use.

Read Jeanette Bokland’s full post: “Medical Marijuana Helped Me Survive Cancer Treatment