This post is a summary of the lessons I’ve learned and the concepts I’ve developed over five years of successfully using medical marijuana to treat, manage and heal my severe ulcerative colitis.
I’ll discuss both cannabis-related as well as lifestyle-related practices to maximize the effects of medical marijuana in your own healing practice.
Marijuana is a powerful medicine and an exceptional anti-inflammatory. It’s also a kind, gentle and nuanced medication. It requires significant refinement and tinkering within a larger healing to program to get the best results.
This isn’t a post about “The 12 Best Marijuana Strains for Ulcerative Colitis” or some other spammy, trite nonsense. This is an in-depth, challenging and uncomfortable post that discusses how to truly heal over the long term using this amazing plant as a cornerstone in your ulcerative colitis healing program.
Results Are What Count
Results are what count. I was diagnosed with severe ulcerative colitis in 2004. The disease was about as bad as it could be without having actually killed me.
The following are my health results today, in the spring of 2019, after 15 years of relentless work and study around all things natural healing-related and 5 years of daily medical marijuana.
- I take no prescription pharmaceutical medications for ulcerative colitis or anything else
- I don’t have flare ups – nor do I live in fear of them anymore
- I eat huge raw lettuce salads every single day and digest them with ease and comfort
- I virtually never think about needing a bathroom urgently anymore
- I am lean and muscular and weigh 170lbs at 5’9”
- I have all my intestinal tract and colon. Everything is healthy, uncut and intact. Nothing has ever been removed or re-sectioned. (I feel intense gratitude as I write this.)
- I do an hour of intense yoga virtually every day
- I exercise multiple times daily some days
- I eat a very delicious, satisfying and nourishing – albeit highly structured and restricted – diet
- Since 2004 I’ve only taken prednisone intermittently for UC and my last round of that was in 2009 – that’s a decade ago
- My bowel habits are exceptionally healthy and nearly to my pre-UC quality and frequency
- Sometimes my bowel habits are better than even my pre-UC state
- I am generally thriving and have taken conscious control of my health and healing
These are my results and these are the successes and experience I speak from.
The Big Picture – Medical Cannabis in a Whole-Life Healing Program
There are practices that have significant benefits and huge value within a healing program for ulcerative colitis. Medical Marijuana has been one such pivotal component for me.
When I think about healing ulcerative colitis, I think in terms of three meta-categories:
- Medical Marijuana
Intense focus and refinement in these three major areas is required to heal effectively.
There’s a lot to each of these topics – each is infinitely nuanced and has many tangential, niche areas of specialty within. That’s why this post is part of my entire series on healing ulcerative colitis naturally.
Making healing a daily practice and an area of lifelong study is the only path to healing chronic, severe autoimmune illnesses like ulcerative colitis.
Ulcerative Colitis is a Disease of Lifestyle
Healing always seems to require uncomfortable changes. Ulcerative colitis and other chronic health problems are whole-life diseases. This means that it’s our entire life that’s “sick.” The overall life we’ve lived to this point has led us to the health challenges for which we currently seek answers and healing.
Like many natural or “alternative” treatments, medical marijuana isn’t a sledgehammer. It takes time to work and we have to help it work by consciously designing our lifestyles to support it.
When it comes to chronic and “incurable” illnesses like ulcerative colitis, our entire life is the problem. The habits we have, the food we eat, the way we exercise or don’t exercise, the work we do, the thoughts we think and the relationships we have all contribute to our health or lack thereof.
Unhealed childhood and past trauma is also a significant factor in virtually every case of adult-onset chronic disease I’ve seen.
Many consider marijuana to be a palliative medicine for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. You’re in pain from all the inflammation and destruction in your gut, you’re having urgent, bloody diarrhea regularly and you’re probably pretty stressed, depressed and anxious besides. Might as well smoke some pot and watch Family Guy to feel better for a bit. Oh, and pass the corn chips. I think I’ll order a pizza tonight…
If you want to change your life, the way you’re living has to change.”– Adam Farrah
No single food, medication, supplement, practice or other healing modality will restore us to health at this point. It becomes a whole-life endeavor and journey to heal and recover our health.
Major Healing Components and Lifestyle Changes for Healing Ulcerative Colitis Naturally
To give a basic overview of what’s been required of me to achieve the results I have, here are the nuts and bolts of my healing program for ulcerative colitis.
- An individualized and refined medical marijuana practice – The subject of this article
- An individualized, strictly-followed AIP Paleo Diet
- Daily Yoga
- Significant lifestyle changes to reduce stress
- Dramatically increased rest
- Daily physical exercise of low to moderate intensity
- A handful of effective individual food and nutrient supplements
- Examining my chosen career and occupation path
- Examining my workplace behavior as it relates to codependency and childhood trauma
- Examining, renegotiating and, in some cases, ending relationships and friendships.
- Intensive past trauma and codependency work
- Developing a spiritual practice
- Adopting a lifelong approach to learning, healing and growing
I’ve designed and created this blog to be the principal resource for every facet of healing ulcerative colitis and other chronic conditions. Every one of the above topics is addressed in detail here or will be. If you haven’t already, I strongly suggest you read my blog post Healing Ulcerative Colitis Naturally – The Principal Guide. This epic post series will give you a foundational understanding of what it takes to heal ulcerative colitis naturally. It includes discussion of all the bullets above in greater detail.
Building Your Individualized Medical Marijuana Program
With the above context of Food, Lifestyle and Medical Marijuana established as the cornerstones of a healing program for ulcerative colitis, the following are the empirical lessons I’ve learned over the last 5 years of daily medical marijuana use for ulcerative colitis.
No aspect of medical marijuana gets more attention than strain selection. There are nearly an infinite number of marijuana strains and there are new variations being bred constantly.
I don’t put a tremendous amount of emphasis on individual strains, believe it or not.
There are no “best” marijuana strains for anything.
The medicine in marijuana is primarily THC. Certain strains are bred for high CBD content, but these are special cases. Generally, marijuana has a percentage of THC around 20-30% by mass followed by trace amounts of terpenes on the order of roughly 0.005 – 0.1% by mass, depending on strain and a lot of other factors.
Choosing Individual Strains
I have a very good collection of strains available to me in the Connecticut Medical Marijuana Program. These are strains that I know are good for me and that I feel mentally and physically “better” than others on. That’s through simple trial and error and reasonable note-taking over the last 5 years.
My records also include a few strains that I don’t like and simply avoid. This is primarily because I feel either more anxious or more sleepy on them than I’d like. But these are few and far between and they have no currently discernable pattern relative to broad classification as Sativa, Indica or Hybrid.
According to Michael Backes, author of “Cannabis Pharmacy,” the main predictor for the effects of a particular marijuana strain is the terpene profile. There will be subtle differences in the effects of different strains on different people. But there are no “magic strains” that have some kind of profound effect on some specific disease.
In my experience, the major success factor with medical marijuana is this:
Consistent THC in the system over a long period of time.
Evaluating Marijuana Based On Grower, General Taxonomy and THC Content Instead of Strain
There are more marijuana strains today than ever before. And new ones are being introduced every day. Further, the “same” strain from a different grower can be radically different. Even the same strain grown by the same grower at a different time can be different.
The reason the internet is littered with thousands of “The 12 Best Strains for…” articles has to do with how Google works and how online marketing is done. It’s also how low-paid “writers” crank out filler articles that rank in the search engines well in as little time as possible. These types of trite, 500-word “Listicles” have nothing to do with health or reality. Rarely do the “writers” even have a modicum of actual medical marijuana expertise or experience.
Seeking out “magical” or “perfect” strains is a waste of time and probably impossible for the average medical user.
I evaluate marijuana flower products on four criteria:
- Broad Classification
- THC Content.
You can add CBD content to the above if you’re interested in experimenting with high-CBD marijuana variations.
Being Real About Strain Availability
Marijuana is a natural, living crop. Different strains come and go. Sometimes a strain is available for a while and is never seen again. Growers are creating new strains all the time through selective breeding.
At a minimum, strains will come and go in 12-16 cycles because that’s how they grow. The popular ones sell out pretty fast and then they aren’t seen again until the next crop.
This is the primary reason that I have a list of strains I’m always adding to, curating and evaluating – so I have the widest selection of possible marijuana strains I know work for me.
At this point, I can always find a few high-quality strains for myself and not pay more than $25 to $30 an 1/8. No matter what’s out on the market that month and what’s still growing or sold out.
The bottom line is: Don’t obsess about strains.
Same Strains, Different Growers
I’ve personally had the experience where a favorite strain is entirely different when I try another grower’s version of it. Maybe the genetics are the same, or were the same at one time, but the strains are rarely even similar, let alone the same from grower to grower.
I’ve even seen at least one occasion where one grower classifies a strain as Indica and another classifies their grow of the strain as Hybrid.
Products, Preparations and Getting Medicated
I use flower virtually exclusively. Yes, smoking is possibly a problem and potentially not the healthiest choice. This could be something I have to look closer at later on down the line. Hopefully by then, pricing will be in a competitive range for concentrates and more specialized and labor-intensive preparations.
But the ease, effect and low cost of using quality marijuana flower in a bong with ice has no equal as far as I’m concerned.
Whole marijuana flower is what I use almost 100% exclusively. There are a number of advantages to using whole flower that I’ve come to appreciate. I’ve discussed these in this article and elsewhere.
There bottom line is, whole flower is how I do my medicating and I don’t expect that to change any time soon.
- Whole flower is always the best value for milligrams of THC per dollar. In my post about maximizing economy and efficiency in a long-term MMJ program, I discuss this topic at length. The bottom line is: Whole marijuana flower is the lowest-priced option because it’s the least processed. Every additional process needed to convert whole flower to a more concentrated product adds to the cost. I use moderately-priced, middle-of-the-road Theraplant flower almost exclusively. [LINK] This practice alone made a significant difference in lowering my monthly medical marijuana cost.
- Whole flower requires the least amount of skill and special equipment to use effectively. You can read all about my failed experiments with cannabis concentrates elsewhere on the blog. My bottom line is that whole flower offers both the most cost-effective solution as well as needing the fewest special tools and skills to use. I’m pretty good at learning new things and using tools and toys and gadgets, but I found using vape pens, dab rigs and torches to be expensive, frustrating and never smooth, easy or completely effective.If medicating my anxiety creates more anxiety than it alleviates, I consider the medicating option a no-go.
- Whole flower always works. Drawing on my failed experiments mentioned above, I’ve come to appreciate that a cheap lighter and a glass pipe or bong can work to get me medicated. I began having significant anxiety over broken quartz, impossibly unreliable electronic pens, batteries and coils and the exponentially higher cost of using concentrates. For me, the stress of dealing with all the paraphernalia was too much and I got sick of wondering if I was even going to get medicated or if I was going to have three hours of stress and waste $100 trying to get the same THC I can get 100% reliably in 10 minutes with 0.5g of flower and a Bic lighter.
- Whole flower is unprocessed and natural. Maybe it’s my Paleo bias, but I prefer the things I put in my body to be as natural and unprocessed as possible. I do experiment with keif at times, but that’s not a processed concentrate like a butane-extracted shatter or crumble. Yes, I know there are some very sophisticated CO2 and solvent-less extractions, but we’re still talking about a modern, technical process to make these oils and concentrates and I just simply prefer everything I put in my body to be as close to its natural state as possible. Also, according to Michael Backes in “Cannabis Pharmacy,” some of the medicine in cannabis can be damaged during even expert and state-of-the-art extraction.
I’ve experimented with concentrates considerably. I spent a decent part of 2018 trying to get “dabbing” to work for me with the various shatter, crumble and rosin available at Thames Valley Alternative Relief in Uncasville, CT. I used both a dab rig with a quartz banger and torch as well as a Dr. Dabber Aurora pen.
Ultimately, my stress level went up, my medicine costs increased exponentially and I spent a lot more money replacing broken quartz and glass parts and messing with dab pen batteries and coils that burned out – sometimes after just a use or two.
The only concentrate I use consistently is keif that I retrieve from my Cali Crusher grinder.
Other than the kief concentrate I get from my grinder, every so often I’ll get some hard concentrate to add to my flower when I smoke.
This is a nice option to pump up the THC if a big punch of THC is needed for pain or severe depression. The advantage here is that you just light the flower with the lighter – opposite the side with the concentrate – and the heat of the flower combusts the concentrate as it’s smoked.
Edibles or “Medibles”
I’ve got some emotional and strong opinions about many of the medicated food products available in dispensaries as well as the use of various products by patients with inflammatory bowel disease.
I don’t know how many ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s Disease patients I’ve met at the dispensary who are “medicating” with cookies, brownies, peanut butter and other autoimmune-stimulating junk food.
This type of “treatment” goes nowhere and probably does more harm than good.
Even the gluten-free products have a high probability of being problematic for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s patients. This is particularly true if a flare-up is nearing or already in progress
Avoid Most Edibles if You Have Inflammatory Bowel Disease
There are two reasons to avoid edibles if you have IBDThe first is that most edibles are made with food that will be highly problematic for someone with inflammatory bowel disease.
The first issue with edibles is that most are made with food that will be highly problematic for someone with inflammatory bowel disease.
Certainly, you can try some Paleo-friendly medibles like cannabis-infused coconut oil or honey, but definitely monitor your results closely. With ulcerative colitis and the additional health problems it can set us up for, virtually anything can throw us off. Just the sugar in a cannabis-infused honey can be enough to create problems. Be careful.
For ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease patients, I suggest totally avoiding any cannabis-medicated food product that contains sugar (even naturally occurring), gluten, chocolate or nuts. I’d go on to include any product made with any grain or nut flour – gluten-free or otherwise. These will be at least as damaging to the gut lining and stimulating to the immune system as the marijuana in them is healing.“– Adam Farrah
My Personal Experience with Medicated Cannabis Food-Products
I’ve come to suspect that edible marijuana products don’t have much effect on me because my digestive tract just doesn’t absorb them efficiently.
Even when I’ve medicated with marijuana-infused coconut oil, I haven’t seen much impact. Intuitively, I sense that my digestive tract is just still too compromised to absorb the THC in the coconut oil efficiently.
According to Michael Backes in “Cannabis Pharmacy:”
“With orally administered cannabis medicines, there is a large observed range of delivered doses, from 4 to 12 percent. This means that one patient could absorb three times what another patient absorbs.”
If you’ve had a similar – or totally different – experience with edible marijuana products as they relate to ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, please let me know in the comments at the end of this post!
What About Gluten-Free or IBD-Friendly Medibles?
A significant part of proper diet for healing UC and other autoimmune illnesses is avoiding grains entirely. Not gluten-free, no grains. Zero. That’s 100% Paleo. I go further to Paleo-AIP from there.
You can learn more about the dietary and lifestyle factors that go into healing ulcerative colitis naturally in my epic post on the topic here: Healing Ulcerative Colitis Naturally – The Principal Guide.
Cost is too High
A topic I’ll go into deeply soon is keeping the costs of daily medical marijuana to a reasonable level. For now, I’ll just say that smoking plain marijuana flower is the most cost-effective way to go. Edible products have the additional price premium from preparing the marijuana for cooking as well as the labor to make the food product the medication goes in. And, don’t forget you’re paying for the “food” the medicine is in too.
The consumer ends up paying 2-6 times as much per gram of THC with medibles and getting inflammatory and negative food ingredients that impact healing on top of it.
Most marijuana medicated foods are a definite no-go for inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s Disease.
Medical Marijuana Dosage for Ulcerative Colitis
I’ve found that the more marijuana I use in a particular day, the better my elimination is the next day. I haven’t seen diminishing returns relative to dosage and bowel health – at least at the maximum dosage of 2.5oz per month. For those who aren’t familiar with Connecticut’s Medical Marijuana Program, 2.5 ounces is the maximum of whole marijuana flower – or an adjusted monthly allotment calculated from THC% in concentrates and medibles – that a patient can buy in a 30-Day period.
When it comes to medical marijuana for ulcerative colitis, my finding over the past few years is that more THC is better than less. Having a consistently high concentration of THC in the system over the long term has had the most observable, empirical healing effects for me.
If You Have Existing Problems with Anxiety
If you have significant problems with anxiety, this high-dose approach may not be the best option for you. At least not until you’ve developed some tolerance for THC and some experience with lower-THC strains and dosages.
Proceed slowly and carefully if you have an anxiety disorder. Marijuana is great medicine for anxiety, but the immediate effects of a lot of THC can be very overwhelming to a novice user not experienced with the cognitive and perceptual anomalies the THC produces.
Consistent Use – It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint
Having been in the Connecticut Medical Marijuana Program nearly since its inception, I’ve had five years to see results and experience the effects of long-term, consistent usage of high-quality medical cannabis.
If any one aspect of my medical cannabis usage has been instrumental in my healing, I’d say it’s the regular and sometimes heavy daily usage of the plant. Day to day, there really wasn’t a lot of perceptible difference in my health other than a better mental state and better sleep.
I believe it’s been the longer-term usage of this strongly anti-inflammatory substance that created the major ulcerative colitis healing results and benefits over time.
Putting Consistency into Practice
Here are some bullets to get you started with a consistent medical marijuana practice for healing ulcerative colitis:
- Take lots of notes. Notes and records are important. Good note-taking and record-keeping is a skill and a habit. Get started now and develop your preferred way of tracking everything health and healing related. I’ve kept notes in a regular paper notebook as well as in my phone in various apps. A lot of my records are in Evernote now. I’ve included a screenshot elsewhere in this post of some recent marijuana records I recorded in Evernote.
- Develop a list of strains and growers you like to use regularly. Marijuana is a natural product. It takes time to grow and the final product isn’t 100% controllable and repeatable. Further, the same strain from one grower will be slightly – or very – different from the same strain grown by a different grower. Keeping records of strains used, how you feel on them and anything else that comes to mind can pay off big over time as you develop a list of favorite strains and growers.
- Use a scale to weigh for consistency. At this point, I know how much marijuana all my apparatus holds. Depending on what I use, I know I’m getting about 0.4-0.6g total of cannabis flower. Knowing the gross weight of the product means I can easily calculate THC% for that dose. I know I’m generally using 2g per day, give or take, and I’m smoking 3-5 times a day. Having this base gives me tremendous flexibility in that I have a solid starting point as well as a consistent base to return to if I get significantly off track. It also allows me to monitor and control my medicine costs quite closely and easily.
- Use daily. For devastating diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, daily use is mandatory. It’s the best way to build up THC and other cannabis medicinal compounds in your system and begin to get the long-term effects of the plant. As I said above, I believe this high, consistent concentration of marijuana compounds in the system to be one of the fundamentals in healing ulcerative colitis naturally.
Refinement Over Time
This one fits right in with “Consistent Use,” above. It takes a long time to refine and perfect your MMJ use. It took me years of daily work, reading, experimentation and study. There was also significant cost to me and my family monetarily and every other way.
Over time, my use has become very efficient, economical and quite repeatable and consistent. My healing results are also quite repeatable and consistent.
The Psychoactive Effects Diminish Over Time
The great thing about marijuana is that its health effects seem to really compound over time, while the intoxicating or psychoactive effects diminish somewhat.
Tolerance is developed over time. The majority of the negative psychoactive experiences novices can have with marijuana can be avoided by dosing conservatively and using consistently enough that some tolerance and experience dealing with the effects of the THC are developed.
While this guide is focused on medical marijuana for ulcerative colitis, I hope I’ve adequately conveyed that healing inflammatory bowel disease is a lifelong and whole-life endeavor.
I’ve found no supplement or medication that can even approach the effectiveness of marijuana for healing inflammation, healing ulcerative colitis and dealing with the myriad ancillary problems that come along with it.
Medical Marijuana has also been exceptionally effective for me in healing significant depression, anxiety and PTSD. A wide assortment of pharmaceutical psych meds couldn’t even approach the effectiveness of less than two grams of medical cannabis for me. With virtually no side-effects relative to the Big Pharma stuff.
In 15 long years of work and study and struggle to heal my own ulcerative colitis naturally, nothing’s even come close to the benefits of medical marijuana for me. And it continues to give to me and heal me.
Medical Marijuana – when combined with significant dietary and lifestyle changes and practices – has healed me on every level, significantly healed my ulcerative colitis, systemic inflammation and myriad psychological challenges. It has been a positive, life-affirming medicine for me.“– Adam Farrah
Healing from any chronic illness requires a complete reorganization of our entire lives. It’s much more complicated than taking any single medication or supplement or alternative treatment. It’s much more complicated than following a “diet.”
Healing a chronic illness like ulcerative colitis requires a tremendous amount of work and dedication. It also requires going against the grain, making our own decisions, thinking for ourselves and taking some risks.
I wish you all the best on your healing journey.
P.S. If you’d like to learn more about healing ulcerative colitis naturally, medical marijuana and all things alternative health and healing-related, you can read my epic guide: Healing Ulcerative Colitis Naturally – The Ultimate Guide.
P.P.S. If this article has been helpful to you, please let me know in the comments or by email and please pass it along to someone else who can benefit from the information!