Illustration by Jason Stout / Getty Images
About a month ago, Fredzia the young African elephant lady living in the Warsaw zoo made international news. Not because of her inherent majesty, but because the death of her friend and elder, Erna, wrecked her world to such a degree that zoological scientists felt compelled to prescribe a cannabis compound to help alleviate her stress.
“This year has been a difficult time for Fredzia,” wrote a BBC reporter in late August. Worrisome behavioral changes that stemmed from her grief inspired zoo veterinarian Dr. Agnieszka Czujkowska to begin administering small doses (relative to the voluptuous beauty’s size) of cannabidiol, also known as CBD oil, to Fredzia’s daily regimen. “Elephants might have behavioural problems when the structure of a group changes,” Dr. Czujkowska told the reporter. We know something about grief and difficult structural changes, don’t we, fellow inhabitants of Earth?
A brief aside: In the Polish translation of A.A. Milne’s timeless classic, Winnie the Pooh, the beloved bear from childhood who, like many of us in 2020, refused to wear pants, is called Fredzia Phi-Phi. Back to the silly old bear shortly.
Czujkowska’s project is aimed at determining whether the compound can help reduce Fredzia’s anxiety. If successful, they hope to extend the courtesy to bears and rhinos. To be clear, the elephant is not expected to experience any serious side effects and there most certainly will not be a “high” Loxodonta lumbering around, because CBD oil does not contain any THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis. But she might very well feel better and please can’t the elephants be happy? Can’t we?
The point is, as we stress over horrific headlines, as justice seems a far-fetched concept, as the five stages of collective grief seem caught in an endless loop, there is, at least for me, a small amount of solace in evidence that relief grows in the dirt. There is a plant that, whether or not you like to teleport to a faraway dream land, or just survive virtual classrooms and meetings, contains a series of much-needed joie de vivre molecules.
As for me, I like to get really THC-high. I am high functioning. So in this third installment guide to marijuana edibles, one aimed at the well-seasoned among us, I offer suggestions aimed at reducing stress that extend beyond rewatching medical dramas and stockpiling cheese. And sure, some suggest that marijuana doesn’t reduce stress and anxiety, but scientists also cannot determine whether the space object approaching Earth is a new “mini-moon” or an asteroid or part of a robotic spacecraft launched in 1966. So I’m telling you that marijuana, when consumed correctly for my brain, does in fact temporarily reduce the weight of the world, and you just might find the same to be true for you.
Once you’ve acclimated to cannabis consumption, determine whether you prefer sativa, indica, or hybrid (stoner adage: “indica = in the couch”) by learning about dosage and strain. If during this pandemic you’re struggling to acquire weed, a substance still unfortunately illegal in Texas, activate your whisper network. If we learn one thing this year, it ought to be the value of the village. I guarantee you that no matter how teetotaling you may be, someone on your Instagram feed can help you. If you’re part of the marijuana multiverse, experiment with a new strain. TOPS Cannabis out of Los Angeles suggests six fairly accessible strains that work wonders for stress and anxiety. Grand Daddy Purple, an indica strain, encourages restfulness, provides reliable relief from physical pain and insomnia, and has a sweet grape flavor. Sour Diesel, a sativa-dominant strain with about 26% THC, offers intense mental stimulation that can help counteract exhaustion with “energy-boosting potential” and citrusy flavor. The OG Kush strain is considered a hybrid as it helps create a euphoric and relaxed state through mild mental stimulation and also some body heaviness (like a weighted blanket) with a pine-lemon-earthy profile.
While you’re upping your cannabis game, read. For more background information, National Geographic‘s predictive January 2020 “Marijuana Medicine” issue is stacked with info about the medicinal future and history of the plant. In it, one family seeks help in Colorado for their epileptic young daughter and finds relief from Charlotte’s Web, a cannabis oil with a low-THC, high-CBD makeup. CBD can, or arguably should, be a huge part of the THC journey, bridging the gaps and sometimes acting as a counter to psychoactive effects accidentally rendered too intense. The cannabis website Leafly (which has an Austin office) offers a dosage chart (it’s 15-30mg doses for “well-seasoned consumers”) but makes clear that “unique internal physiologic environments” definitely affect reactions. In the case of mild THC overconsumption, “a large 50-200mg dose of CBD (without significant amounts of THC) can act as a partial antidote.” They also suggest lemon rind and juice do the same. Just go slow and easy with any edibles – the goal here is reducing stress, not increasing it.
So take small steps and have fun as you heal and cope. Try a 1:1 ratio of THC and CBD in your tea or up your capsule dosage on a chill Saturday. Play in the kitchen – check out Bong Appetit‘s “high-end weed, high-end cuisine” recipes like spinach and artichoke dip risotto or raspberry peach pie. And because we’re collectively relearning this year that Mother Nature knows best, get a little high and go on a walk. As we wait for updates on Fredzia the elephant, try to think like Fredzia Phi-Phi and consider the delicious ways you can adjust your honey (cannabis) consumption to work for your body and mind, not against them. Like Milne told us, “Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.”
Cannabis contains more than 480 chemical compounds, with THC and CBD as two of the most present in most strains. Archeological evidence suggests human consumption as early as 10,000 years ago, but thanks to the United States federal ban in 1937, scientists are only beginning to scratch the untapped potential of cannabinoids.
As a way to relax, try incorporating cannabis into your already vetted and beloved comfort foods like cannabutter in your mac & cheese or a 1:1 CBD and THC tincture in your morning protein smoothie. If you’re going full-tilt THC and get too big for your britches, try some fresh lemon zest or juice to counteract the psychoactive effects.