Advocating for Patients Through Stories of CBD Healing: An Exclusive Interview with Dr. Michele Ross

Neuroscientist, renowned author, former reality television star, health coach, plant medicine expert — each of these titles, among many others, can be used to describe the empowering, enthusiastic individual that is Dr. Michele Ross, PhD, MBA.

dr michele ross profile pic november 2020 Hempzilla CBD

After being diagnosed with fibromyalgia and struggling with PTSD, Dr. Ross sought out ways to manage the pain and stress she was experiencing. On her website and in our exclusive interview, Dr. Ross shares how CBD and other plant medicines helped get her off 10+ prescriptions and transform her life for the better. Additionally, she shares her perspective on balancing plant medicine use with an overall healthy lifestyle, as well as the importance of communicating any positive CBD experiences with your doctor.

Dr. Ross is the author of CBD Oil for Health, Kratom is Medicine, Vitamin Weed, Train Your Brain to Get Thin (co-author), and Journal Yourself to Health. She has also been featured on Healthline, The Mighty, Forbes, Vice, POPSUGAR, and Big Brother, to name a few. Today, Dr. Ross focuses on educating, coaching, empowering, and advocating for patients and entrepreneurs who are looking for a natural, holistic way to manage their health and elevate their business.

To learn more about Dr. Michele Ross and her journey with CBD and plant medicine, check out our exclusive Q&A interview below!

 

 

HEMPZILLA (HZ): We can just dive in. The first question I have for you is, I know you talk about how you had fibromyalgia and a little bit of PTSD, and I was wondering if you can just kind of speak to that experience in your life and how it led you to the path to cannabis and CBD?

DR. MICHELE ROSS (DMR):

Sure. So, it’s sort of funny because I actually started off as a researcher studying drugs of abuse, including cannabis. And it’s funny because I say that term “drugs of abuse” because we know that they really have medical properties. But that’s what we called them back in the day. I’m a drug addiction neuroscientist by trade, so I was studying all these compounds, but I never used them because I was a scientist with funding from the federal government who is very, very anti-cannabis to this day. They haven’t federally legalized it.  

But it wasn’t really until I got sick myself that I started to explore cannabis, CBD, and other natural plant medicines for my symptoms. For me, it was always once I learned about the health benefits of cannabis and CBD, I always thought, “Hey, well, they’re for really sick people, maybe like someone with cancer or something like that.” I was really hesitant to use them because, again, I just didn’t really know any cannabis users. I know some people grow up and their friends smoke and their parents were into the culture. I grew up in New Jersey — very conservative family. No one used cannabis or CBD. So, even though I knew the science of it, I was hesitant to use it myself.  

But I had different issues from nerve issues. I had one hand that went dead. I started getting all these different symptoms that were really, really horrible. It took me a while to get diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I also have some other chronic health conditions. But I was in pain every day. I was very fatigued, and I was prescribed all sorts of medications — from morphine, which is a very powerful opioid and very addictive. You can die from using morphine if you overdose on it. Medications like Lyrica, which are just horrible, you gain like forty pounds and you don’t get any pain relief.

So, this is pretty common for people with fibromyalgia. They don’t know how to help you and they just give you everything and then basically, you’re on disability. You can’t work because the medications are giving you side effects that make you unable to work. So, you’re not out of pain, you’re even more disabled than when you started, and, for me as a scientist, I’m going, “No, this is not going to work for me. I want to go back to work. I don’t want to be, you know, being taken care of by my husband or something. This is horrible.”

So, I started first off with CBD because I was a little concerned about THC. A lot of people cautioned against that if you have family members with, say, mental health disorders. I did in fact have family members with bipolar. I was a little worried. I was like, “Oh, no, what if I get schizophrenia or something?” And it’s so funny because I’m a scientist and I know the research. 

But here I was being very scared of going into high THC products. So, I started with CBD first and it was actually one of the things that got me off morphine. So, I went sort of cold turkey withdrawal off my morphine pills, which is a little bit of a scary process for anyone that knows being on pain pills. You know, you do have some withdrawal symptoms. It’s not a fun process. And I used CBD to get off opioids. That was just the first real sign that this worked.  

I also use topicals for my pain. I use all sorts of CBD products. I do use some THC products at night to help me sleep. CBD for some reason keeps me awake and for some people it does that. Other people, it puts them to sleep. So, everyone’s brain is a little bit different. But for me, I need a really strong THC edible or something at night to put me down. Otherwise, my brain will keep going all night.  

But for me, the fibromyalgia really was what triggered me being passionate about this plant. Being able to understand how it helped me — got me off the over 13 different medications — and start sharing that knowledge with other people that are sick. 

  

HZ: Yeah, absolutely. We write about it all the time that they’re looking for ways to find a more natural, holistic alternative to those drugs that you were just talking about. So, I’m very happy that it worked for you and to hear that. And then for people out there who don’t really know how CBD works in the body, I know you’re very well versed in that. Can you give them a little bit of a background on how that works and, specifically, for your pain or like you said, for some people, it’s sleep? 

DMR: So, I’m a neuroscientist and I’ve studied the effects of drugs like CBD in the brain and the body. And CBD is really an interesting substance because it comes from the hemp or cannabis plant. But it activates so many receptors in the body and it does different things. Most pharmaceutical drugs, right, they have one action. They’ll bind to one receptor, do one thing, and that’s why you have to take tons of different pills.  

But for me, the fibromyalgia really was what triggered me being passionate about this plant. Being able to understand how it helped me — got me off the over 13 different medications — and start sharing that knowledge with other people that are sick. 

CBD has so many different ways it works in the body and it’s because it is increasing your natural endocannabinoids or what we call the “bliss molecule,” anandamide, in the body. We have our own natural, marijuana-like compounds and this anandamide will bind to your cannabinoid receptors and these receptors are on every single cell in your body. They’re in your brain and your heart, on your nerves, in your gut. They are everywhere, modulating your immune system, your appetite, your sleep-wake cycle, everything. So, it’s really interesting. This anandamide, right? It’s going to be binding to those receptors and it’s going to be helping improve your mood, relieve your pain, reduce inflammation. 

And then CBD itself has been found to bind directly to some receptors that aren’t even part of the endocannabinoid system, so that’s really what makes it a little different than some of the other substances found in hemp and the cannabis plant. CBD can directly bind to serotonin receptors, one called 5-HT1A. And what’s really interesting about that is that’s how it mediates anxiety relief. A lot of people use CBD for mood boosts or to take that tension off the end of the day or to relax and go to sleep at night. Part of that is because it’s activating your serotonin system. It’s really cool. It’s acting sort of like an antidepressant, but a natural one without all the nasty side effects.  

There’s really no withdrawal symptoms or anything from using CBD, so that’s why it’s a great option for people that have, I would say, like mild anxiety. Not with really severe, severe anxiety — you might need a couple other things to go along with it. But for mild to moderate stress relief and anxiety it really does work.  

How is it helping work with inflammation, with pain, and things like that? CBD is actually an amazing antioxidant and so, people don’t realize it’s actually more powerful than vitamin C or vitamin E in the body. It is neutralizing free radicals in the body and stopping these inflammatory compounds from hurting your brain cells, from hurting your nerves, and things like that. We know when there’s less inflammation, when we’re protecting these cells from damage, that we tend to have less pain. We have less inflammation. We have less problems in our gut. We’re just working at our best. So, CBD is a fantastic antioxidant and neuroprotectant. There are even patents from the U.S. government for that, so that’s really fun.  

And the other really interesting way that it works is that it actually blocks some receptors. So, it’s not always about activation. It actually blocks certain types of receptors. There’s one called GPR-55. It’s associated with cancer cells and a lot of us have some mutant cells roaming around. Cancer is diagnosed when cancer is large enough for us to be able to see it with technology. But we all have cancer cells and our goal is to try to reduce their growth so that we don’t get diagnosed with cancer. Unfortunately, almost fifty percent of Americans will be diagnosed at some point. But we know that CBD can actually bind to these receptors, block them, stop cancer cell growth. So that’s really an amazing thing too.

When I tell people vitamin CBD — it’s something that you should be taking every day because it’s just going to help balance your entire endocannabinoid system. It’s going to help stop inflammation. It’s going to help, perhaps, even slow down cancer growth, which again, should be a goal of every woman and man out there. 

  

HZ: That’s incredible. I’m sure there’s a lot of research being done on that? I’m not sure if that’s your field or in other fields? 

DMR: Yeah. I mean, there are a lot of clinical studies now looking at it from mental health, cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer growth, things like that. Obviously, it’s been looked at in some disorders like PTSD. Post-traumatic stress disorder has been a big one. There’s been big studies with veterans.  

It’s sort of interesting because there’s so many things. It activates so many different receptors and pathways, it’s almost like what to look at first, right? So, a lot of the big research has really focused on mental health and, I think, gut disorders. Just because, again, it’s activating serotonin receptors, it’s reducing inflammation. A lot of gut disorders, the drugs that treat it are really nasty and they have nasty side effects. And so, CBD seems to be a mild alternative to help improve gut health. It’s been a nice tool. 

I’m a neuroscientist, not an M.D. So, I don’t work with the traditional doctor relationship. I do a lot of harm reduction and holistic health counseling sessions. So, my clients basically come to me saying, “I want to try plant medicine, I want to try CBD. What is the dosing? What kind of products? What am I looking for? What’s CBN?” You know, all those types of things. A lot of them are looking for mood relief, sleep, and pain relief. Those are the major big ones. But again, once they’re taking CBD for something, it’s interesting because then they’ll be like, “Oh, wait, my headaches went away. Who knew?”  

You know, it’s sort of funny, we don’t really know how sick we are, how unhealthy we are, and how out of balance our endocannabinoid system is until we bring CBD and some of the other cannabinoids into our daily rituals, into our daily routine, and we start to feel what it’s like to be operating at a healthy level. 

One of the things I tell people is CBD and these other cannabinoids used to be part of our diet. So, livestock used to eat hemp and things that had these cannabinoids in them. And then we would eat our steaks, our hamburgers, and they would have these cannabinoids in them. We were eating CBD before they outlawed hemp from our livestock and other practices in agriculture. It’s sort of nice now that people are supplementing because we’re operating like how we’re supposed to be. We’re supposed to have hemp and CBD in our diet. 

  

HZ: Right. And do you think being that it’s a natural and holistic addition to your diet is why it maybe works so well for us? For so many different ailments, not just one specific thing over a medication that you said you stopped taking? 

DMR: I’m so passionate about CBD. Again, I never like to overstate anything. But it works on so many systems and it’s because the endocannabinoid system is the largest neurotransmitter system in your whole body. Neurotransmitters are the signals between brain cells, so if you balance your endocannabinoid system, you’re going to help your serotonin system, your dopamine system, your GABA — all the components of your brain are going to start working a little bit better. That’s why it’s so important. I’m like, the root of illness is really endocannabinoid imbalance. CBD is your best bet on balancing that system. 

 

HZ: I love the way that you said that too — it’s a good balance for your system. I’ve actually never heard it put like that, but I like that a lot. One other question, that kind of spun off of that. I know you said you counsel with people. Do you, because there’s so many different ailments and things that CBD can help and treat, is there a specific product that you’d recommend? Maybe a tincture works better for this or an edible works better or a topical? I don’t know if you’ve seen from your personal experience, anything that specifically applies?  

DMR: Yeah, so one of the first places I start off with is what their prior experience is. Some people come to me saying, “Well, I tried the CBD tincture and it didn’t work.” And we always ask, “What was the type of product you used? Was it full spectrum? Was it broad-spectrum? Was it an isolate product? How much were you using? Were you using 15 milligrams? Were you using 100 milligrams?” You know, it’s funny because sometimes people think that more is better and we actually know that sometimes it’s not. Too much coconut oil, for example, can cause stomach unease or queasiness, so somebody taking it for gut health can be sensitive to the coconut oil.

So first off, I try to figure out what hasn’t worked or what has worked for them. Sometimes, it’s just a dosage problem. I’ve had clients come in and be like, “Oh, I have severe migraines and I took CBD.” And then you find out that they’re taking five milligrams once a day and you’re like, “Well, that might not be enough for you.” 

Most people don’t realize that CBD, just like many other medications, is metabolized in your liver. When you take it, it doesn’t last the whole day. You do have to dose a couple times a day, and most of my clients will dose between two and three times a day, depending on how active their liver is in metabolizing. So, there’s fast metabolizers of CBD and there’s slow metabolizers of CBD. Sometimes, you can get that information if you do a 23andMe DNA test and it will tell you what are your liver enzymes.  

That’s helpful when you take some medications. That’s how some people respond to certain antidepressants and things like that. CBD is the same way. If you are a fast metabolizer of CBD, which actually is me — I think between 25 and 50 percent of people are the fast metabolizers — I have to dose myself three times a day. Some people are fine with two. Some people, you know, even marginally do it with one. But that’s very rare. 

…the endocannabinoid system is the largest neurotransmitter system in your whole body. Neurotransmitters are the signals between brain cells, so if you balance your endocannabinoid system, you’re going to help your serotonin system, your dopamine system, your GABA — all the components of your brain are going to start working a little bit better. That’s why it’s so important. I’m like, the root of illness is really endocannabinoid imbalance. CBD is your best bet on balancing that system. 

For most people, they need to dose between two and three times a day. For me, I use tinctures. I find they’re really easy because you can control the dosing really well, right? They have the markings on there. The hardest part, of course, is reading the bottle and saying, “OK, how many milligrams is in this dropper?” And I think really great brands, it’s nice when they tell you there’s 30 milligrams in one milliliter. The standard dropper is one milliliter and that makes it easy.  

But there are other companies that have really low dosages of CBD in there. And you’re like, “OK, there’s like two hundred milligrams in the whole bottle. What is that?” It’s like a funky number. Somebody has to pull out a calculator. It’s horrible. I really like it when companies are clear about what is in the bottle, how to dose. It’s just helpful.  

So, first off, are you dosing enough? What is your product? It’s funny because I’ve even had people tell me that they were dosing themselves with CBD oil and it turned out to be a THC bottle. And I’m like, “That’s not even CBD, that’s THC. What is going on here?” I have them take their products and show me. What are you taking? How much are you taking?

It’s funny because when you take pharmaceuticals, you just take the pill, right? It’s super easy. So, with patients that are older or in severe pain, sometimes the tinctures are too much for them. They can’t even think about the tincture. A capsule or gummy is a really good choice. Sometimes, people have problems swallowing, so gummies are really helpful.   

The right product really depends on the person. What is easy for you? Are you more concerned about just getting CBD in your body, period? Are you more concerned about getting a nice, exact, proper dosing? Again, sometimes people can feel really good at a certain dose or forty-five milligrams makes me go to sleep or, on the other spectrum, too little doesn’t do anything for them. Once people start to be comfortable using CBD, they sort of know their dose. 

Other people also don’t really metabolize CBD in their stomach. You might have heard stories of people that use cannabis-THC gummies and they’re not high. It doesn’t matter how many milligrams they use. They use two hundred milligrams of THC — not high, nothing happens. Some people don’t metabolize cannabinoids right in their stomach. Maybe they have a leaky gut, maybe they’re missing an enzyme. There’s some people that also have that same issue where they use CBD gummies and they’re like, “I don’t understand. I could eat the entire bottle and nothing happens. But I use the drops and I feel a difference.” 

The main thing to educate people on is that these are different routes of administration. For example, putting a drop on your tongue and holding it for thirty seconds or more, that CBD will go into your blood vessels in your tongue and straight in your bloodstream. It goes in there really fast. Between 10 and 15 minutes you feel the effects and it’s trying to bypass the liver. So, you’re getting a little bit more of it in your system, whereas a gummy can take a little bit longer for your body to digest. It’s got to go in your stomach. Then, it goes through your liver and for some patients or consumers that are using CBD and don’t really feel effects in the edible form, I encourage them to go and try the tinctures. That usually works.  

It’s knowing what is working for you. You have to sort of be a house M.D. sometimes with difficult clients. Again, it’s like, “OK, did you buy a good product? Did you use enough of it? Maybe it’s your liver or something like that.” And you have to go through and figure out what works. I would say most clients, it’s just they didn’t dose themselves enough.  

I would caution against, “Okay, it didn’t work with five. Let me try the entire bottle.” Like, don’t do that. Different countries are actually recommending safe dosing. The UK even said something like, maybe people shouldn’t be using seventy-five milligrams a day unless they have some serious chronic illness or something like that. So, if you have two 25 milligram gummies a day to help with your anxiety, that’s a safe dose. If you’re using one hundred milligrams at a time and you don’t have epilepsy or something serious, you might not be doing your liver or yourself a good thing there. You always want to be safe.  

The other thing is that if you are on serious medications, for example, a blood thinner like Warfarin, some older patients and consumers are like, “Well, I’m on 20 other medications. I’m going to add CBD.” You should talk to an expert just to make sure there’s not an interaction. Most of the time people are using it safely. But if you’re using a really high dose, you don’t want problems. That’s why I always encourage people, before you try any supplement, always talk to somebody, whether it’s your doctor, a certified CBD coach, or someone like me because it’s nice to have that double-check.  

I had that issue, actually. I was on blood thinners years ago and what happened was the blood thinner test, once I took CBD, it made the test really funny. My doctor was like, “What are you doing? If you get in a car accident, you’re going to be dead because you’re going to squirt blood out of you.” And I’m like, “Oh my gosh! That’s crazy!” So, I stopped using CBD for a little while, while I was on a very specific medication that is known to have an interaction. 

Once I stopped using that medication, I started using my CBD again and everything was fine. CBD is safe with mostly everything and there’s one or two things you’re like, “Nope, don’t do that.” It’s just really important to be mindful of the power of CBD. But for most people, it’s pretty great.  

What I love is that it’s really helpful. I know a lot of people are using Xanax or even self-medicating with alcohol and things like that to cope with stress. The last year or so has been really stressful for a lot of people and I have encouraged a lot of people — to deal with a lot of the changes that have happened in life, from job loss or lockdowns — that CBD has been helpful to get people through things. 

Again, if you have the option, like if you’re a woman and you care about your health, I really think it’s a much better idea to go for the CBD — whether it’s a CBD drink, a CBD gummy at the end of the night, et cetera — than a glass of wine or something. You know, it’s so much better for your health. I’m CBD all around for stress relief. 

The last year or so has been really stressful for a lot of people and I have encouraged a lot of peopleto deal with a lot of the changes that have happened in life, from job loss or lockdowns — that CBD has been helpful to get people through things.

HZ: Yeah, that’s awesome. You talked about how your doctor actually said, “Hey, what are you doing? You’re mixing this.” Do you see now that CBD is becoming a little bit more popular? That more doctors, maybe they’ll start recommending people to take CBD or they’re gaining a little bit more knowledge about it and being able to speak to it? Are you seeing more of that in the medical field? 

DMR: Yeah. I mean, I would say cannabis or CBD-competent doctors are still not the majority. But I would say it’s a very different climate than it was maybe five or 10 years ago. For example, if you told your doctor, “Hey, I’m not using my morphine anymore, I’m on CBD.” They’d be like, “You’re crazy. Stop using drugs. Go back on your morphine.” Which, to us, that sounds silly because you’re like the morphine is the drug. 

But now, they’re getting so many more reports about things. I would say your doctor, most likely, would be more comfortable with you using CBD than THC because in medical school they were trained that THC and cannabis are drugs of abuse, recreational, things like that. There’s still a lot of old-school doctors out there. I would say older doctors are more comfortable with CBD than THC. Younger doctors are definitely more comfortable with CBD, medicinal mushrooms, like everything because, again, they’ve been trained in what we consider almost the psychedelic and cannabis age. So, like they’re more comfortable. It really depends on the age of your doctor.

The other thing too is how much experience they’ve had with people telling their doctors about this. For example, if you are seeing a therapist and you’re doing really good and you want to share it, you’re like, “What’s the difference?” And you’re like, “Well, I started taking CBD and I’m just feeling a lot more motivated. I have a lot more energy now. I’m happier.” Share that with your doctor because the more positive things they hear about that, they’re going to be less likely to say, “No, don’t do that. Discontinue that. I’m going to report that. Let’s drug test you because if you’re using CBD, you’re using all the drugs.” You know, that’s how they used to be.

So, my feedback is, if they’re sort of on the fence about it, the more they hear, “Hey, it’s positive.” You know, if you go to a rheumatologist, for example, somebody for joint pain and you have arthritis and you’re like, “Wow, I use this CBD cream and now I need to use less pain pills. How amazing is that?” Have these conversations with your doctors.  

If you ever see a doctor, however, that is not only not knowledgeable about CBD, but encourages you to stop it — like if you have a doctor that’s like, “Don’t use that CBD lotion, it’s dangerous” — and they’re very much expressing sort of that crazy, reefer madness kind of stuff that’s not based in science or anything, sometimes it’s time to think about seeing a new doctor if you can. Because the evidence is out there. The science is out there.  

If you’re using it responsibly, CBD is, for the most part, a very low-risk type of supplement or wellness tool to use. And if your doctor is having those kinds of crazy, very strong feelings about it and can’t tell the difference between CBD and THC, again, they might signal to you what else don’t they know about? Or what else are they not open about? And are you getting the best treatment recommendations for a lot of things? I think that the open-mindedness about doctors and CBD is really important. So, if your doctor is against CBD and it’s 2021, like, get a new doctor.  

That’s really, I mean, that’s my thing. I know sometimes people can’t switch their doctors. But seriously, it’s 2021. CBD is definitely the least of their concerns. And again, if they’re really focused on being a doctor, really focused on helping the health of their patients, they should be really focused on trying to get people away from more toxic, more addictive substances with a greater side effect profile.  

Again, you’re not going to get addicted to CBD. You’re not going to overdose from it. It’s safer than opioids. It’s safer than anti-anxiety drugs. It’s safer than anti-depressant drugs. So, why wouldn’t you recommend it to your patients? I tell you, just talk to them and find out. You know, be out in the open about it and figure out where they stand and if they’re not supportive, if they don’t want to get educated about it, it’s time for a new doctor. 

  

HZ: Just hearing that it’s a safer substance, you would think that everyone would want that — doctors, the patients, everyone. I think that’s really great that you just touched on that too, to just let people know, “Hey, this is this is something that’s OK for you and just talk to your doctor about it and open up.” I know you counsel people and you meet with people, so if you can talk about what you do, specifically, that’s a little bit different than a doctor? How do you help people on their journey with CBD? 

DMR: My process working with clients is to help them review what the potential medical drug interactions are like. What are their medical conditions? What are the drugs that they’re on? Is it safe for them to use CBD, cannabis, medicinal mushrooms, and other substances? Again, they could go to their doctor. But a lot of doctors aren’t experienced or educated in CBD or cannabis. 

Again, you’re not going to get addicted to CBD. You’re not going to overdose from it. It’s safer than opioids. It’s safer than anti-anxiety drugs. It’s safer than anti-depressant drugs. So, why wouldn’t you recommend it to your patients? I tell you, just talk to them and find out. You know, be out in the open about it and figure out where they stand and if they’re not supportive, if they don’t want to get educated about it, it’s time for a new doctor.

You could have a CBD-positive or cannabis-positive doctor. Someone that says, “Hey, I’m OK with you using these substances. But I don’t know anything about it.” Or, even worse, the laws in their state actually stop them from being able to say certain things. For example, in certain states, there’s laws against doctors recommending specific dispensaries or specific CBD or cannabis products. Whereas other states, the doctors are right there with the CBD products right on their desk. It’s hilarious. So, there’s different rules in different states.  

For me, I work through telehealth. So, I work with clients all over the country. Also, in different countries too. Even in states where CBD and cannabis may or may not be legal because, again, harm reduction education, wellness education, isn’t illegal. It’s just the sales of the product and sometimes possession of the product, that is the legal part. So, I help clients understand, is it legal for them to take CBD? What are good products? What is the dosing that’s appropriate? What hasn’t worked? What does work?

If they have any tests or things like that. Again, the gene data. If you have some 23andMe that I can go look through it and say, “Hey, you know what, maybe you shouldn’t use THC. You have some genes that may say you might have increased risk of psychosis or something unwanted if you use high doses of THC. Or you’re a fast metabolizer of CBD, so you’ve got to dose very regularly with CBD products or use something that’s sort of more extended-release.” Some clients need more CBD, plus THC formulations — at least at the minimum, a full-spectrum product over an isolate product. So, going through what’s appropriate for them, where they can find these things, recommended brands. You know, there are just general CBD products and now there are actually a lot of cool, very specific formulations. 

And so, it used to be back in the market, there was just CBD. Now, there’s different cannabinoids. We know that there is CBG, CBC, CBN, which again, for those that are watching that don’t know, CBN is a cannabinoid that can be found in the cannabis or hemp plant. But it’s really helpful for sleep and sort of more severe pain. 

For example, with fibromyalgia I really like CBN because it does take off the edge of some muscle spasms and some muscle pain that I have. You can even use it topically. I know that there aren’t a lot of products out there yet. But there are some topicals with CBN.  

There are different products for different conditions, that are right for different people’s lifestyles. Again, a busy mom that might be drug tested in a custody battle and can’t take THC needs to be counseled on taking a broad spectrum or an isolate product over a full-spectrum product.  

If you’re in the CBD or cannabis industry, it’s so funny because we take for granted we know what THC is. We know what CBD is. But the average consumer is like, “I don’t know the difference between THC or CBD. I don’t know how to read a label. I don’t know how to dose. I don’t know if I’m doing the right thing. I don’t know if I’m doing the wrong thing. Can I give my dog this peppermint CBD oil?” You know, it’s all these minor questions.  

And the biggest thing too, is that CBD, cannabis, all these different plant medicines, they shouldn’t exist in a vacuum, right? We shouldn’t say, “OK, I’m going to use a CBD gummy and everything else is going to be OK in my life.” Right? I encourage people to play around with other wellness modalities like CBD and yoga. CBD and meditation. Hike and CBD. Whatever it is, get active and manage your stress. Try to eat a little bit healthier, too. Again, you can use CBD for gut pain. But if you’re eating a lot of processed foods or inflammatory foods, it’s going to be like putting a Band-Aid over a bullet wound. It can help a little and then clients go, “Well, I did the CBD and it’s not working.” And I’m like, “Tell me what you eat every day. Oh, goodness. Well, that’s it!”  

We shouldn’t say, OK, I’m going to use a CBD gummy and everything else is going to be OK in my life. Right? I encourage people to play around with other wellness modalities like CBD and yoga. CBD and meditation. Hike and CBD. Whatever it is, get active and manage your stress. Try to eat a little bit healthier, too. 

And so, my book Vitamin Weed really goes over the four steps you need to incorporate CBD, cannabis, or anything else that stimulates the endocannabinoid system, and really use that as a wellness plan. The main part of it is stress management. If you don’t manage your stress, your endocannabinoid system is actually impaired. So, if you’re really stressed out, you’re not sleeping, or you’re wired, it sort of doesn’t matter how much CBD or cannabis you’re going to use. It’s only going to help make a tiny reduction in your life. You really do need to remember that neither CBD or cannabis is a miracle pill or miracle drug. You really do have to work on overall wellness. 

I think that hemp and cannabis products are a nice catalyst to healing. I really do think that helping lay that foundation, feeding yourself vitamin weed, vitamin CBD, and helping balance out that endocannabinoid system so that you can get a handle on starting to work on better sleep or work on better diet or work on better management — it is a nice foundation for everything. 

I work with clients to really lay down that foundation, lay down a protocol, answer any of those questions, and make sure that they’re prepared to be able to do some research themselves. Right? The goal is to really empower patients to feel confident in cannabis, feel confident in CBD and plant medicines and whatever other substances are appropriate for their needs and their symptoms.  

As a patient myself, I remember how powerless I felt with doctors, where they just prescribe me things and I’m supposed to take them. If I don’t take them as they tell me, I’m a bad patient and they’re not the bad doctor. It’s really important. You know? It’s being both a patient and a clinician. It’s really taught me that it’s helping patients take care of their own health, take control of their own health, with simple plant medicine.  

The goal is to really empower patients to feel confident in cannabis, feel confident in CBD and plant medicines and whatever other substances are appropriate for their needs and their symptoms. 

We used to be the healers. Women used to be the healers of the family. We didn’t give away all our power to doctors. So, I think it’s important to remember that if you are educated, you can really learn how to use CBD and other plant medicines. But it’s about getting that education and, again, unless you’ve been to medical school or nursing school, you might be missing something. So, it’s always important to talk to an expert. But our goal is to empower you to be able to make the right decisions about these products and about these lifestyle changes. 

I love what I do and my focus really is working with women because I think that women — unfortunately, the medical system has not done us right. We’re less diagnosed. We’re less likely to get the correct treatments, respect, from the medical system. And I think cannabis and CBD products have really allowed us to take control of our own health and our happiness too because it’s not just all the physical health symptoms, you know? Depression, anxiety, sleep issues, things like that — they’re not minor and they are important. Your quality of life, your mental health, is so important to take care of. And even if that simple self-care ritual is a CBD Epsom salt bath at night or a CBD gummy at night, more women need to take that chance. 

  

HZ: Oh, that’s awesome. Thank you so much for sharing all that. Was this something that you got into because of your own experience with the fibromyalgia and the PTSD? Or was this something that over time was like, “Oh, this is something that I might want to go into and just help other people?” Have you always had that inclination to help others? How did you get into what you do now? 

DMR: I went from the academic world into the nonprofit world. Actually, I founded a nonprofit called the Endocannabinoid Deficiency Foundation back in 2012. Almost 10 years ago, and that was really because I had married into the cannabis industry. It’s sort of funny. My husband was a grower and worked in Los Angeles, in the cannabis industry. So, it was sort of my science knowledge, plus my own chronic health issues that really led me to say, “OK, why isn’t there information about cannabis and women’s health? Like, why do we not know what it does for us? Why do we not know what it does for lupus or Lyme disease or endometriosis?”  

I think that women — unfortunatelythe medical system has not done us right. We’re less diagnosed. We’re less likely to get the correct treatmentsrespect, from the medical system. And I think cannabis and CBD products have really allowed us to take control of our own health and our happiness too because it’s not just all the physical health symptoms, you know? Depression, anxiety, sleep issues, things like that — they’re not minor and they are important. Your quality of life, your mental health, is so important to take care of.

And so, I used my science background and combined that with what I was seeing with patients and the gaps in knowledge and the gaps in products. You know, 10 years ago there wasn’t a lot of really cool, dialed-in products. We didn’t know what CBN was. We did in research, in a test tube. But it wasn’t in any products or things like that.  

We had a very immature market. There wasn’t a lot of education. I created a lot of the first online certifications for doctors and for patients. I work with companies like Green Flower Media to develop a lot of educational videos and things like that. I wrote some of the first books on cannabis. For example, Vitamin Weed is a 400-page book. It’s sort of the manual on everything endocannabinoid deficiency related. How do you become endocannabinoid deficient? What are genes that are involved in the system?  

I have some simpler books. CBD Oil for Health is a book that teaches you how to use one CBD oil bottle and turn it into a CBD face mask, CBD cocktails, all sorts of fun things that you can make at home and control what the ingredients are, which is so important if you’re sick. 

I’ve worked a lot in this space and, I mean, it’s really because I’m a problem solver. It’s a nice motivation when you’re sick. But I think since I was five, I knew I wanted to be a doctor. I thought I wanted to be a medical doctor. But then I realized that medical doctors don’t have all the answers and it was scientists that actually make the medications that doctors prescribe. I want to be helping cure things that didn’t have an answer and one of those things was drug addiction. So, that’s where I went into the field. 

But it’s interesting because there are so many things that we still don’t know about CBD and cannabis. We still don’t know all the different combinations of terpenes and things like that. There’s so much for us to know. And so, I found this to be a really, really fulfilling industry. Again, because of the personal reasons for using cannabis medicine. But also because I’ve seen so many people heal. I’ve seen so many people have positive quality of life, get off their disability, go back to work, or even, at the best, see people finally be able to get off opioids and not overdose. I had my little brother actually overdosed on opioids several years ago. So, for me, it’s very personal. 

We need to get patients and consumers off these harmful drugs. We need to help people reduce their alcohol use. We need to help people reduce their stress. We know that even people working in the medical field — from nurses and doctors on down — everyone was so stressed out this year and we’re not really doing anything about it. Mental health care in this country is really lacking.  

But it’s interesting because there are so many things that we still don’t know about CBD and cannabis. We still don’t know all the different combinations of terpenes and things like that. There’s so much for us to know. And so, I found this to be a really, really fulfilling industry.

And so, my work is funny. It was highly stigmatized back in the day. Right? My mom and dad were like, “Why are you a drug dealer? You didn’t get your doctorate to become a drug dealer.” And I was like, “No, I’m helping people with CBD and cannabis.” Things have changed. But I think that still there’s so much education to be done and there’s so many people to help. So, if I can help ten people a day learn about cannabis, you know, I’ve done my job because I think that getting people off of toxic pharmaceuticals that do more harm than good can really save someone’s life. 

  

HZ: Yeah, absolutely. And again, I’m so sorry to hear about your brother. I mean, when it hits close to home, that’s definitely a big pull for anyone to want to do anything. So, I think it’s awesome what you’re doing and paving the way for other people to hopefully do the same. And I know you were mentioning your books, which you have four, and then a journal? 

DMR: Yeah, I have four and then a journal that’s called Journal Yourself to Health. It actually helps people just go through what are the obstacles blocking them from sort of making those steps, those positive changes to help their health. For example, that block, right? Like, “Oh, no, I can’t use cannabis. My mom and dad said it was bad.” But you know you need cannabis, so let’s work through whatever is stopping you from doing these things.  

And it’s hilarious because I love journaling, too. But yeah, I’ve created a lot of books in the brain and plant medicine space, so my most recent one was Kratom is Medicine, which is like a whole other field, right? Like there are so many different plant medicines. But what I found out is that people that use CBD are also very interested in other types of herbal medicines. Holistic healing. And so, really that mindset work.  

CBD doesn’t exist by itself. I think if you use it with positive affirmations, journaling, self-care, these things, you can be really, really healthy. Really, really happy. And I love books because they’re easy, right? You can read a book, get a little introduction. It’s something that’s an inexpensive way to reach a lot of people. So, I’ve hopefully changed a lot of lives with my books and all these books, the four books behind me, are available on Amazon. You can find them if you look for Michele Ross, Vitamin Weed. All the other books come up. But if you want to dive deeper into the science of it, go for Vitamin Weed. If you want to learn how to take your CBD bottle and do some fun things at home, including making some beauty masks and things like that, CBD Oil for Health is a good one. 

CBdoesn’t exist by itself. I think if you use it with positive affirmations, journaling, self-carethese things, you can be really, really healthy. Really, really happy.

HZ: Oh, that’s awesome. And did you always expect to write a book? Or how did that kind of how that come about? 

DMR: OK, so hilariously, I did actually make a bet with someone in college about what we would do by the time we 30. My friend said he would be a millionaire. I said I would write a book. So, I actually started off writing before I was in science. I won a lot of awards for poetry and I was a poet laureate. It’s funny because people don’t really see scientists and creative writers as the same thing. 

But literally, since the age of five, I was in really high level, like college creative writing programs. But then I went to science, and I didn’t realize people write science books. It was funny, like I don’t know how I didn’t know. I guess I wasn’t really exposed to any scientists or things like that. And then, when I was doing my PhD, I was actually sitting in the auditorium of some keynote and there was some awesome scientist that had written like 20 books. And I was like, “That’s a profession? That’s a thing? I can write books? This is really cool.” 

Again, I have a very weird career. I ended up being the first scientist to star on a reality television show. I was on CBS’s Big Brother back in 2009. I was fourth place there, so I went right into the end but didn’t win. They didn’t trust the scientist. I spent sixty-six days on TV. Live TV.  

After that, I was actually presented with the opportunity to co-write the Train Your Brain to Get Thin book. That was on the neuroscience of weight loss. That’s sort of how I dipped my toes in and got published. Then, after that I was just like, “Yeah, I love this. I love writing. I’m really good at it. I’m just gonna do some science writing.” It was sort of an interesting path. 

I honestly thought I would be in the lab, like chopping rat heads off and grinding DNA up and coming up with cures and things like that, which is interesting because I still do formulations. So, I’m doing cures. I just I don’t have to kill any animals. So, I prefer writing books to that kind of stuff. My life is a lot less gruesome.  

It’s funny. Like if you go to Urban Outfitters, they have the books that are like 50 Worst Jobs and they always have neuroscientists in there and people are like, “You have to extract brains for a living?” And I’m like, “Yeah, that’s what I did.” I don’t even know that person anymore. It’s funny. It’s like I love what I do with humans. I love helping lives. I love taking what I’m doing with patients and working with other scientists to either understand different pathways, understand different formulations. You know, get closer to making this medicine as effective as possible. 

And so, I just tell stories. I tell stories of healing. I tell stories of science because science does have a story of “how does this work once it gets in your body?” It’s all storytelling and really helping make this information as accessible to as many people as possible.  

I know how it is. When you’re a sick patient, you want things explained very easily, you know? So that’s why I said, I have books that are beginner’s level. I have things that are more targeted for CBD and cannabis industry professionals and doctors. 

I’ve been lucky enough to help work with different states and help legalize different states for cannabis and even magic mushrooms and things like that. I’m actually the co-founder of Decriminalize Nature in Nevada here, in Las Vegas, where we’re trying to decriminalize different plant medicines. 

And so, I just tell stories. I tell stories of healing. I tell stories of science because science does have a story of how does this work once it gets in your body? It’s all storytelling and really helping make this information as accessible to as many people as possible.  

I know I had a legacy in the field and my years of experience have definitely helped move research along. Move drug reform policy and it helped heal a lot of people. So, I’m excited and every day is a dream. I love this. I love talking to students too because there’s so many opportunities, I think, in the cannabis industry. It’s just a great, great field and I love working in it. I love being able to talk to people like you about what I do every day. Because again, you see, I love my job. 

 

HZ: Again, we’re so happy to have you. I mean, I’ve just I’ve learned so much from you in the short amount of time that we’ve been talking. It’s been great to have you. And you just said you work for that organization in Nevada. I guess, my next question is, where do you think that future of plant medicine and CBD are really going from here on out? Do you think it’s going to be more popular? It’s already becoming, I think, increasingly popular. But where do you see it going or hope that it goes? 

DMRWhat I’m seeing is a lot of people are interested in using CBD and micro-doses of other things. And so, I think the conversation is really interesting about healing and not getting high necessarily. And say, for example, for Alzheimer’s. I think there’s a lot of promise and sometimes even combining some of these modalities. Again, that’s a lot of what I do.

We can never promise anything. But there’s some things that we know that can keep your brain healthy as you age. And I think it’s going to be interesting. I think we’re going to have very different retirements than our parents did. I think that these are the new solutions. And I think that we’re going to be able to grow up and have really good and fulfilling lives. Even past the age of 70, we’re not going to have to worry about being in senior homes.

So, I think the medicine is changing. I think culture is changing. We see that the biggest users of cannabis, CBD products, even psychedelics now — the newest exploding group is older people and seniors. 

I think that the future of medicine and the future of aging medicine is really in these substances. Combining substances, learning what’s appropriate for different people. But again, I think CBD is the base that should be in everyone. Start there and then see what else works and fits in with your lifestyle.  

But I think it’s exciting. I think that eventually CBD, cannabis, mushrooms — all these things will be legal. I pray and hope. I mean, I hope we don’t have to wait ten years. But I know the federal government goes very, very slow. I think ten years from now we’ll look back on this and say this was all silly kind of stuff that we were still debating. And states, I forget, it was like Wyoming or Idaho — there are still states where CBD is illegal. It’s like, that’s silly. Come on, guys.  

But I think that the future is that these restrictions are going to stop everywhere. We’re going to know a lot more about the cannabinoids. We’re going to learn a lot more about these plant medicines. There’s not going to be a stigma about talking about it with your doctor. I think that things will be changing rapidly. I think the stigma with CBD will be one hundred percent gone because again, we just had to wait for all the old doctors to retire. The really old, stodgy doctors to retire and stop saying false things about CBD and other plant medicines and let patients choose. 

Freedom of choice is what I’m here for and, as a patient, to advocate for your choice and how you treat and handle your own wellness and self-care.

I think the medicine is changing. I think culture is changingI think that the future of medicine and the future of aging medicine is really in these substances.

HZ: Awesome. You just brought up another question. You said that there are a lot of older patients who are becoming more receptive to all of the CBD products and incorporating that. But then, it’s sometimes older doctors that are less likely. Do you see that divide meeting in the middle slowly or is it still pretty separated where it’s one age group likes to use it and the other, for doctors, they’re kind of against it? 

DMR: What I’ve seen is that a lot of older patients are learning about CBD or cannabis or other modalities from their kids. So, you know, it’s funny. A lot of people are like, “You know, have the chat with your parents about drugs.” It’s the opposite way. You’re like, “Hey, mom, I know you’re hurting with your arthritis, so I brought you this cream.”  

Sometimes it’s funny because they won’t even tell them. Right? They’re like, “You should try this. It really works.” And they’re like, “What’s in it? Your marijuana?” And it’s funny once they realize it works, they’re all about it. Right?  

So, we do even see older consumers not telling their doctor sometimes because if it works, why tell them? If you’re using a CBD cream for your arthritis and your doctor is sort of a jerk, like, keep that to yourself because it’s not going to cause any interactions. So, a lot of older consumers are using the topicals and things like that and they can use it safely. It’s literally the safest way to use CBD. So, I would say that, unfortunately, the older doctors, it doesn’t matter if you’re an older patient and your doctor is older. It doesn’t mean that your doctor is like, “Well, you’re old too. It’s cool.” 

Basically, I think that the doctors have a very different relationship with patients. Right? Like they’re in control. They’re in power. The doctor-patient relationship isn’t equal. So, it doesn’t matter what age you are and saying something works. It’s really about their preconceived notions about the safety of these products or should they be legal? Are they drugs of abuse? Things like that.  

Freedom of choice is what I’m here for and, as a patient, to advocate for your choice and how you treat and handle your own wellness and self-care. 

And so, that’s why we see older patients reaching out to organizations or telehealth groups to have those conversations where they’re like, “I can’t tell my doctor. I love my doctor. I’ve been seeing my doctor for 50 years. But if I tell them, they’ll flip out, so I want to learn and make sure I’m using this safely.” And they have the conversations with practitioners like me across the country.  

So, you have to make that judgment call. You know? Is your doctor cool? Because, again, it’s one thing when you’ve been working with a doctor for a year or something and you’re not really attached to them. But I know that older patients can be really attached to their doctor. It’s sort of something you’re like, you don’t want to ruin that relationship. You know, it’s a judgment call, especially because if you’re older and you’re on a lot of medications, the complicated process and things like that. Whereas you’re younger, you’re like, “OK, I’m calling a new OBGYN. Done. It’s not a big deal.” Again, I hope that the older doctors will come around. But, you know, some of them are just stuck in their ways. 

I would say have the talk with your mom, your grandma, et cetera. We all know someone in our family that’s hurting and so the easiest way — sometimes it’s not books, sometimes it’s literally just bringing over the product and you’re like, “Oh my God, you have to try this.” It really opens and sparks that conversation. And so, that’s what I’ve seen is that one-to-one conversation or one-to-one “try this product, it helps.” Topicals are really, I would say, the gateway to CBD. 

  

HZ: So, I guess education, you would say, is probably one of the biggest things? Just to have those conversations and to really get it going with starting it, if you’re interested in CBD? 

DMR: Yeah. And I think too, never assume that somebody knows about it. It’s funny because that knowledge of what CBD is, what THC is — I’ve talked to older people that thought they had to buy CBD from the marijuana dispensaries. Or my father-in-law bought CBD from a gas station and was like, “The good stuff!” And I’m like, “No, no! Your daughter writes books on CBD. Ask me the questions first before you get this.”  

You know, never assume that people are educated on it. Just, you know, ask questions, start conversations, share what works for you, and things like that. I think that it’s just educating as many people as possible because not everyone knows. And it seems funny because we seem to see CBD everywhere now, right? It’s like in Oprah magazine. It’s here and that. But again, people don’t understand it as well as you might think they do. 

 

HZ: I wanted to turn it over to you in case there is anything specific that you wanted to say to our audience about CBD or what you do, where they can find you, where they can find your books — all that good stuff. 

DMR: You can book a consult with me or learn more about my books at drmicheleross.com. That’s also my handle for Instagram and Twitter. If you ever have a minor question and, of course, happy to answer education on all platforms like this. I think I touched on everything from talking to your parents and talking to your doctor about drug interactions. Yeah, just get educated and get talking. 

 

HZ: Awesome. Well, thank you so, so much, Dr. Michelle Ross. We were so happy to have you and I definitely learned a lot. I’m sure everyone else is going to learn a lot, too. Thank you so much for taking the time to sit down with us and just give us a good overview of everything. We appreciate it. 

 

For more information about Dr. Michele Ross, plant medicine, and her consulting or online courses, visit drmicheleross.com.

To purchase her books, visit the following websites: