plead the fifth
there is a very long and complicated history of the plant-to-human relationship that exists between 'weed' and 'mortals'. specifically speaking, for someone like myself, a gen-x'r, thoroughly indoctinerated by every level of 'academia' offered by the great province of ontario which has somehow sparked within me a life-long interest in practical ethnobotany, i have this to say this on my personal relationship with this plant: marijuana 'awareness', and i think most people my age would attest as well, began at a very young age. generally speaking, weed was illegal but available to those who chose to seek-it-out and for sure there was no barista-style hotspot where you could openly peruse a wide-variety of 'flower': in my sphere of existence, there were lots of people who 'used' marijuana but there were way more people who didn't. nbd, it wasn't something that was discussed or passed judgement upon, and culturally? recreational marijuana use has been well-documented in the music/art/books/political movements during my entire lifetime here on earth and, as i have come to learn, it also fueled a healthy underground plant breeding network.
the first time i heard about marijuana in a medicinal capacity was during the aids epidemic - it was successfully used as an appetite stimulant which quickly gained favour with cancer patients who suffer from debilitating nausea yet must still nourish their bodies. as states in the us became 'legalized' and criminality was reduced, there became a level of commercialization/information/education that mushroomed into a bazillion dollar biz due to this one plant's ability to solve just about any variety of help a human might require. prior to marijuana being legalized in ontario in 2018, i was introduced to an opportunity to participate in a clinical trial which sought to explore the efficacy of cbd genetics as a topical treatment for those with severe/chronic pain. manage pain without drugs*? with a topical application?
it became readily apparent that 'we were on to something'. the soothing relief brought to patients who were seeking serious medical pain-management strategies by the application of a high-concentration cbd topical, crammed-full of full-spectrum/vauxhall-grown cbd extract, was undeniable. with having only devoted a small amount of energy to growing cbd genetics and applying our tried-and-true methods of superior post-harvest handling along with newly-learned methodology for creating highly active cbd extracts, positive feedback quickly evolved. very, very quickly. initially, from a growers' perspective, i was lured by the small-plant-quantity-requirement versus high-value-extract-quantity potential and how it dovetailed perfectly into our already existing business model. but now? irl? 100% vauxhall-engineered from seed-to-harvest-to-processing-to-product in a serious medical environment? let me just say how supportive all "interested parties" were/are and how 100% on-board everyone all along-the-line were to prioritizing 'listening' to the strong-plant-narrative that was/is required in the creation of a truly amazing plant-based topical medicine and allowing for a golden opportunity to explore plant-science in a very meaningful way!
and so, it was with these very, very serious. and very, very smart. and very, very toe-the-line-ish "interested parties" that the vauxhall-line of cbd topicals was incubated. the preparations that we offer are formulated with our 'more is more' mindset ... high concentrations of highly active extracts in delightful-to-use topical preparations. just like our calendula, comfrey, chamomile, helichrysum, damask rose, our natural personal care products let the plants do the talking: our knowledge and interest in these plants has snowballed because of the results that they provide. idk, it doesn't feel 'wrong' or 'illegal' or 'elitist' to be creating a four ounce jar of powerful medicine that contains 65% vauxhall-grown full-spectrum cbd for $20 but it does feel 'wrong' that more people don't just create it for themselves. maybe 2021 will be the year you decide to take a personal hippocratic oath which employs the age-old wisdom the plant world provides and explore ways to benefit from it. spoiler alert: post-harvest excellence always begins with shorter field-to-processing distance.
*i do see the irony in this word: drugs in this instance meant opiods
a weed by any other name
the first thing to remember, if you are timid about taking on the growing of a marijuana plant yourself, is that it is called 'weed' for a reason: it grows like one. over the years, the people who i have met who have cultivated marijuana develop deep symbiotic relationships with their plants - something quite reverential and spiritual. some marijuana-growers create special soil mixes using earth minerals and other secret additives, some concoct special nutrient blends to brighten or fade certain genetic traits and many use controlled growing environments but the reality is, even if you pay no mind to your weed plants (mulching is the only 'extra' care lavished on our plants) one fine day in july you will be surprised to find a small sapling growing where once a little seedlings grew. interest accelerates when you learn that you only grow the females and guiding these ladies into maturity is, well, it makes you fuss over them like a mother hen. i mean, these chicks are a handful!! agronomic analysis of this high-value crop is such an after-thought as the growing of marijuana evolves into a horticultural-thrill-ride aiding and abetting the progression of these beauties from gawky, spindly branching to thick, voluptuous kolas laden with trichomes oozing with thick, sticky resin.
now i've heard tell of many field-growers who wait until almost or actual frost before harvest. commercial growers use a loupe to examine closely the colour/clarity of the resin to determine harvest but this is primarily for weed-growers who are growing for the smoking/ingesting crowd. me? well, apart from picking off of sugar-leaves during daily visits when the plants are nearing harvest-time, i keep an eye on the long-range weather: i wait for some really hot weather late-september/early-october and at the peak hottest point on this hot day, i dig, sawzall the roots off and immediately hang the entire plant upside down until 'cured'. the primary objective of the 'curing' process is to retain that gorgeous resin that made the plants' 'buds' sparkle with crystalline wonder all august and september in the sunshine. this resin is what is more commonly known as hash and it is 'the' super-duper marijuana concentrate with the highest commercial value attributed to it. this marijuana resin/hash is very heavy and easily knocked off of the plant even when freshly-harvested and becomes increasingly fragile as the plants 'cure' with any bump or rough handling causing high resin/hash loss. you want very much to retain this resin/hash as it is the most beneficial part of the plant, due to the density of its 'active chemistry', which is important when making superior botanical extracts.
big plants, big narrative
a few weeks before the harvesting begins, as outlined above, fresh extractions take place. the most important extraction-method performed here at vauxhall is vapour distillation and this must be done with fresh plant material. vapour distillation produces an extract (hydrosol) that is an exact representation of the plant growing in the field: clouds and clouds of vapour slowly/gently/thoroughly works its way through the fresh, ripe marijuana and is delicately captured whole - the 'living essence' of the plant - in this volatile, steamy ether. this 100% fresh-plant hydrosol is one of the most important and yet overlooked 'tools' for treating inflammation and discomfort with a topical preparation. as is our way, we also make deeply-impregnated glycerites starting with mature, fresh plant material and the resulting extract provides us with a 'living' humectant which results in superior skin health optimization and quick-ouchy-relief-delivery. excitingly, in 2020, we tried a new extraction method using fresh marijuana and alcohol for a roller-ball (or maybe perfume?) application. oh my! i can't wait to see how this turns out but from the time i poured the alcohol over the fresh, ripe weed to then immediately carrying it to the extracts cellar, the alchohol had already turned the brightest, freshest, deeply-hued green colour - amazing!!
the back-bone ingredient of plant-based, topical pain-relief preparations however begins when 'cured' weed is combined with a beautiful plant-based-oil of some kind to create what is known as a solvent extraction. simply pack some as-ummolested-as-possible dried/cured weed into an airtight, sterilized glass jar and then pour a lovely oil like olive/sweet almond/sunflower overtop to cover completely then simply let it sit in a dark, cool place for a couple of months. when your infusion seems 'strong' enough**, pour contents of glass jar (oil and the now oil-saturated 'cured' weed) into a crockpot or bain-marie and heat to 200F. stir to make sure it is 200F throughout and immediately remove from heat. this step is called decarboxylating and it is what 'activates' the cannabanoids residing within***. the strained oil is your own, personal liquid-gold and ready for use all over the body and the oil-saturated weed can be cut to size, wrapped in cheesecloth and secured with a rubber band ... throw each 'bundle' into a freezer bag and then the bag into the freezer. every time i take a bath, i toss a 'bundle' into the water as my secret weapon against 'old-person-who-is-a-gardener-body'.
** gently swirl the contents of your jar (without opening it) occasionally and you will see, over time, the clarity and colour of the oil change. it is readily apparent, as time passes, that the oil has permeated into the deepest recesses of the plant's anatomy as it gently yet thoroughly mines its deepest treasures. slow solvent extractions are a supremely gentle extraction technique as it allows for the solvent and 'cured' marijuana to bind together in the utmost joyful union.
*** it is equally important not to overheat the oil/weed mixture as heat destroys the immensely beneficial qualities of anything plant-related and this means plant-based oils too. researching the body-benefitting effects that plant-based oils have on the skin will have you wanting to preserve every-last-benefit of it so don't overheat - get it to 200F evenly throughout the contents and promptly remove from heat source.
i have really enjoyed getting to know more about this plant and thrilled to have been indulged with an opportunity to create marijuana/cbd extracts, pioneer a first-hand experience which yielded hard-evidence that 'vauxhall science' holds up very well indeed in a clinical setting and *unofficially* continuing with ongoing market-research data our customers are happy to provide. the horticultural hijinks that i've recounted here ultimately led us to proof-positive data that the 'vauxhall science' of allowing plants to direct the narrative, unfettered by politics, greed, defilement and censorship, prevails. i conclude by reinforcing our views on plant-science which promotes the benefit of shorter field-to-product distance, vertical-integration and practical plant-science-knowledge in order to produce a topical with quality/effective/proven benefits.