Ashley — a full-time mother of three, and student of sustainable agriculture — connected with us recently to discuss her 11-year healing journey with endometriosis and interstitial cystitis — painful conditions that doctors have yet to find cures for (though many researchers believe these are autoimmune conditions caused by imbalanced inflammation responses).
Western Medicine Blues
FORIA: After your diagnosis, what types of medications did you have to take?
Ashley: Any kind of over the counter pain reliever, as well as heavy prescription pain relievers.
They also prescribed epileptic medication, because it numbs your nerves — but the problem with those is that you literally can't feel anything. You can't even tell if you have to use the restroom. I couldn't even hold a pencil because I was so numb.
And then of, course, they want you to be on a stool-softener and muscle relaxers — all these things that put a little bit of a Band-Aid on the problem, if not make them worse. So I always felt like I was dealing with side-effects more than getting any benefits.
FORIA: Did you stick with the medications?
Ashley: When my doctor told me I would be on the medications lifelong, right off the bat it didn't sit right with me. I didn't like the idea of having to take something the rest of my life.
About a year after my diagnosis, I spoke with my uncle, who was really into natural medicines, and he sent me some herbs. So I got into the holistic side of healing through him, and I started experimenting with using herbs.
I enjoyed it, but I couldn't really figure out what worked because I was using so many different ones.
And I stopped for a while, but I had a relapse, with really chronic, heavy pain, so I went and saw a doctor again and they prescribe more over-the-counter and prescription medications, and again I just felt like "Ug, I don't like these side effects."
So my struggle has been back-and-forth with western medication and the holistic side of things.
FORIA: Did you ever figure out which herbs seemed to be helping?
Ashley: There are a couple things. Cramp bark and wild yam really helped me. However, they're really really strong — after a while they’re hard on your liver, so you have to take a break.
And the herbs still didn't take away the pain — it was kind of just reducing it to the point where I could get back to daily activities.
But CBD literally has taken away my pain. I just had a surgery recently, and they prescribed me the muscle relaxers and the stool softener and over-the-counter pain medication like NSAIDs, and it just wasn’t working. So two days after my surgery I switched to CBD and that was the only thing that got me through recovery. Nothing could touch my pain.
And the inflammations was incredible. As soon as I took CBD from the syringe, I just ate it, and it helped right away. Inflammation went down. I was able to get back to my daily activity.
FORIA: When did you first discover CBD?
Ashley: That really came about because of my husband. He'd been pro-cannabis ever since he was a teenager, and about two years into our relationship he started his own business in the cannabis industry, so I learned about it through him.
I was really skeptical because I don't like the psychotropic effect of THC. I was so scared to try CBD products at all, but once I did, Foria Pleasure was the first product I fell in love with, and it really was the first thing that really worked to relieve my pain — and that actually has THC in it — but that's how I got turned on to the idea that cannabis is therapeutic.
I was afraid, you know. I grew up in a family that’s fairly conservative and super against cannabis. So I was nervous about what people would think of me for using it or trying it — especially because I'm a parent of three young children. That's really sensitive for people — motherhood and using it around your children.
Kids & Breastfeeding
Ashley: I've been breastfeeding two children since I've been using these products, and for me I feel like it's a safe alternative — I'd rather be taking CBD.
Endo-cannabinoids are naturally present in breastmilk, and they’re actually what pleasures the child to want to eat or feed. So I feel like cannabinoids are a more natural way to relieve pain, and they’re also safe and effective in protecting my children.
When I was taking a prescription muscle relaxer, I’d noticed the difference when I was breastfeeding — my 10-month-old would feel it and had a hard time just getting around if I used that.
FORIA: Oh my God. Wow.
Ashley: Yeah. It's just something I don't want to involve my children in. I’d tried so many different Western medicines that I had horrible side effects with, and with cannabis products I didn't really have any bad side effects. I felt like it was a healthier way to find relief.
FORIA: So you were using Foria Pleasure?
Ashley: I wasn't even using it as a vaginal lubricant. I was just rubbing it on my belly.
FORIA: Did you ever try it internally?
Ashley: Yeah. Eventually I did try the suppositories, Foria Relief. I didn't notice a huge difference — I still felt the same benefits as when I put it on my stomach.
FORIA: Fascinating. So it helped, even externally.
Ashley: Right. Anything you put on your skin typically absorbs within, like, 26 seconds, so they say.
That's kind of why I tried FORIA first, just because I was in so much discomfort, I didn't even want to have sex. And this allowed me to have sex, which was amazing — to get that back.
CBD for Mood...and Sex
FORIA: Were there other benefits you found with cannabinoid products?
Ashley: The mental effects have been super important. CBD helped with the anxiety and depression and stress that come along with autoimmune disorders. They can debilitate you to the point where you're so down, so CBD has really helped lift my spirits...
...along with sexual activity. For a long time I just couldn't have sex, because even the thought of it was like, scary and hurtful. And just to be able to find that relief — to have a normal sex life — is just incredible for me.
CBD Sources & Varieties
FORIA: What kinds of CBD have you experimented with and found helpful?
Ashley: I use a Chronic Essentials CBD extract that’s cannabis-derived. Comes in a syringe. I'm really sensitive to that one, so I only need to eat a tiny tiny amount to get me through: just a little dot. The only problem with that is I feel almost caffeinated — kind of spastic and wired — but I still use it, especially if I'm in heavy pain.
FORIA: What about hemp-derived CBD?
Ashley: Recently I've been trying a hemp CBD powder (from my husband’s company CouchLock). I really like that because I don't get the highly-caffeinated feeling. I can use a lot. It's actually not as strong as the cannabis extract CBD.
And I feel like it takes away the pain, but it doesn't make me feel any different, so I do that in the morning when I’m getting the kids to school and trying to get my daily tasks done at home. I'm also a student at the college so I kind of want to be able to focus more.
But if I wake up and I'm in a lot of pain — like when I'm having muscle spasms from my surgery — I eat the cannabis-derived CBD.
Last night, for the first time, I used a vaporizer pen that was 1:1 THC/CBD.
FORIA: That certainly must have helped you feel sleepy and dreamy.
Ashley: Yeah it was a little more relaxing but definitely had enough CBD where I didn't feel, you know, super high. And it was fast. Within two minutes maybe, whereas the cannabis-derived CBD edible probably takes at least a half hour to an hour. The hemp powder probably takes about an hour or two.
Diet & Lifestyle
FORIA: What diet or lifestyle changes have you found that help with inflammation and pain.
Ashley: You know it's just kind of like an experience experiment. In general there are certain foods each person is sensitive to. For my interstitial cystitis, anything that's acidic I try to avoid. I think dairy products sometimes are bothersome.
I’m now gluten-free and that has really helped with inflammation and cramping for my endometriosis. So I’m gonna continue that life long.
FORIA: How long have you been trying gluten-free?
Ashley: It's been about five years. And that's dramatically reduced my endometriosis in general. I had a surgery right before going gluten-free, and the endometriosis had webbed together all of my lower organs. It took about four hours to remove the lesions, and they didn't get all of it.
But then this year I had surgery again and it was only on my uterus and it only took about two hours. So I feel like the combined gluten-free with using cannabis and hemp products has really dramatically reduced the disease itself.
Dreams & Passions
FORIA: Now that you’re on top of your health, what has that freed you up to be doing?
Ashley: I'm currently doing general education at the local college.
I'm fortunate that I’m a stay-at-home mom, so I get to be experimental and see what I'm interested in, because I don't even know after taking care of children for so long (I have an 8-year-old a 3-year-old and a 10-month-old).
So I did decide to do a horticulture degree, so I can do sustainable farming on a piece of land that we own. That way I can get the kids involved in growing our own food — do our own little farm-to-table thing, and get the kids back out in nature. So that's really what my passion is right now.
FORIA: That's beautiful.