This is a story about a little girl and it begins in the arms of her mother, three days after she was born.
Lorena*, born seven years ago, was the most beautiful newborn her mother has ever seen – round eyes, pink lips, thick brows.
Three days after her birth, Lorena had her first seizure, followed by another, then another. She would have up to a hundred seizures a day, every few minutes or so.
Every seizure is a nightmare for her mother Marie* because it can cause Lorena’s death. Time stops and life freezes. Lorena’s eyes dilate and her face becomes a portrait of disarray.
Lorena was diagnosed with Focal Cortical Dysplasia, a malformation in the brain.
I met Marie and Lorena three years ago at a gathering of the Philippine Cannabis Compassion Society, an organization of patients and their families pushing for access to medical marijuana. I have been following Lorena’s story since then.
No anti-epileptic drug available in the Philippines has worked for her. Even her neurologists threw in the towel.
But Marie has never given up. One day, she gave Lorena CBD oil – a product derived from cannabis – and the rest, as they say, is history. Today, Lorena still has seizures, but they’re down to three a day, zero sometimes.
Marie swears by the curative effects of CBD oil. Even some of her daughter’s doctors secretly endorse it, recognizing that no anti-epileptic drug available in the country has worked on Lorena.
This is not a pigment of Marie’s imagination. I saw it with my own eyes when I visited them once at a relative’s place where they temporarily reside. Lorena had an attack but it stopped when her mother gave her drops of CBD oil.
The real cure really is a brain operation, but Marie, a single mother with no job, no money, and no house, cannot afford it. Marie can’t work because she manages her daughter’s condition, 24/7.
For now, she finds comfort in the fact that CBD oil greatly helps Lorena. She hopes to see the day it will be legalized in the country as it is in other places.
Greenergy and the Yakuru Group
Marie gets her supply from the black market but it’s not cheap – about P3,000 for a 10 ml bottle.
Elsewhere in the world, there is growing acceptance of CBD oil and its benefits.
Businessman Antonio Tiu, the man behind listed companies AgriNurture, Greenergy and Philippine Infradev Holdings, is betting on the CBD oil business.
In a recent chat, he told me that through Greenergy, he wants to bring CBD oil to the country as soon as it is allowed. Greenergy has already acquired a 50 percent stake in the Yakuru Group of Australia, which is engaged in the medical cannabis business.
“I invested in this project because I believe in its medicinal value,” Tiu said, adding that his group is not pushing for recreational marijuana but only for medicinal purposes.
At present, measures are pending in Congress seeking to legalize the use of CBD oil in the Philippines for medicinal purposes.
“We want to be the first mover (of medical marijuana) in the Philippines,” said Tiu, a staunch advocate of environmental sustainability, green technology and natural medicines.
In Australia, studies have trumpeted the benefits of CBD oil, including immune boosting properties, which are especially timely at this time of the COVID-19 health pandemic.
“Researchers in Austria’s Klagenfurt Clinic are reporting promising results from CBD trials on COVID-19 ICU patients that show reduced inflammation and quicker recovery times,” according to an article on RT.com.
“We have seen that the inflammation parameters in the blood go down and people leave the hospital faster than the comparison group,” said Rudolf Likar, head of intensive care medicine at the clinic.
In the Philippines, I know a lot of people with serious illnesses and conditions such as cancer and epilepsy, who have turned to CBD oil to alleviate their pain.
This isn’t new. Marijuana has been used by the Chinese physician Hua Tuo during the second century (101 AD to 200 AD) to treat pain. He used anaesthesia made of wine and cannabis powder during a surgery, according to the Records of the Three Kingdoms.
Palliative or cure?
Maybe CBD oil is just a palliative or maybe it is really a cure. Lucky are those who never have to find out. But in any case, it’s high time our authorities look into how the country can really explore the vast potential of the health and wellness world by conducting science-based risk-benefit analysis of existing products, including CBD oil.
As it is now, the Philippines is lagging behind in the world of medicine and the pandemic showed us how extremely dependent we are on other countries for medicines, whereas India – which has long invested in pharmaceuticals, is leading Asia in the vaccine rollout with its own vaccines no less – already injecting 100 million doses to its people as of this writing.
Against this backdrop, individuals in desperate situations like Lorena and her mother, take each day as it comes. Every minute without CBD oil is a nightmare, but every drop gives them borrowed time.
(*names have been changed to protect their identities)
Iris Gonzales’ email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales. Column archives at eyesgonzales.com