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So you want to be a…herbalist

Let’s take a recap of the relationship between humans and cannabis. We first crossed paths with the plant some 12,000 years ago – right around the time we discovered permanent housing.

Cannabidiol, a compound within the plant wasn’t discovered until the ’50s. It wasn’t until the ’70s that it’s beneficial properties were discovered and in just 2015, CBD oil was legalised in Australia (98% cannabidiol and 2% or less).

So, it’s safe to say that despite having thousands of years to understand the plant, we’re really only getting to the crux of the topic today; that is, it’s not just to get you stoned. Indeed it’s starting to look a lot like getting you stoned was never indented to be the plant’s primary function. Hemp, for example is a variety of the cannabis plant and contains almost no THC (what gets you high), but does contain CBD. It’s one of the fastest growing plants in the world and it’s used for an array of industry purposes.

Research and innovation into the science behind CBD oil is having a boom. Now armed with peer-reviewed and quantifiable data on the compound, herbalism, the alchemy of plants, is essentially leading the charge, having earned the respect of the traditional medical milieu.

One of the most respected producers of CBD oil products in Australia is Weedzy, created by Sydney herbalist Louisa Caruso. Blunt Magazine spoke to Louisa about her business to shed some light on the industry.

How did you get your start as a herbalist?

It began a few years back, when I was doing a lot of cannabis activism, journalism and covering related events. I’d had enough of conventional medicine and mainstream media so I decided to get into the science of medicinal plants and their benefits to gain a better understanding. I dropped out of my journalism degree and started studying alternative medicine and thankfully it was at a time where a lot of universities had started to do research with cannabis & hemp.

What does your day-to-day job involve?

It usually starts with posting some glamourous content on social media, consultations, researching the new laws in Australia on hemp, cannabidiol (CBD) and medical cannabis – then getting up to my ears in lube, herbs and oil!

What have been the highlights of your job?

Everything smells SO good ALL the time and I get to educate the masses on natural therapies, alternative options and the benefits of herbal products. The greatest highlight of my job is that I now have a platform to help marginalised communities and socially excluded groups such as Indigenous people, sex workers and LGBTQI community and mental health patients.

What sort of background experience and education is required before one can venture into the world of cannabis-based herbalism?

Unfortunately – it’s not easy! Despite the years of study it takes, there are still many red tapes around the medical/complementary health industry. You’ll notice that a lot of places and online stores will use discreet language on their products. In my opinion, our government and the TGA only supports big pharma in all this, making it a very, very expensive process to gain access to products such as medical cannabis and potent CBD oils. Even doctors have to take on extra study to be able to prescribe and give advice. I’m a medical cannabis patient but I don’t have a license to prescribe or anything like that. Which is why I use locally sourced hemp. Using the full spectrum of the plant means you can achieve higher amounts of CBD. The law is very vague on top of all this.

Weedzy is a 100% hemp-based business and locally sourced at that. How does the current political and social situation regarding hemp impact your ability to produce your product?

Ugh, the red tapes! As mentioned, businesses can only advertise products without the use of words like CBD, cannabis/hemp derived, anything that’s ingestible. It impacts businesses on how they market themselves. People can be clueless to this. So I hope anyone reading this can figure it out, so here’s a hot tip – We say ‘full spectrum oil’ which means the whole plant and ‘1050’ and numbers like these are generally the mg’s of CBD. Everything within the legality around the product only lets me use hemp from farmers across the country and I’m only allowed to obtain it in oil form.

What has your experience working with cannabis-based and natural therapeutics taught you about the disconnect between the ailments people are suffering, and the traditional remedies being offered?

A lot of my work with cannabis, outside of journalism & events, has been in the USA and across Europe. It’s proven to me that traditional medicines and innovative products with plants like cannabis are accessible and affordable to everyone…

Except for here in Australia! It’s a real shame and of course the stigma on top of all this which some people still see it as this harmful drug – is dumb. Education is key to this, we have so many sick people that will willingly take harmful and addictive drugs because their doctor said so and it leaves them worse off with even more symptoms and long-term issues. I’m not saying don’t listen to your doctor, but be mindful that it is just another business and should be treated as such. Scope out all your options, do your research into pharmaceuticals and natural therapies. Try it all and see what works best.

Weedzy is billed as a credible member of the community within the cannabis world. I imagine there are many snake oil salesmen in this space. How does a potential customer tell the difference between a legitimate herbalist and a phoney?

This is a very important question!! My best advice is to check references and ask the following: Have your friends or family members used certain products people/businesses are offering? Do they have feedback? Do they have a website? Are there any testimonials on their website? If you can get in contact with the seller directly – ask them questions about their credentials, the products being offered, potency, process etc. Don’t run the risk of being ripped off. Consultations and the seller’s knowledge on the benefits of the products is also important.

What are some of the recent developments in your industry that have you excited?

CBD is legalised over-the-counter now! Although you may not see it available for a while. I’m excited to see the cost and the effectiveness. The shit thing though, is that it’s only a very low dose. Keen to see how it all works out and of course this is just the beginning of things becoming more accessible (hopefully affordable too)! FINALLY! I still strongly recommend supporting smaller businesses in all of this though, this could potentially wipe out a lot of great suppliers here in Australia.

If you could point our readers to a certain product that would improve all of our lives, what would it be?

The oil! It has helped so many with their anxiety and pain symptoms. Very easy to use and light in flavour making it so much more enjoyable then a lot of what’s out there.

I get so many great testimonials and feedback on all my products, but the full spectrum oil is definitely the one my loyal customers stock up on. Second to this is the lube and pain relief topical – follow my IG @weedzy.aus for testimonials and feedback on the products. Everything on is organic, vegan and cruelty free!

Main Image: Philippa Velhinho