In the last five years, Australia recently legalized growing of cannabis for medicinal and scientific purposes cannabis at the federal level. And the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) also made low THC hemp food legal for human consumption in Australia.
In addition, the Australia Capital Territory just passed a bill allowing for possession and growth of small amounts of cannabis for personal use although the laws conflict with federal laws which prohibit adult-use of cannabis.
As medical marijuana legislation becomes a global movement, it’s no surprise that Australia has joined the cannabis education credential route with accredited courses like “Get Ready to Prescribe Medicinal Cannabis”, a course for Australian practitioners.
With two recently published papers for the World Apitherapy Congress on skin cancer and using cannabis with bee products for skin formulations, I could not pass up this opportunity to chat with Dr. Goodwin!
As an educator through the Aesthetic Academy of Wellness, Dr. Goodwin offers online education courses about the chemistry and applications of medicinal cannabis as the laws on this are changing around the world.
From studying and training students in Korean skincare techniques this led to an interest in apitherapy products and medicinal cannabis which when combined have amazing applications for skin care.
Let’s meet Dr. Goodwin!
What is your personal story and mission that motivated you to work with cannabis?
First of all, we've all had too many close friends suffer ill health that can't, apparently be helped in any way, and then sadly attend their funerals. When you start researching cannabis and discover that it is incredibly helpful for so many illnesses, you naturally want to know more.
Most immediately, I come from an Irish-Australian beach-going family with a serious ongoing problem with skin cancer. By our genetics this is most ill-advised- but try telling that to an Australian growing up on the beach!
As a small child I also suffered extreme sun damage as a result of this great, but in retrospect, reckless attitude to sun exposure and I feel like I have spent my whole life trying to repair the damage. I loved growing up surfing, but later repented the many blisters, freckles and damaged skin that came with it.
I'm still an ocean swimmer, but I wear a lot of zinc and cover up more than I did as a kid. I was also a lifelong asthmatic - that's now gone- but I am passionately interested in natural healthcare treatments for asthma, because I was never offered any until I found them myself. It's delightful to discover that cannabis, and other natural medicine can really help with asthma.
From my PhD studies on human skin studies, I learned that the skin
will actually heal itself, so I became most interested in how to help
this process. I run www.dermaltherapycollege.com
where I have made a great study of anti-ageing treatments, (largely to
reverse sun-damage which is huge in Australia) products, techniques and
active ingredients that will work.
Mostly this involves laser, plasma, microchanneling and natural skin ingredients that I started formulating myself. I don't mind admitting I did a fair bit of self-experimentation and have delighted in sharing my knowledge in student training courses for mostly aestheticians.
When a colleague of mine asked me to treat her basal cell carcinoma (skin cancer), I immediately pushed for her to go to a doctor, but she pushed back with the doctor's permission and the result was we succeeded in repairing her skin without the need for surgery.
I did this using apitherapy, a branch of alternative medicine that uses honey bee products. I was inspired to go on a deep research dive to know more and completed an apitherapy diploma with the world expert, Dr. Stefan Stangaciu of Romania. I also studied herbal medicine, which led me to cannabis, which surprisingly led me to aromatherapy - so now I have a great overview of how they all work synergistically.
Like many things, these treatments occur in silos, but to me, when
you put them together you can make powerful treatments and achieve great
results. So, I love combining bee medicine, herbal medicine and
aromatherapy in my skincare treatments and I love the results.
A bit of high-tech treatments from laser and plasma really help too,
so I find the combination of hi-tech and ancient natural ingredients
like cannabis and bee products to be super successful.
I don't know if I've let the secret out of the bag, but I'm not aware
of anyone else with this approach. It is certainly something I like to
teach my students. Combined with skincare formulation you get some great
products and some impressive results.
When you can regularly take 20 years of the faces of men and women who are stressed and tired, the clients are extremely happy, and the work is very rewarding as their self-esteem is also boosted.
When I read about how cannabis could be used as skincare I had to know more. So, I guess this is how I directly came to be involved with cannabis. We know that cannabis can treat many complex health issues and because the skin is the body's largest organ, it is an important target and one that certainly benefits from internal cannabis medicine as well as topically.
After all, our general wellness and stress levels or levels of relaxation are totally evident in our skin - so this is powerful knowledge. Cannabis, like bee medicine, also has a great role in general prevention of ill health and maintaining wellness.
Where do you see medicinal cannabis in the next 5 years in Australia?
I created www.readyforcannabis.com just for this reason! And I now have clients in Australia and the US who are really keen on my courses and signing up for my one-to-one training and streamed workshops. This is not something I had foreseen and they tell me they really like the quality and tone of my work.
I wrote a lot of online courses for my college and when I started taking a deep dive into cannabis, I automatically started wanting to share what I was learning because I knew it just wasn't out there.
A few people in the industry suggested I start writing specifically for doctors, so I did. Turns out they are really struggling to get the information because even though the endocannabinoid system (ECS)was discovered in the mid-90s, this important medical breakthrough is still not taught in medical school.
So, doctors need context. Turns out that my other work as a journalist/filmmaker/historian means I am very comfortable with explaining complex scientific information in easily digested and more entertaining ways through writing, videos, and blogs.
The history of cannabis reads like a thriller so I enjoy helping to convey the story. I think this is very important to explain why this much demonized plant is now being hailed as a medical miracle. The war on drugs did its job so well that it is hard to break through the prohibition mindsets we have all been encouraged to adopt over much of the last century.
It's no good blaming doctors for their lack of training, this is not their fault. But it is certainly true that the discovery of the ECS has turned what we understand about medicine on its head. The ECS discovery should have been awarded a Nobel Prize long ago. However, probably due to cannabis prohibition that was never happened. Hopefully, it will one day.
But meanwhile I think we should get on and try to interpret what this means for managing our health the best way we can and we can only do that by working together and learning from the past. I am still hearing from the U.S.A. and Australia that doctors are quite stressed because the pressure is building for them to prescribe but they haven't been properly trained in cannabis medicine.
What kind of cannabis research is needed that hasn't been covered yet?
There is a lot of cannabis research still to be done. The understanding of the ECS is still being conducted. The relationship between other herbal medicine and aromatherapy, through shared terpenes and plant compounds is full of potential.
Understanding how different extraction methods and different parts and stages of the plant, can impact the medicine is still evolving. Plus, I am fascinated that they are still discovering endocannabinoids that could help human health in so many ways. For example, THCV or "diet marijuana" is being explored as an obesity drug and lowering blood sugar levels for diabetics.
Cannabis seems to be the gift that keeps on giving from a
pharmacological point of view. Research is quite stymied by prohibition
still and by the requirement that researchers in the U.S.A. can only use
the relatively poor quality "government cannabis" grown in Mississippi
I understand that is the equivalent of expecting researchers to find new drugs in lawn clippings- though that may be a bit harsh. I think it's fascinating that breeders have been incredibly creative and through all of this new potential medicines are still being found in new strains.
I also think there's a lot more to be done to explain the potential of an endocannabinoid diet- that things like black truffles, anchovies, kale, and dark chocolate - are all supporting our natural endocannabinoids and share beneficial medicinal compounds with cannabis. I think there is a lot more to be developed in this space as we discover more.
Overall cannabis is still coming out of the shadows, and research has been restricted, so who knows what else will pop out from studying this fascinating ancient plant that we have actually co-evolved with.
In Australia, at the moment it’s hard to imagine that we will be as
progressive as a lot of states like Colorado and California. Most
Australians here really haven't heard much about edibles, chocolates,
cannabis cuisine, water soluble products (like wine and sports drink)
and certainly not more creative strains and "bud tenders"- that is all
yet to come.
The government here is very conservative and progress is slow.
However, Australia traditionally echoes US culture a great deal and I'm
sure it will happen in time, but right now the door is just opening a
crack for doctors to apply for special permission to become prescribers.
It’s not technically legal here yet but I guess this will happen as it
is in many countries in the world.
My understanding is that many of the issues are very similar. Baby
boomers who lived through prohibition and the war on drugs are the ones
that now need this medicine. It's quite a job to explain to them that
all is OKAY, it's not demonic, they won't get "stoned", and they won't
get arrested. So I think there is a great deal to be done with community
education as well as education for medical practitioners.
In five years if we can have more liberal pharmacies and less demonizing of the plant, then hopefully the many thousands of people that could benefit from this medicine will be able to do so without the baggage to help cancer, diabetes, arthritis, Parkinson's, Alzheimer’s, and the many other illnesses that medical science has proven that cannabis can help.
What is the best advice you can give to a first-time cannabis user?
Advice for newbies usually has to come with a lot of handholding and explaining why they should give it a try when they think it is the domain of rappers or criminals.
I recently had to help my 84 year old mother who is riddled with skin cancer, has macular degeneration, suffers a bit of anxiety, and is terrified of developing Alzheimer’s. The message as always is to reassure her that CBD will not make her stoned and she won't be arrested. I also reiterate to not take it too fast and start low and go slow because everyone's endocannabinoid system is different. Journaling your dosage and progress is a good strategy for first-timers.
In her case she could start to see improvements immediately in the quality of her sleep and more peaceful dreams. She noted that she raced more quickly through her daily cryptic crosswords and that she felt more relaxed and had more energy.
She didn't get frustrated or stressed when her daily routine or the traffic challenged her, she calmly navigated challenges in a way that she herself could immediately see was an improvement on her normal, often impatient, or potentially stressed persona.
This is great news for a newbie, especially an elderly woman who was trepidatious of the whole process. The longer term results should show improvements in her eyesight, her sense of well-being and hopefully some curtailing of that aggressive skin cancer.
I think journaling is important because people need to remind themselves of what a difference cannabis can make and they will quickly forget how these improvements evolved.
If only more doctors were on board the many ways cannabis can help their patients they would start to see that cannabis and the toning of the endocannabinoid system is a very positive development in medical science and that there should be no reason to keep it at bay.
More about Dr. Goodwin
Medical Herbalist, Apitherapist and Medicinal Cannabis Educator from Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
LinkedIn. FB:@CBDeducation and Instagram #dermaltherapycollege
Available for education consultancies.