Aromatics have long been used in healing and relaxation, but the product's marriage to cannabis is a more recent phenomenon. California–based cannabis company Absorb CBD has continued the trend, offering topicals and essential oils suitable for custom concoctions.
Absorb CBD became a reality in 2013 when cannabis farmer Raphael Vasquez and alchemist Monica Fine collaborated to try to create the purest, most potent CBD oil possible. "It's organic-based, farm-to-body stuff. And it's called 'Absorb' because that's exactly what happens when you use the product — within seconds," Vasquez explains. "It's got 15 times the potency of a typical cannabis extraction, and a lot of work went into reaching that status and maintaining it."
Most of the magic of Absorb's medicine comes from the plant from which it's extracted, the ACDC strain. Fine and Vasquez regard the ACDC plant with warm affection. “It’s like a chemical rainbow of every aromatic molecule that is anti-inflammatory, antiviral and chock-full of terpenes. It's incredible,” Fine says. Vasquez agrees, adding that growing it outdoors is the key to unlocking its potential. With full sun exposure, the duration of the cannabinoids is four times as long. "If you smoked it, you'd see it's not a spike but a bell-shaped curve," Vasquez says. This creates a product that lasts longer and doesn't need to be taken as often as other medicines. One application of Absorb CBD can last up to five hours.
Initial testings of the whole-plant infusion produced a green, unattractive result that was unfit to sell, but with the addition of CO2 and added essential oils such as St. John’s wort, arnica, wintergreen, turmeric and sea buckthorn, the concoction became an orange oil with a floral and musky aroma reminiscent of apothecaries and alternative-medicine shops. "It feels and smells like old-timey medicine," Fine says, "because it is."
Once the infusion was finished, Fine and Vasquez teamed up with Jerred, owner of the Higher Path, L.A. Weekly’s Best Dispensary of 2016, to get the product on the shelf and also offer customized treatments for patients with varying ailments. Absorb found immediate success at the Higher Path, and flew off the shelves and into 30 additional dispensaries all over California. "Patients love how fast it works, and how long it lasts," Vazquez explains. "Now, we just have to keep up with demand." Testimonials litter Absorb's social media accounts and website, coming from patients with multiple sclerosis, cancer, Alzheimer's, rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases — all giving Absorb CBD credit for their relief. "It works," Fine says. "As a medicine woman I can tell you this is the purest, most potent oil on the market."
Since the genetics in the ACDC used by Aroma have a molecular makeup containing 0.38 percent THC, it technically doesn't quality as "hemp" and is considered illegal as per the 2014 U.S. Farm Bill stating that cannabis and hemp plants with “less than 0.3 percent THC” are a different category and thus may be sold nationally. Yet the THC content isn't enough to get you high. Despite the constriction of being able to sell their product only in California, they refuse to consider another strain for their infusion — and it hasn't affected its popularity. "It has to be this plant," Monica insists. "That's the miracle element that is helping our patients so much."
Fine says the positive vibrations that go into the plant and thus her oil are essential to its effectiveness. She reiterates, "Life force gives life force," and uses the sun-drenched plant as a whole without separating it and adding in terpenes later. Although it varies, at its strongest the ACDC plant yields a 20 percent CBD content with a terpene content on its extractions of 8.9 percent (usually 2 to 4 percent is high).
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Fine scoffs at companies that use butane for the extraction of their products, claiming the toxins in it are harmful and lower the effectiveness of the oil. "It's not medicine," she says angrily. "They shouldn't be able to call it that." In agreement, Vasquez clarifies their distaste for butane. "Until the industry can measure all the microparticles left behind after the extractions, Monica's not comfortable giving that out to patients." Fine agrees: "Our mission is to use herbalism to be a solution to pharmaceuticals by using the whole plant and no toxic particles. We want to create a better state of homeostasis for patients."
Is CO2 the best, cleanest way to extract CBD from a plant? Vasquez thinks it is, for now. "I'd like more of a fresh, frozen extraction, which could give me a chance to capture more of the terpenes," he admits. "That's my focus right now, and moving forward."
The team hopes to acquire enough big contracts to continue to grow ACDC outside despite the ramifications from Proposition 64 and the fear of bigger companies such as Monsanto coming in to claim ownership of the plants. Vasquez is excited for the tourism Proposition 64 will bring to California, as he calls these people "potential patients." He paints a picture of tourists coming to his farm, trying Absorb, whose components are grown right there on the farm, and going back to their home state with a positive message about cannabis as medicine. "It's a good thing! I know it. These people just need to fall in love with the plant — and they will."
The future of federal cannabis is still up in the air, but California's status as the mecca for the most potent medicine is as solidified as ever — especially with regards to CBD. “CBDs are the next big thing,” Fine states definitively. “The CBD mission is a Jedi and sacred one; whatever needs to keep happening will continue to present itself.” Vasquez adds, "It's like squeezing toothpaste back into the tube. It's too late, you can't. CBDs are here to stay."