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Meet Dr. Junella Chin – a world-leading cannabis physician and Artemis’ Chief Medical Advisor

“The future is preventative medicine. There’s a whole universe of regenerative medicine, nutritional medicine, preventative medicine which entails a model of creating health from the ground up. The medical cannabis movement should be a wake-up call to the health care system.”

She is an advocate, an osteopathic physician, and a board member of the American Academy of Cannabinoid Medicine.  Dr. Junella Chin is one of the world’s leading cannabis physicians and has been practicing integrative cannabinoid medicine for over 18 years.  Her extensive and groundbreaking work has been profiled in Forbes, CNN, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Cornell University, and more.

Dr. June’s work is personal – she was a patient before she became a physician.  Her understanding of a patient’s journey is deeply familiar, her compassion is unwavering, and her approach is unconventional.  She pays attention to the disease, but she looks at YOU.  The complete picture of you.

Our relationship blossomed from a chance encounter online.  And a few weeks later, I called her asking for help.  I was having another bladder infection and a severe pelvic spasms episode.  She told me… lets treat the issue right now so that the infection doesn’t travel to your kidneys, but we need to get to the source of your bladder disease and pelvic spasms.  She arranged for me to see other specialists, gave me a food log, tested out supplements with CBD, and more.  It was the first time a physician spent more than 10 minutes with me.  After I got better, we started working together – we did over 11 Podcasts (and will do more), hosted events, and was the first team to be invited by Google to speak about CBD and cannabis.  Dr. Junella Chin became Artemis’ Chief Medical Advisor, and we work very closely to understand how active ingredients affect whole body systems. 

With great honor, please meet Dr. Junella Chin.  Her journey is inspiring and her work is dedicated to finding effective, integrative and holistic approaches to patient care.

Dr. June, what I admire most about you is that you turned your personal pain journey into a journey of service.  You’re a chronic pain survivor before you became an osteopathic physician.  Can you share more about your journey?

As a teenager, I was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis (AS), a progressive type of arthritis that affects the spine, pelvis, hips, and back and causes extreme stiffness and nerve pain. 

I spent my younger years trying conventional treatments— epidurals, narcotics, muscle relaxants, acupuncture, physical therapy—but the pain was unrelenting.  By the time I got to medical school in San Francisco, I was having difficulty standing for long periods in the operating room.  One of the attending physicians saw this and asked me about it.  I told him I had AS, but that I couldn’t take the meds I needed for relief while doing rounds or while attending a four-hour hip-replacement surgery because they made me drowsy and foggy. 

Here I was in a hospital surrounded by great medical minds, but I was disheartened to find nothing could help my condition.  The attending physician and my mentor Dr. Levine pulled me aside and handed me a bottle containing a tincture.  “This is marijuana,” he told me, “but it won’t make you high.”  He didn’t call it CBD oil.  He just said it was a different type of cannabis plant. 

How did that make you feel?!

I was mortified but desperate.  I grew up in the Bronx, where there was a huge social stigma around marijuana.  I also grew up in a very traditional Chinese household.  My parents believed in reefer madness—weed leads to psychosis and schizophrenia!

The little brown dropper bottle Dr. Levine handed me smelled like a combination of alcohol, wet dog, and grass, and I didn’t know what to think.  To my amazement, the tincture worked very well.  The pain and inflammation of my arthritis decreased dramatically, my AS stopped progressing, and my health improved. 

Even though California legalized medical cannabis in 1996, I didn’t dare tell anyone I was using it.  I was a young physician and didn’t want to jeopardize my career.  But once I got my health back, I decided to learn more about cannabis and how it helps manage pain and improve people’s overall health and wellness. 

What an incredible journey and thank goodness for Dr. Levine!  As you learned more about cannabis, what were your thoughts?

Cannabinoid medicine disrupts conventional western medicine as we know it.  It raises a series of questions about how we think about medicine in the future.  What if we reorganized our approach?

The future is preventative medicine.  There’s a whole universe of regenerative medicine, nutritional medicine, preventative medicine which entails a model of creating health from the ground up.  The medical cannabis movement should be a wake-up call to the health care system.  It is teaching us all to rethink medicine and explore new ways we can treat and heal from disease and even prevent disease altogether.

What are the shortcomings that you see from the traditional medicine approach?

Our healthcare system is very poor at addressing how to prevent diseases.  Evidence-based medicine overemphasizes randomized, double-blind clinical trials as the final arbiters of clinical decision-making.  More than 40% of Americans belong to a racial or ethnic minority.  What about the differences in our genomes?

Take a closer look at the people who participate in clinical trials.  They tend to be more homogeneous.  Clinical trials are the studies that test whether drugs work, and inform doctors’ decisions about how to treat their patients.  When subjects in those studies don’t look like the patients who could end up taking the treatments, that can be problematic.  How many females are represented in these clinical trials?  How many minorities?  Because of genetic differences, some people’s bodies process drugs in very different ways.  Here is an example, African-Americans and Puerto Ricans don’t respond as well to some of the most common asthma controller medications, and people with epilepsy who are of Asian descent are supposed to get genetic testing before being prescribed the seizure medication.

How does cannabis medicine and therapies encourage us to rethink medicine?

Allopathic medicine takes the reductive approach.  We are separating disease into its parts, element by element, component, and subpart, and then using drugs to attack these separate targets.  CBD is part of a whole plant.  There’s a whole universe of regenerative medicine, nutritional medicine, preventive and integrative medicine.  Cannabinoid science and the push for cannabis legalization is teaching us a vital lesson.  The fact is the cannabis plant is unique – there is no precedent, no other drug in the world that we are using recreationally and medicinally for therapeutic uses.  The historical record of safe use is unparalleled.  

Over the last 15 years, my medical cannabis career has been based on anecdotal and clinically applied evidence.  I help patients integrate medical cannabis in the context of a full-scope general and holistic medical practice.  It is reframing our thinking about medicine and healthcare. 

And lastly Dr. June, you are particularly passionate about women’s health. This has been echoed quite often, but what does it really mean when we say… as women we need to take charge of our own health?

Health practitioners routinely minimize women’s experience of pain, insomnia, and sexual dysfunction.  These complaints are often dismissed as psychological rather than physiological conditions.  Some women go undiagnosed for years, despite multiple trips to doctors and specialists — all the while being told that their symptoms could be stress-related. 

Pharmaceuticals improve the lives of many women.  But for others, they aren’t necessary or can cause side effects as bad as the underlying condition.  The increase in prescriptions for psychiatric medications, often by doctors in other specialties, is creating a generation of overly medicated women.  It makes me wonder if women are making decisions based on sound medicine or if they’re responding to peer pressure or advertising.  I mean right now, antidepressants are being used in the clinical management of anxiety disorders, chronic pain, and even menopausal hot flashes.  That’s insane.

With my patients, I find that women who use CBD or cannabis may find they’re more in touch with their bodies.  This can lead to increased control over their health, enhanced prevention and self-care.  CBD and cannabis can often be a pathway that leads to wholeness in body, mind, and spirit.

Nourishing our endocannabinoid system – the neurotransmitter system that CBD and cannabis directly and indirectly interacts with that interfaces with all of the other systems in our body including regulating movement, pain sensation, immune responses, and mental functions like perception, mood, and memory – could be the missing link in our overall quest for living a better, healthier life or simply feeling well.  Good health makes everything we encounter in life seem more manageable.