These days, an average day for Joanna Clifton, 33, might include playing with her kids, volunteering at the local food bank, or painting in her backyard. The joy these activities bring Joanna eluded her a few years ago. Back then, Joanna was experiencing painful migraines on a regular basis, fighting depression, and barely felt her emotions. She was not the happy woman I know, and truth be told, she didn’t know what happy felt like.

The Diagnosis

When a DNA test revealed to Joanna that she had a genetic mutation causing these problems, she was able to begin understanding her condition. Her genetic mutation caused a disruption in her methylation cycles. The methylation cycle is important because it converts vitamins and amino acids from our food into the energy our bodies need to work properly. It removes toxins, fights infection and creates healthy cells. The cycle also produces neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, the chemicals responsible for balancing our mood.

If your methylation cycle is functioning properly, you will be in a good mood and feel full of energy. If it is not functioning properly, you will be more susceptible to infection and your mind will feel foggy. You’ll feel depressed, tired, irritable and run-down. Needless to say, Joanna didn’t feel good most of the time. Her genetic mutation caused her to feel emotions at about a 70% lower level than most people, and she constantly battled depression.

The Cannabis Cure

Although she didn’t care for it when she was younger, she decided to try medical cannabis to treat her extreme migraines. She found that CBD oil and Rick Simpson oil were the most effective in treating her pain. Over the course of the next eight years, her migraines became less frequent and eventually went away altogether.

She began experiencing other positive benefits as well. For the first time in her life, she was feeling her emotions at a heightened level. Her face lights up when she talks about feeling empathy for the first time in her life. These new feelings pushed her to take steps that ultimately pointed her life in a happier direction.

With less pain to wear her down and more empathy in her heart, Joanna has learned to experience situations from other people’s perspectives. She says cannabis helped her to reflect on and process the ugly parts of her past in a way she had never been able to before. She realized we are all broken and fighting our own battles. She apologized to those she hurt, and in the process lost her ego and gained humility.

The Science

Recent studies support Joanna’s experience using cannabis to treat her migraines, depression and emotional health. Our bodies have an entire endocannabinoid system, and studies are showing that endocannabinoid deficiencies play a role in migraines, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, chronic pain and a growing list of other medical conditions. In fact, a substantial body of evidence suggests the endocannabinoid and opioidergic systems interact symbiotically in areas of the brain associated with emotional and pain processing.

Studies are also showing evidence that cannabinoids reduce chronic pain and improve mood. A study published in The Clinical Journal of Pain (February 2016) ascertained that the treatment of chronic pain with medicinal cannabis resulted in improved pain and functional outcomes, and a significant reduction in opioid use.

Results of a study published in Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Behavior (June 2010) show that THC and other cannabinoids exert antidepressant-like action and contribute to the overall mood-elevating properties of cannabis. A study published in Neuropharmacology (April 2016) concluded that CBDs could be a fast-acting antidepressant drug. Once again, cannabis is gaining prestige as an effective antidepressant and pain reliever.

Studies offer us facts, figures and scientific explanations of how cannabis heals our body, but Joanna is a living, breathing success story. Her quality of life has increased dramatically since she started using medical cannabis. Before, she was in pain, emotionally numb and depressed. Now her days are spent creating fulfilling memories with her loved ones. Cannabis has accomplished what nothing else could, and it has made all the difference.