For the first few weeks of lockdown, I found myself smoking more than usual. When pain surges through my body I don’t reach for a NSAID; I break down some flower, roll it into a hemp paper, take a match to the wick, and inhale.
Since my freshman year of college, cannabis has been my go-to pain reliever for a skin condition I developed in middle school called Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS) that causes boils and cysts to form in places where the skin touches the skin. For those of you unfamiliar with the chronic inflammatory skin condition, at its best, it manifests as pea-sized boils in areas such as the armpits, buttocks, and groin. At its worst, it exists as golf ball sized boils with additional scarring, tunneling, and sinus tract formations with pus draining from them 24/7 all over the body.
Some patients have reported boils and lesions on their scalps and on their ear lobes. Just imagine for a second a life where each time you lifted your armpit, sat down, or washed yourself, there is nothing but raw skin, open wounds, and pus. It sounds disastrous right? It is.
That’s why I smoke cannabis and strongly advocate for its decriminalization and destigmatization, especially for people of color. Cannabis has a long racial history I won’t get into in this article, but if you want a glimpse at some racist anti-marijuana propaganda, just watch the 1936 film Reefer Madness. It’s a great starting point in understanding cannabis regulation in this country.
Over the years I’ve empowered myself by taking my healing into my own hands because unfortunately there’s no cure for HS. I began with changing my diet by adapting a vegan/ vegetarian lifestyle, which subsequently resulted in me shedding 160 pounds from a 350-pound body. This began my deep dive into holistic medicines as a cure for chronic disease.
Remission and Relapse
For a period of two years, I was in remission. Wounds on my chest, back, and stomach began closing with no medical intervention, and my mood and quality of life began improving. During this time, my relationship with cannabis switched from using it as a natural analgesic to using it as a workout and sleep aid.
Then, after being in remission for two years, I got a tennis ball-sized boil in a very intimate space on my body. I couldn’t walk. I was bed-ridden for two weeks. About a week-and-half, I paid a visit to my primary care physician to get the boil lanced and relieve some of the pain. This is when my relationship with cannabis changed again.
I started smoking again for pain management as new lesions began popping up on my body. My theory is that dairy in my diet triggers my HS to flare up. It’s a theory because researchers haven’t discovered why and how HS manifests within the body. Some studies have shown diet may play a factor in its development, but there’s no concrete clinical research to back this up.
However, patients like myself have tested various dietary methods from veganism to the ketogenic diet to bring our HS into remission. Recently, I’ve gotten back on track with my dieting, somewhat, and my flares don’t happen as often as they used to. I still smoke to manage the pain that comes and goes, but nowadays I use flower for pain management and regulating anxiety.
Recently, though, I’ve found myself growing tired of smoking. I don’t know if my lungs are tired, my brain is tired, or both, but I’ve been more interested in consuming cannabis through tinctures, teas, controlled doses of edibles, and topical salves for the skin. Not only that, but I have a desire to test the multitude of cannabinoids the cannabis plant has to offer because each cannabinoid can have specific targeted benefits for the body.
When I smoke THC, I feel a sense of anxiety arise in my chest now more than ever. Because I’ve used this herb for analgesic purposes I’ve had trouble balancing my need to be pain-free with my desire to be less anxious. So, instead of giving up the herb all together, I’ve decided to research new ways of consuming cannabis that are non-psychoactive or have lower amounts of THC.
CBD, for example, is a cannabinoid with anti-anxiety, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, antipsychotic, and anti-convulsive properties. Often when I consume CBD, it’s in an edible wax form with a smaller percentage of THC from a brand called Jetty. When I dose myself properly, my pain levels are tolerable and my anxiety is diminished, but when I overdo it, my pain is no longer present but my heart races.
The market is teeming with new products and services that offer a cornucopia of herbal experiences, from wax to vapes to salves/ balms to pills. If you find yourself growing tired of the traditional ways of consuming cannabis, don’t be afraid to try something new!
If you’re chronically ill like I am and have grown tired of toking the pain away, you might find more pleasure in sipping your cannabis in a tea or eating it in a delicious vegan burger. There’s no shame in experimenting with cannabis because it’s ultimately here to serve you.
You get to decide how, when, where, and why you consume the herb. Develop a child-like curiosity and begin reading articles on cannabinoids such as CBN (used for anxiety and nausea), CBC (consumed for mitigating pain, fighting bacteria, and depression), or CBG (known to inhibit cell growth in tumor/cancer cells, and promote bone growth).
My relationship with cannabis has changed drastically over the years. I’ve grown from a baby pothead who knew nothing about the medicinal properties to a cannabis advocate ready to stimulate my endocannabinoid system and share the benefits of cannabis with the world. This transition I am making, slowly but surely, is enabling me to have a deeper appreciation for weed because it’s no longer just a plant I can use to get high; it’s a plant I can heal myself with. And that makes all the difference to me.
This is a beautiful article that articulates your journey from not knowing why you used a plant to educating yourself on how to heal yourself naturally with respect to how your body reacts to it and I respect that growth. Your relationship will only grow deeper with cannabis and I wish you the best!
Thank you for sharing. I don’t think I have the same skin condition as you because mine never got the that bad but I do have experience with boils painful ones too, appearing on certain part of my body where friction would occurr. I’ve been in remission for a while but I never stop to think about how it did it. All I can say is California flower is where it’s at because I have smoked flower from other parts of the US and the world and would receive boils too.
This story is so inspiring and necessary for people with Hidradenitis searching for hope. After fighting HS for 20 years Marijuana and CBD have immensely decreased my pain, anxiety and inflammation. It has also inspired me to pursue Holistic medicine for better Health management. Thank you so much for sharing your story and inspiring people to do the same.
I too have HS in addition to all my other AI issues. I know the pain as I had to have a few surgeries on those in groin and on the backside. I’m very lucky that I’ve never had to deal with the paranoia aspect. I am on my own journey with being able to accept being able to use this and to quiet the cop in my head say, drugs are bad, mmmkay.
I cannot use OTC meds due to having AI liver disease(tylenol) and crohns disease(all NSAIDS). So its either opiods or weed for me. I tried the opiod route and could only make my pain tolerable, but not eleminate most of it like MMJ can. I do find that I need THC as much as CBD to get rid of my pain. Oh, and one thing that helps in pain aspect, is it also makes you ‘forget’ about the pain for a bit, like you forgot it was hurting until you moved it again, and was reminded. That helps relax the rest of the body too.
Great article. I used a tincture for sleep. I have ILD and RA and am on prednisone. I believe the prednisone keeps me awake. I use 1,000mg of a 1,000mg CBD oil I sleep well. I am having leg pain and am thinking about using it during the day for pain relief after reading your article.
Thanks. I am an Australian who has had HS for years now. I find it helps with the pain, anxiety and general depression which HS can cause me. I have recently just stopped ‘smoking’ the Cannabis and bought a vape pen with oil. It was hard to make the switch at first and caused me stress. (I think I’m addicted to the ritual of preparing to smoke etc.) but I have found it too be surprisingly a lot more affordable. I’m determined to keep at it. We still have a lot of strict laws here concerning the drug. So I’m hoping I can keep a reliable source.
Thank you for this well written article, I have been recently diagnosed with hidradenitis and at 46 trying to understand how and why, I have been using medical marijuana to treat a nerve condition already. These words in this article could have come straight out of my mouth regarding medical marijuana.
Thank you for taking your time to write this very honest article !
I’m in Canada and also have HS – I found this article because I’ve recently been paranoid that smoking weed was what was making my HS worse, as it’s always mentioned that vague ‘smoking’ can make it worse. I’m glad you’ve had so much success with your dieting! I’m sure you’ve already investigated because you’re aware of a dairy sensitivity but I did a three month long elimination diet and found that nightshades were a more vicious trigger for me than dairy, and of course, is more prevalent in everything in society. No tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, etc for me anymore. If you’ve never tried that, maybe give it a shot and see if it helps you! Thank you for this article.
This article was wonderful. After having my children I developed HS and it has been a nightmare. You constantly feel alone and isolated because nobody understands what you’re dealing with unless they have it themselves. I’m about to start my journey with changing my diet but Mary Jane has definitely helped with some of the anxiety and depression I’ve felt with HS. thank you again for this article.