After 30 years working with patients in obstetrics and gynecology, Dr. Joseph Cohen, DO, was in his early 60s when he needed a change of pace. After all, he’d assisted nearly 10,000 women and families through the birthing process. Not easy.
However, Cohen never imagined his next career would be in cannabis medicine where he’d go on to impact approximately 25,000 patients at the clinical level.
That pivotal moment, his segue into cannabis, came in 2009. Cohen had just returned to the U.S. after a few years practicing in New Zealand. His initial desire? To make a few bucks while he figured out his next move.
When he took a job counseling medical cannabis patients at the back of a dispensary, it changed his life forever.
“I had no idea I’d be doing cannabis medicine. Never had any thoughts about it. However, once I started working with it, I began to realize there may be something to this medicine,” he says, noting his subsequent journey in cannabis education including a range of courses and medical conferences.
“I realized I could actually combine cannabis medicine with functional medicine in a medical practice and really help people a lot more at that point,” Cohen says.
This is exactly what Cohen has been doing for the past ten years with his practice Holos Health, combining cannabis and functional medicine.
And now Dr. Cohen is one of several physicians sharing precious insights in one of Green Flower’s newest online certificate programs: Medical Applications of Cannabis.
What is Functional Medicine?
Functional medicine is a highly individualized approach that Dr. Cohen began to integrate into his women’s healthcare practice back in the late ‘90s.
Unlike the one-size-fits-all prescription approach often practiced in conventional medicine, functional medicine is much more individualized and holistic.
“In functional medicine our aim is to find the triggers of disease and take corrective action so that your body has the ability to heal with your help rather than taking medication after medication, which can have all kinds of side effects and actually end up making things worse in the long run,” Dr. Cohen says.
These disease triggers, he continues, can come from just about anywhere.
“Some may be environmental pollutants; some may be food triggers. Other triggers may be due to emotional and physical stress – sometimes a stress carried from childhood all the way through your life. All these different factors can come together and help create disease,” he says.
Once those triggers are identified, the solutions to remove them are often surprisingly simple, whether it’s removing molds or toxins from the house, putting an air purifier in the bedroom, or getting dialed in with a nutritional program, an exercise routine, and/or cannabis.
Those last three are also an important part of the healing process, which often includes healing the gut – the gut being where a lot of disease starts, Dr. Cohen says.
Cohen’s involvement in Green Flower’s new Medical Applications of Cannabis Certificate Program includes two courses that cover two significant disease umbrellas where he’s had a lot of experience over the past decade:
- Autoimmune Disease, the Gut and CBD
- Cannabis for Elders – Age-Related Diseases
“Cannabis in general just complements everything that we do in functional medicine. It is, in my opinion, a functional medicine in its own right. It helps bring our bodies back into balance when things go out of whack. It’s what we call an adaptogenic herb. An adaptogen is all about bringing everything back into balance, homeostasis,” Cohen says.
“There are so many things we can do with this plant medicine, and so many things that we can treat, and that’s why people come to us. And we introduce them to functional medicine while they are here.”
Reversing and Healing Autoimmune Disease
“With autoimmune disease, which I do a lot of work with in my practice, once you remove the triggers you actually start reversing the person’s autoimmune disease – things that we never thought possible,” Cohen says.
With autoimmune diseases specifically, Dr. Cohen and his team see a wide range of patients with health issues such as multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, endometriosis (now considered autoimmune, he says), Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Crohn’s disease and colitis, and rheumatoid arthritis, which is the most common.
“[The disease trigger] could be as simple as gluten sensitivity,” Cohen explains. “Gluten may be the trigger that’s causing you to develop your autoimmune disease. Removing that trigger – and then using certain things to help heal – is one of the most powerful things we can do nowadays.”
Once the trigger is identified and removed, the healing process begins, which almost always involves healing the gut, Cohen says.
“CBD has amazing gut healing properties and it’s a great anti-inflammatory. It does so many things in our body to enhance our health,” he explains, emphasizing his preference for whole-plant CBD products as opposed to isolated CBD.
Cannabis and Age-Related Disease
Dr. Cohen’s other focus area in the Medical Applications of Cannabis Certificate Program revolves around age-related diseases, which he describes as a “very interesting” area in cannabis medicine.
Cannabis has shown efficacy in helping seniors manage many different common age-related diseases, including dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, arthritis, etc.
Cohen spends a lot of time talking to and counseling senior facilities, families, and anybody else who wants to learn how cannabis can help the elderly.
“If a senior facility does not accept Medicaid, then basically they are allowing patients here [in Colorado] to use cannabis in a non-smoked form,” he says.
“We’ve started realizing that the fastest-growing demographic of all, by far, are seniors coming in for cannabis. Many of them were children of the 1960s and are absolutely comfortable using some THC in their lives, and many are opposed to cannabis until they hear it may actually help them with their condition.”
A lot of people want to use cannabis for these conditions but want to avoid the high when they come in, Dr. Cohen says. “So we start with CBD very often and then when they’re comfortable with that, we’ll introduce some THC into the formulation to help them with their pain.”
It’s a very rapidly growing community of elders now, he reiterates.
“These are people who are very much into getting cannabis as medicine because they realize that conventional medicine is not working. Cannabis is just incredible because we are wired for this plant.”
Learn More about the Medical Applications of Cannabis Certificate Program Today