A Holistic Approach to Cannabis with Chef Niki Connor
Niki Connor is a certified professional chef, certified Health & Nutrition Counselor, Internationally certified water judge and former professional athlete. Parlaying her formal health, nutrition and culinary education, athletic background, International upbringing, extensive travels, and passion for improving the lives of others, she has created a viable socially responsible enterprise. Connor’s upbringing in Tokyo, Japan and San Diego, California along with extensive International travel has inspired her to learn more about different cultures and appreciate worldwide cuisine.
Her experience as both a chef and health and nutrition counselor ranges from cooking to prevent and fight diseases to working with models, Oscar-winning actors, professional athletes, families, and Fortune 500 executives. Connor resides in Los Angeles and is following her passion for helping heal others and the culinary arts.
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1 hr 39 min
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Levi: Welcome to Head Change, the podcast that puts you in a better headspace. I'm your host Levi Strom. On this week's episode, I speak with Niki Connor, plant-based chef and nutrition counselor about a holistic approach to cannabis. So I'm really curious how you got into plant-based nutrition. I'd love to just kind of understand your story.
Niki: Of course, so kind of going off what Chris Paul has done as well as other basketball players and NFL players as well. I would say for basketball, specifically, the main reason that I'm seeing a lot of those athletes transition is because dairy is the number one cause of inflammation in the body. So they may not be going a hundred percent vegan but they are at least going the route of eliminating dairy first because it causes inflammation in the joints and if you think like -- I played basketball growing up, I'm terrible now, but I know that like your joints are getting a lot of use and you've really got to reduce that inflammation to avoid injury. And I've actually met with NBA players who were incredibly young and early in their career and they thought, oh I have this amazing metabolism, I can just eat whatever I want and perform really well. And my number one question for them was how long do you want your career to be?
Niki: Because you may get away with this now, but do you want to have a long healthy career free of injury? Then you know the people like Tom Brady on the season he does consume meat, but he has a high anti-inflammatory diet and offseason he's pretty much vegan and for him personally he's learned through working with nutritionists and a nutrition based chef is that night shades don't work for him and those are foods like, tomatoes, mushrooms things like that, doesn't mean that that causes inflammation in everyone, it just means for him. So I think that when we learn more about our bodies and what helps us function at our best, you can really just see how far you can go physically mentally, it's really changed my life. Personally, it took, it took a couple of years for me to kind of transition into becoming vegan because I did it for health reasons first. I was living in New York and I was in nutrition school and you know, I read The China Study which was incredibly fascinating to me.
Levi: I don't know anything about that.
Niki: I highly recommend this book, so they did like a 40-year study of different people around the world and how they ate and how long they live and what the quality of their life was and they found that as you may already know, like the okinawa diet, which is in Japan has the longest living people in the world. The reason for that being is they eat primarily a macrobiotic diet, which is an alkaline diet to help prevent disease and it really is a great cancer fighter, which a lot of cancer patients end up eating this way. Now it is a little more time consuming and expensive to eat that way on a daily basis because each plate is like the perfect combination of raw, cooked, fermented protein. Like it has to be a certain way but it really works. So I try to eat those meals as much as possible, but I got really curious about it because for me growing up, I was a professional athlete growing up. I was an equestrian, I did track and field. I actually played American Football and back then I got away with eating whatever I wanted because I was so skinny and working out all the time
Levi: I remember those days too. [laughs]
Levi: And then 40 came along.
Niki: Yeah, and I remember when I was playing football people were like, what are your secrets? Like what are your diet secrets? I said, you don't understand. I'm eating like fried chicken after practice. I just look this fit because I train four and a half hours a day which normal human beings cannot do.
Niki: And I was in my early 20s. So later on I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's, hypothyroidism and I thought this is weird because my symptoms weren't as obvious as clients I was working with. Basically my hair just started falling out. And I my hormones got crazy and they kept saying we to put you on all this medication and I said, you know what, I'm going to monitor this with my diet, I don't want to take any medication, I want to just do this myself and then there were people who said, oh, you can't do that and be vegan. But I did and now I have maybe one flare up a year and I monitor all myself, just with how I eat. And it also kind of when you transition into feeding yourself a certain way, it helps you have a better emotional connection with yourself, to be honest.
Niki: Because it makes you think about, oh, how can I be good to myself, too? Kind to my body.
Levi: It's like eating becomes self care and I think there's a real psychological, you know, just when you're taking good care of yourself because like, I'll admit I had some pizza over the weekend because like the game was on, I was like man I just really want some pizza and a beer and so I kind of splurged and but I felt kind of guilty doing it. It's like, I knew that I wasn't taking good care of myself. It was okay, because, like, I don't do that every day, but the difference between that and like, eating a bowl of fresh fruit and whole grains, like it just feels like, wow, I'm really, I'm taking such good care of myself. I always think of the question for a lot of people. In America, in particular, if you tell them, hey, if you adopt a vegetarian or plant-based diet, you will extend your life by 10 years, you know? Like I was like, like Blue Zone diets, right? Like Loma Linda, I live out in Murrieta and I'm not far from Loma Linda. I drove to Loma Linda to go to their health food store. People in Loma Linda because it's largest Seventh-Day Adventists and vegetarian based they live 10 years longer than everyone else around them. You know like they live 10 years longer than the people in the you know Banning like right down the street because of that plant based diet.
Niki: There's a quality of life too. So much energy and one, so I was a pescatarian for about a year before I went full vegan. And the way it kind of started for me was I was raised really healthy. I was only allowed to eat pizza on weekends. I was only allowed to drink soda on weekends, because my dad was a professional athlete and my mom was a model and they both grew up and my mom is a marathon runner. So they both basically raised me to live a healthy, clean, organic lifestyle but still they didn't have a lot of nutrition education. And you know when I'd go to friends houses I'd eat all the things my parents still wouldn't let me eat. And you know what, Halloween and holiday is my parents, like do whatever you want we don't care. But I realized like, I would complain and then years later I realized, wait, my friends were always sick home from school and I was never sick. And I was actually jealous of people who had health problems and got to stay home from school because I was always freaking healthy. And um, so for me, living in New York York. When I first moved there, I was going to all these dinners and eating what everyone else was eating and all my life my mom told me, you have a dairy allergy and I said, no, I don't because I was so underweight when I was young. So I was growing, I'm very tall. I was growing so fast that I was just burning everything off because I was playing all these sports and eating tons of calories a day, but I had a runny nose all the time and I felt uncomfortable, my digestion was really terrible. And when I moved to New York, you know, I was like, oh, I'm going to these free dinners with all these models. And I'm just going to eat this like margherita pizza and I felt so crappy. And then finally, I was like, you know what? I'm just going to go hardcore Elimination Diet and I did that for a month, I actually went raw vegan, which is like, pretty extreme for me for, like, how I was living and I thought, okay, I'm going to do an experiment on myself. I'm going to cut all the bad things that could have negative effects on me for you know it could be two to four weeks for me. I did it for a month and then I'm going to introduce foods back in and just listen to my body, my body's going to tell me. I also at the time didn't even have health insurance and I don't want to spend the money to go and get all these tests done. I want to just figure it out and actually learn how my body functions well.
Levi: And sorry, how long ago was this that you did the whole reset?
Niki: This was 2011 maybe at this point. So . . .
Levi: How long were you raw vegan?
Niki: Oh a month.
Levi: A month, uh huh.
Niki: I personally and I tell this to my clients to0, I believe that we should pay attention to our heredity. So what your personal genetic makeup is of what your body is kind of used to eating. So, for example, I'm a white mutt as you would say I'm a mix of different European backgrounds, but I am not meant to eat raw vegan when I come from a mostly Irish background where I need heat. I need starch in my diet and I know that, you know, as human beings, we should think of it that way, where it's like, oh, if someone is say South American and they grew up in a tropical area, they could live a raw vegan diet, easily, and their body temperature will be like, totally fine. I had a nutrition client who was Russian and she went to an influencer on Instagram who did not have a nutrition degree, but had a large following as a fitness health influencer. This person told her to go on a fruit only diet to become a fruitarian. Now, sadly this client of mine actually had an allergy to citrus, so she's breaking out in hives. She's not able to lose the weight she wants to lose and doesn't understand because she's eating all this fruit. Well, she's Russian, she's not meant to eat a solely raw diet and we figured out that she could have some, like, some lemon was an okay citrus for her. Just took all the other stuff out and she changed in two weeks so I think we should pay attention to what our background is. Because while I believe plant-based benefits everyone, we should consider our bio individuality like your background is different from mine. Maybe our activity levels are different. You know, things like that.
Levi: I'm mostly Swedish, which probably means I need a lot more pickled herring in my diet.
Niki: [Laughs] Well, yeah. And, you know, fermented foods and you probably digest, you know, digest like grains really well because that's, you know, primarily what's from there. So, I decided to go pescatarian like pesca-vegan where I cut all the you know dairy out and I was still eating fish and then I thought fish was the only thing that was my real decision to stop eating. If that makes sense. My body had started rejecting red meat, like years before, it just didn't like it anymore. I realized later on that it kind of pertained to my blood type.
Levi: I was just going to ask what your opinion is on blood type and diet. I hear a lot about them. I don't know if there's any truth to it.
Niki: it. It's good to pay attention to that, I don't think modeling your entire eating pattern on that is a hundred percent true, but for me, I thought, oh, this does make sense I can eat lots of nuts and seeds and not as much red meat. So I cut that out and then chicken was something that was just boring to me. Like, I ate it all these different ways and thought I just don't care about chicken. So I'm just not going to eat anymore. And eggs, never were excited about, but I would go to someone's house and eat cookies that had egg in it, if I couldn't taste the egg. So that was easy for me to cut out. And then I watched a movie, while I was in nutrition school called Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead.
Levi: Seen it. Yeah, good one.
Niki: That changed me, because watching him change these people's lives, I thought -- I want to do that and that actually inspired me to go to nutrition school and start helping people.
Levi: I have a funny story about that movie I'll tell you in a minute.
Niki: Yeah, I'd love to hear it, so fish was the last thing because I was born and raised in Japan and for me you know I grew up eating lots of fish and that's part of my life's rice and fish was like my entire upbringing. So that was something that was a conscious decision for me to make, like I don't want to eat this anymore and I'm going to have to talk myself out of it. Then I started watching more documentaries and I did become emotionally attached to being vegan. But that was a later thing. I did it for health reasons first which is what actually helped me in my chef career because I have to cook meat for my job so I don't enjoy it and if I'm doing an event, I make my sous chef do it for me. But, I figured out a temperature control food where I don't have to actually taste it unless it's in a stew. So it's helped me with my culinary career. I find the most joy in tricking people into liking vegan food by making vegan dishes, and just not telling them.
Levi: Sure. Yep. Yep.
Niki: But, yeah, that's kind of, that's my journey to becoming plant-based. I've been vegan for almost ten years, and I will never go back. I will never ever like to eat animal products ever again, just because I mean, I understand people go through phases, like you went through phases like vegan was a period of your life but maybe you would agree with this: It's so much easier now because of the options, we.
Levi: Sure. Totally. Yeah, I was so I was a vegan for seven years kind of in my last couple years of high school which you know, I didn't do it for health reasons. I sort of did it because I knew that the industrial -- remember Adbusters that magazine back in the day and they were really big on like genocide against animals. And I used to read that stuff and just be like, I can't eat meat, I didn't read it for health reasons, I kind of just did it to be different. I'm really iconoclastic and it always just kind of always felt like I was like the only person in my high school that was like vegan, it was not a thing back then. And then I went to the University of Oregon in Eugene, which made it easy to be vegan, and there were a lot of great vegan restaurants. This is like around the year 2000, so it wasn't super hip to be vegan yet, but it was in certain parts of the country, like Eugene Oregon, it was pretty easy. And then I started traveling a lot and that's when I kind of got off of my veganism because I was like traveling through Latin America and it was just like impossible to be vegan. When I was staying at people's houses and they're preparing meals and I was like, okay, I'm just going to put a pause on my diet restrictions because I need to eat and I don't want to be like the annoying American who won't eat anything. You know, and they're like, oh, you're a vegetarian, like, yeah, we'll just have goats, you know, but Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. When you said that, that movie really impacted me, remember my mom. Me, and my mama are going on the same diet, fads like around the same time and she watched that documentary and she's like, hey, I'm doing a whole juice cleanse. I was like, right, I'm gonna do it too, and I was a musician at the time touring and I was touring across the U.S. on my way to play the Montreal music festival with my band. And I convinced half of my band, there's only three of us, to play a three-piece, so I guess not 1/2 2/3 of my band will do it with me. And so we were literally on the road, this was a terrible idea. We, I went and bought a juicer from Target and we were like in motel rooms juicing beets, it looks like there's like a bloody massacre had gone on. Like, we left every hotel room just destroyed with beet juice and we almost made it. We ended up breaking our fast in Montreal because they prepared us this incredible meal, French-Canadian, and I was just like, I can't turn this down. It was literally like this feast, like, out of like, you know, a feast for a king, and I was like, all right, fine. I'm gonna I'm gonna do this, but we almost, we basically broke it on one day but we're like I'll never forget being on tour like in the shitty van with, like our juicer in the back and we'd going to grocery stores from bags full of vegetables and like be doing are like, you know, savory juice blends in the morning and our fruit juice blends, like we had it all down. And I felt amazing and I wasn't drinking on that tour either. And it was like, wow, this is a huge difference because before I was like, I'd go on tour in a drink, a lot smoke, a lot just like indulge basically and I'd always be hungover in the next day and tired and was this constant -- by the time I get done with like a three-month tour, I'd I would need like a three-month vacation, just to recover and that little mini tour is only like, a two week, three week thing like really taught me, I was like, wow, this is amazing. If you go plant-based and don't drink. You could tour endlessly, you know, like you have the endurance to keep doing this endlessly.
Niki: So much energy. And it's it was weird because I mean, I live in LA now, which I lived here before and it's like the best environment for my lifestyle and my job because I work with people in Hollywood who are on, like the craziest diets, but when I was in New York, you know, winter would come, and people would be so depressed and have no energy and they'd say, I don't understand how you have. All this energy to do all the stuff. And I said, number one vegan, I'm eating a lot of plants number two your vitamin D deficient because we're on the East Coast where they were not getting a lot of sunlight. So you've to consume foods that are high in vitamin D or you know, supplement that way and I got all these people on vitamin D and all of a sudden they're like yeah our energies back. But I definitely remember when I first went full vegan my family thought I was insane, they thought it's like one of Nikki's phases, let's see how long this lasts.
Levi: That's usually the reaction people have.
Niki: Yeah, my parents made fun of me. I go to Holiday Gatherings and they would, you know, tease me like, oh, you can eat that and don't say I don't want to so I don't care. Like I don't feel like I'm depriving myself of something. I have no desire to ever eat any of that stuff again because the longer you're away from bad things, the less you want it. And I tell that to clients too, I'm like look, I have a lot of clients who eat me, they are not, I don't try to turn everyone vegan. I believe in leading by example. So when I say, hey, this changed my life. It's made my life better if you want to follow cool. If not, like, I can just give you advice on how to add more plants to your diet, because plant power improves everyone's life. But I would say, the more you add like the good organic produce to your life unless you're going to want fast food, the less you're going to want to eat bad things and going by how you were on tour, having all that energy, I went to a doctor and got blood work done and they were like, even your potassium levels are good. And I was like, oh thanks. And they thought that I was younger than I am. It was like I was aging backwards.
Niki: That's when I knew this is what's up.
Levi: Yeah, I've heard of that, you know YouTube you can find anything. But I have seen these people that have adopted a holistic lifestyle change. So, even beyond diet, but incorporating exercise, and meditation, and just really a complete 180 on their entire life and they reverse age. Like they'll be like here I am at 30 and I look like shit and here I am at 40 and I look like an athlete, you know. And it's like I literally like I have more energy than I did 10 years later. I look better, there really is -- the vitality that we get from what we eat. I mean, we are what we eat, right? I mean the old French saying is so true.
Niki: Completely. Yeah, I've seen it in -- I will say that I was a little nutty in the beginning because, you know, I was completing nutrition school and living this incredibly healthy lifestyle. I was a little nutty to be around because I was consciously thinking about everything I consumed it at a restaurant or anything, which made it hard for me socially, because I was so obsessed that I was constantly, I would tell, you know, my mom would buy her favorite coffee cream and I be like, you know, that that has like GMOs in it.
Niki: I don't, I'm not the person at the table like saying that to people, but to my family I was saying that stuff and then I realized I remember one day I was like traveling to an airport somewhere and I'm starving in there was like nothing for me. There was no, you know, juice bar or whatever. And I ate a bagel and I felt like crap. And I remember, I remember, I had this realization like, you know what, you need to live a life of balance. So that's how I live now, where I would say, like, 80 to 90% of my life I'm organic, super healthy. You know, very regimented, but socially, I'll go out and eat french fries because I believe that if you're like so perfect, a hundred percent the time. First of all, you can't lead a social life because you're surrounded by people who live a hundred percent the same way you do, which is not very realistic unless you live in the jungle or something. You aren't going to be able to go out to eat socially because for me you know as a chef like it grosses me out when I go to a restaurant. I think about the fact that the food is cooked with canola oil because it's cheap but you know it's full of chemicals. But am I going to make that stop me from eating a meal with my friends at a restaurant that's delicious? No, but when I go home I'm going to eat a hundred percent organic, regimented. So I believe in balance because if you're so perfect all the time, first of all you're annoying. And second of all, when you get into that scenario, like I had at the airport where I had one option and it made me feel like crap it's going to affect your body even more and so I say do the best you can most of the time.
Levi: Yeah. I think that's a more attractive message too, because kind of what I was getting a little bit earlier as I think a lot of the American diet is obviously so animal protein rich and I think a lot of people have made the mental calculation that I'm okay living 10 less years on this planet because I want to eat what I want to eat. And I've talked to people that have told me that straight up and I don't make that calculation. It's like, no, I would rather live 10 great years and not eat In-N-Out Burger 3 times a week, and if that's the trade-off, like, sign me up, like I'll just eat In-N-Out Burger one time a year instead of every week.
Niki: Exactly, I eat a vegan fast food burger like once a month and you know with like a shake and the fries like the whole bit, and for me I don't believe in it as like a cheat meal because I'm not cheating on anything. I'm just eating what I feel like eating. It's just about knowing that you have a healthy relationship with your body, where you're like, you know what, this isn't as nice for me, but it makes me feel good emotionally sometimes, but then you know, like you said about after you had pizza. I think that a healthy response to that is saying you know what, I want to do better this week because I know that isn't nice to my body, but at the moment it's what I wanted.
Levi: Yeah. It was good for my mental health. I think there's a mental health component to all this too because if you're always, if you're always being restrictive, and it's always, I can't, I can't, I can't like eventually you become the kind of person that nobody wants to hang out with. I mean, and that's not good for your mental health, you're going to be this perfect person and perfect isolation because only because you can't interact with the world because it'll knock you off of your you know thing you're on and that, yeah, that that's not healthy. And I think like if like you said, like you want to encourage as many people to be plant-based. It's like I want to encourage that too and I want to encourage people to use cannabis over pharmaceuticals, you know, that's kind of my passion issue. And that's kind of what I wanted to talk to you about too, I know you're a medical cannabis consumer, you're open about that and I think it's really important that chefs and people that, you know, are certified, you know, nutritionist, you know can talk about cannabis because there's very few doctors and nurses, you know, nutritionist that learn about cannabis, you have to learn about the plant on your own. So I'm curious how you got started with cannabis, if you want to talk about that and how do you incorporate cannabis into a healthy lifestyle?
Niki: Sure. So I started using cannabis, I grew up in San Diego. So kind of around me all the time. And so, I was actually 12 years old when I started using cannabis recreationally. And I remember noticing, I have ADHD and a learning disability and anxiety and OCD, the OCD I fixed when I was a teenager, but other stuff I don't even take medication for ADHD anymore because I actually use it to my advantage in my work. If I make sense like I just know how my brain works really well now so I just like I figured it out, but I remember just getting this sense of relief or I thought oh wow, I don't have my mind isn't running a million miles an hour, I'm able to just think of one thing at a time and it's helping me slow down, but you know, it was illegal, it's not like my parents could know. Did I get caught? Ya, a couple times, but they were like, hey, at least she's not like smoking crack. So I was doing that and then, but I never, I was always afraid because I thought, oh, there was so much misinformation about cannabis at the time. Now, this is the early 2000's like late 90's early 2000's. So there was a lot of misinformation where there's this typical type of person who was a stoner. So I thought, oh no, if I continue using cannabis, am I going to become slow and dumb? Because that's how they depict these people in movies because it's funny when really some of the most brilliant minds of all time were using cannabis up until like hundreds of years ago, you know. And so I was kind of skittish about it. And so, I never had my own. I would only use it recreationally with other people, then I got curious, because I had friends who say, oh, it makes me paranoid. I can't use cannabis -- then CBD became more of a known thing. That people were using that even as pets, they were giving it to their pets who had anxiety, you know, the droplets putting in the water.
Levi: That's big business.
Niki: It really is. I mean, I had a dog that had a heart condition and anxiety and we would put it in his water, he became so calm and chill. I swear it helped him live longer. And then I got a medical card and that was after I got off all medications because I was on antidepressants, anti-anxiety, all this other stuff and I thought you know what, I'm going to try to just see how much is the right amount for me. I'm going to experiment a little bit because I was kind of going in this blindly. Because as you, as you would probably agree, like when the cannabis industry really started booming, it was really hard to get formulations, right? And I don't blame people for that, but especially when it became legalized in Colorado, you know, someone would with cancer who needed like a hundred milligrams a day, would buy an edible and the dosage was wrong in that particular batch, you know, and it was very hard to control that and It took a lot of trial and error over years.
Levi: Yep. Yeah, the consistency with dosing. I mean, that's the one thing I like about regulation. And, you know, a lot of us that come from pre regulation, the traditional market, you know, I've been doing lab testing since Awakened was founded because I was giving products to cancer patients. I was giving products to my family members, you know, but not everyone was doing that. Even still not everyone does that especially in the CBD space. You know a lot I get a lot of questions about you know, what CBD product should I buy and it's like, well, just, you know, make sure that there are COA's that are fairly recent, you know, not more than a year old that you can call this company and actually talk to somebody about how the products are made. You know, there needs to be customer service, you know, they think these are psychotropic molecules that affect people differently and if things aren't labeled accurately, it can be really dangerous and it's really important that things are labeled properly. So I really like regulation for that. I'm pro regulation. I just for another topic I wish California would back off just a little bit. Just to give the small guy a little bit more of a chance.
Niki: I agree with that.
Levi: But it's kind of just the way it goes and we'll be up. We all kind of knew this was going to happen. It's just filtering out the unsophisticated operators and a lot of people in the cannabis space don't come from business, you know, including myself. You know there's not a lot of MBA's in the Cannabis industry.
Niki: I know. Yeah, I've noticed that we're also I love that you went in the CBD route because I avoid CBD products from companies that were a hundred percent THC forward first, like they came out with Edibles up and they thought, oh well in order to ship this Nationwide, we're just going to have to do a CBD line where like they don't really get it because they're not coming from a healing background, you know what I mean?
Speaker 1: And then you know, then there's like the venture capitalists that are like, oh well cannabis is the new thing so I'm going to invest in this dispensary and this and that we're like they don't really understand how the industry works, or how healing it is because they're just coming from obviously the standpoint of financial gain.
Niki: But it is an incredible business opportunity for anyone. I mean I tell people the most, but the approach that I would love more people to take is education. I think that we have so many products out of so many dispensaries, and I think there's not enough education, because to be completely honest, I have listened to cannabis forward podcasts. And when they don't have medical professionals involved, it is about getting stoned on a podcast and cracking jokes which I think that's hilarious and entertaining, of course, my dad used to hang out with Cheech and Chong like seriously, and I love that, but he didn't feel like a long time much later. But um but that also kind of messes up the visual that people have because as a woman I only have two female friends that use THC, almost everyone I know uses CBD. But, and the reason is because people would say, oh, I had an experience in high school that made me paranoid. And I would say, well how many years ago was that because now you can walk into a dispensary and say, this is how I don't want to feel. I don't want to have the munchies. I don't, you know, I don't want to deal with that. I don't want to be parked on a couch and they could say, oh this strain would be perfect for you and I tell people that I'm like, you can seriously go and like get exactly what you need. Now as far as dosage goes, obviously start small, so for me, I have gotten sick from too much THC and because I was living in Berkeley. I was in culinary school and it was only legal medicinally, and I decided to just try a little of everything and I was very sick. But after that I said, okay, so I know how much I can have now. Alright, this helps me function this way and I think that I wish more people came forward about using [00:33:35] CBD topically because I think it's the best for muscle aches like it's incredible as well as professionals around the country who are using it where you can still exercise everyday, get a ton done be super busy, be sharp and focused and use cannabis.
Levi: Yep. The topicals are kind of the gateway product. I always tell people that if you're really concerned even about ingesting a CBD isolate, you don't want to ingest cannabinoids out of a fear, you know, whatever. And my life partner is that way actually, ironically and I'm the super stoner and my life partner doesn't smoke at all -- anything, but she uses my topicals, I mean, that's where we meet, and a lot of people are like that, especially the older demographics that aren't going to roll up a joint and smoke, you know GMO, cookies and Do-Si-Do, but they have a backache and shoulder ache and cannabinoids are powerful anti-inflammatories as you know, how do you see cannabis in nutrition intersecting like . . .
Niki: I think that it helps so much with pain that I try with older people I've worked with who have health ailments, specifically cancer, and they need the pain relief. I don't say don't take medication, [00:35:12] but I believe in the marriage of eastern western medicine. So I say, like try using more of this and they're always going into it where like, I don't want to use cannabis, I don't that's wrong. I say no, this is CBD. It's going to help you a lot with your pain and don't worry you're not going to get high. And I can help you with that. And I wish that there was more of that used in holistic healing because there are cannabis chefs especially in LA, but they're more like party cannabis chefs. And I mean, to each their own, like, do whatever you want. I don't judge. It's just, I have found that from hearing multiple stories, about people who go to dinners that are cannabis forward. It's all about just getting high and they actually get so high that like they are seriously uncomfortable or they feel often they because every single dish they had was like cannabis forward where personally if I cook with cannabis and people ask for it, obviously I make sure everyone knows ahead of time. I will put a little bit in a desert, you know, or I'll say oh, this salad dressing has little CBD oil in it. They say, oh I feel really relaxed and good but I can still drive home at the end of the night and the way that it's marketed is like going to a stoner dinner, like, I don't even want to go to that.
Levi: Yeah me neither. Edibles hit me hard. I mean, I can smoke all day long, the strongest 35 percent THC strain and totally function, just fine. But if I eat -- 15 milligrams for an edible, is like my max. And like, I've had to prove this over and over with myself.
Niki: [Laughs] Me too!
Levi: Maybe today I can take a 25 milligram edible.
Levi: And even less, 15 mg is like max. In fact what I prefer is like my cannabis tinctures have one milligram of Delta 9 THC per dropper and like 9 milligrams of non-psychoactive cannabinoid and that's what I like.
Niki: That's a great combination you have. For me I base it on what the situation is going to be because I know exactly how to respond. And so for me, I don't need sativa because I already am like a highly anxious person.
Levi: You need something to bring you down a little bit.
Niki: Yeah, I like a hybrid or Indica. So for me, I'll say okay, so I'm going to a bar and as someone who doesn't drink, I'm going to have two and a half to five milligrams maximum of like a gummy or of a vape. And I know that that is the equivalent of the people around me who are having one to two drinks. Right? I'm going to feel the same way. We're going to kind of be at the same. I like when the vibe is similar in situations where everyone's kind of like vibing on the same level, so I'll do that. And then I say, oh, I'm staying home and watching movies. 10 to 15 milligrams, right? I'm going to a concert, okay like 10 milligrams because they'll make me dance around and have a good time but I don't want to be responsible. So I think people can kind of find like their magic number and if someone just doesn't like the effects of THC at all, that's okay. To each their own. I mean, I have friends who don't use it at all. So like I don't smoke pot in front of them, I'll just eat a little gummy, they don't even know.
Levi: Edibles are amazing for that reason. I think, you know, the pandemic, so in California, like the product category that just shot to the moon was Edibles. I mean, Edibles increased, I don't even know what the increase was. I think we'll know pretty soon once the data comes out, but, you know, a 30 to 40 percent increase in sales, something like that of Edibles. Flower did pretty well, some other categories kind of tanked, you know, pre-rolls tanked because, you know, normally people would buy a pre-roll and share it with people and obviously that wasn't happening during the pandemic, but people wanted edibles.
Niki: I will say I like pre-rolls because I'm a terrible joint roller or my friends do it for me.
Levi: No, pre rolls are great.
Niki: A glass jar at my house and like I'm launching a podcast cooking show and every time I have a guest over or even, you know, like my producer, my videographer. I just offer the jar to people and I say, hey, if you want some, you want one for the road also, I'm in California. It's, you know, we're in California we can do that. Just to let anyone from other states who are like, what in the world.
Levi: I'm coming over for dinner. [Laughs]
Niki: Exactly. I offered that. But if I know that there's someone who doesn't want to be part of that lifestyle, I just don't even put it in their presentation. It's because like I want everyone to feel comfortable but and I know as a chef I've even long before I became a chef I would you know be houses where there would be a private chef working and they would be like smoking a joint while cooking and usually is because I was at like a rock star studio or something and I was like, man, that's so cool because it because then they would tell me it's like oh yeah, helps you like get creative. I cannot use cannabis, I can use CBD before work. I cannot have any THC. I will forget what I'm doing. It messes with my timings. I have to, I actually have to be more anxious. So it's my reward to myself after work. You know, some people have a glass of wine, I'll have a little smoke and I do, I am very surprised that edibles increase in the pandemic. But I'm happy about that because I think that it helped a lot of people who had major anxiety in this pandemic.
Levi: Big time. Yeah.
Niki: And I didn't want to develop drinking problems.
Levi: Yep. Yeah. What a healthier alternative to drinking.
Niki: Certainly, I don't believe it's habit-forming. I mean, I have known people in my life who were like, wake-and-bake people. And I actually, I had an ex-boyfriend years ago who was a music producer and he said, I'm just used to doing that every day because I think it helps me be creative and I said, no, you're brilliant and creative on your own. You don't need that. He stopped and started, you know, using cannabis like a couple times a week and realized, oh, I'm a smart creative person on my own, but sometimes I could see how it could become a habit, not necessarily something that is addictive, if that makes sense?
Niki: For me I could go on a trip and not use cannabis for weeks or months and be totally fine, but then it's a little bit weird to be around people that are drinking a lot because I don't drink.
Levi: Yeah, I am a drinker, but I'm really leaning into giving it up just because I have alcoholism in my family. I've seen alcohol destroy people's lives around me, especially in the music industry. I mean, just absolutely destroy people and it's everywhere, you know, walk down the street, alcohol is -- we are very pro alcohol in America. I mean they're giving away free Budweiser if you get vaccinated, how ironic is that? [Laughs]
Niki: I saw that. It's strange, because what I have found is, so personally the reason I gave up drinking was because I firmly believe I have like an allergy to alcohol because I would go out and I would have one or two drinks because like I love the taste of wine and tequila and I would feel feel sick for like three days and everyone else would you know recover the next day and I just couldn't, I thought I don't like feeling this way and now I've talked to people and told them this and they're like, well I still drink though, like okay cool, like whatever I want to do things that make me feel really good. You know that my body feels good and I do believe that our society is centered around drinking because I gave up drinking when I lived in New York and that was when I actually attempted to drink because . . .
Levi: That would be tough.
Niki: I didn't have to drive anywhere. So I was like now's my time or I'm not the sober driver for the group and I can see what I like. Like, I attempted to drink alcohol and when I quit the amount of people who stopped hanging out with me or like, wouldn't even date me was insane. And I thought, wow, you must be really ashamed of your behavior if you're going to judge someone because friends who know me like all my friends drink except for me, I can go out to a club and, look like, I'm in my 30s now so like I don't really do this much, but I can go out to brunch or a restaurant bar, I can go out till 2:00 a.m. and I'm hanging out people drinking and I don't drink because I think, you know, when you develop a personality for yourself and you work on your social skills, like you don't need alcohol as a crutch like you really don't and I've seen it in so many people and I know that I think it's the thought of having a drink over the effects of the actual drink. Like you go to a restaurant with somebody, you've just gotten off work, both of you. It's been a long day. They order a glass of wine like, God, I need a drink, like I need a drink after this day. They start relaxing before the drink has even arrived. Because it's the thought of having something to help bring you down, when really it's in your head.
Levi: Right, pleasure, it's the dopamine actually peaks before you consume whatever it is, you know, they've proven this. It's the anticipation. It's how gambling is so effective. It's why the slot machines, there's this moment where you don't know what's going to happen because dopamine levels peak during anticipation. So the thought of having the drink after work is actually more pleasurable than the drink itself. It's kind of an interesting phenomenon.
Niki: You see those studies where people are given, you know, fake alcohol and they're like acting drunk.
Levi: They think they're drunk.
Niki: Yeah, no. I will say like, I've been in scenarios where the people are so boring that I'm like, man, I'm gonna get a little something. [Laughs]
Levi: Give me a double shot of tequila. [Laughs]
Niki: Exactly, but I love that what you're doing is all about having an organic background of developing products that are helping people medicinally and it's not feeding into like the mass productions of CBD that we're seeing where you may have like the original formula but then like people are adding all these harmful chemicals to it.
Levi: Sure. Yeah. My philosophy with the products I make is to remove myself from the equation as much as possible. I actually really admire French winemakers and growers because they have the exact same attitude. Yeah, it's not about how cool their irrigation system is, and whatever sprays they're using just like I do the least amount possible to my grapes and I just sit back and I listen to them. And if they tell me they're thirsty I give them a little water. You know what? You're not just dumping everything, you know. And in cannabis, this happens. I used to work at a hydroponic store and talk about up-selling and selling people, you know, snake oil. I mean the fertilizer industry is half snake oil and people are dumping all this stuff on their plants, chemicals, and spraying them.
Niki: It's horrible.
Levi: Totally unnecessary.
Niki: They don't realize it because they're like, oh, I'm buying, you know, they'll say, oh, Nikki, you're using a vape well I'm using green, I'm like, that's great. Do you know what's in the soil that grew that plant? Because like, I know that I'm using OG Kush in this oil in this pen because like, I know the growth that comes from where I also have, you know, friends in the cannabis industry, so like I know what's, you know, good clean products for that. But yeah, it really is about that and for me, I now have a garden at home where I grow a lot of my own food which I love because I create my own fertilizer in the soil and I know it's a little more tedious but like why spray chemicals on your plants and things like.
Levi: Absolutely. Yeah for my philosophy and all the farms that I sourced from, I have to know exactly what they're using and my rule of thumb is that nothing gets sprayed on the plants that you literally wouldn't spray yourself right in the face with.
Niki: I love that.
Levi: So that would be like food grade essential oils. A little bit of peppermint oil. You know, it does wonders for aphids and mites and it's a little bit of peppermint. You know, you would douse yourself with it. So that's my rule of thumb, if you didn't spray it on your face and it would be good for you then it's not going on the plants. It has to be high quality.`
Niki: You see these people wearing hazmat suits working in the fields and were supposed to eat that?
Levi: Yeah, I know. Well, the bottom line, you know, incentive is always there and with farmers too and you know, I come from cultivation and there's farmers always having a pissing contest amongst themselves about who gets the highest yield, it's a real thing. It's like, if the guy next door did 400 pounds, you gotta beat them, you know, and when you get into that mentality, you're willing to start cutting corners and you're willing to start adding things to the plants that do increase yield, but that are unnatural that are actually banned in other agriculture. But people use them in cannabis and I think we've gotten pretty lucky that nobody's gotten too sick because most of the people that grow are consuming their own products, so at least they're mindful of that, you know.
Niki: Of course.
Levi: Have you considered starting your own edible product line or are you already?
Niki: I have, but I was scared for a little while because as a chef like going that route people would say, oh do you make edibles? And I would say well what I do is I use someone else's oil and cook with it. Because I personally was like, if I, you know, if I had like a food scientist with me, that would be one thing but for me, I was like, I don't want to give someone the wrong dosage, right? Especially if it's THC and I would always give credit to the creator obviously. So if I'm making a dessert like I would buy a brand like caramel it would be like you know a THC caramel and I'll say oh I want to add this to these cookies. This would be cool. I would know exactly how much I'm using, but for me starting at square one, I thought that's a bit of a risk because like, what if I give someone too little or too much? So I kind of like to use oils that are already created or/or chocolates. But what I am interested in doing is what I've done with just CBD as well as THC is [00:50:52] herb oils which is really fun to cook with because you can like, you can cook with it, you can use it as a finisher oil, you can add different herbs to it so you could have the actual herb and then you could have like some basil. So you could make a basil cannabis oil as like a finish on a dish and it's a little bit more like a sophisticated product but you could do it to be cost-effective as well. So I'm interested in that for sure.
Levi: You're talking about like what I do, infusing the flower directly?
Niki: Infusing. Yeah using an oil either as a finishing oil making like salad dressings with it, things like that, which I think is fun. And also you can kind of like control the dosage better versus for me the thought of making a bunch of cannabis butter, right. And baking with it and not really knowing how much am I making? I don't know, because there's so many different types of chefs. There's like there's very few chefs that are ambidextrous and what I mean by that is like, Thomas Keller's one of those people who's like a phenomenal Baker and a phenomenal chef. Baking is more mathematical and it's precise because you have to get the measurements exactly right. Or it just doesn't work because it's science right now. I'm fascinated by that, but do I like making bread and cookies? No, because I'm more of a freestyle chef. I like to just say oh a little this a little that yeah, that tastes good but of course if I'm using I think something serious like obviously I care about how much I put into that, so I like having more freedom. So I never went the route of being serious about baking. I do it for my job because like I have to but yeah, there's different it's a little bit too, I would say it's more restricted in my opinion, where I like to just have fun in the kitchen and like, I create dishes all the time and I have to write them down to remember what I did because I'll make something even for work. And people be like, what is this? Like, I want the recipe, and I'll say, I don't even remember what I did. Well, I'm going to try to make it again and see and then one, you know, when it passes the test, then it's officially in my Rolodex of recipes. But yeah, I think that it would be great to have more products that can be used in the culinary world that are like low dosage, you know, maybe more like, CBD forward. Just so that a little bit is all you need.
Levi: That's one of the things that I think is from the king of the old drug culture, you make a batch of infused brownies, and you give it to somebody you want them to get too high. You kind of get off on that. You're like, oh yeah, I made that.
Niki: I made this mistake years ago, the first time I ever had edibles was brownies and oh my God, so embarrassing. But I knew they had cannabis in them but they were really delicious, so I just ate a few of them and then I was like, curled up in the fetal position.
Levi: [00:54:09] That Delta 11 THC, that's what happens, the liver enzyme converts THC into another cannabinoid called Delta 11. That is hundreds of times more psychoactive than Delta-9-THC, which is what you get when you smoke. That's why you get so much higher from an edible. Edibles are psychedelics. I straight-up think of edibles as psychedelics.
Niki: I love psychedelics, psychedelic plants because it's changed my life and I love seeing where my mind goes. But I have definitely tripped on edibles. The way I describe it to people that are new to cannabis, is I say, here's the thing, when you smoke cannabis, you can control the high effect.
Levi: And you feel the effects immediately.`
Niki: Yeah. And if mom walks in the room, you could just put it out, kind of like keeping your composure. If you have an edible, there's no turning back. So when you figure out how much you have, which is why I think I mean, I like IT but I'll buy a chocolate bar and say, like, well, that's really too bad this is delicious because I can only have one little square of it.
Levi: That's always the Catch-22.
Niki: I wish there was more of an edible route, where it was like things you could Infuse your food with. And if you ever want to create that, I'm happy to help you because of ways that people can actually use something without worrying about how much they're really using because it's more geared towards the flavor component, rather than like a bunch of cookies that someone is having.
Levi: That's where I'm, so I'm starting to make edibles for Awakened. We're going to be launching a gummy line this summer. And I have to say it's been really challenging because I want to make healthy medicinal products for people and I've focused on grouped a bunch of different gummies. Sugar-free, you know, vegan they're all going to be vegan, I'll never make a product that's not, but I've done the sugar free versus the super sugary gummies and everyone likes sugary gummies. Of course, you know. Yeah so it's like me personally I want to make the healthiest stuff but I have to run a business too. And my business partners are like, hey, this is what people want. Let's give people what they want. And then we can introduce other product lines that are for these niche markets that want healthy products. But what I see when I walk into a cannabis dispensary, is that right? All the edibles are sugar, sugar, gummies, candies, chocolate brownies, that's it. And I've kind of surrendered to the fact that that's just kind of what people want right now.
Niki: It's a comfort thing in a way.
Levi: Exactly, it's comfort and people need it and I get that. But I also, you know, I dream of having healthy edibles for people and maybe like the tinctures and the oils are kind of that I guess because you can take an infused oil like you're doing and have it whatever you want. Or if you have an alcohol-based tincture you know I love alcohol tinctures too. I have a THC tincture and I'll add it to like soda water, just like a couple droplets.
Niki: I've used it in flavored water and it's great.
Levi: Yeah. The tinctures are great but it's also hard to get people to buy tinctures. Like tinctures kind of fit into this like, you're a super herbal person like not everyone uses tinctures.
Niki: You're right?
Levi: People don't even know what tinctures are. You know, when you talk to a lot of people.
Niki: I have a bunch of my fridge and people are like, what do you put it under your tongue and it usually tastes horrible. I use chlorophyll but like my B12,there is a little fruit in it but it's still gross because it's like liquid B12. But I think that a good route that I've seen people going is like the gummy vitamin route where it's like kind of sweet because like it will have fruit in it, but it's not the sugar-coated desert style because you see parents giving their kids melatonin gummies, which that's great, but they are kind of habit forming. And I think that CBD is safe for children. So if there was a way to like, do CBD gummies for kids and also, you know, I think having one sugary gummy a day is fine.
Levi: Yeah, totally. I agree. And if it really is your medicine, you only take small quantities. It's not that big of a deal. [00:58:53] But let's talk about raw cannabis a little bit because yes, my, you know, my understanding of raw cannabis and all the anecdotal information I've collected. And what's out there is the the acidic cannabinoids CBDA and THCA, and CBGA, the cannabinoids that are actually produced by the plant are vastly more water soluble than THC and CBD, which are more lipid fat soluble and they enter the enter and exit the body quicker. So if you're consuming a THCA or CBDA based product, it's probably gone by the next day completely gone. In fact a lot of the studies I've read suggested it's gone in like 8 to 12 hours. So if you take 10 milligrams of cbda it's gone. This is one study, but whereas THC can stick, it can live in your fat molecules, for weeks, months, years, I mean, it depends on how much fat you have and how much you smoke. It's like I took a week off from smoking recently and I've been upping my running and it was like, I was getting high not only from the runner's high but from burning fat, I'm pretty sure that had THC molecules.
Niki: That's so interesting, I swear, I've had this feeling too, and I thought is that possible?
Levi: I think it is, I don't know if it's scientifically if that checks out, but anecdotally I've definitely experienced that. So raw cannabis really has a place. Talking to a chef, I always love it when chefs are A. aware of raw cannabis and then I feel like there's times when you want it to match, right? Like if I'm eating a raw salad and I want to infuse it, it makes sense to me to infuse it with raw cannabis like maybe chop up some actual cannabis leaves and toss them in microgreens style, maybe add a non decarboxylated tincture to your salad dressing and actually like showcase those acidic cannabinoids. And there's not a lot of people that are really hip to it, so I know I know you've used the hashtag, but what is your experience with raw cannabis? How do you incorporate it into your food?
Niki: Um I've used it more in raw sauces and dressings via tincture because I have tried like the extraction part because like I make my own nut milk so I thought oh I'm gonna, you know, infuse this break it down, like I recently created a truffle infused soy sauce, which I'm like obsessed with.
Levi: Yum, that sounds amazing.
Niki: It's so good. And, um, so I mean that's great but I realize I love creating things like that, but then I think about the fact that what I make at a job is usually more complicated and fancy, from the plating to the ingredients I'm using. But what I'm using in the dishes that I share to educate people is I want people to actually be able to make it at home, so I wanted to actually be something that's like on the east side. So most of the dishes that I'm sharing, I'm going to be sharing on camera books and everything is like 20, 30 minute dishes max, where people can actually like to do it with the limited amount of tools. Because not everyone can buy extractor machines or dehydrators and things like that. And I've experimented with hydrating and doing all that, which is super fun. But you think about like some of those machines are expensive and the other day, I came across this machine that looks like almost like a Nutribullet, but it's actually for cannabis, it's for it's an extraction machine where you can use it literally as a just a grinder, just a grind down the flower or you could do that and then you can you can blend it with liquid and use it as like an infuser so you can use it to infuse different sauces, which that's the route I'm trying to go.
Levi: That's awesome. What's that called, that product?
Niki: Oh gosh, I will have it, I have it on my phone. So I was just on the website.
Levi: Email it to me, I'll put it in the comments.
Niki: I'll email it to you, because, yeah, I'm really like, I'm going to buy one because I'm fascinated, oh Ardent, have you heard of Ardent?
Levi: Sounds familiar.
Niki: So otherwise with raw cannabis I've just used tincture and that I got from someone who's in the industry, who was like, hey why don't you play with this? So I basically was like I'm going to make some salad dressings with it and I found it to be wonderful.
Levi: Was that a THCA based product? I'm just curious,
Niki: I believe so. Yeah. And I was able to make it last a little while but I was like, I don't know how I can get more of this because I don't want to just. I would rather be something that I know comes from someone who understands how that works. And rather than just walking to a new dispensary, like, hey, I want to get some raw cannabis.
Levi: Good luck. I mean, unless it's one that carries our products or there's only a small handful of brands that are making acidic based products. I can name them on one hand. I mean Awakened. Fiddler's Green, Jade Nectar, Papa & Barkley and maybe there's one or two others that I'm forgetting, but very few companies, or even dabbling in it, mostly because . . .
Niki: A couple of those companies have sent me products before to try.
Levi: Sure, yeah I'm sure. And those are all great brands that I just mentioned. I endorse all of them. I think they're doing a great job. I don't see myself as being competitors with anyone in the cannabis space. I really see the only competition as the Pharmaceutical industry.
Levi: I see myself as on the same team as all of my brand competitors and we're all on the same team as in terms of educating people, but it's difficult when you walk into a dispensary and not all dispensaries are created equal, there are some dispensaries in California where the bud tenders are gurus on cannabis. I mean they really do a great job of educating them and then there are others where budtenders don't know what terpenes are. They like to smoke weed but they don't really take their job very seriously I think, because they really are kind of acting us as doctors, you know, it's kind of crazy people walk in, with real medical conditions, and they're talking to a 20 year old who'd like to start smoking weed? Yeah, who stoned and started smoking weed last year. It's not a good system that we have going in terms of getting the right products with the right information to the right people. There's kind of a direct to consumer movement and brands are actually like buying up delivery licenses across the state so that we can go direct to consumer but it's really challenging. You have to have a lot of money to do that. I mean, imagine . . .
Niki: I wish that there was a way that we could have specific pharmacies or have an attachment to hospitals, where there can be a safe place for people to go and get advice from real medical professionals in the cannabis industry.
Levi: There's not many, I've had a one on my show, you know, I registered nurse who does recommend cannabis and those are the people I'm trying to bring on to my podcast so that people can get good information because there's so much misinformation and I'm not a doctor, I'm not a scientist.
Niki: There's this chemist on Tik Tok, and I love her, because . . .
Levi: What's the name?
Niki: I think it's cannabis chem? She's on Instagram too, but she knows her stuff and I'm learning a lot just like watching her. And yeah, it's really interesting to learn more about and I think that I, like I said, I believe in the marriage of eastern western medicine but like my approach is [01:06:43] healing people with food, so that they take as few supplements and medications as possible. And I think that has a lot to do with cannabis.
Levi: Absolutely. I mean night, yeah. Getting people off of toxic, addictive and harmful prescription drugs and, you know, some I'm not 100% anti prescription drugs because some of them are valuable and I have friends with mental health issues that tell me without their antipsychotics and without the medication on their life would be miserable and so I always make room for that but I think especially in the pain management sector the pharmaceutical industry has clearly been you know drug pushers. They've been pushing these products that they knew were harmful and addictive and they did it with full knowledge and there's some accountability there, that's just starting to really kick in, but it's sad, you know, a lot of people lost their lives. And a lot of people have really painful addictions that they probably had they gotten better advice, maybe could have tried something else, whether it's cannabis, or a little microdose of mushrooms or you know, whatever it might be something, you know, [01:07:57] mushrooms, you know. Let's talk about mushrooms for a minute because I'm all about that too and that's kind of like the next frontier now. And you know, mushrooms there's a toxicity index, right? Mushrooms and LSD have a toxicity of like 0. I mean they're not toxic at all. Alcohol is at I think 91 or something like, really toxic? Yet we promote alcohol in our society and demonize, you know, LSD and psilocybin.
Niki: Real plants that heal people and I think that what was it in the early 1930s? When they started, you know, regularly, I mean cocaine used to be legal, right? It's crazy. I believe cocaine should never be legal because it destroys lives, but when you think about what psilocybin does? Well, it helps you think outside the box, think for yourself and it helps with depression. I mean, I have done it. Levi: Yes. PTSD.
Niki: Yeah. I mean, I've used ayahuasca multiple times in a ceremonial setting with serious shamans with multiple years of experience and it's changed my life. I didn't start experimenting with psilocybin until actually after that, I went straight to the most powerful, I'm going to try this though, but I have found that micro dosing psilocybin is incredible because I actually do it with my friends all the time because a lot of us will, you know, we will have high anxiety jobs and we don't want to hallucinate but we don't also a lot of my friends. I don't know if I'm rubbing off on them, but a lot of my friends don't want to drink as much anymore because they hang out. They see me having a great time and like never having a hangover and being happy. So we will microdose psilocybin to where we get like the positive antidepressant happy effect but there's no hallucination occurring, right? So it actually helps, I've sent emails for hours micro dosing mushrooms where I got so much done and I've written recipes. And then, you know, if I'm in a setting where I'm like, okay, I can block out this much time. I'm in nature. Like, yes, I'm going to eat mushrooms like the, you know, full force.
Levi: Yeah, tap in. yeah.
Niki: Yeah. Which you know, I find that to be like, a great, a great way that you know, there are people who I guess I would say use that as a party setting. I never went that route. I was offered it multiple times growing up and I always said, no, because I always thought, I don't want to be around a bunch of strangers, I don't know I'm in a vulnerable state. So when I started like, planning out putting myself in a position where I feel safe and secure and I'm around people that I know and trust, I have found it to be such powerful positive trips for me because I now can think consciously, like one New Year's Eve, for example, a girlfriend and I got an airBnB in the mountains. And we brought whiteboards and pens, we took copious amounts of mushrooms and we wrote down our New Year's resolutions and we had an intellectual conversation for like four hours. And I, when we woke up the next morning, I thought, like, did we make sense? Like I looked at the list and I stuck with every resolution.
Niki: And it was a complete it's because we won with the intention of having a positive educational experience and that's how I personally see psychedelics. I don't see them as drugs. I see them as an education.
Levi: Sure, yep.
Niki: To see where the mind goes. How you can get more in touch with yourself more, in touch with [01:11:51] God, whatever it is for you. That's just how my personal journey has been.
Levi: Yeah absolutely. I'm not shy about spirituality, spirituality is one of the pieces I want to explore on this podcast because I think if you talk about cannabis and plant based medicine and you leave out the spiritual component, you're doing a disservice because there is a spiritual component to it. I mean, let's face it, you know, call whatever you want, God the universe, whatever, you know, you do connect with a higher power, you connect with something greater than yourself, when you're on, especially that heroic dose of mushrooms, which I haven't done in a long time. I feel like I might be ready for one of those but it's probably been at least 10 years since I've gone on a heavy mushroom trip. I'm a part of my life you know back playing music and is a big part of that scene and I've kind of gotten away from that and been a little scared because I had I had a couple trips and sometimes there's if you depend on the state of mind that you're in, at the time you take it they can you can really work through some stuff that can be really painful and it's very healing. It's kind of intense, right? For me mushrooms have never been a party drug, they've always been in the service of -- I need to work through some stuff right now and so I'm going to take these in a conscious intentional way. I love that you brought white boards with you because how many times have I taken mushrooms and then gone? Man, I wish I could remember all these amazing thoughts I had. That's a brilliant idea,
Niki: You know, because you're tripping like I turn my phone off, you know, because like first of all, the screen is like to power I like it really bothers my eyes because I'm very sensitive to light and sound what I'm on, you know, any any sort of like psychedelic medicine. So I avoided that and I found just like taking a pen and a whiteboard was really great and I do believe that there's a real spiritual connection because where else can you see beyond what you see in your everyday life and feel more connected to the universe. Because like, I remember after first five times that I did [01:14:01] ayahuasca I went back to the city and was like noticing every plant around me and thinking wow, I feel connected to everything like I am one with everything and then it just made me have this new feeling of happiness and feeling like I belonged.
Levi: Yass, yes.
Niki: And I definitely never saw mushrooms as a party drug. I have microdosed before parties, because I wanted to dance and be happy and like have a good time, but I never wanted to hallucinate at a party and seeing how it's helping a lot of people I know who are actually sober, but they're like micro dosing psilocybin because it's monitored by a doctor and they feel safe and secure to do that and it's helping them with severe depression and I admire that.
Levi: That's where I mean, psilocybin is being fast-tracked, medicinally speaking right now because it's undeniable how well it works for treating severe chronic depression. I mean people that are like suicidal, they've tried everything and then they do a heavy mushroom trip with a doctor and they're like, not only are they they're basically cured like the, the from one mushroom trip and there are multiple studies that, that back this up from one heavy mushroom trip people are seeing results that lasts over a year. So you really only need to do one session per year. And people who have had chronic depression. I've had mild depression in my life for sure. I've never had severe destabilizing chronic depression but my heart goes out to those people. I mean what a horrible thing to be going through and then to have a medicine that's natural and safe and non-toxic that it can just give you some hope so that you can see a light at the end of the tunnel, that needs to be available for everyone.
Niki: Yes, so, recently, I'm all about being plant powered. I'm not I'm not a fanatic or like LSD. I mean, I've used LSD a few times and I don't like putting any sort of chemical in my body because, but I do see how it's helped people and [01:16:26] Deepak Chopra recently did a Harvard study where he went into like, Harvard lab took LSD, where it was all monitored and it like he saw, he saw things that he never thought that he could and thought oh, in controlled environment with the right intention. This can be a real healing educational experience. And I firmly believe that because I have met a lot of people in my life and I, you know, dated finance guys who have like entirely logical minds right and like I thought it was a cool balance because, like, I'm the creative artists, like, you're the logical one, like it's a balance, but they were so terrified to try psychedelics because they're like, I have to be in control, right? Like I have to always be in control. And I said, you know what, I used to think the same thing because I had a background of, I went through some very dark things and I had a lot of depression and I thought I don't want to have a dark. I was scared when I took those steps just like release control. Then I thought, oh my God, this is the most beautiful enlightening experience. And, yes, I see how it works depression because it makes you love yourself more because you're like, wow, look what look what I'm thinking and feeling and you don't feel alone anymore because you're like, wow, I'm connected to this, I'm getting these great ideas and I have found that releasing that control and taking that step. Now, someone is a little too scared to do that with their friends, whether the friends have experience with that or not, then you can find a way to do that in a ceremonial setting or with a doctor. Yep, you'd help you now, that's possible. But it really helps when you get that feeling of just releasing the control, it changes your life forever. Like you're saying for a year, like I think a lot of plant medicines like Ayahuasca stays in your system for nine months and I definitely feel that for that amount of time and I personally have not have not hallucinated on mushrooms in, I don't know like two three months just because -- I just haven't, but I've microdosed more recently and cannabis is something that I use when I just feel it because I remember when I used to go to a psychiatrist and I just wanted to talk to them about my day and they would say oh you're I'm trouble sleeping, we have a pill for that. Oh, you're having anxiety. I said, can I just be human and like to talk to you about my day and try to resolve that from an emotional standpoint rather than just medicate.
Niki: And I found that if you know, if my mind is racing at night, I'll put some CBD in a drink or, you know, I'll take a little. Now they make these little gummies that are for sleep which is amazing. They knock you out, but you know I get help the other way where I don't feel that it's not habit-forming and I'm not on a bunch of pills. It's excellent.
Levi: Yeah. No, absolutely. I mean, we're very lucky to be in California. I mean, I don't think a lot of people realize, especially you know, if was sounds like you've lived all over the place from San Diego raised in Japan kind of grew up on the East Coast a little bit, you're bilingual, your bicoastal, which is rare and cool because you probably have seen kind of both sides, I mean New York and the east coast is the new Mecca for cannabis, I mean, I really hope New York does it right. I mean, they're legalizing right now and I hope they do it, right? I don't know what that means, exactly, but if they learn from Oregon, Washington, California from our mistakes, and they're been plenty and do it in a way that's equitable and Just in respect to the plant. You know, that's really my thing. Let's just not treat cannabis like another commodity. I'm going to sound like a super hippie here, but like, it's a life force. The plant is a very magical being, it's an intelligent life force.
Niki: It is.
Levi: I mean if anyone spends time around.
Niki: When you see how it works with the human body It's absolutely fascinating. It's meant for us.
Levi: Yes, it is.
Niki: But we need to respect it.
Levi: [01:20:55] And what came first, you know, our endocannabinoid system, or did we develop an endocannabinoid system because we were using cannabis, I've talked to chemists and doctors about this and we don't know the answer to that question.
Niki: Yeah. I mean, they show like ancient Egyptians using cannabis.
Levi: Right. We've co-evolved with the plant and I have a super crazy theory that I'm just going to throw out there so you know what kind of guy I really am? [01:21:21] I have a theory that humans are actually from another solar system. We came here a long time ago, we seeded this planet and we brought certain plants with us and I think mushrooms and cannabis were certainly two of those plans. I have no proof that this is just my crazy, you know hippie conspiracy theory, but it makes sense to me that if humans know if Earth is going down and we need to recolonize what are we going to bring with us? We're not going to be able to bring a whole lot on the spaceship. We're going to bring a couple of our favorite plants. We're probably going to bring wine or probably going to bring cannabis and mushrooms and some of the we're going to mostly bring the healing plants, you know, we're going to bring the staple food commodities that we need the grains and the Barley is and then we're going to bring the sacred medicinal plants like that, you know, as humans, we need that.
Niki: And healing herbs things like that. Yeah, I've thought of that theory as well. Because, you know, it's interesting, you bring that up because I remember when I first went to Peru for an Ayahuasca retreat and I thought my God the Amazon is huge, were they really consuming every single plant and thinking, oh, this kills me. Oh, this makes me feel good. I believe we had this prior knowledge that came from somewhere, because if you, if you actually, if you read up on like what Ayahuasca is that, it's actually like, there's one there's different species of plants that you kind of married together to create like the actual final result and different countries in South, America kind of do a little slightly differently and I thought my gosh, like, how much time were we really spending in the jungle experimenting? Cooking in a certain way, consuming in a certain way, knowing it had to be done in a spiritual way. Like I believe we had this prior knowledge and then when I met the shamans who had over 30 years of experience with the plant one spoke English, the other did not, and I thought they have this sort of super power because they are able to communicate with the spirit of the plant.
Niki: Doing a plant ceremony of any sort when people say, oh I'm gonna go like smoke some DMT this week and I'm like, that's cool, but that's not how I roll because I want to show love and respect for my body and the plant by doing it in a ceremonial setting where I've actually been very interested in trying psilocybin this way, because a shamans job is to make your trip a positive experience because they take the plant with you. So whether it's peyote or ayahuasca or psilocybin, whatever it may be, they will help guide you and keep you safe and keep your mental state in a positive and may keep your positive, keep you positive and I found that through my, you know, journeys with Ayahuasca And then I started thinking that way about psilocybin like we're we really taking all these poisonous mushrooms for no reason just to like get a high. When there is sea life, there's dolphins that consume certain types of jellyfish, because it has psychoactive effects on them and it's fun and it's interesting for them and you know, they are great, they're very smart animals.
Niki: And so I've thought this way too and I've wondered because cannabis is well, it's like we had a knowledge of how to use this plant. And while we did do some experimenting of course, as all humankind has like we created fire, how did we do? You know, we figured out how that works and all that, but I do think we had prior knowledge when we came here, as well as the different herbs that, you know, I use in food. Like people say, oh, how pretty your dish is garnished with parsley. And I'm like, you do realize, like not only does it work flavor-wise but parsley actually helps you digest the food better. It's better for you and, you know, mint is good for your teeth. Like there's reasons why I do things in my dishes that It's not just about like, oh, it tastes good, and it looks pretty. It's like, no actually has multiple healing benefits.
Levi: Right? That's cool. When it all kind of comes together. And I know when I've read Anthropologist that have interviewed [01:25:42] these medicine men, and shamans, and ask them, how the hell did you figure out that the root of this plant when combined with this one, boiled to this temperature, ground up into a powder and then processed? And it's like, how did you guys figure this out? They always say the plants told us. And, and I think that's true. I mean, if my alien theory doesn't pan out, I think that it is just simple. They're just more in tune with nature, you know. Just go hiking for like a couple days in a row and you'll start to tune in with nature in a way that kind of brings you back to I think that that ancient connection to plants because plants are here for our benefit, right? Like there are some plants that are poisonous, yes, and you don't want to eat those, but typically those plants don't smell that great. Like usually the plants that are good for us are attractive and smell good. Not always you know there's some that are just a little bit deceitful, but I don't think Nature's like trying to get us. You don't want to touch a cactus. It's prickly but like it lets you know you know like it's also it's spikey it's not trying to lure you into something, you know.
Niki: Yeah. And I firmly believe in the way. I mean it wasn't until I moved to a place where I could start growing my own flowers and vegetables and herbs. Like I go and I check on my plants and I touch them. And I talk to them as soon as I play music when I'm like, reading a book by my plants, and I firmly believe that like the energy shifts, because I've also like, you know, had even having like different, you know, like I get flowers as gifts and if it's from like a positive person, the flowers last like significantly longer, weird and then the other ones will just like die right away. And also you know like I'm big about, you know, using sage and things like that. If you think about it, it really is clearing energy. And it's about us like the plants are here for us. And like I think we take advantage of it too much where I think the more that we 're saying like stop and listen and pay attention to them and learn about it because it really is so helpful.
Levi: Yep. [01:28:06] And their teachers and like what the work you're doing with food, that's like the most perfect example of it because we have to eat and if we choose to interact with our food source in a more intelligent manner, it's going to give back to us in that way. I mean like literally you could look at diet and intelligence and I'm sure that there's a clear line I know, there is with class but there's also, you know, and I don't mean education intelligence, I mean like life intelligence, you know, like how to live well and be happy and content like there's that's the greater, you could be, you know, all the PhD's in the world and be miserable, you know. I want to, I want to be a person that approaches life intelligently, you know, and is conscious and sentient and sensitive to the world around me and not desensitized to everything because once you're desensitized, you're just kind of on the treadmill, you know, and you're going to just go whatever way marketing polls you. If they want you to be afraid you know Facebook's algorithm is going to pull you in this direction and that direction and we have to interact with the world but if we can just try to do it in an intelligent manner and I think [01:29:16] the food that we consume in the type of food that we consume and how we consume it really defines who we are, I mean just kind of go back to that, we are what we eat. I really truly believe that because you're going to what you consume it's what your brain power is going to be fueled from, every thought, every action is going to be influenced by that source material. And if you're eating animal products from factory farms and the animals were terrified and you know, who knows? I mean you're taking that energy.
Niki: You're taking on that stress.
Levi: Yeah, I think that's really real. I know we've gone over and I did not realize that so much time has gone by. It's been really fun talking to,
Niki: Of course, it's been wonderful. I'm glad that we share so many of the same opinions and I admire what you're doing very much.
Levi: Like Niki, absolutely. Just on a closing note, are there any cannabis or hemp products you recommend or that you're using, and I'm not looking for a plug for Awakened, but I'm just really curious if there's any products out there that you recommend.
Niki: Um, I really like the route that there's a company called Dosist. So they now make vegan Edibles, that are lower in sugar. But I actually have introduced cannabis to people through the specific products solely because they now have the THC plus line of a disposable pen. But they also have mostly CBD powered pens. So . . .
Levi: And Dosist has a precise dose, right? That's the whole thing with the pen.
Niki: If somebody just wants to try something that is majority CBD and they want, like, the sleep and the stress relief. I say like, try this pain, because, you know how much you're having is it vibrates when you take a hit and I like that because it's a good way for people to ease into using that because some of the Vapes, like, the ones that I normally have are like, very powerful.
Levi: The OG KUsh.
Niki: I use the, yes, I use the Aircraft line which my best friend turned me on to, because she works in cannabis and it is actually the cleanest smoke. So you will emit the least amount of smoke and it's very clean and it's also, it's a sophisticated looking pen. It's actually before Apple shut it down, it was connected to an app that would actually monitor what your personal preferences are, how much you consume. And when you need to kind of top off and I loved that because it was like a monitor saying, hey, we've noticed that, you know, you like this oil that we put it in this pen and such and such. So, I would say, for beginners, I like the Dosist line because you can choose if you want it to be CBD forward, THC forward, and now there's the vegan gummy line, which I find delicious. I think the Sleep ones are great for sleep.
Levi: And those that do have CBN, do you know?
Niki: I'll look into it.
Levi: That's a big cannabinoid for sleep.
Niki: I ordered all of them. I ordered one of each because I was excited that they're finally making vegan gummies.
Levi: That's awesome.
Niki: Because otherwise, you know, I buy like a vegan cookie and it's like, it does the job and it's not that.
Levi: Right. Well, I'm definitely going to send you some of our, it's going to be a full spectrum CBD gummy line that I'm coming out with.
Niki: Fantastic, I support that.
Levi: I'm starting with like, the fun stuff, like, tropical inspired flavors. Yeah, my real dream is to make a superfood gummy line with like goji berry's and mullberries and golden berries and like the super healthy gummy like sugar-free, natural fruit juice, that'd be the only sugar and added sugar. There's just more R&D required for that. It's a little harder to come off the shelf, but yeah, we're doing a passion orange guava gummy that we're going to launch next month and then like a blackberry lime and just some really fun flavors. So it's going to be like my fun product that isn't just 100% medicinal, even though, of course it is medicinal, but um . . .
Niki: I can't wait because people love that, it's so much easier to consume gummies and you know, especially if there's the ones that are like child safe, I love that. I mean, if I don't want to travel with my B12, like I take these Ginger, B12 gummies that tastes way better.
Levi: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Niki: Also my love that you're doing that with CBD, that's so cool.
Levi: We're going to start there just because it's easier to get products to market, but I want to do a THC infused gummy line too. I found a manufacturer in California that does all vegan Edibles. So if you're ever interested in starting inaudible is line, let me know because I'm kind of I've done some of the leg work on finding the right producers, the right manufacturers that do operate at a very high level, very high quality, all vegan, kosher really, really cool stuff.
Niki: Good to know.
Levi: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for coming on Head Change. How can people find you Niki?
Niki: You can find me on Instagram @holisticchefniki and it's Niki with 1 K because it's not short for Nicole. My Twitter is the same and my website is HolisticChefNiki.com. And stay tuned for my new podcast cooking show called Laurel Canyon Kitchen, which is coming out this month.
Levi: Awesome. I'm definitely going to be tuning in for that. I love the name.
Niki: We'll love to have you on my show.
Levi: Please. That would be amazing.
Niki: Awesome, we'll figure that out.
Levi: All right, sounds good.
Niki: Thank you so much for having me today.
Levi: You too Niki. Alright, take care. Have a good week.
Niki: You too, bye bye.
Levi: Thanks for joining me today on Head Change, the podcast that puts you in a better headspace. I've been your host Levi Strom. Full transcripts of today's episode are available on our blog www.awakenedeveryday.com. If you'd like to listen to more podcasts like this, you can join the conversation on Anchor FM and YouTube. Until next time, peace.