“Hemp isn’t a scary plant—it’s just a plant!” declared Samantha Savoca. She’s spreading the word of the benefits of cannabidiol oil, or CBD, a product derived from hemp, through her shop, Meditative Medicinals (123 W. German St., Shepherdstown).
While hemp (Cannabis sativa) is commonly associated with marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—the chemical responsible for the marijuana high—is only one of many related chemicals (cannabinoids), including CBD, in Cannabis plants. Various strains of Cannabis contain varying amounts of THC, and agricultural hemp contains a negligible level.
Hemp has been cultivated for thousands of years as a source of fiber for textiles, paper, and rope, as well as for oilseed. It was also widely used in folk medicine. Hemp was grown in the USA starting in the 1600s but was restricted by a heavy tax in 1937, thought to have been due to well-connected commercial interests fearing competition. In 1970, the Controlled Substances Act declared all forms of Cannabis, including hemp, as Schedule I drugs, making clinical research into medical uses of Cannabis nearly impossible.
It wasn’t until 1963 that the effects of CBD were separated from THC. Studies on CBD for treating epilepsy were conducted through the 1980s. In 1996, California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana and encourage research into CBD. Personal anecdotes told of CBD helping a host of conditions including seizures, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and pain.
In 2014, Congress passed the Farm Bill, allowing states to begin hemp research pilot programs. West Virginia started with a few selected farms, and in 2017, expanded to allow cultivation of commercial hemp (0.3 percent or less THC). In 2018, Congress legalized hemp production nationally. West Virginia law now requires licensing for hemp farmers, but it isn’t required to handle, transport, or sell hemp products.
A New Path
Originally from Kentucky, Savoca moved to Colorado, where she worked in the legal marijuana industry. She became interested in CBD in 2015 when the loss of her brother to opioids left her suffering from anxiety, stress, and depression. Not wishing to look to pharmaceuticals, she tried a CBD honey stick and was pleased to find it helped to relieve her anxiety. She shared this discovery with her mother, who was also suffering, and found relief.
It set her on a new path. She switched to growing hemp four years ago, including growing hemp seeds for farmers, and learned more about the healing qualities of CBD.
“I have a knack for cooking and infusing,” she said, “and I started in my kitchen, making things for family and friends. They liked them, so I started an online business.”
She and her fiancé, Noah Wells (from Tennessee), moved to West Virginia last year because hemp is legal here and they’re closer to family. Wells, a Cannabis breeder for ten years, met a local hemp farmer, and he was hired as a consultant.
“We’re now a team,” Savoca indicated, “growing hemp from seed to retail. This is my first brick-and-mortar store.”
To that end, she makes CBD tinctures, topicals, and personal care items like bath bombs. She even makes CBD-infused dog treats that may help dogs with joint problems, panic during storms, or separation anxiety. She also offers a few products made by people that she knows. Edibles, including caramel, suckers, Rice Krispy treats, gummies, and honey sticks are made locally. A Tennessee friend makes Appalachian Alchemy brand organic insect repellent, yoga mat spray, and mushroom elixirs.
Conveniently located in the heart of downtown Shepherdstown, and open Thursday-Sunday, 11am-5pm, the shop also carries a blend of CBD-infused coffee that shows a calming effect that can be beneficial for someone who loves coffee, without the jitters. Savoca cited a customer who’d suffered with eczema for 30 years, who surprisingly had one of the worst cases reported at John Hopkins hospital. After three weeks of taking Meditative Medicinals’ 1,000mg CBD Full Spectrum oil for inflammation, the customer testified that the condition had cleared up.
By law, Savoca can’t make any health claims for CBD products, and her products are not subject to FDA regulations, but she can discuss her personal experiences and those that her customers share.
Her CBD tinctures are formulated as isolates or full-spectrum, in 300-, 600-, or 1,000-mg strength. Savoca explained that Full-Spectrum CBD is whole-plant extracts that contains a legal amount of THC and other cannabinoids that can be a benefit for pain management and sleep disorders. Isolated CBD is pure 99 percent CBD without any THC. The effects of the formulations can differ for individuals.
“Full-spectrum containing the trace of THC can have a more relaxed effect in the body, similar to a muscle relaxer,” she said. “It can be better for pain management and sleep disorders because it has more of a calming effect in the body. I personally take CBD for stress and anxiety and take CBD isolate in the day. I offer it to customers who suffer from stress and anxiety without a lot of pain, or consumers who are going to get drug tested and can’t take CBD Full spectrum—with its trace of THC.”
Savoca advises people to try both full-spectrum and isolates to see what works for them, starting with 10-mg per dose. All tinctures are bottled with enough for a month.
“I send my products to a laboratory, ProVerde, in Massachusetts, for testing—to be sure there are no heavy metals or contaminants … to be sure it is what we say it is,” she assured.
Her best sellers are tinctures and topicals. “The most common complaints are all types of inflammation in the body—back pain, joint pain. Many people are unhappy with the result of pharmaceuticals—they’re afraid of pain-killing opioids. People ask what’s the best way to get CBD into the body. It depends on what you want it to do. Sublingual (under the tongue) tincture works from the inside out. Topicals work from the outside in.”
Savoca stressed that it’s important to know that hemp and marijuana are both Cannabis and contain both CBD and THC, but her products are derived from the hemp plant. CBD comes from hemp, bred to have only a minimum amount of THC. However, even the legal trace (0.3 percent) of THC found in full-spectrum can show up on a drug test when taken for long periods of time. For this reason, she advises anyone like law enforcement, medical personnel, and others subject to employment drug testing, to stick with CBD isolates.
“I consult with customers for free and explain what they would be taking,” she said. “I like to get to know my customers without getting too personal. This is a safe place to come sit down and ask questions. It’s a place to learn, not just a place to buy CBD.”
Both Savoca and her mother, Gigi, who helps out from time to time, believe in the products, enjoy sharing their knowledge, and hope to continue to benefit their customers.
— Find out more at the above link and by visiting Meditative Medicinals on Facebook.