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February 10, 2023

As a former cytotechnologist, Hiegel was familiar with the medical field, but as she learned more about medical cannabis, she became fascinated with the research on its uses in medical treatment. We spoke with her about what initially introduced her to medical cannabis and the misconceptions surrounding it. 

What pushed you to write this book?

I had a friend who was applying to open a medical marijuana facility, and I felt that she should have medical protocols for the diseases or conditions that were listed for our state. I started reading on the internet and thought this was a miracle drug. I later met Dr. Joe from California at a meeting in Arkansas, and he introduced me to the world of PubMed. With each article I read, I felt there was much more to learn about cannabis.

What kind of research did you do for A Microscopic View of Medical Cannabis?

I read as many articles from PubMed and other journals as I could find. I also bought medical cannabis books and read these as well. Many of these are cited in my book. My partner, Dr. Brian Nichol, started using some of my research for individual diseases and was getting promising results with his patients. Much more research is needed to fully understand cannabis. I used the articles I could find to come up with the protocols, but my research was still limited to what type of cannabis was being used or tested. With all of us working together, we can either prove or disprove which cannabinoids, terpenes, or flavonoids work together most effectively for individual diseases. I feel my book is a starting point to finding individual cannabis treatment plans for patients. 

What do you think is the most common misconception about medical cannabis? 

One of the most common is that the higher THC chemovars are the best for treating patients. In doing research, I found that Chemotype III with high CBD and low THC was effective in treating many illnesses. The higher THC caused more unwanted side effects for many patients who just wanted relief from their symptoms rather than the higher euphoric effects. In fact, daily use of cannabis with high THC levels can cause reversible vasoconstrictive syndrome, which leads to ischemic strokes. They usually start with severe headaches known as thunderclap headaches, which come quickly and can last for several hours. They are usually temporary, but in some cases, the symptoms can last for years. This is rare and doesn’t happen to everyone, but when that one person is you, it can cause severe changes to your life. Needing high THC is the most common misconception about cannabis that I can think of.

Why do you think this book is particularly relevant now?

Because so many people still use the terms “Indica” and “Sativa.” It’s not helpful for me to use these, because of the inbreeding of the plants over the years. Looking at a plant tells me little about the genetics of that plant, but having a cannabinoid and terpene profile gives me much more information to use for a treatment plan. Take, for example, treating a patient with esophageal cancer with HPV involvement; high THC causes these types of cancers to grow faster rather than causing the cells to die. I need to know this type of information when developing a treatment plan, not what the plant looks like.

What’s next for you? 

More books. My son is in culinary school, and I hope that he and I can write a cannabis cookbook. I earned an early childhood and elementary degree and previously worked with childcare centers, so I’ve written three preschool science books covering anthropology, geology, physics, chemistry, biology, meteorology, botany, and other branches of science. I hope to publish these soon.