October 18, 2019
Dr. Aimée Gould Shunney, ND is a naturopathic medicine advisor for PlusCBD Oil, a company specializing in high-quality hemp extract products. Read our interview with her to learn how she got into naturopathic medicine, her favorite PlusCBD Oil product, and the five things to consider when buying a hemp extract product.
Naturopathic medicine found me while I was looking for something else entirely. I have a B.A. in psychology, and after I finished college, I went to work for several organizations that were meant to support children and teens coping with mental health and behavioral challenges. The vast majority of them had experienced abuse or witnessed a loved one being hurt, and many came from unstable homes surrounded by drugs and alcohol. It was heartbreaking. These kids had the deck stacked against them—and the system charged with keeping them safe and helping them become healthy adults (the system I was now a part of) had a very specific formula for doing so: heavy-duty medication and talk therapy. I left after three years feeling exhausted, discouraged, and frankly, outraged with the limited tools these kids had to get well. I was convinced that there must be a better way to support a person’s journey to health, and I hoped that I could find a holistic counseling program that embraced these ideas.
Turns out that I was ahead of my time! Those types of degrees are abundant now, but in the mid-90s, they were nowhere to be found. Fortunately for me, I found something even better. While researching, I discovered naturopathic medicine (something I had never heard of) in a book. It was exactly what I was looking for—the best of the modern medical model, alongside rigorous training in nutrition, lifestyle medicine, and natural therapies. It made so much sense to me: a system that honors the connection between mind, body, and nature, and encourages collaboration and an exchange of ideas between doctor and patient. Finally, a path to healing!
I specialize in women’s health, including menopause management, painful and irregular periods, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and sexual pain and dysfunction. But I treat everyone! Fatigue, sleep challenges, depression, anxiety, allergies—you name it. I also do a lot of work with thyroid optimization, stress management, and digestive health, including small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
Four years ago, I was encouraged to look into hemp extract—or cannabidiol (CBD), as it is commonly called—by some dear friends who also happened to be industry colleagues. They had recently started working with PlusCBD Oil, and were interested in bringing me on board as a naturopathic medical advisor. At the time, cannabidiol wasn’t on my radar at all, but my friends were persistent, and because I respect them so much, I started looking at the research. Needless to say, I was intrigued. So, like any good naturopathic doctor, the first thing I did was try it on my husband. And it worked! When I met him, he had a long history of waking in the middle of the night and having trouble getting back to sleep; taking hemp extract helped him sleep through the night again. It also allowed me to get back to sleep easier, something I had not done well since my son was born. Over time, I also found it improved my ability to manage stressful situations. At that point, I was really eager to share these experiences with my patients, and I have been doing so with great success since 2015.
Joining the PlusCBD Oil team was a no-brainer at that point. Not only did I believe in the products through my own experience, but I knew that if these particular people mentioned above were involved with the company, it would be a business run with integrity and an eye towards exceptional quality products. PlusCBD Oil has more than lived up to my expectations in that regard.
What impresses me most is PlusCBD Oil’s commitment to being the trusted authority in the field. Let’s face it: It’s still the wild west out here in the hemp extract/CBD world. This team continues to set the bar for excellence and motivate the rest of the industry to follow in kind. They are involved in every step of production and distribution, use globally verified agricultural hemp seeds, and provide scannable QR codes on all products that allow consumers to easily see CBD and THC content, as well as purity. It’s also the only company to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of their products in peer-reviewed publications. Honestly, I’m so proud to be a part of the team.
My role is a cross between hemp extract educator and PlusCBD Oil spokesperson. I present at medical conferences, as well as trade shows all over the country, and will sometimes offer trainings for health food store retailers or pharmacy staff. If doctors have questions about starting with hemp extract in their practice and reach out to PlusCBD Oil, often they’ll end up talking to me. I also do radio interviews; write articles for medical publications, as well as retail and consumer magazines; and provide social media support and content. It’s a very fun job.
I think the most common misconception is that all hemp extract oils are interchangeable. This could not be further from the truth.
Here are some tips to choosing a high-quality hemp extract product:
1. Sourcing: Look for “seed-to-shelf” operations that oversee the entire manufacturing process and use non-GMO globally verified hemp seeds.
I worry about the “Made in the USA” craze in the industry right now. It’s a sexy tagline, but keep in mind that it has only been fully legal to grow hemp, extract its oils, and ship products made from it across state lines since late December 2018. While more domestic production can be expected moving forward, many companies will choose to continue importing hemp because of other countries’ long history growing the crop and vast experience with farmers abroad. As this industry develops in the U.S., I believe it’s vital to focus on sourcing, testing, and extraction methods. These are far better indicators of quality than country of origin.
2. Third-party testing: I mentioned this above. Proof of cannabinoid concentration (making sure there are high enough levels of CBD and negligible levels of THC to avoid psychoactive effects, etc.) and absence of harmful contaminants (pesticide/solvent residue, heavy metals, molds, glyphosate, etc.) should be easily accessible.
3. Gentle extraction: The preferred method is a chemical-free, CO2 extraction to ensure product stability and quality. CO2 extraction is environmentally friendly, nontoxic, and generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA.
4. Full-spectrum hemp oil (FSHO): Choose full-spectrum hemp oil versus isolate, distillate, or products labeled “pure CBD” or “no THC.” Full-spectrum means it includes numerous cannabinoids, including a small amount of THC in keeping with the legal definition of hemp, plus terpenes, flavonoids, essential fats, plant sterols, vitamin E, and chlorophyll, which also have health-promoting properties. Isolates seem to require much higher doses, and have been associated with CBD-drug interactions.
5. CBD content: Labels should include a milligram (mg) dose of cannabinoid per serving, not just the total cannabinoid content for the bottle, and should reference parts of the plant used, e.g., hemp oil (aerial plant parts). That means all of the parts of the plant from the ground up—seed, stem, stalk, and flowering tops.
I recommend them all! The Total Plant Complex (TPC) Extra Strength Spray, TPC 15mg Capsules, and Gold Formula Softgels are probably the three products I recommend the most.
The Raw Formula products are like a snack for your endocannabinoid system. If I had it my way, everyone would take a couple raw softgels with their fish oil at their first meal of the day. They’re great for overall stress management.
The Total Plant Complex (TPC) line is activated from the Raw Formula line by undergoing a gentle heating process called decarboxylation. I find the TPC products to be very adaptogenic and as such, they’re great for when your normal healthy stress response is starting to unravel.
The Gold Formula line is the most concentrated, and it’s the one I reach for when high-intensity support is needed.
But in general, topicals are great for localized concerns or skin issues; liquids and drops work the fastest; and capsules and softgels are great to achieve steady-state support.
The Citrus Punch Gummies because: gummies!
First and foremost, I keep them stocked on my office manager’s desk so that she can run our incredibly busy office as impeccably as she does! (Although, she prefers the cherry mango flavor.)
For me, if the transition from doctor to mom in the afternoon is leaving me feeling impatient and disconnected, a couple gummies (or two to four pumps of the TPC Sprays) help me drop into the moment.
My best friend from medical school recently passed away, and when I was with her before she died, I found this little purple compact mirror that says “You’re Perfect” when you open it up. We bought them together 20 years ago—who knows where mine is—but she had kept hers. I asked if I could keep it, and now that $6 purchase is a potent talisman: a reminder to be present, to place my attention on what is working in my life, and of course, to cherish my relationships—including the one with myself.
Make a list of three people who make you laugh and with whom you can be your true self, warts and all. Then make a list of three activities that nourish you and make your heart sing. Prioritize those relationships and those activities just like you prioritize buying healthy food for your family and getting to the gym. Joy, pleasure, and connection will fill up your well, reduce stress hormones, and keep you focused on what’s important. Where you place your attention is everything.
Melinda writes about health, wellness, and food for the Thrive Market blog. She started her career as a financial journalist in NYC and has written for Where Magazine, Worth, Forbes, and TheStreet.com. When she's not reading or writing, she enjoys working out, sketching, and playing with her daughter and mini-dachshund, Goliath.
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