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June 2022 Newsletter

Updated: Sep 27, 2022

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11 June 2022 TPZN
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Hello from everyone at The Project Zen.

We are having some lovely weather, at least we are here in Scotland. The strawberries are beginning to ripen and the raspberries are beginning to show their faces.

Over the coming weeks I will be examining our wormery and will share the results in the next issue, with some photos. Fingers crossed the worms are still there and have not secretly moved house.

I have been busy creating content for our future website and am excited about sharing that with you later in the summer.

We are very fortunate to have a masters student from the University of Aberdeen on placement with us. Her name is Uchechi and she is a qualified medical doctor who has a special interest in public health, At the moment she is researching whether a project like 'Happy Nature, Happy Us' would benefit international students and students from outwith Aberdeen studying in the city. I will let you know at the end of her placement what her research revealed.

I am continuing to clear the once crammed store room in my flat. Although there is still some more to clear away, there is at least space now to start the redecorating and refurbishing, so that TPZ can have a base office and workroom. We are steadily working towards becoming a functioning viable business.

So while I work on these we hope you enjoy this next newsletter.

Cannabis: The Controversial Medicine

One of the more contentious medical questions in recent years has been; will cannabis help my pain?

There have been many studies done over the last few decades trying to figure out if it can help medical conditions, what parts of it will help, and how they can be replicated or isolated. The results of these have caused a mass change in the law regarding the drug across many different countries.

As of 2021, a total of 36 states in the US have legalised cannabis for medical purposes. Medical cannabis is legal in more than half of the United States and is considered a possible treatment for chronic pain, amongst other illnesses. It is still not legal federally, however, which causes some issues for people and doctors.

In Europe, there has also been a large change of opinion about the drug and its ability to help people. The Netherlands stands as the country in the EU with the longest experience with cannabis use, both as a medicine and as a recreational drug. As of 2015, they have been prescribing it to patients for more than ten years.

In Germany, the legalisation of cannabis for medical use happened in 2017. It is available in the dry flower form and as an extract only on prescription and for serious illnesses. In 2021, they harvested the first crop grown within Germany for medical use. There are also negotiations ongoing for a contract with the German Society for Pain Medication to help the provision of medical cannabis for the use in pain therapy.

Over 14 EU countries now have medical cannabis programmes, with many of them investigating legalisation of recreational use. The newest to announce their medical laws are Denmark, Luxembourg. Malta and Portugal, who changed their laws in 2018.

The United Kingdom will only prescribe medical products based on cannabis for people with rare, severe forms of epilepsy, with vomiting or nausea caused by chemotherapy and people with muscle stiffness and spasms caused by multiple sclerosis.

As far as the UK medical organisations are concerned, there is only a small amount of evidence supporting cannabis as a pain relief, but not enough to recommend it.

One thing all these medical professionals agree on is that smoking of cannabis is not the way to take it for medical reasons. The problem with smoking cannabis is that it is not a predictable dosage.

Pain is by far the most commonly cited reason for doctors to prescribe medical cannabis. Chronic pain affects as many as 1 in 3 people. European data matches up with North America, with medical cannabis being prescribed most often for pain.

Mushroom Networks: The Wood Wide Web Environment

When someone says fungus, people naturally think of mushrooms. However, mushrooms are only the fruit and flower of a much larger and more complex organism. The main body lives under the ground, white threads that stretch for great distances called Mycelium.

These threads stretch throughout forests, winding around and connecting the roots of the trees together to form a network.

This linking of different plants is called a Mycorrhizal Network. One of the interesting things about this Wood Wide Web is that the tree and plants connected to it will share resources and nutrients. Sending water, nitrogen, carbon and other things between themselves. This brings a higher growth rate and survival rate of seedlings.

A study on fir trees has shown that trees also recognise the root tips of their relatives and go on to favour them when sending nutrients through the network.

In a healthy forest, all the trees and plants will be connected this way. This allows the older trees to help the shaded young saplings, the ones unable to reach the sun to gain the nutrients they need. Less than a 1% increase in carbon has shown to create up to 4x increase in new seedlings.

Ecologist Suzanne Simard thinks that the need to secure its own source of carbon motivates the fungus. The network keeps the connected trees alive and healthy and the fungi’s supply of carbon consistent. Kind of like a payment from the plants, the fungus retains about 30% of the sugar that the connected trees share.

Plants can also send signals through the network. A study has shown that they can warn their neighbours of attacks like from aphids. However, they could only do this when connected to the network. Lone plants don’t have the ability to send any signals out.

Ending Thoughts

A thank you goes to one of our community for the suggestion for the first topic for this issue. Don't forget if you have a topic on plants and human health or the health of the planet you would like featured please get in contact.

Have a safe and happy month and we will be in touch again soon.

The Project Zen Team

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