By Patricia B. Mirasol, Reporter

A FILIPINO-CANADIAN cellular biologist who claims to have saved her son from deadly seizures using cannabis therapy is pushing its use to treat certain diseases.

Texas-based Annabelle Manalo-Morgan has developed a pure form of cannabidiol without fillers that she used in 2016 to manage her son Macario’s severe seizures when he was just two days old.

Named Masaya (Filipino for happy), the product is under clinical trial in the United Kingdom, Ms. Morgan said in an e-mail on March 18.

Macario, who experienced as many as 200 seizures daily, had caught up to his other preschool classmates by the time he turned three.

Today, he can walk, run, play and speak as well as his peers, according to Ms. Morgan’s book Mighty Flower: How Cannabis Saved My Son, released on March 8.

In the book, she wrote how “our brains and bodies have the ability to move in unpatterned, unplanned and ultimately unexplained ways.”

She was referring to the brain’s capacity to change in response to life experiences, Ms. Morgan told BusinessWorld.

Ms. Morgan said she did not target one type of sickness, but instead “encouraged the cells” to rewire.

“Instead of finding a medicine to just treat my son, I wanted to find something that could allow his brain to heal on its own,” she said. “I had nothing to lose.”

Her book details how she turned to invention to help her son recover from his medical condition.

Cannabidiol is a chemical in the cannabis sativa plant, also known as cannabis or hemp. One specific form of cannabidiol is approved as a drug in the US for seizures, according to WebMD.

More than 100 chemicals known as cannabinoids have been found in the cannabis sativa plant, according to the US National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

Marijuana refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems and seeds from the plant, which contains the mind-altering chemical THC and other similar compounds.

One of the earliest uses of medical cannabis was in 2737 B.C., when Chinese emperor Shen Neng prescribed marijuana tea for the treatment of gout, rheumatism, malaria and poor memory.

Philippine Senator Robinhood “Robin” C. Padilla in July filed a bill that seeks to allow the compassionate use of medical cannabis, as well as further research into its medicinal use.

Under the measure, medical cannabis in capsule and oil form may be used to address “debilitating medical conditions,” including cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy.

Cannabis could also ease chronic pain, said Henrie F. Enaje, executive director of Canna Legal Philippines, which provides free legal services to nonviolent cannabis offenders.

Pain occurs in about 55% of cancer patients, according to a May 2021 study by the University of the Philippines.

“The criminalization of cannabis is the origin of all misconceptions and stigma of cannabis and its use, including those for medicinal purposes,” Mr. Enaje said in a March 16 e-mail.

The nonprofit group supports the Padilla bill, which will remove cannabis from the Philippine list of illegal drugs and make its cultivation and use legal.

Cannabis’ recreational use has inhibited the opportunity to study its medical properties, Ms. Morgan said.

“There is nothing scary about marijuana,” she said. “We just need to be responsible. If we open up to the education and research of the plant, we can then take advantage of its natural healing properties.”

Cannabis is just a piece of the story, she pointed out. “There are an endless number of compounds from other plants that we can study.”

“I’d love to see a model where a plant-based medicine is in traditional clinical trials, supported by academia and government,” Ms. Morgan said.