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October 18, 2022
Mental Health Awareness Month Q&A: Kikoko's Amanda Jones & Kush Queen's Olivia Alexander

BY TAYLOR ENGLE | Images courtesy of Kikoko and Kush Queen

Both May and October are considered Mental Health Awareness Month: A time to spread awareness around global mental health education, and advocacy against social stigmas that keep us from progressing in our understanding and compassion for one another. 

A 2017 study estimated that more than one in ten people globally have lived with a mental health disorder. But due to stigma, prejudice, and discrimination, more than half of people living with symptoms do not receive treatment.

The connection between cannabis and its calming potential to help one cope with anxiety or depression symptoms is reliant on many factors, like each individual's endocannabinoid system, the amount of THC or CBD dosed, and the user's tolerance. While cannabis has a long history of being used as a stress-reliever and sleep aid—from Ayurvedic medicine to Victorian medical marijuanastudies have shown that results may vary: "THC appears to decrease anxiety at lower doses and increase anxiety at higher doses. CBD appears to decrease anxiety at all doses that have been tested."

As Kikoko's co-founder Amanda Jones puts it, "We’re strong believers that, with the proper individual dosage, cannabis can help most people elevate their mood, relieve their stress, and cope a little better." Women-founded cannabis brands like Kikoko and Kush Queen actively use their platforms to spread awareness and education around mental health, wellbeing, and self-care—with or without cannabis.

They key difference between these brands and other wellness brands in the cannabis space is their careful approach to whole-body care, unique dosing blends, and thoughtful product innovation, like Kush Queen's award-winning bath bombs, and Kikoko's infused teas and Little Helpers mints, which are made with adaptogens, vitamins, and calming or energizing botanicals.

We sat down with the Kush Queen's founder Olivia Alexander and Kikoko's co-founder Amanda Jones to discuss each of their unique approaches to mental healthcare within their brand missions, and how their take on wellness inspired the inception of each brand.

Kikoko: Increasing libido, enhancing positivity, and warding off pain and anxiety

 

Kikoko is a women-owned cannabis wellness brand geared towards increased libido, sleep improvement, pain and anxiety reduction, and enhanced positive thinking. Mental wellness has always been a central theme for the team, who strongly believe that cannabis can work wonders in this arena. 

“It seems crazy that there is still a stigma around using a plant instead of pharmaceuticals for mental wellbeing, and we’re on a path to help change that. That’s why we create products that offer a comfortable start for people,” said Kikoko co-founder Amanda Jones.

“The Kikoko Focus mints, for example, have only 1mg THC and 3mg CBD, and we designed them this way so people can take as many as they need to dial in their perfect dose. As we know, too much THC can have the opposite effect on mental wellbeing, so the more people pay attention to how much THC is right for them, the better their mental health will be.”

Jones is a strong believer that consumers need to find the right product and cannabinoid combination that works best for them, and that can look very different depending on needs and desired outcome.

“I think consumers need to advocate for themselves in a dispensary. The budtenders can’t always know what is best for your body or your experience. They tend to promote gummies a lot, and sometimes people need a wellness product that has a more subtle ratio of cannabinoids,” Jones said.

"With low-dose cannabis, I am more able to meet my kids in the world they’re living in. I’m also able to be more present."

“Simply taking high doses of THC is not what a lot of people should be doing, so promoting lower-dose products too as a starting point is very important. There is a lot of bad press about ‘psychotic breaks’ from young people taking too much THC. This is real, which is why there needs to be an understanding of how the right dose can help people live with better mental health.”

Jones’s own experience with low-dose cannabis informs her perspective, as it has helped her become a better mother to her teenagers and cope with the day to day that comes along with that.

“With low-dose cannabis, I am more able to meet my kids in the world they’re living in. I’m also able to be more present. I am not recommending that mothers use cannabis frequently, but you don’t have to get completely stoned to feel better. That’s exactly why we made our Little Helpers mints. They’re low-dose happy-makers,” Jones said.

“My favorite products when I need a mood boost are the watermelon Buzz mints (5mg THC) and CreativiTea, (10mg THC and 5mg THCV). THCV isn’t very psychoactive, but it’s a fantastic boost of energy. I love this one when I am feeling lackluster and I have to go out.”

Cannabis goes even deeper when it comes to addressing mood, tapping into the source of the issue rather than just distracting from the feeling itself. Jones has witnessed countless instances of the plant helping soothe the symptoms of things like pain, anxiety, or insomnia.

“When people are sleep deprived or in extreme pain, it is going to affect their mood. I used to have a very difficult time sleeping, but cannabis—mainly CBN—cured insomnia for me,” Jones said.

“As far as pain, there are many who live with constant pain that slows down their routine. THC is known to help most people with pain, and it has the added benefit of being a great mood booster because of that. Some people need a much higher dose of THC when they are using it consistently for pain, which is why we created our XTabs. These are only for the seasoned cannabis consumer, but with 50mg of THC per tab, we know they work for many people.”

Kush Queen: Born from the desire for connection that centers on mental health

Founded by CEO Olivia Alexander, Kush Queen is a cannabis brand that offers hemp, cannabis, transdermal, and minor cannabinoid products to the industry. Their offerings include award-winning products like bath bombs, topicals, sexual lubricants, flower, pre-rolls, edibles, wellness supplements, and skincare, and the team itself was born out of community and mental health.

“I built the Kush Queen product line at one of the darkest times in my mental health journey. Finding plant based wellness cannabis solutions with repeatable effects was at the core of what drove me to create these products. Helping people realize the power of cannabis to help us reclaim our own healing drives everything we do at Kush Queen,” Alexander said.

Alexander was diagnosed as bipolar in her early 20s, which explained a lifetime of mental health struggles she dealt with. After taking the traditional, clinical route (and giving up cannabis for about three years as a result), she did everything “right” before ending up in the exact same place she started.

 

“Coming from a family where we all struggle with mental health, I tread lightly when it comes to discussing pharmaceuticals because some people will always need medication. I just don’t believe single molecule drugs, created for profit, are the cure,” Alexander said.

Instead, Alexander prefers to look inward and towards nature, where she believes we can truly find the healing we need. This realization was a catalyst for her to change her approach, control her own destiny, and reintroduce cannabis into her life in a healthy and intentional way.  

“I think the term self-care has been watered down as a silly phrase people shout on social media, but self-care is the first thing that slips for many people struggling with mental health. Cannabis is self-care for me, and can be for anyone who approaches it with intention. The first tool I swear by is the cannabis bath with Kush Queen bath bombs. Your skin is your biggest organ and there are scientifically proven benefits to bathing with mood and sleep.”

"Cannabis is self-care for me, and can be for anyone who approaches it with intention."

Alexander has found sleep to be one of the biggest hurdles for people struggling with mental health. As one of the main pillars of mental and physical wellness, getting lengthy and restful sleep periods in is essential, and Alexander recommends regularly soaking in a Kush Queen bath bomb as a major game-changer in this regard. 

Unfortunately, a large issue with the unawareness that tends to surround cannabis and wellness is lack of education for dispensary employees. Because much of industry culture still revolves around using cannabis recreationally, a lot of its benefits get ignored or glossed over.

“There needs to be an understanding that this is still a wellness tool and medicine for many people. Having products outside of the 'smokables' category and opening up access for cannabis users outside of the traditional recreational experience should be priority,” Alexander said.

“We have a mental health crisis, opioid crisis, and health crisis all happening at once that cannabis can play a major role in helping.”

For too long, the industry has revolved around “stoner culture” as the central point for cannabis, but that simply hasn’t been the case—not throughout the past several centuries, and not today. Other brands need to follow suit and market at least a portion of their offerings to health and wellness, as this approach could both destigmatize society’s view of the plant and spread better awareness around the extent of its benefits. 


Taylor Engle is a freelance writer, editor, and public relations/marketing specialist based in Brooklyn, New York. In her free time, she loves to cook, do yoga, and hang out with her cat.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
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