Fil-Canadian scientist leads research on healing properties of cannabis
NEW YORK—Cellular biologist Dr. Annabelle Manalo-Morgan, author of Amazon’s best-selling book Mighty Flower: How Cannabis Saved My Son, fondly recalls growing up in Saskatchewan, Canada, in the presence of two strong women and a father who taught her to strive for innovation and invention.
Her rigor as a scientist combined with an innate spirituality borne of her Filipino upbringing led Dr. Manalo-Morgan to develop pure cannabidiol (CBD) oil in 2016. This was prompted by the medical emergency involving her son, Macario, who at two days old suffered a stroke and began experiencing severe seizures.
The condition required brain surgery, so at 28 days old, Macario underwent nine hours of surgery that resected 38 percent of his brain. Post-operation, he was on heavy medication that left him in a permanent haze.
The CBD formulation she developed took effect within 48 hours. Macario started moving, crawling and walking within months. He has since entered school like most children his age, defying doctors’ expectations of a developmentally challenged life in the comfort of antiseizure medications.
“Because I am a scientist by trade, I translated my desperation into invention. So many innovations are born from a time of need, underpinned by a similar desperation or life-or-death drive, and what I did in the lab for my son is no different,” Dr. Manalo-Morgan writes.
Women role models
The female role models are her Filipino mother and grandmother, whom she describes as “pioneers.” Her mother’s singing prowess enabled her to sail away from an impoverished hometown in the Philippines to tour Europe as part of a band. She later settled down in Canada, where she had met her husband, a Filipino engineer.
The Manalo couple sponsored the migration of over 40 of Mrs. Manalo’s relatives to Canada and made sure the children entered good schools, Dr. Manalo-Morgan reveals in her book. Meanwhile, her grandmother, Lola Rose, single-handedly raised 13 children by holding multiple jobs despite the lack of school credentials.
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“Even before I was born, Lola came to Canada in a Saskatchewan snowstorm to be by my mom’s side. My mom was the first of her family to leave the Philippines, to not be held down by circumstances, but to achieve something great and provide a platform for the rest of the family. That platform has become a foundation for me, as I’m the first of my family to receive a PhD,” Dr. Manalo-Morgan wrote in her book.
The author received her bachelor’s in biology from Eastern Kentucky University. She began her graduate studies in neuroscience at Georgetown University, ultimately earning a PhD in cell and developmental biology from Vanderbilt University.
Huge medical potential
“Through my work developing pure cannabidiol oil in the lab during my son’s time of need in 2016, I saw the huge medical potential of cannabis firsthand,” Dr. Manalo-Morgan writes. “And in my work since, discussing my cannabis discoveries to dozens of in-need individuals and groups around the world, I’ve also seen firsthand that there are countless sick individuals who don’t know what they should try.”
She adds: This book is an attempt to get this conversation started—to share my scientific understandings and to give individuals a clearer understanding of the limitations of our scientific moment, but also the bright future ahead.”
The future could have cannabis as the next medical frontier, a natural remedy that activates the self-healing capacity of the human body. After founding Masaya Medical, where she is the chief scientific officer, Dr. Manalo-Morgan is determined to produce the highest-quality CBD and to educate the world on its medical applications.
Together with her Masaya team, she is conducting collaborative studies on cannabis bioavailability and absorption, aiming to determine the dosage best suited to the human body’s endocannabinoid system. She is also involved in advancing cannabis legislation that would ensure scientific validation of CBD’s healing potentials.
“The world is experiencing a global shift in attitudes toward cannabis, and my travels certainly underscored that evolution. Whereas just decades ago, cannabis was not only largely taboo but punishable by significant jail time, governments around the world are now moving to relax their laws on the plant. Like any major shift in beliefs or attitudes, there is no single factor that can be attributed as the root or primary cause, but rather a multiplicity of factors, trends, and incentives that have coalesced to move the dial toward legalization and general curiosity, and away from fear and punishment,” Dr. Manalo-Morgan writes in her book.
To Filipinos around the world, her message is simple: Just keep an open mind.
“I’m very confident that our elders and ancestors of the Philippines used cannabis as medicine, therapy, and for tea. We are only as powerful as our knowledge, and I invite all kababayan to not miss the opportunity of the scientific and medicinal healing that cannabis and many other plants have to offer. The mission is not to immediately legalize cannabis without regulations and due diligence, but how about just allowing us to study it and being open to education,” she told INQUIRER.net via Messenger.
At the very least, Dr. Morgan-Manalo hopes her book would inspire people all over the world, open their minds and educate.
“If we put energy and money into filling the education gap, the potential of cannabis may be more easily unlocked. The reason for this is simple: simply educating someone has a domino effect on the connections they make and the influence they have. An educated person has the power to educate others, creating a dynamic community of people who may be willing to commit themselves to join this industry in a positive way. My work is a part of that influence, and so is this book. The more you know, the more we all know: knowledge spirals outward and lifts us all up,” she writes.