“It’s pretty incredible that we have been villainizing this plant for decades and decades for really no reason,” says Gretchen Lidicker ’14. She is speaking, of course, of that famed, five-leaved spawn of Mother Nature called cannabis. Until lately, it was mainly consumed illegally in the form of dried, chopped and smoked marijuana leaves. Though Lidicker was never keen to partake of it as such, the alternative medicine expert lately came to embrace the cannabis plant by way of her office desk.

“I kind of got catfished by CBD into caring about cannabis as a whole,” she recalls. She was working as a health editor at mindbodygreen, the Brooklyn-based online well-being magazine, when The Countrymen Press publishing house reached out to her colleague in search of someone to write a book about cannabidiol, or CBD oil, the alternative health trend that’s derived from cannabis, including hemp, and currently sweeping the nation.

Next thing she knew, Lidicker was elbow deep in all things associated with CBD, experimenting with dosages and sampling wares from the various states involved in the trade. The fruit of her research is CBD Oil Everyday Secrets: A Lifestyle Guide to Hemp-Derived Health and Wellness, a best-selling resource that positions Lidicker as a go-to authority on the holistic health remedy purported to help alleviate afflictions such as epilepsy seizures, stress, sleep disorders, chronic pain and immune system response.

“Now my whole family uses CBD oil,” she says, emphasizing that more research is required to best illuminate its effects.

A native of Sedona, Ariz., Lidicker started getting into alternative health remedies around the age of 14, when her struggles with asthma intensified to the point of frequently landing her in the ER and the hospital for nights on end. “My immune system was in the garbage,” she recalls, so she started delving into herbs, supplements and nutrition to address her breathing challenges.

By the time she arrived at the College as an Honors College student – attracted by the dance classes, new science facilities and the Honors College’s Maria Richardson – Lidicker was well schooled in the benefits of a healthy, holistic approach to well-being: “I remember eating a lot of salads with lemon and oil in the cafeteria, and a ton of omelets on the weekend.”

By her junior year, the biology major was seriously contemplating a career in medicine as she was about to start a coveted hospital internship, but the prospect of becoming a physician gave her pause. “I had this overwhelming feeling,” she says. “It’s wonderful for acute health issues or emergency situations, but not for preventing disease or treating the chronic conditions so many of us suffer from.”

Since graduating and earning a master’s degree in physiology with a concentration in complementary and alternative medicine from Georgetown University, Lidicker aims to occupy the space in between alternative and conventional medicine. “Everyone is suffering from the divide,” she says.

Her main focus is on the everyday issues we all deal with (headaches, digestive issues, anxiety) that may not be life threatening, but can really affect our lives. To that end, Lidicker has just finished a deep dive into the many benefits of another natural remedy, magnesium. Her book, Magnesium Everyday Secrets: A Lifestyle Guide to Epsom Salts, Magnesium Oil, & Nature’s Relaxation Mineral, was published in April.

From here, she will likely be on to the next substance of intrigue – perhaps, she says, manuka honey, which she hopes to explore further in New Zealand, its country of origin, as she is on current hiatus in Australia. All the same, Lidicker is by no means eschewing traditional medicine, knowing full well its essential role in health and well-being.

“You better believe I still use my asthma inhaler,” she says.

Featured image of Gretchen Lidicker by Lauren Volo.