Ep23: Lifestyle Medicine and Cannabis Nursing- Ariana Ayu, RN, MSc

About Ariana Ayu

Ariana Ayu, RN, MSc

Integrative & Holistic Cannabis Nurse Coach
Founder / Lead Educator, CannyNurse™ Certificate Program

Ariana Ayu is a Transformational Mystic and a Catalyst for Constructive Change.


Ariana became a professional Healer in 2000 and has been certified in a wide variety of modalities including: bio-field healing (Reiki, Reconnective Healing, Matrix Energetics, and more), hypnotherapy (including Past Life and  Life Between Lives regression therapies), Deep Memory Process and Ancestral Healing (with the late great Roger Woolger, may he rest peacefully and/or be enjoying whatever he’s doing now), and plant medicine (aromatherapy, flower essences, and cannabis therapeutics).


She was initially Ordained as a Priestess in 2004, and again through the Temple of Ascension in 2018. Ariana has studied ancient and modern wisdom from a wide variety of cultures and spiritual traditions. She’s done a wide variety of sacred travel, including Earth-grid work with Drunvalo Melchizadek in Easter Island and Moorea, ceremonies inside multiple Egyptian pyramids with Nicki Scully and Star Wolf, and private communing with stone circles in Ireland and Scotland.


Her most constant journey has been an inner one; always seeking to understand her inner workings and evolve into a more authentic expression of her soul’s purpose on Earth.


Ariana became licensed as a Registered Nurse in 2008 due to a desire to understand the body (and our healthcare system) in a deeper way than she had before as a healer. She earned her Masters Degree in Advancing Nursing Practice from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, UK in 2010 and her dissertation was entitled “Researching Complex Interventions and Holistic Biofield Therapies: A Proposed Phenomenological Study of Reiki” and can be viewed/ downloaded by clicking the title.


In 2012, after seeking an approach to nursing that was more closely aligned with her holistic philosophy, Ariana completed the 9-month Integrative Nurse Coach® Certificate Program from the International Nurse Coach Association | Integrative Nurse Coach® Academy, followed by the Holistic Health Coach training from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (a year-long course whose content included over 100 different dietary theories). In 2020, she completed the Cannabis Nursing certification program through Pacific College of Health Sciences.



Ep23: Lifestyle Medicine and Cannabis Nursing: Ariana Ayu, RN, MSc Highlights

“…the kind of interventions that we use within lifestyle medicine vary based on the individual because everything comes from this coaching paradigm where the client is the number one authority on their own body.”  ~Ariana Ayu

Ah-ha Moments

  • Learning about lifestyle medicine coupled with cannabis Nursing enhances a Nurse’s understanding making this approach to patient care more tangible and relatable
  • There is rich and credible research supporting the use of cannabis and the endocannabinoid system for many, many populations
  • Lifestyle medicine combined with Nurse Coaching and Cannabis Nursing focuses on the goals of the patient, the client and the community
  • The endocannabinoid system is the master regulatory system of all of the other systems in the body, so understanding it, enhances the knowledge of the healthcare professional
  • Everything involving the endocannabinoid system is about finding balance
  • Using Cannabis as an adjunct in Nursing care is about helping clients and patients listen to their bodies, honor their innate wisdom, and pay attention, rather than just taking something that will make it go numb
  • The CannyNurse Certification Program is open to all Nurses, LPNS, LVNs interested in taking an in-depth program to understand Cannabis Nursing and the endocannabinoid system

Resources and Links

Integrative Nurse Coach Certificate Program

CannyNurse™ Certificate Program 

CannyNurse™ Scholarship Program

Nurse Coaching:  Integrative Approaches for Health and Wellbeing textbook

CannyNurse™ Blog


Ep23: Lifestyle Medicine and Cannabis Nursing: Ariana Ayu, RN, MSc Transcript

Nicole Vienneau  00:01

So, welcome to Ariana Ayu.

Ariana Ayu  00:05

Hello! Hi, thank you.

Nicole Vienneau  00:07

Thanks for coming on Integrative Nurse Coaches in ACTION! We are so excited to hear from you because you have so many interesting things that are going on in your Nurse Coaching world.

Ariana Ayu  00:21

Thank you.

Nicole Vienneau  00:22

I’m hoping that we can take a trip down history lane, though, first and just a quick snippet about what drew you into the world of Nursing.

Ariana Ayu  00:31

Oh, well, I actually became a Nurse as part of my journey as a healer. I started my first business right out of college, and I went to college for music education, I had this whole plan of what my life was going to be. I’m a classically trained vocalist. As I got through school, though, I realized that wasn’t really what I wanted to be doing with my life.

So, I started doing healing work while I was in college, and taking different trainings and different types of holistic healing modalities, energy healing, and aroma therapy, things like that. And hypnotherapy, that became a big part of what I did in my work. So, I started my first business as a holistic health and wellness center, and it was called The Center for Inner Power.

And I started that back in 2000, and I did that for quite a long time. My specialty was really helping people to figure out their life purpose and how to live it. And it was really funny, I came to Nursing because I had been doing all of this work in the mind and spirit realm for a long time, and I really wanted to understand the body better. And so that’s what took me to Nursing.

But what’s funny is, before I even came to Nursing, I had always been coaching. So, I know you asked about Nursing, but the whole story winds together, so a little latitude here. But I started out in that in my own professional practice, working with people, and I had all of these different tools that I use, like I said, the energy healing and aromatherapy and hypnotherapy and regression therapy. And all of the ways that I was working, I always worked from a coaching paradigm.

But back then we didn’t have coaching as a separate discipline from sports. Coaching was about sports. When I first heard the term life coach, I went, “Okay, what is this? This sounds a little bit interesting.” And I learned a bit about it, and I was like, “That’s what I do already. I don’t need a certification for that.”

But when I got into Nursing— and I started out in pediatrics, and then I moved, eventually, to labor and delivery— and I always worked from a perspective of looking at the whole person, because my background was holistic healing. It was body, mind and spirit being together as a whole, it wasn’t one or the other.

And so when I got into Nursing, it was really funny because I’m not a very good employee, okay, I’ve always been an entrepreneur. And as an employee, what people typically want is they want someone who is going to toe the company line, make the company look good, you know, work within the existing system. And I have this curiosity and this interest in making things better, easier, more comfortable, you know, nicer, more pleasurable.

As an employee in the hospital, they really didn’t like me, because hospital systems do not like change. Anyone who has ever worked in a hospital system will say the same thing: no, hospitals don’t like change. And it’s really hard because there are a lot of moving pieces. As an employee in pediatrics, when I came in, I had my, you know, my resume that had said all the different things I did.

And when I first got onto the floor, they gave me a bit of a talking to, like, “I know you’ve done all of these things before, but you can’t do any of that here because these are pediatric patients and they’re kids, so you can’t do anything that might be weird, or freaky, or strange. And I was like, “Okay, so let’s talk about what I can do, because I’m very practical, and I want to be pragmatic.”

And I wanted to follow the rules and be a good employee as best as I could, but I had to be really clear about: can I use breathing exercises? Can I use visualization? They were like, “Well, okay, but…” And I had to sign this piece of paper. And this was back in 2008, so this isn’t that long ago.

These ideas were so scary and far out and woo-woo and, you know, here I was talking about, like, “Can I do some deep breathing with my patients before I stick a needle in their arm?” You know? And it was still this scary, crazy concept. So, I didn’t last very long as a staff Nurse, needless to say.

I worked in pediatrics and I loved it because kids are so much fun, and even these horribly sick kids, because I worked on a pediatric rehab ward in a children’s hospital. So, these kids were kids we had for a long time, but everything about the way that their care went was play oriented, you know, these kids were not sitting around feeling sorry for themselves. And so, I really liked it, but I hated the hospital.

I hated being in a hospital system that was so strict and stringent and very much non-holistically oriented. So, then I was like, “Okay, I need something different.” I’d always wanted to work in peds, NICU, labor and delivery, something in that women’s and children’s world. So, I got a job as labor, delivery, recovery and postpartum Nurse, and I worked there for a while. It was enough— I moved, I sold my house, a whole bunch of stuff.

As it turned out, I had been hired to work for a brand new hospital, they didn’t really have a good plan when they got started. So, it was this OB ward, we didn’t have physicians who had existing practices, so on this labor, delivery, recovery, postpartum unit, we had no patients. So, I got laid off. And they said, “You know, you’re a really great educator, maybe you should go and get a degree in education and make this part of what you’re doing.”

So, I did. I moved to Scotland, I got a master’s degree, I studied a lot about research and Nursing leadership and all of these kinds of things. It was great, and I loved it, and I met the man who became my husband. And I came back to the States ready to go, and I started working again in the labor and delivery unit. And while I was doing that, I also started teaching at one of the local colleges. I taught clinical rotations.

And so I’m doing all this stuff, and all of my holistic ways of thinking sort of came back to me. Now it was labor and delivery, it was a few years later, so they were a little bit more open to things like breathing exercises, because, you know, Lamaze had been around for a long time.

But my way of being and my way of being with patients was still not quite a great fit, because labor and delivery is kind of like the emergency room.

It’s very fast paced, you get a lot of people who are running on adrenaline, and I’m like, let’s stop and breathe and nobody wants that. So, I ended up with a back injury, and so I stopped working in the hospital again. And so I started thinking about what did I really love? What had I done that was really meaningful to me? And it was always having my own business.

And right about that time, Barbara Dossey and Susan Luck and Bonney Gulino Schaub had just started the Integrative Nurse Coaches Association. I had been doing all this holistic stuff for such a long time, and I went, “Yeah, I need to go back to having my own business.” And so I thought about how I wanted to do that.

And I missed out on cohort number one, so I was in cohort two. And I like to be the first person to do something, so I was a little bit disappointed about being in group number two, but it was amazing. And what was great about it was I learned all of these names for things that I had always done. There were these names for things like motivational interviewing, and I’m like, “Yeah, that’s how I talk to people.”

I came to Nurse Coaching because I just couldn’t be an employee anymore. Number one, because my body said, “Uh-uh, we’re not doing this.” I’m very short, so bending over pregnant bellies all day was really bad for my back. I got back into what I had always loved doing and what I had, frankly, never stopped doing. I just had stopped charging people for it for a long time. So, I went back into my life of being an entrepreneur and a holistic practitioner.

It’s funny to me because, you know, here I am 10 years from the time that I graduated— almost exactly— from the time that I graduated from my Integrative Nurse Coaches program, and now here I am, and I’m actually teaching for INCA and doing a lot more work with Nurse Coaches again.

So, it’s really fun to be here right now because— and to be able to tell you my story right now— because it is such a beautiful thing to be sitting here almost exactly 10 years to when I graduated from INCA and became, officially, a Nurse Coach.

Nicole Vienneau  09:34

Can we take a breath and connect to all of your incredible history and listening and it’s like wow, you started in music as a vocalist, then created your own business as a healer with energy, aromatherapy, hypnotherapy, regression therapy. You started your own Center for Inner Power as an entrepreneur.

Then you realized, oh, I need something else, I need this connection to the physical aspect, because you had the mind and the spirit, and you knew all of those pieces needed to be connected. So, then you went into Nursing, found that, pediatrics, labor and delivery, education, moved to Scotland, moved to the US, had a family. I mean, holy cow, your history is incredible, and your wisdom, and gathering all of that incredible intuition and knowledge.

And now you’re in this space of 10 years being an Integrative Nurse Coach, and you’re back with the Integrative Nurse Coach Academy, you’ve created a brand new program for Nurses called The CannyNurse  And I’m hoping we can connect a little bit to that, because all of your history has brought you to this, now, in this new adventure and this exciting time for Nurses to also understand this new world of cannabis Nursing.

Ariana Ayu  11:05

Yeah, absolutely. I remember being, you know, back in the very beginning of my professional life, and having this feeling that, like, at some point, something is going to tie all these things together. Because people have always said that about me, that I, you know, I collect knowledge and wisdom from so many sources.

What I think is really fun about what I’m doing right now with the CannyNurse™ certificate program, is that it really does bring together everything that I have done for my entire professional life. One of my areas of specialty— I’ve studied so many things. I mean, I couldn’t possibly even list them all. I don’t think I remember them all. But I’ve studied so many different things and really pulled them together in this program.

You know, two years ago, if you had told me that cannabis was going to take over my life, I would have thought that you meant I was going to become a stoner and like… it would have been something else. When I started studying cannabis— and I got into it, really, because I had questions about cannabis for pain control, because that good old back injury that I had way back when. You know, it was one of those things that, typically, the approach with anything chronic, according to Western medicine, is take medicine.

I mean, there’s some lifestyle adjustments and things that they’ll suggest. “They,” being the system, you know. Really, I had always wanted to find holistic ways to deal with whatever was going on. And all of these different things I’ve studied… when I became an Integrative Nurse Coach, I worked for a little bit, practically five minutes is what it feels like, as a Nurse Coach, actually working with people in that paradigm.

But what I found over and over again… because I had been an entrepreneur and a business owner since 2000, because I came from a family of entrepreneurs and I grew up… I always say I grew up in the boardroom, because dinner table conversation was about building the business and growing the business and what’s happening with the business. So, being an entrepreneur is probably more a part of my life than anything else, professionally.

And what I found very quickly, was, as I started coaching, everybody who kept coming to me was like, “But I need you to teach me how to start a business. I need you to work with me. How do I do that? You’re doing all these things. How do I do that?” I transitioned very quickly into being a business strategist and a marketing coach. And I worked with people for a long time doing that.

With the CannyNurse certification program, what I’m doing is I’m teaching Nurses to build a business. We’ll get into talking about the cannabis more. The way that I teach cannabis Nursing is that it comes from, very much, a lifestyle medicine approach. And there are not a lot of people, I think, that are talking about lifestyle medicine, because it is not as big a buzzword as something like functional medicine.

Functional medicine makes a ton of money because functional medicine uses a lot of functional foods and supplements, so there is a product that people can go in and sell. And our supplement industry is so huge, it’s billions and billions of dollars, globally, every single year. This huge economic force is really pushing for things like functional medicine just as it pushes for the pharmaceutical industry.

And I’m not comparing the two, I am a big fan of functional medicine. And if I get sick, that’s who I want to treat me and to give me the things that will help my body do what it needs to do. So, I’m a big fan of functional medicine. But when it came to, like, my Nursing studies and everything else, I was never going to be an herbalist, I was never going to be somebody who was really good on pharmacology, because I just don’t like it that much.

Like, it’s not fun for me to learn about which vitamins do what. And I know the basics, as most Nurses do. But having studied all of these different things and learned about functional medicine, the pieces that I really walked away with were lifestyle medicine. And lifestyle medicine is based on a premise that our lifestyle can either heal us, or it can make us sick.

And when we adjust our lifestyle… and I don’t say change our lifestyle, because changes are big, and tend to feel radical and cause anxiety in people. With lifestyle medicine, the way that I teach it, and the way that I work with people, is that when we make gentle lifestyle adjustments, and gentle shifts in the way that we live, we can feel better.

What that means is different to everybody. And the kind of interventions that we use within lifestyle medicine vary based on the individual because everything I do comes from this coaching paradigm where the client is the number one authority on their own body. I am not the authority. I don’t know everything.

I know a heck of a lot, I have studied a lot. I’ve always said if I could be a full time student, that would be the gig for me, except for, you know, the stress around deadlines and things like that. But I do really like to write research papers. So, I’m very much kind of a nerd in that respect.

Lifestyle medicine, taking these gentle shifts, and creating a lifestyle that supports the goals that an individual has, to me is so much more powerful than, you know, the latest fad diet or even the best diet that you can find in your textbooks. So, when I got into cannabis, I realized very quickly that it wasn’t so much about this plant, this cannabis plant. I mean, cannabis is great, and I love it, but it’s not just about the plant.

What’s really cool about cannabis Nursing is that we are dealing with a body system that was just discovered within the last… depending on which part you’re actually looking at, you’re looking at since the 1980s, the 1990s. These are really new discoveries for medicine, especially when you think about the main systems in the body.

Like, back in the 1800s, where I went to grad school was Edinburgh University, and every University was famous back in, I don’t remember which decade, which century it was, it could have even been the 1600s or 1700s, because there were doctors there who did their studying and learned from the help of body snatchers. So, when you go to Edinburgh, if you go and listen to any of the scary stories about Edinburgh, they’ll tell you about Burke and Hare.

And Burke and Hare were these body snatchers because doctors, way back when, did not know what the inside of the body looked like unless they cut into it, right? They didn’t have X-rays, they didn’t have MRIs. So, the way that they would learn… and this was very, like, you were a heathen, and it was dirty business because it started out as grave robbing.

So, you would have Burke and Hare and eventually they started killing their victims and then they would sell them to the doctors at Edinburgh University Medical School. And back then, if you cut into a body, you could see muscles, you could see blood, you could see bones. So, some of our basic systems were really, really obvious in the 1980s, and they had been looking into this for a while.

In that time is when the first endocannabinoid receptor was discovered, and basically what this is, is it is a part of our body that cannabis can interact with. And the main chemical in cannabis that people used to be aware of, before CBD became a big thing, was THC. And so what happened in the world of endocannabinology— which is what it is now known as, that’s the study of the endocannabinoid system— they realized that THC was doing something in our bodies.

It was getting people high, it was reducing nausea, it was helping with glaucoma, it was doing these things, but they didn’t know how it worked. You know, if you have a key, usually you can bet that there’s a lock somewhere that it will open, and so THC was this key. And finally, after all these years of studying it, which was very difficult, because of course, cannabis was prohibited for a very long time— still is, sort of, and in some ways— but basically, they had this key and they didn’t know where the lock was.

So, when they found the lock, they found this place in the human body. It was completely new and different. And as the developments kept growing, what they realized is that we and almost all animals, except for insects and a few single-celled protozoa, have an endocannabinoid system. And what this system does, it is so amazing. It is the master regulatory system of all of the other systems in the body. So, this is what is responsible for the runner’s high.

You know, like, there are all these things that we have been taught and that everybody has been guessing at, but this system is so subtle and so complex, that it wasn’t until we had modern technology that it could actually be discovered. So, when this system was discovered, people started doing more research on it, of course.

So, the last time I looked to see how many published studies there were that had to do with cannabis or marijuana… and I don’t use that word, because it’s racially charged and there’s a long, ugly history of racial discrimination. And prohibition had a lot to do with racial issues that started way back when. So, the preferred term is cannabis. That’s why I’ll say cannabis. But I will say cannabis, marijuana, they are the same plant, it is used the same way, but cannabis is the scientific term, and the preferred term that’s used now.

They found out that it works on so many different things. And they have studied it so much, this is literally the most studied plant on the planet. When I last looked, as I started to say a minute ago, there were over 67,000 studies published in the government database on cannabis. And so this is something that we have studied in a huge volume. However, because we’re dealing with the master regulatory system of the body, it does so many things, and people can’t kind of wrap their minds around it.

But then, of course, you see there are people who are talking about CBD, and they talk about how… they talk about it like it’s a miracle cure, quite honestly, which always makes me a little bit skeptical. CBD and THC and cannabis in full plant extracts interacts with this master regulatory system of our body, which is why it does so many things, which is why people kind of look at it like, oh my god, cannabis is amazing, it’s the best thing in the universe, and people get really excited when they start.

But I never would have known it was going to pull together everything I ever did. Because we’re dealing with the body’s master regulatory system, and it’s such a subtle system, everything involving the endocannabinoid system is about finding balance. So, what that means is it’s not very simple.

So, if you’re balancing, right? Imagine you have two sides of a seesaw, and you get somebody on the one side, and then you want to make it balance, well, not everybody’s gonna weigh the exact same. So, you might have to get two people on one side. And then maybe you need somebody to just put a leg on the other side of the seesaw. So, we have all of these ways that our body compensates.

And it is kind of like trying to get those two sides of the seesaw to match up. And maybe you’re lucky, and there are two kids on the playground who are the exact same size, but more often than not, you’ve got to balance both sides in multiple different ways. So, when I work with people with lifestyle medicine, and cannabis and the endocannabinoid system, and when I teach this, I still find it so amazing, because we’re dealing with a system that is incredibly complex, that we don’t know everything about it, and it is incredibly beautiful.

And things like the way we feel and the way we think and the fun activities that we do in our life, can actually impact it. There have been studies done with people who loved singing, and they found that singing in a choir, this group of people that loved singing, they found that it could actually increase the endocannabinoids floating around in the body.

And I know I’m using a lot of big words here, right? But what we’re talking about with these endocannabinoids floating through the body, we’re talking about anandamide, and anandamide comes from the Sanskrit word of bliss. So, if you’ve heard people talking about the bliss molecule, that’s what we’re talking about.

And, you know, if you think about something like singing, and this was a group of people who love to sing already, so when they did this thing that they love to do, their brains produced more anandamide, more bliss molecules flooding through their bodies. And so this is where it’s not just a physiological thing, because singing, of course, is physiological, and I probably know about that better than most since I was trained to use my voice and use my body to create sounds.

The fact that these things that we know create pleasure can actually change our body’s physiology is pretty spectacular. And so when I came to cannabis and I started learning about this system, this master regulatory system, and how the pleasurable things that we do can actually help make us well, that was it. I was hooked, just completely head over heels in love, absolutely hooked with this amazing body system.

Nicole Vienneau  25:15

I enjoyed hearing that story. And I can hear your passion for this system. And I just have to say a little funny story. When cannabis started to be talked about a lot more in mainstream and in Nursing in general, I had to practice saying endocannabinoid. I had to practice saying that word. So, I would be like, “Cannabinoids… cannabinoids…” over and over again, because it wasn’t a regular word that we used in our language.

You know, you mentioned a lot of really interesting points of things to think about as we are talking about cannabis in the medical system and in the healthcare system, in the holistic space. And so I know a lot of our listeners are interested about the CannyNurse™ program, so what are some of the things that they would be learning with you?

Ariana Ayu  26:12

When I teach the course, we start with the history of prohibition, like why was cannabis prohibited in the first place. And it was not prohibited because it was dangerous. It was not prohibited because it was bad. It was prohibited because after alcohol prohibition was a big old fat bust, this government agency had nothing to do. And it sounds like that should be a joke, right? Like that’s a really good punchline of a joke.

But it’s actually really true, and it’s pretty scary because after alcohol prohibition was dismantled— because let’s look at that for a second, right? Alcohol prohibition. What did it do? It created a big black market. People did not stop drinking, they just found ways to be sneaky about it, right? And what prohibition did with alcohol was it made people more likely to drink heavy liquors, rather than beer and wine. Because most people drank beer and wine before prohibition.

During prohibition, people needed to get their fix in the most sort of dense way possible, so the highest alcohol per volume, right? So, rather than transporting big barrels of beer, one barrel of whiskey could serve the same amount of people as, you know, maybe three or four barrels of beer, maybe five or six, I don’t know. But so what happened was with alcohol prohibition, alcohol drinking went underground and it became more illicit.

And you had people that were doctoring these alcohols that were already heavy. They might mix in, you know, things like rubbing alcohol, although they wouldn’t have called it that, but essentially less safe things to drink. And, you know, after a while, the government said, “Hey, this is causing organized crime, this is a problem. We need to make alcohol legal again.”

So, this government department, that was the Bureau of Alcohol Prohibition, became the Bureau of Narcotics. I don’t remember exactly what the term was, but they were the Bureau of Narcotics. And it turned out that people weren’t using a lot of narcotics. Now, before this, you could go to your local chemist, and you could get your cannabis, you could get your opium, you could get your heroin, you could get your morphine, whatever you wanted, you could go and get it.

And there were lots of people using these drugs, and being very productive members of society. When cannabis and narcotics became prohibited, when prohibition kicked in there, essentially, it was because this government had nothing to do at this government bureau. And this guy, Harry Anslinger, he was the head of the department, and Harry was a pretty bad dude. He was horribly racist, and he had absolutely huge prejudices against pretty much all people of color.

And even though cannabis was something that had been on the books as a medicine for hundreds of years, 1000s of years— we know people have been using cannabis since before recorded history, but we have also examples of cannabis being used in lots of ancient healthcare systems, as well. This was basically a way that they could… they started calling it marijuana.

They started saying it was this Mexican weed that would make you loco. They started using racial slurs and, you know, Reefer Madness, all of this really ugly stuff. And so we talk about that in the beginning because I think it’s really important that we understand the social and racial issues that have come along with prohibition.

And when prohibition happened in the United States, it was then pushed on all of these other countries around the world because U.S. was a big power. And the U.S. was able to basically say we are prohibiting these things, and you should, too. And because of that, we have war on drugs, we have huge amounts of social messes. And, of course, I’m not saying that the war on drugs is the only thing wrong with our current culture and situations, there are a lot of issues that need to be corrected.

So, we talk about that right up front. Once that is understood… because when we understand that this was not something that was put away because it was dangerous. It was not the poison that you put up on a high shelf so that your kids can’t reach it and kill themselves. This was a perfectly harmless herbal medicine that had been used since as long as we can tell.

So, once you understand that it was not put away because it was dangerous, then it’s easy to get into the endocannabinoid system and looking at this amazing system of the body that nobody was taught when I was in Nursing school, and that, frankly, most Nursing schools now are not teaching.

But the problem is, is that back in 2018, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing actually published guidelines for Nurses, that all Nurses should know about this and understand it. So, we go through those guidelines, we talk about this amazing body system, and we talk about the plants that interact with it.

The main one that we all know about is cannabis. And part of the reason that the endocannabinoid system is still not being taught widely is because it’s associated with cannabis, and we have this whole stigma around it that is problematic. So, we talk about that, we talk about the system and how it works, and then we talk about the plant of cannabis and how does the plant work? And what things can it do?

We talk about the medical applications of it, and we talk about adverse reactions and effects because there can be some, even though they’re very uncommon. No one in recorded history has ever died from overdosing on cannabis. Now, when you start getting into synthetics, those can be dangerous, those can be problematic. But we talk about that, and we talk about the adverse effects.

What happens if you consume too much? And how do you help patients so that they don’t consume too much. So, we talk about dosing strategies, because with herbal medicines, it’s not a one size fits all solution. This is a case where you start low and go slow. That is the mantra of all cannabis Nurses everywhere; start low, go slow.

With being a very potent herb, we need to be able to use it consciously and mindfully because it has very powerful effects. And they’re wonderful effects, for the most part. This is not something where, you know, you take prednisone and your face swells up. This is something where the side effects are very often increased laughter and joy and feeling uplifted. It’s only when you take too much that you have problems.

So, I teach the Nurses how to use cannabis medicinally, how to help patients know what to look for. And the wonderful thing about it is, because this is not a one size fits all approach, it is a really empowering approach with your patients, because we are teaching patients to listen to their bodies. And this is something that I’ve been doing for over two decades, now. It’s about listening to our bodies, honoring our innate wisdom, and paying attention, rather than just taking something that will make it go numb.

So then, after we get through all of this about cannabis, and it’s eight… nine weeks that we spend really looking at cannabis in the system, then we look at lifestyle medicine and the endocannabinoid system. And as far as I know, I am the only person that is teaching this. But it is such a mindset shift from our more is always better, must be 100% optimized and bio hacked and, like, it’s not like that, it’s gentle, it is more feminine and kind and caring and honoring of our bodies and our minds and our spirits.

So, I teach that… the last few weeks are really about how do we incorporate not just this plant into our lives and our Nursing practices, and teaching patients how to do it, but we look at holistic modalities and lifestyle medicine that can actually help us to feel better and to be healthier and to enjoy our lives more. To me, there’s so much information that I could teach but this is… I boil it down to a 50 hour course that, you know, realistically, maybe should have been boiled down into a 60 hour course.

You know, there’s a lot of fantastic information that is available to us. I wanted to make sure that when I taught this… when I learned about cannabis, my formal cannabis schooling was six months at a college level, and it was full-time. And they said that it was part-time, but really, it was a full-time program to learn all of this and the pharmacology and to understand how it works, and to integrate it with everything else.

And so, what I realized very quickly was that there are hardly any Nurses that can afford to take six months off to study one plant. I mean, it’s not realistic. And I consider myself incredibly lucky that I was able to do that. And I didn’t think it was going to be this life-changing thing, but when I came out of it with the understanding that all Nurses are supposed to know this stuff, that there had to be a course for working Nurses. There had to be a way, because otherwise, how are you going to learn it.

And I looked to see what was out there. It was either college programs, postgraduate programs, or it was a three hour online course. And I found one, it was a 10 hour online course. And I’m sorry, but in that amount of time, you cannot learn what you need to learn about this plan. So, when I took my Nurse Coaching course and my training, it was long before there was a Nurse Coaching board certification.

You know, INCA was really at the forefront. I mean, they literally wrote the book on Nurse Coaching and did all the work to create this board certification so that that was available. And I think in cannabis, we are in that same space that INCA was in the beginning. There is not a board certification available, but at some point there is going to be. And I have designed my program so that it will be the thing that a working Nurse can use to get that much education so that board certification can become a reality.

Because there’s nothing out there now, unless you want to drop what you’re doing and go to college. And I just thought, this is a system that is in charge of every other system. This is a plant that can help Alzheimer’s patients, dementia patients, cancer patients, people with chronic pain, people with conditions that, in the early 1900s, would have been chalked up to female hysteria. I always love that one.

All the things that they have no answer for, well, it turns out that things like fibromyalgia, migraines, irritable bowel system, these things have actually been associated and researched now as things that have to do with a clinical endocannabinoid deficiency. So, these things that were all in your head, you know… because I’ve had migraines since I was 12, and I can’t tell you how many times I was told it was all in my head.

And I went, “Yeah, but it’s real. It may be all in my head, but it’s not a fake thing. It’s a real thing.” And so, all of these things that were, you know, baffling because doctors couldn’t find any sort of pathophysiology, they couldn’t find a specific thing wrong, well, it turns out that a lot of these are endocannabinoid issues. This is the body mind spirit. This is the system that runs it all.

And so, that’s what I teach my Nurses because there is nothing cooler, and the fact that it comes along with this beautiful herb that can help us to feel more joy and pleasure in our lives. And this is scientifically proven. There have been studies on women and orgasms, and women who use cannabis regularly have more and better orgasms. So, this system literally increases the pleasure in our lives and in our bodies. It’s amazing. I think everybody needs to know about it.

Nicole Vienneau  38:42

Yes, everyone does need to know about it. And I was gonna jump in and say, like, 10 minutes ago, how do I sign up for this class? But then you just kept going, and it made me think, yes, I need to sign up for this class! And then you started talking about orgasms, and I was like, yes!

Ariana Ayu  39:03

Well, that’s the thing, is so much of our medicine is based on what’s wrong. And if you look at coaching versus traditional healthcare, coaching is about looking at what’s right, what is working, and how do we make things work better? And that’s the difference in the approach.

If you go to, you know, a regular Nurse who is working in the system, which means that she’s confined to small amounts of appointment time, you may see her for 5…10… 15 minutes if you’re lucky, like, she doesn’t have time to be open minded and curious because she’s got 75 patients to see that day, right? So, that is the traditional Western allopathic health care model.

Coaching says, you know what? We’re going to spend time with our patients. We’re going to get to know our patients, we’re going to listen to them because hey, they might know something about what’s going on with their body. I think it’s a very similar thing where cannabis Nursing, the way that I teach at CannyNursing™, certainly, is about looking at what’s right, and how do we increase joy and pleasure and health and well being in our lives?

And we don’t have to do that by going on a strict diet and exercise regimen. There is research that shows, conclusively, that dieting is harmful. All of these yo-yo diets, losing weight, gaining weight, back and forth, it’s terrible for our bodies, and may in fact be causing some metabolic issues that have been attributed to people’s weight.

Rather than looking at these strict regimental, “I am the healthcare practitioner, I know better than you about your body,” cannabis allows us— just like Nurse Coaching allows us— it allows us to empower the patients to listen to themselves, to say, “What’s going on? And how is this helping? And what makes it right?” And that kind of a positive approach, using things like appreciative inquiry, motivational interviewing, you know, getting the information from the patients, that is empowering to them.

There’s nothing like it. It takes the pressure off you as a provider, because you don’t have to say I know everything about you, even though I just met you five minutes ago, I am the expert on your body. No, that’s not how we work. Coaching and cannabis, when they come together— and they do so beautifully— when they come together like this, it is empowering for the patients, and it is joyful, and they are listened to and heard and felt and seen.

And it’s with an intervention, an herb that is predominantly joyful and kind in its approach, in the way that it works. And it works with so many things in so many areas, that you can have elderly patients who are on so many medications at one time, a lot of these medications can be minimized, discontinued. I mean, and I would never do that as a Nurse, that’s not my job, but when you work with patients, and you work with their doctors, and you see that, well, if they’re not having this side effect of that other medication, they don’t need that one.

And the cannabis can help with sleep and pain and agitation and anxiety and, you know, it’s just really beautiful and empowering. And that’s why it really is the culmination of everything I’ve ever studied. And it’s joyful, and it’s beautiful, and it is loving, and we need more of that.

Nicole Vienneau  42:37

You’re right, we do need more love, more joy, more focusing on what’s right and what is working, and how we can enhance those systems in our health and lifestyle? And I love how you’re connecting all of this back to coaching.

I do have to ask though, for our listeners who maybe have never taken a Nurse Coaching program, can they still join the CannyNurse™ curriculum?

Ariana Ayu  43:06

Yes, absolutely. So, I don’t teach coaching. I got my training through INCA. I thought they did a fabulous job. I don’t see any reason to recreate the wheel. So, when people come to me and they ask and they want to learn coaching, they want to become a board-certified Nurse Coach, I say go to INCA. Literally, they wrote the book. Like, you can’t do better than that.

Nicole Vienneau  43:28

That’s right.

Ariana Ayu  43:28

But you don’t have to be a coach to become a CannyNurse. And there were several things that were really important to me when I created this program. One is the coaching paradigm, because that is how I have always worked. I don’t know how to be the authority in everything anymore. I just… it’s way too much pressure.

The coaching paradigm is built into everything that I teach. And I’ve had some really experienced cannabis Nurses, who’ve been working with cannabis a lot longer than I have, come to me and and say, “I’d like to study with you. How do I become a coach?” And I have to say, “I don’t teach coaching, I teach cannabis Nursing through a coaching paradigm.”

But one of the things that was really important to me— besides this coaching paradigm, because it is empowering to patients, above all else— the other thing that was really important to me was that I wanted all Nurses to be able to come to this program. So, I set up the program so that this program was accessible for Nurses who are at an LPN level, so licensed practical Nurses or licensed vocational Nurses, they’re called in some states.

I wanted it to be accessible from LPNs on forward. Because one of the big issues with the cannabis industry… especially as we’re starting to see some Big Cannabis, which is kind of like Big Pharma, you know, they’re big corporations that are stretched over multiple states and making huge amounts of money. One of the big issues within the cannabis industry has to do with the… this is such a long conversation, so I’m going to try to keep it brief, but essentially, we have huge, huge racial disparities, even now.

With cannabis being legal in so many states, there are still huge disparities in arrest numbers. A person of color is three times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession. This is a non-violent offense, and it happens even in states where cannabis is legal. So, this is still an ongoing problem. And one of the things that I haven’t seen the research on, but from my personal experience, I’ve noticed that a lot of LPNs are Nurses who did not come from a background where they were able to get a four year degree.

So, they may have been socioeconomically disadvantaged. I’ve also noticed that there seem to be a lot more Nurses of color who are LPNs or who started there. And it was really critically important to me that this program would… I can’t fix systemic racism, right? I can do my very best to keep myself educated. I can’t fix the problems in our system by myself.

But I wanted to make sure that my course was available to any Nurse who was interested in this. And so, because of that, we have a scholarship program where each cohort, we award three scholarships to Nurses of color who want to do the program. They’re partial scholarships, but that was a way… I couldn’t afford to do three full scholarships, but what I could do was to do three partial scholarships, so that there is a break, because I needed to, in my heart and in my gut, I needed to have a way to at least try to help overcome this barrier.

So, it was really important to me, but the thing is, is with an LPN, you don’t get the same kind of education when it comes to research. So, one of the things that we focus on in the course, is how to read these research articles. And I’ll tell you, like, I get probably at least half of the class, each cohort, says, “Ugh, research articles are the worst, this was my least favorite part of Nursing.” And I’m like, “Yes, I know, I get it.”

So, I go through how to read these research articles, because I did not want a Nurse to come in there… because I told you my bachelor’s degree was in music. And when I became a Nurse, I didn’t know about this whole direct entry RN master’s degree thing, so I did a two year Nursing program and associate’s degree, after I had my bachelor’s degree, to become a Nurse because I wanted to learn quickly.

I was like, let me just get in and get it done so I can learn this stuff. And I didn’t get a lot of information on how to read research articles, not until my master’s degree. So, I wanted to make sure that this course was accessible from LPNs all the way through. And I also thought about, you know, do they need to be a coach?

I thought, no, they don’t need to be a coach to do this program because I’m going to teach them how to work with patients. And even if it’s not officially teaching coaching, they learn the coaching skills. So, this program is really meant to be accessible for working Nurses. That’s why it’s over 13 weeks.

No matter what your background is, I take it from the beginning so that wherever you are, if it’s been 30 years since you’ve read a research article, as it has been for some of my Nurses, then that’s okay, you won’t get lost. Because it’s really important to me to make sure that we’re, you know, step one, step two, step three, all the way, so that you’re a fully functioning cannabis Nurse by the time you’re done with the course.

Nicole Vienneau  48:46

Fantastic. It is very important to bring in all of those concepts, right? I mean, as far as making this accessible for as many people as possible in the Nursing scope here, we’re talking about, these steps that you’ve taken to make it accessible for all levels of education, all people of color, I mean, scholarships, and then the opportunity to potentially sign up for this course a couple times a year.

So, you know, you’re hosting cohorts. The next one is going to be coming up in March, right?

Ariana Ayu  49:20

That’s right, starts just at the end of March, and it runs for… it’s 13 weeks, but that last week, all you’re doing is the final. So, it is spread out. I always say you want to have at least four to six hours a week to be able to work on it, because you want to have the time to really take these concepts, learn about them, and then go away and think about them and let them marinate.

And, you know, and my Nurses always tell me, especially what’s always funny, is all the people who hate the research articles but then will tell me that they’ve spent like hours digging through PubMed, looking for information on research studies and connecting the dots between their own lives and their families lives and their patients’ lives. And it is amazing. It is absolutely amazing.

Last year, I was voted Entrepreneur of the Year, just in the very end of the year, they voted me Entrepreneur of the Year at Cannabis Nurses Network. And it was such an honor. And I was so… I just… like, I was pleased to be nominated, as everyone says, right? But I didn’t really think I’d win. I mean, you know, it was like one of those things. And then I did.

And one of the things somebody said is that I’m an entrepreneur, creating more Nurse entrepreneurs. And I love that because, at my heart, when you’re an entrepreneur, you get to define the rules of your life. There is still stuff that you have to deal with from the outside world, there are still bills to pay and mouths to feed, you know, but as an entrepreneur, there’s so much that we get to decide about how we live. And I think it’s amazing.

So, to have that, to be told I’m an entrepreneur, creating other Nurse entrepreneurs, when Nurses are… man, Nurses are overworked, we’re burnt out, we’re tired, we are givers. And we frequently give to our own detriment. So, to be able to give in a way that is balanced and loving and kind and, you know, I’m clear with my Nurses about my boundaries, too.

And I’ve been told from my Nurses that my boundaries help them to set their own healthy boundaries. Because I am a lover and a giver and a helper, and I have done that to the point of burning myself out so many times. What I really pride myself on teaching in this, you know, teaching Nurses to become entrepreneurs, this idea that our lifestyle can support what we want our lives to be.

And I think hospital Nurses— I have been there and I have done that, and I have so much respect for how hard… I can’t imagine how hard these last few years with the global pandemic have been for Nurses in that setting. I have lost friends that I went to Nursing school with. I’ve heard stories of friends who’ve lost friends. I’ve had, you know, friends who’ve lost family members. I mean, this has been an unprecedented time in probably all of our lifetimes. But to be able to give Nurses an opportunity to take their incredible amounts of knowledge and skill, and help more patients with that.

Nicole Vienneau  52:40

And this connects back to coaching, as well. This is not us trying to take Nurses away from the bedside. This is really just offering possibilities and opportunities and ways to enhance and bring joy back to the work we’re doing, whether it be at the bedside, or whether it be as an entrepreneur. So, I definitely respect and honor all that you are bringing to the Nursing space, Ariana.

And in these last few minutes, I just wanted to open it up to just say, if there was one thing that you really wanted to share with us, what would that be? Because we’ve heard a lot of stuff and there’s so much knowledge and wisdom that you’ve shared with us so far.

Ariana Ayu  53:25

Yeah, thank you. Okay, there are a few. Right, the first thing is that I hope that if you are listening to this and you are unfamiliar with cannabis, I hope that you will educate yourself based on this. I have a blog on my website, you can read articles, you can learn more about it. Please, please educate yourself.

Cannabis is not a dangerous plant. It does not, by any stretch of the imagination… It should not be a Schedule 1 drug, right? Schedule 1 drug means there is no medicinal value, and that’s just completely untrue. It is the result of stigma. So, that is one thing that I will hope that you will go out and educate yourself if you are unfamiliar, if this is your first time hearing about medical cannabis.

Like I said, I’ve got articles on my website. I know Nicole’s gonna put that link to cannynurse.com/blog. Really easy. So, that is one really key thing that I want people to know. The other— and this is my specialty, is lifestyle medicine— I would like people to know that our lifestyle really can help to make us well. We don’t need to do things that are so dramatic and drastic.

Rather, if we can make simple, gentle shifts in the way that we live, we can be healthier and we can be happier. When we’re healthier and happier, everything else is so much rosier. It may seem difficult, especially when you are dealing with, you know, chronic illness or you’ve been feeling bad in some way for any length of time, but there really is hope. And it doesn’t have to be expensive.

Cannabis is expensive, I know that’s one of the issues that we have right now, is patients getting access, because they’re paying out of pocket for medication and they’re paying out of pocket to work with people like my Nurses who have graduated from the CannyNurse program. Lifestyle medicine does not have to be expensive.

It can be as simple as putting your feet on the ground for 10 minutes a day without those rubber soled shoes. And that’s something that you can do that reduces inflammation and can help with pain. So, there are things that we can do, that are not expensive, that can change the way that we feel. I hope that if these concepts are new to you… I have a lot about this, again, on my blog. I’ve written about it extensively.

That’s the thing that I’d like everyone to be left with, that our lifestyle can heal us. But it doesn’t have to happen immediately. It can be gentle, gradual, beautiful shifts that can make our lives better. There’s really nothing better than that.

Nicole Vienneau  56:16

Yes, get out, get educated, learn more about cannabis medicine and cannabis Nursing. Connect with Ariana at cannynurse.com. You can go there, you can look for… we’re gonna have all these links. Man, do we have a lot of things to share in this podcast. But we will have all of Arianna Ayu’s links to her program with the Integrative Nurse Coach Academy, as well as cannynurse.com.

And, of course, reach out to us here at Integrative Nurse Coach Academy if you have any questions. And we thank you so much, Ariana, for sharing your passion, your wisdom, your joy for what you do and what you bring to the Nursing community.

Ariana Ayu  57:05

Thank you so much. It’s just an absolute pleasure to be here.

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