Cannabis

Meet the Modern Healer Using Plants and Food for Wellness

How cannabis educator, chef, activist, witch, and intuitive healer Liv Vasquez is helping her clients.

Liv Vasquez
Liv Vasquez | Photo: Ali Limon
Liv Vasquez | Photo: Ali Limon

The average connoisseur might listen to a friend’s physical or mental issues and recommend a particular terpene or CBD:THC ratio. For Liv Vasquez, that is only the beginning of the conversation.

“I feel like plants and food are the oldest forms of caretaking,” says Vasquez, a cannabis educator, chef, activist, witch, and intuitive healer based in Portland, Oregon.

Known nationally for her educational pop-ups and infused catering events, the multifaceted Vasquez has recently shifted her work towards something very different -- and yet something that encapsulates everything she does at once.

She calls it her “Healing Healers” programming, where she helps psychics, mediums, and intuitives deal with trauma triggers through a unique regimen of talking, journaling, and plant medicine. Depending on the client, Vasquez curates a combination of cannabinoid therapy, psychedelic therapy, and talk therapy to effectively help them microdose their way through deep-rooted trauma.

“I am extremely trauma informed,” says Vasquez. “I understand PTSD and how triggers can manifest in your life, so I give my clients a tool kit to manage avoiding or overcoming those triggers.”

Sometimes that tool kit is just a journal and a 24/7 promise from Vasquez to be there when they call or text. Sometimes it includes a custom cannabis tincture made by her from locally-sourced, as organic as possible, pesticide-free flower. When the occasion calls for it, that tool kit could include a “full moon circle and calling of the elements.”

“I’m not licensed in anything,” says Vasquez. “I’m just here to help people not feel crazy.”

"I feel like plants and food are the oldest forms of caretaking"

During a childhood spent in numerous cities, a particular stint in the South brought Vasquez more in touch with her spiritual side. Her mother was Wiccan, and she grew up around empaths and mediums. She’s always practiced witchcraft. Between that, and having always worked in restaurants, and thus never having health insurance, it’s less of a surprise that Vasquez found herself serving as a sort of shepherd in experimental plant medicine.

She followed years working in and operating restaurants with a job in Oregon’s legal cannabis scene and getting a crash course in heady cannabis science while at a Portland dispensary. As someone with immune deficiencies, allergies, digestive issues, PTSD, and asthma herself, she was eager to learn about strain and product effects from the variety of customers she interacted with.

“I learned from first-hand reviews from people with different backgrounds and ailments,” she explains. “Then I left that dispensary, got louder about the ethics in the industry, and became a go-to person for recommendations. As the green market outpriced cannabis farmers, some switched to cultivating psilocybin as laws evolve, so I ended up with trusted sources in cannabis and psychedelics.”

So how does one go about estimating a wellness plan that includes more… subjective prescriptions? Like any coach does: you start with goals and questions. How do you want to feel? Do they want to avoid combustion? What are existing health concerns? (i.e. If you have IBS, eating an infused brownie could do more harm than good). She asks about eating schedules to determine its effect on digestion of medicine and timing of triggers. As she learns about each client, she simultaneously gathers what results they seek and what methods they are going to be most comfortable with. If a client typically drinks tea every day, she will incorporate that tea into a calming ritual with personalized infused honey or tinctures with additional herbs and terpenes.

“Individualized dosage programs and having someone look after you as you take your health into your own hands is very powerful,” explains Vasquez. “Similar to working with people with invisible illnesses like depression, back pain, or endometriosis….these are people who just want to be heard, believed, and helped.”

Liv Vasquez
Liv Vasquez | Photo: Ali Limon

As people face their issues, Vasquez is there to call out trauma responses so they know to soothe those reactions and keep working through it. While the cannabis, journaling, and talk therapy work helps soothe and process triggers, the psychedelic element can allow you to go deeper into the cause of that trigger.

"In small amounts, on a controlled schedule, you can process a lot of trauma very quickly with psychedelics," says Vasquez. “Even those small amounts can shine a light on dark corners of your memory. You don’t always know what you will find in those corners. I just let my clients know that they are safe and that I am here for them on the other side of it. When they come back for our next session, we unpack it together.”

One thing Vasquez is clear about is that there is no one perfect dose. And there is often trial and error when first laying down dosing guidelines and a schedule. But that’s why the communication and journaling are as important an element as the treatments themselves.

Oftentimes, her clients are on the right track when she meets them. They are on their way to getting to the root of their issues, and what she does can help expedite that process by lifting some of the barriers halting their progress. She explains how unresolved trauma can be a distracting burden in this internal work. How living with trauma is like trying unsuccessfully to sleep soundly every night and going through days half exhausted and half awake.

“When you acknowledge what triggers your reactions and the feelings that are rooted in trauma, it can free up space in your life,” says Vasquez.

"One of my clients is a medium and a mom,” she continues. “Mediums already kind of live on two planes, and you have to make a LOT of boundaries with ghosts. It can take a lot of energy. She came to me because she was having problems being fully present in both her day-to-day life and her spirit work.”

After six weeks of work with Vasquez, on a regimen that included microdosing mushrooms and CBD with low doses of THC on a controlled schedule, the client reported an enormous difference in her day-to-day clarity. In that case, her client just needed help utilizing her time on both planes more efficiently. And Vasquez helped her do so.

Right now, we’re all doing more internal work during quarantine. If you’re experimenting with different modes of wellness, Vasquez recommending everyone start by journaling every step of the way. 

“When you're starting any new journey in plant-based medicine, or even a new diet, you must be gentle with yourself,” explains Vasquez. “Start by microdosing once a month, and listen to your mind and your body as you go. Cannabis and psychedelics can affect your psyche so it is important to note your observations and effects in order to make those judgment calls about dose and schedule.”

Vasquez also highly recommends having someone to talk to. As a sort of “safety net” that helps you process the experience, the talk therapy is as important as the substances themselves. Her favorite part of her work is being that perspective; that ally at her clients’ side as they work through those triggers.

"Helping others with trauma helps me understand my own trauma,” she says. “When you live with PTSD, and help people with PTSD, there is just no feeling like it. It’s validating. I feel like I have truly stepped into my power.”

Follow Liv Vasquez on Instagram at @livviesmalls and watch her on Netflix’s new show, Cooked With Cannabis.

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Lauren Yoshiko is as close to a cannabis culture critic as the hazy concept allows. She opened a dispensary, managed a dispensary, and managed a farm in Southern Oregon for two years, all the while reporting on every facet of the industry for various publications. Follow her on Instagram at @laurenyoshiko for aesthetically-pleasing smoking tables, mild cat content, and nail art.