Music plays loudly through computer speakers as a woman darts around the spacious room in a West Oakland warehouse looking for her apron. There’s artwork all over the room – some pieces hung up in frames, a few sitting on tables, others drawn or painted onto the wall. Jars of herbs, hydrosols and tinctures sit on shelves around the room and on one table in the corner of the room, there’s a small army of empty bottles waiting to be filled with her product.
“For many of us, we’ve been so removed from using natural herbs for medicine that it’s almost a phenomenon when people realize you can heal yourself with a plant,” says Monica Fine, the co-founder of Absorb CBD topical relief, as she energetically moves around her small manufacturing space with the unmistakable ease of familiarity.
“Educating the masses about cannabis is really grounded in helping people understand the efficacy of herbs,” she says. “I want to remind people of that.”
While she talks, she reaches for various products and measuring instruments that will help her complete her task for the afternoon: creating a fresh batch of Absorb CBD to be bottled by hand.
She’s been working with fellow cannabis enthusiast and master cultivator Raphael Vasquez on developing one of the most potent CBD topicals in the state of California that regularly test at up to 70 percent CBD. With years of studying and working with herbs under her belt, she’s made a career out of effectively treating ailments with plants found in nature.
“I’ve always wanted to study herbs, but was discouraged by my father who was an M.D. To those types of professionals in the medical field, herbology is not taken very seriously even though it’s been proven to be highly effective,” she says. “So, I did something else at first.”
She went to UC Santa Cruz in California where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in psychology, before going on to study at the Aveda Institute in San Francisco where she earned a certificate as an esthetician. She loved learning about skincare and beauty from an in-depth perspective, but she still felt like something was missing despite the great training she was receiving from her knowledgeable instructors.
“I was really interested in the science behind how all these products work on your skin and what the ingredients – particularly natural ingredients – can do. I really wanted to know more and my teachers just couldn’t tell me very much,” Fine says. “I just needed more.”
That’s when she took matters into her own hands and began taking herbal courses with renowned author and herbalist Jeanne Rose, who has written more than 30 books about the efficacy of plant medicine. After years of studying, Fine completed a series of master herbalist and aromatherapy practitioner classes and then decided to open her own esthetician practice and seasonal skincare product line. She made her own essential oil infusions – sans cannabis – until a friend let her try one of her own topical infusions after injuring herself. When Fine used some of the cannabis infusion, the pain went away. Inspired by the results, she started making some of her own cannabis infusions.
“I had three formulas: one for nerves, one for muscles and one for joints,” she explains.
At first, she was just making it for herself with THC-dominant strains. Then she let her fiancé’s father, who had been suffering from Multiple Sclerosis for over a decade, try some of her cannabis infusion. In just a week, he was feeling better than he had after years of diligently taking his prescription medication. After that experience, paired with her own, Fine knew she had created something special and began to take the steps needed to be able to offer the product to the public through her business.
Over the following three years, her nerve formula became her best seller. Then, her business partner, Vasquez, came to her with the idea to start using CBD-dominant strains. Inspired by his suggestion, she began to do her own rigorous research. A few weeks later, she had her hands on some AC/DC clones and Vasquez began the process of cultivating a small, outdoor patch of organic, sungrown plants.
“When it comes to CBD extractions, I have found that AC/DC has a more effective terpene profile and is a more resinous medicine (than other CBD strains). We did try some extractions with Charlotte’s Web, but they just didn’t test as high,” she says. “Although the percentages may vary due to natural causes, Absorb CBD regularly tests at over 60 percent but often gets up to 70 percent.”
They regularly get their product tested by multiple labs, including SC Labs and EA Labs. But, it’s more than just the healing powers of AC/DC that make her potent topical so powerfully effective. Thanks to Fine’s years of dedicated herbal study, she is able to effortlessly incorporate complementary herbs to enhance the infusion. In addition to cannabis high in CBD, Absorb has a number of essential fatty acids, which our bodies cannot naturally produce. For example, Fine uses sea buckthorn oil that is rich in betacarotene and has a plethora of rare omega oils as well as sunflower oil, which is rich in vitamin E and serves as the base for Absorb CBD.
“Our skin is our largest organ and it is a very viable way of taking medicine because it soaks up everything that we put on it. That’s why when it comes to making topicals, my philosophy is to use as little waxes and fillers as possible because they inhibit total dermal absorption,” Fine says.
Fine makes every batch of Absorb CBD by hand, beginning by melting CO2 CBD extract before meticulously measuring each ingredient and adding it to her concoction one by one using a pipette. Each bottle has 170-180 mg of CBD along with essential oils from 11 different countries, including lemon, cedar, French lavender, douglas fir, Australian blue cypress, wintergreen and peppermint. She also utilizes CO2 extracted herbs like calendula, arnica, St. John’s Wort and turmeric, which are thick and gooey – similar to the CBD extract – and must also be measured and melted.
She makes her formula the same way every time, using the exact same amount of CBD and essential oils – about one ounce of oils per gallon of base – thoughtfully chosen for their healing, restorative properties.
“Right now, people are paying a lot of attention to what’s going in their bodies when it comes to cannabis but moving forward people will have to start paying attention to what’s going on their bodies as well,” she says.
In the future, Monica hopes to be able to offer custom services to patients with their CBD topicals tailored to their personal needs with specific essential oils.
“Each person is different and each of their needs must be assessed on an individual basis,” she says. “CBD is already powerful, but when you team that up with other essential oils, it can really boost healing.”
For now, she is set on continuing to spread the gospel of Absorb CBD by launching a sublingual spray made with CBD extract, essential oils and fractionated coconut oil as well as a CBD vape pen.
“CBD is often a favorite of people who wouldn’t normally use cannabis because they don’t have to fear any psychoactive effects. Honestly, there is still so much more to know, but CBD is truly the gateway cannabinoid and a good place for anyone interested in cannabis to start.”