As a local cell and developmental biologist who discovered going outside medical norms is what she was meant to do on Earth, Annabelle Manalo-Morgan, PhD, believes life's challenges can be tackled by applying healthy doses of balance and positivity. It also doesn't hurt that she's powered by faith and has a high drive to deliver results, no matter the task.
"Each patient reacts differently to treatments, so my goal is to help make medicine more precision-based," says this Vanderbilt University graduate and mother of five (12, 11, 5, 2 and 6 months old).
To that end, "Dr. Annabelle" is educating the world on the benefits of cannabidiol (CBD) through her research and launch of her personal product, Masaya CBD 3000. She has firsthand experience with beneficial results from this phytocannabinoid, having cultivated a new medicinal approach when one of her newborn sons immediately suffered from 200 seizures each day. Now a typical, thriving 5-year-old, Macario was saved by his mother's innovative, patent-pending formulation of CBD oil.
Currently, the Franklin-based Masaya Medical team of doctors and scientists focus on formulating high-quality, pharmaceutical grade cannabis products. "Our mission is to drive a fundamental shift in health care through transparency, and with products grounded in evidence that pharmacists, physicians and the general consumer can trust," assures Annabelle.
She says Masaya CBD is the purest product on the market, without THC or any other additives, and with twice the potency of other options. "Our formulation accentuates neuroprotectivity, allowing Masaya CBD to have a rapid, more efficient mechanism of action," she adds. "Masaya CBD 3000 was designed to bypass the first metabolic pathway and cross over the blood brain barrier, without counteracting with other medications."
Taking An Unexpected Path
Having worked in research primarily for cardio-oncology, cancer and chemotherapy, Annabelle says a few years ago she envisioned being a collaborator for government clinical studies and teaching college-level biology courses. But, her plans ricocheted in 2016 when her third son was born looking perfectly normal before having unexplainable, uncontrollable seizures, which thrust him into ICU and surgery at only five weeks old to remove 40 percent of his left brain. She says medical teams determined Macario even suffered a stroke.
"He was still having subclinical seizures that couldn't be seen on the outside, and a domino effect was happening," she explains.
Annabelle admits the mother in her was distraught for her son's life and emotionally numb for a while until the scientific side of her took over and decided to look deeper into options. "I'd read about cannabis for epilepsy, and I was desperate to find something to help him. But when I found too much variability in the cannabis oils I could gather, I decided I needed to create a solution myself, something pure that his brain could absorb," she says.
By merging the medical and natural plant worlds, Annabelle created a unique CBD product about which she was confident. Macario's positive outcome was amazing and remains a medical mystery. "We saw results within two days of him receiving the CBD formulation. He began tracking movements, started crawling and could walk by 14 months old. Now, he has no noticeable deficits," she says.
At that point, she knew she was going to take a disputable stand in medicine, although she's still not "anti-pharmaca."
"Many neuro medications are Band-Aid-like in that they inhibit processes from happening. In essence, they freeze the body's functions when health issues occur, but the original conditions still exist. The underlying problems are still there," Annabelle asserts. "For the brain to heal, it needs to be able to activate correct actions and make necessary connections."
Annabelle's diligence and research results changed many minds regarding components of molecular science. It's been a challenging journey, but she now has initiated 10 CBD-related clinical studies in 11 countries. She served as scientific director at Tikun Olam, a mission-driven organization at the forefront of global cannabis research. She's also on the advisory board of Quanta, a polarization-based technology group.
"I'm a positive voice on the fence between traditional and new medical approaches. Science is science. Data are data," says the neuroscientist who seeks to understand root causes of illnesses and who now actively consults with academics and companies around the world.
She says she's hopeful her CBD-related work will lead to treatments for autism spectrum disorder, cancer, Parkinson disease, stem cell advancements and COVID therapeutics.
"I'm always working to define what's happening inside of Macario. The brain is very plastic, and research is lacking. So many families could be helped with migraines, anxiety and depression issues," she says.
Squeezing More Into Life
While many saw Annabelle on TEDxNashville in December, others catch her enjoying time with her entrepreneurial husband, Roy "Gramps" Morgan -- a reggae singer, instrumentalist, producer and recording executive. His band, Morgan Heritage, won Best Reggae Album at the 2016 Grammys and were again nominated in 2017. The Jamaican-loving artiste also owns Gramps Morgan Farms, which sells hot pepper sauce, jerk seasoning and jerk barbecue sauce. He formerly hosted his own Nashville radio show on Acme Radio Live.
This summer, Annabelle launches her book, Mighty Flower, via media company ForbesBooks. "I'm hoping to use my story and scientific experience to promote using the cannabis plant in a defined, therapeutic design. My mission in the book is to provide a reality of the current cannabis industry while identifying the scientific gaps," she details.
"Sometimes it feels like a never-ending Energizer Bunny inside me," she admits.
And what about that infant that prompted this new chapter in Annabelle's life? Macario is still on CBD, participates in vision therapy and thrives on a 'brain-fat diet," which anchors with omega-3 fatty acids. But that doesn't stop him from asking his mom to go to Chuck E. Cheese every time he can.
"Being successful for my children is my biggest motivator," she says.
In the end, Dr. Annabelle merely seeks to be a healer of others in the best ways possible.
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