Alissa Greenman-Rowe is a Boston based cannabis-connoisseur. She discovered OARA Chocolate on a trip to Northern California and has been enjoying it since.
Charlotte Burger Troy
The Maker Who Transforms Cannabis into Health Food
“It’s not always easy to live your own life, but it’s always the most satisfying.” Charlotte Burger Troy, the entrepreneur melding cannabis chocolates with probiotics, is transforming the edibles scene one healthy morsel at a time. Charlotte started her brand, OARA, after a life-changing set of events lead her to discover alternative medicine as a young adult. Here, Charlotte guides us through recipe development, managing grief, and her passion for healing.
AGR: At what age was your first cannabis experience, and what was it like?
CBT: My first cannabis experience was when I was maybe 13 or 14 years old with my older sister and her friends. She always taught me that if you were going to do "drugs," you should do them with people you trust. I don't think I got very high. I was mostly excited to be hanging out with the big kids. I do remember laughing a lot.
AGR: How has that cannabis relationship evolved to where you are now?
CBT: My cannabis relationship since that first experience is like night and day. Then, it was purely fun, with no understanding of the plant. Now, cannabis is a therapy for relaxation, for focus, and to expand my awareness and senses. This is the heart of it all.
AGR: OARA is made in very health-conscious ways. Were you always so health conscious?
CBT: Like many others, I learned to be health conscious in relation to our Western medical system. I started getting migraine headaches in the eighth grade, auras and all. My mother was a nurse that believed ardently in the power of pharmaceuticals. By the time I was 18 years old I had been taking vasodilators and codeine in an effort to control and alleviate the headaches for years—all of them prescribed by Western doctors. [They] neither helped, nor got to the root cause of the headaches.
Life is too short to be lived judging yourself harshly, but being aware of your choices [...]
allows you to find joy and understanding in them.
Around age 20, I had acupuncture for a specific condition. The experience was powerful and helped many health issues I was having, not just what I originally hoped to treat. I was blown away. I learned as much as I could about alternative health modalities; acupuncture, Ayurveda, and nutrition.
I read books about the side effects of pharmaceutical drugs, antibiotics in particular, and the flawed FDA drug approval process, including the alarming number of people having adverse health reactions (sometimes fatal ones) to legal drugs. I became cautious of pharmaceuticals, using them only in acute situations (e.g. severe bacterial infections). I believe that Western medicine is absolutely amazing, especially at fixing things (broken bones, blocked arteries, high blood pressure, et cetera), just not at preventing them. This is where “alternatives” like exercise, healthy eating, and mindfulness can be very beneficial. Over the years, I tried many alternatives on for size (vegetarianism, veganism, acupuncture, meditation). The learning continues to this day, but essentially, I pull a little from everything I’ve learned, use what works for me, and leave the rest. I find that moderation in most things is best. Life is too short to be lived judging yourself harshly, but being aware of your choices (Why am I doing this? Is it harming others or me?) allows you to find joy and understanding in them.
AGR: How do you come up with your recipes? What inspires or dictates them?
CBT: Like many others, I have a long love of chocolate. It also happens to be a great medium for cannabinoids and probiotics. I've been a home fermenter for several years, making things like kefir, kombucha, and kraut. Through those activities I learned about the benefits of probiotics, the emerging science of our microbiome, and its effect on our health and well-being. My goal for OARA was to create a delicious health and wellness product that included probiotics and high-quality cannabis with nutritional benefits. This is why we only use dark chocolate (70% cacao) and inclusions or flavors that are real foods (as opposed to flavor oils) —almonds, cacao nibs, coconut, and lavender--with an excellent taste profile that pairs superbly with chocolate and the outdoor, regenerative sun grown-cannabis we use.
AGR: When did you start to see cannabis as a wellness product?
CBT: After many years of recreational use, and then complete abstinence from cannabis for several years, I started to see cannabis as a wellness product in my early thirties. I was working a relatively high-stress job and lost my oldest sister (I have three sisters) to stage four pancreatic cancer over the course of two and a half months. I started doing a lot of yoga and was introduced to high-quality organic cannabis and started micro-dosing (smoking small amounts and eating tiny amounts of edibles). It helped to quell a lot of the anxiety that went with trying to live a "normal" life, consisting of a stressful job in the midst of intense emotional pain that couldn’t be put to the side, but had to be trudged through. There are no shortcuts for that type of healing. For me, cannabis and yoga were really some of the best ways to move through it. I was able to micro dose cannabis (before I knew the term) and still function at work and show up for my life in the midst of the insane pain I had inside me. After a bit, the pain started to transform into something more positive and I knew cannabis was a tool for more than just getting "high".
It is important to be able to explore one’s mind deeply, but to stay there too long, one risks creating a false distance from our connection to one another and the rest of the “world” outside of ourselves.
AGR: Tell us about the thinking behind your creative development process.
CBT: To create OARA we partner with my nephew, who is the craft farmer behind Old Growth Cannabis Co. along the Eel River in Humboldt County. His extensive experience growing high-quality cannabis without harmful chemicals—using biodynamic farming principles and sustainable practices that conserve water—was a significant factor for starting OARA. We wanted to source cannabis that was clean.
We then process [the cannabis] into a pure, supercritical CO2 extraction without co-solvents or post-processing. From the beginning, OARA has been a 5 mg THC-per-serving product. With edibles, the high is often longer and sometimes stronger (versus smoking), so we formulated OARA as a low-dose product to create a more functional experience. You can eat one OARA thin and have a consistent experience without having to slice and dice your chocolate into tiny pieces. We also have a line of high-ratio full-flower CBD chocolates made from high-CBD varieties of cannabis (not hemp) that are generally considered non-psychoactive. They are formulated with 1 mg of THC and 8 mg of CBD per serving to provide the synergistic benefits of consuming THC and CBD together.
AGR: What does your cannabis routine look like?
CBT: My cannabis routine has changed since I was pregnant and had a baby last year. I now routinely consume my CBD chocolate during the evening to relax and sleep more soundly. Prior to being pregnant I would use the Pax with nice organic sativa flower to start the day. I prefer flower over oils any day. I suppose as time goes on my routine will change again to suit where I am at in life.
I hope that cannabis can help people relax, find joy, and realize that life is both long and very short—
so we should laugh and kiss as much as we can while we are here.
AGR: How has cannabis helped you?
CBT: Aside from alleviating pain and helping with anxiety and sleep, cannabis provides me with a juxtaposed perspective of myself in relation to the world. It is important to be able to explore one’s mind deeply, but to stay there too long, one risks creating a false distance from our connection to one another and the rest of the “world” outside of ourselves. Cannabis helps me to make these journeys back and forth in both a serious and silly way.
AGR: What other forms of wellness do you practice?
CBT: Laughter, perspective or mindfulness, yoga, and trying not to take things too seriously.
AGR: What’s your favorite thing to do when you are high?
CBT: Being in nature with loved ones looking around and breathing.
AGR: How do you think cannabis can help the world?
CBT: I hope that cannabis can help people relax, find joy, and realize that life is both long and very short—so we should laugh and kiss as much as we can while we are here.
I believe the natural plant should remain in the commons.
AGR: Is cannabis a drug?
CBT: Sure. But I prefer to characterize it as a supplement. Cannabis may or may not be a cure-all – but it can very well be used as a supplement to create a more balanced mind, body, (and gut!).
AGR: If cannabis is a gateway, what is it a gateway to?
CBT: It can be a gateway to health and happiness—but it is not a guarantee. And, if it does lead to that, it doesn’t look the same for everyone. But of course, I don’t believe it is a gateway to “hard drug” use.
AGR: How do you see the pharmaceutical industry’s role in regard to cannabis?
CBT: The pharmaceutical industry will have a role in creating highly concentrated and pure forms (single molecule) of cannabinoid medications to treat a variety of ailments. They will seek ways to patent forms and processes for creating cannabis-based medications, likely starting with pain relief and going down the list of the next most profitable uses. I hope that the pharmaceutical industry will use cannabis-based compounds to replace some of the potentially dangerous drugs we use today to treat patients. For example, perhaps providing a high concentration THC/CBD compound to laboring mothers to alleviate pain instead of using narcotics that may slow a baby’s heart rate and interrupt contractions, leading to emergency C-sections. I also hope that they do not attempt to patent naturally occurring compounds or already well-established processing practices. I believe the natural plant should remain in the commons.
AGR: What is the biggest challenge facing California (or our country) that cannabis could potentially fix?
CBT: Well, the opioid crisis comes to mind, but I believe better jobs, affordable housing, healthcare, and education could do a better job at fixing that issue. Second to that, I hope that cannabis helps the country’s economy by providing well-paying jobs that provide people with fulfilling lives. Finally, perhaps more idealistic I think using cannabis would help to open, soften, and heal people’s hearts.
AGR: What’s next for OARA?
CBT: Entry into the licensed market, and hopefully growth throughout the California and beyond.
AGR: What would you tell someone who's never experienced cannabis?
CBT: Start with a low dose in comfortable or beautiful surroundings. Don’t be afraid of “getting high,” because once you begin to let go of the control that you think you have over things, you can open up to all the possibilities that surround you.
AGR: What’s your life motto?
CBT: My life motto is, “It’s not always easy to live your own life, but it’s always the most satisfying.”