Garlic and ginger. Amazing for the immune system!
Colombian Cannabis Alchemist image courtesy of Herman Patiño
Herman Patiño was born in Medellín, Colombia, high up in the Andean department of Antioquia - a place romantically dubbed the ‘city of eternal spring’ for its lush, evergreen mountains and idyllic, temperate climate. This blissful region is well known for providing perfect conditions to grow premium flowers, coffee, an incalculable number of fruits and vegetables, and, sadly, other more illicit plant species that have infamously made their way around the world. A Cannabis Alchemist here could have a very different meaning.
For those less familiar with Colombia, it's a supremely conservative and Catholic country. The vices of the west are frowned upon to the point of incredulity, and the connection between narcotics, violence and civil war suffocated the country for over five decades. The peace agreement in 2016 helped to cement a more stable and peaceful nation, which allowed tourism to become one of the key revenue streams in the last decade. Sadly, Colombian Cannabis and other similar produce are still important crop exports.
Image by Iván Erre Jota
Herman, the Cannabis Alchemist from Colombia, was fascinated by botanicals from a very young age. Even now, he still fondly recalls his grandmother treating his family’s ailments using plant based remedies and naturally he followed in her footsteps as he grew older.
Although his first career was in law, by the 90’s he had become an administrator for a leading laboratory for cosmetic products. To feed his undying passion for nature, he set up a study group in the evenings where he taught law and administration to the company’s chemists in exchange for them teaching him about plants and formulations. Today, those same chemists he exchanged knowledge with own one of the largest natural product labs in the country, Naturfar.
In the late 90’s a very respected healer who works with bio energy doctors told me “you are not a lawyer or administrator, you are a gifted alchemist as you were in a previous life, so use that gift wisely because you will win a very important prize in chemistry for your work.”
And here is where the history of the Colombian Alchemist starts to get interesting! After a decade working for that cosmetics company, Herman set up his own laboratory which was initially focused on aesthetic lines such as anti ageing, weight management and body creams and supplements. But, as plant based cosmetics could not be found in Colombia at the time, he began to create bespoke products for alternative and aesthetic practitioners. The alchemist in Herman's Colombian soul was stirring.
Three years later, in 2003, his ageing mother, Elena, began to suffer from common yet debilitating conditions such as arthritis and circulatory problems which, at times, caused such severe inflammation that she was no longer able to walk. It broke his heart to see his once dynamic, vibrant mother confined to a chair with her feet up on pillows so he made a decision to focus his work on improving her quality of life.
He started to investigate the best botanicals that might help alleviate her symptoms and, inevitably, his research led him to the incredible properties of the Colombian Cannabis plant, which grows in abundance in the mountains.
Image by MarihuanayMedicina
Evoking a Colombian law named ‘Preparación Magistral’ (akin to a ‘Master’s thesis preparation’) Herman managed to obtain a prescription on the basis that he was formulating products for scientific analysis. This enabled him to create a formula that would be audited and endorsed by a medical doctor, and approved by Invima - the government’s Colombian Food and Drug administrators.
Unfortunately, Invima was adamant they would not give any type of license for Cannabis based products, making this a tireless process, but Herman’s quiet tenacity and the desire to help his mother were an unstoppable force. In 2005, against all odds, he was told he would be granted the permits he needed, but only under the strict conditions that the product could not contain any CBD or THC.
" I studied everything I could find about entourage plants that would mimic the benefits of the compounds that Invima had banned, simultaneously working with the UCL in California to find the best solution to naturally remove the illegal substances.”
Almost a year later, Herman created his first innovative natural product. He passed the stringent Invima inspections and lab testing, and was granted a license to manufacture his unique formula. The first one he made was for the Colombian Alquemist's mum, which he presented to her on mother’s day in a huge jar wrapped in a red ribbon and labelled ‘happy feet.’ The results exceeded his wildest hopes - within a few short weeks of using his formula, Hernan’s mother was not only back to her dynamic and mobile best, but he also had 20 new orders from her knitting group! The transformation in Elena was mind-blowing, and they all wanted in.
Herman’s cosmetics laboratory - his legally created alchemist work den - was born out of pure love for this mother, but there were (and still are) many, many others who stand to benefit from his remarkable skill and innovative natural product.
Image courtesy of Herman Patiño
It wasn’t long before his product fell into the hands of the Director of the Centre of Pharmaceutical Investigations’ mother, who was incapacitated with pain. A week later the director called Herman to ask what he had done to her mum because she was feeling so much better. And it was then that she put Herman forward to be considered by Colciencias (a national scientific body in Colombia that supports fundamental research) for an award in ‘Innovation and Development.’
In order to be considered as a nominee, Herman had to present his product to the scientific board.
“When I explained to the scientists that my product had Cannabis in it, they stood up and started to walk out because they wanted nothing to do with this ‘drug.’ “
Herman knew it would be no easy feat to persuade the board that a cannabis-based product was not only safe, but effective. Through sheer determination he persuaded them to allow him his allocated 45 minutes to explain. The future of his company, and the wellbeing of those who stood to benefit from his product, all rested on his alchemy, wisdom, and how he chose to argue his case.
Step-by-step, he took them through the plant’s properties and benefits, using the testimonials and results from all of his mother’s friends and others to support his findings. Two hours later the board were still asking questions, and the atmosphere transformed. In an unprecedented turn of events, his presentation ended in a standing ovation. Herman single-handedly managed to convince respected scientists to accept that, despite pre-conceived, skewed perceptions, this astounding plant has so much to offer the world – and now was the time to realise that.
He was up against academics from two other Universities for the prize, yet it was Herman who walked away with victory, almost five years after having launched his own laboratory. The Colombian Cannabis alchemist's wisdom had finally been recognised by academia.
“I heard about my award when I was driving, and the first thing that I did was to pull over and cry because I remembered the healer’s words from years before.”
Image courtesy of Herman Patiño
Against a tidal wave of ignorance and negativity, Herman put all of his efforts into creating a product that is now finally accepted and celebrated, in spite of it’s erroneous narcotic association, in a country that had suffered as a result of trafficking.
The prize money was immediately put to good use by being invested in further research and development - a costly but essential element of product production. But creating a complementary botanical effect takes patience and skill. He put his first Cannabis based product through more than two years of rigorous testing, as the quality and potency of one plant can affect the efficacy of others, as well as the internal and external effects on an individual. His ‘pilot’ product batches are all analysed for stability, contaminants, and of course efficacy before they are independently lab tested and launched to the public.
It took Herman a further two years to be granted the necessary licenses and approvals to take the cannabis-based product to market, and the best part of 15 years to find its rightful place in pharmacies.
“Many people laughed at me when I started out. They called me a dealer which I didn’t even know what that meant. The bullying was intense. Its been a long and difficult journey but I’m stubborn. And now so many people are using Cannabis products which is a great step forward.”
Photo credits: Claudia Avila-Batchelor
Cut to 2017 - and our quest to create a Cannabis-based product that genuinely delivered led to the formation of our very own natural wellness brand, Dermactiva. After testing many brands from all over the world we knew we had found something special with Herman. We applied the same thorough research and development strategy that he and the UK and Europe require under the Cosmetics Directive. We also followed the UK's CTA and MHRA’s detailed demands for any products available to consumers, and two years later we had finally created our unique formula, using the heritage of his Organic Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil as base. We are now proud to say that the Colombian Cannabis Alchemist is finally here in the UK and in your hands.
Heritage, Wisdom and love is - and always will be - the core essence of Dermactiva.
“I’ve had over seventeen years of experience with this Organic Cannabis Sativa seed oil product, and almost two decades more of research and understanding of plant and natural remedies. I don’t know anyone else in this space who can say the same. My advantage is that I was the first and have more knowledge and experience than others.”