Bring Traditional Taino Medicine and Cannabis Together
When you look for cannabis medicine, it’s not always easy to find something that approaches things with a respect for both cannabis and traditional healing practices. In today’s vastly connected universe, there’s almost no reason why we should be seeking indigenous medicines from non-indigenous sources, and with the great work that Taino and Bronx native Lynsey Ayala is doing in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, you can shop directly.
Ayala’s line of products, Bread + Butta, came about when she saw a need to carve out a spot in the early cannabis and CBD industries, and introduce some of her potent and powerful remedies passed down from her family to the public.
We first interacted with B+B and Lynsey at a party and marketplace in Bushwick, Brooklyn, in 2017, where her Bhang Butta, a CBD-infused personal lubricant, was making a splash in the still-small Brooklyn cannabis scene. Some years, pop-up spaces and events programming later, and her little empire is parked on Sterling and Nostrand in historically Caribbean Crown Heights, where she shares space with Black-owned yoga enterprise Urban Asanas.
You can see Ayala IRL at her store for some unique healing services that involve multiple senses and disciplines, or you can buy her products online, which include CBD and other herbal remedies.
We stopped by Ayala’s studio space to check out the latest, especially how Ayala and Bread + Butta are infusing cannabis culture with a broader culture—one that comes from her Puerto Rican upbringing in the Bronx.
Ayala told the Emerald Magazine, “There was a lot of plant medicine folks in the family, like my grandmother. We grew up in the Bronx, but we were super-lucky because we had like a backyard, and she grew a lot of her own herbs and used them for medicinal purposes. I would even say that seventy percent of my products are family recipes that I have infused with CBD.”
We asked Ayala how she came to infuse her family’s herbal techniques with cannabinoids, which is not how they used to be made, though cannabis was common for Ayala herself.
She said, “I grew up in the city, but I went to college in San Francisco. And when we met my now husband, he was working at a cannabis farm in Mendocino, and he was like, ‘Oh, do you want a side hustle on the weekends? You can come up and trim.’ I was always a part of cannabis, but I never saw it in its natural element, so, hell yeah, I was down!”
Ayala described what happened when she got to interact with these plants in real life for once. “I went and worked as a trimmer, but there was an herbalist on site, and we became friends. We would go on walks throughout the property. And they grew so much more than hemp and cannabis. We would get a bunch of stinging nettle and peppermint, and we started making salves with the cannabis and sharing recipes.”
Finding more than cannabis on a cannabis farm is much more typical than you would think. People with an affinity for this plant are often interested in any others that have beneficial uses for humans.
Ayala continued, “Even though I grew up with these remedies, I feel like I kind of took it for granted until I started dealing with personal stuff that medicine wasn’t really helping. I started reverting back to holistic plant medicine.”
This led her to use the amazing wealth of knowledge from her childhood and culture to create unique combinations of CBD with Taino medicinal recipes. Being a fan of THC, too, we wondered how Ayala had landed on CBD for the time being, and whether it was preference or just parameters, for now.
When it comes to consuming, she said, “For my personal self, I like a blend of both [CBD and THC]. I like to smoke and be stoned, but I’m lucky enough to know what strains I’m getting, how much THC is in them, and what exactly it’s going to do. So, oftentimes I’ll take a sativa and then mix it with CBD because I’m getting this relaxing soothing effect, but I’m able to focus and be on point.”
Ayala has no shortage of love for THC, but since the federal government still does, she’s been sticking to CBD. Ayala explained, “For products, I was making stuff for family and friends, as we did have a small apothecary when I first opened Bread + Butta. Due to illegality, I can’t really sell cannabis products, so we decided to go with CBD because it [the product] is a blend of many herbs, and CBD still has a benefit. I needed something for anxiety and depression because that’s what my clients were asking for. CBD was the better plant to work with my medicines.”
Bread + Butta and the products that Ayala creates are one of a kind. She told the Emerald, “I think that there’s been so many more women out there openly doing their thing. But I’m doing my own thing. More than product lines, we do personal medicine for people, and we also throw events. So, while we advocate cannabis, we’re not a direct cannabis business, we’re a wellness-plant-medicine situation.”
Since there are more than a few products in the line, we asked Ayala what she recommended for general aches and pains. “CBD on all fronts is going to help with body-pain management, but I would start with our sublingual called Rise To The Sun. There’s ginger, ashwagandha, moringa and CBD, which is really great for body pain. I think sublingual is the best method for CBD. You may not feel this instant relief, but your body will remember that this is being helpful.”
Don’t expect B+B to be the next brand to hit drugstores—this is a slower and more intentional process. Ayala explained, “Because everything is small-batch and handmade, we’re lucky to get everything from our farm, but if we don’t know where its coming from or don’t have the lab results, we can’t use it, so it takes some time.”
Ayala is truly infusing her worldview and practices into this business, from product to service. She said it’s part of the subculture that has been co-created by her fellow Nuyoricans, and it helps to keep the culture alive, which is her goal for the business and her practice.
“I’m bringing in traditional medicine-—a lot of it has been lost, and cultural appropriation is huge, but what I love with cannabis, especially, is that it’s cross-cultural,” she said. “Everyone has had a shared experience with cannabis—that’s why it’s part of my practice. With our work specifically, I’m bringing in traditional Taino medicine, I’m bringing Puerto Rican medicine and flavor.”
Check out Bread + Butta’s monthly Flow 20 gathering, a yoga and cannabis celebration and practice at their space within Urban Asanas in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
Photos: Maria Penaloza