Feeling broken after being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, singer/songwriter Yoza Mnyanda turned to cannabis to help heal her, and reveal her true strength.
I was 14 when I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis – an autoimmune disorder that causes painful inflammation in the lining of your joints.
That was 12 years ago but I still remember the day so clearly: I was playing water polo at school when suddenly my whole body seized up. It was like the bones in my hands, feet, knees – everything – just froze and I lost control of my body in a way that really frightened me.
Being told at such a young age that I had an incurable ‘granny’ disease that could spread to other parts of my body and possibly degenerate into bone erosion and joint deformity as I got older was alarming. I would never dance or play water polo again; I didn’t know how to explain it to my friends and was embarrassed that I needed extra time during tests because my hands would freeze up from the stress of writing. I felt like I’d been robbed of my youth, my identity and everything I loved.
The one silver lining of all this loss was that it forced me to focus on my other talents, like singing, drama and public speaking. When I started winning awards for my efforts, I realised I’d found my true calling. I went on to study screen production at university, then moved to Johannesburg with my partner, KuthulakweNkosi (aka the rapper Katt Daddy), to start our duo, Darkie Fiction, and pursue my passion of directing and editing films and music videos.
It was as a student at UCT that I was first introduced to cannabis. I’d always been a total goodie two shoes at school and although my friends smoked weed and baked brownies, I didn’t drink or smoke. Then my ‘varsity roommate told me how her mom drank weed tea to treat her arthritis and since I hated being on chronic medication, I decided to find out more.
Of course, starting your cannabis journey by smoking a bong is probably not the best way to go about it! I hit it hard and got super high and remember being convinced that a McDonalds packet was an owl… But my body felt relaxed and calm, and, for once, I wasn’t in pain, so I started smoking more often and also made my own teas and herb-infused oils.
It quickly became clear that this was good medicine for me: my body stopped tensing up, my hands no longer felt so frozen and my fingers weren’t as swollen. After three months, I was flare-up free….
That was six years ago and now I only use cannabis to manage my condition: it’s the most effective natural healing aid I’ve tried and the effects last the longest. I’d say it’s the best thing that has happened to my health.
The only hiccup I’ve had was when I fell pregnant last April and had to manage without it as there are no conclusive studies yet about the safety of using cannabis during pregnancy. I battled with major pain and flare-ups throughout those nine months and was relieved to come back to it after the birth of my baby girl, Bayethe. My pain and inflammation levels immediately felt better and this made me think it was time to open up, and advocate for, my love of this power plant.
You see, up until that point, I was still hiding the fact that I used cannabis from my parents. In my family, smoking weed to feel better is pretty controversial. Like, I was worried they would send me somewhere to pray for me!
Then lockdown happened and we moved home to stay with my family in the Eastern Cape. For two months, I kept telling myself: ‘Today is the day I’m going to tell them’, but I just couldn’t do it. The universe, however, had a plan and one day my dad came home carrying a cannabis plant he’d found growing in the fields on our farm. He said he didn’t know what to do with it and I knew that this was my chance to come clean.
I offered to make him cannabis tea to help ease the pain he’d been complaining about in his shoulder. I was amazed when he agreed to try it and even more excited when he said he’d slept like a baby and was pain-free the next morning. Both my mom and dad are now totally into it: I taught them about growing, curing, drying and pruning and they love their weed tea and oils.
Opening up about my love for this beautiful, life-changing plant has reinforced what I think I already knew: that nobody knows what my body needs more than me. Cannabis has revealed just how strong, and unbreakable, my body really is, and for that I will be forever thankful.
Weed Tea By Yoza:
- Crush 1 gram of cannabis (I like THC-dominant strains like Critical Mass or homegrown Cheese that are great for alleviating pain)
- Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius
- Line your baking tray with a baking sheet
- Bake for 30 minutes
- Remove from oven, let cool
- Empty out a teabag and fill it with the decarboxylated cannabis
- Dunk into a teapot of boiling water
- Add a second tea bag; this time with Rooibos, or whatever herbal tea you prefer, to add extra flavour
- Stir continuously for +-1 min
- Let it brew for 15 mins
- Drink and enjoy
As told to Justine Stafford
Illustration: Caitlin Perrett