Family finds relief for special-needs daughter
PONTIAC — A local man believes that his friend’s company is onto something special with a product that combines CBD and clover honey for a tasty, therapeutic snack.
The product is RubyBees Honey Sticks — essentially a straw filled with a special formula of CBD-infused honey. Created by Peter Boyer, of White Lake, it’s the signature product of RubyBees Honey, 111 N. Perry St. in Pontiac.
The “eureka” moment came about when Boyer was introduced to CBD as a way to ease the symptoms of his special-needs daughter. The person who introduced him was Richard Steinhart, a West Bloomfield resident and Boyer’s friend of 20 years, who works with and owns stock in the company CBD Unlimited.
Steinhart has long believed in the therapeutic benefits of CBD, which is derived directly from the hemp plant, a member of the cannabis family. CBD exhibits anti-inflammatory properties and benefits for pain management, depression and anxiety. And it does not appear to carry any of the potentially negative side effects of marijuana, according to the World Health Organization.
While CBD is the second most common of the active ingredients in cannabis, “CBD exhibits no effects indicative of abuse or dependence potential … (and) to date, there is no evidence of public health-related problems associated with the use of pure CBD,” the WHO states in a report.
The CBD molecule is one of around 100 discovered in the hemp plant and was first isolated in the 1940s, but not fully understood for its therapeutic applications until decades later. For Steinhart, the ingestible oil, capsules and tea through CBD Unlimited provided him relief from muscle strain and joint pain incurred while biking, golfing, working out and practicing martial arts. It was with this experience in mind that Steinhart suggested Boyer consult his daughter’s doctor about trying CBD sublingual oil alongside the medication she already takes for her cerebral palsy and epilepsy.
The girl, Ruby — the namesake of RubyBees Honey — showed improvement within several weeks. Born in 2005 with severe brain damage, Ruby only had 20% of her brain functioning and would never be able to walk, talk or feed herself, Boyer and his wife were told. The umbilical cord wrapped around her neck at birth had compromised her oxygen supply, and the resulting brain damage has caused her to have seizures, including some that have hospitalized her for days.
None of this has diminished the girl’s spirit, however.
“Ruby is an amazing and incredible girl,” Boyer said in an email. “She has a will so strong, and a smile and laugh that is contagious.”
Ruby is the second youngest of Boyer’s four children. Boyer himself grew up on the west side of the state in a small farming community called Hudsonville, sometimes called the Salad Bowl City. He worked there on celery and onion farms. He then graduated from Aquinas College with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1991. The same year, he married his wife and moved to White Lake, starting a business in Pontiac, Earth 2 Earth, which does marketing, screen printing and embroidery.
“Like any parent, my priority is my family. We tried every possible therapy available for Ruby,” Boyer said. “If there was a glimmer of hope, a slight chance, a rumor or just anything — whatever I could do. We did stretching, TheraSuit therapy; I did 70 hyperbaric dives with her, and then would drive her right to Henry Ford for pediatric therapy. Sometimes over six hours a day in assorted therapies. Her continued seizures was something that we knew was holding her back. After a large seizure, it would seem all our progress was pushed back to where we started.”
After years of diet changes, exercise, sleep studies, multiple doctors and repeat emergency room visits, the most promising change came about trying CBD. Boyer started by giving Ruby several drops of CBD oil in her oatmeal at breakfast and again at night before she went to bed.
“I actually started to see a more aware little girl within just a couple days,” Boyer said. “Her sleeping pattern changed; her ability to communicate was developing — she started going to the kitchen cabinets and opened them. Her teacher sent a note home noticing her ability to focus and take direction.”
To determine if it was the CBD making a difference, he stopped using the drops for a period of time and witnessed Ruby slipping back into “zombie mode,” as he called it.
“At that point, I knew that CBD was truly helping her,” Boyer said. “She is nonverbal, so I am always looking for any indication or any movement that might let me know what she needs. My saying is and always will be: ‘If I’m thirsty, Ruby’s thirsty. If I’m hungry, Ruby’s hungry.’”
Which got Boyer thinking: Were oatmeal and other foods the tastiest way for Ruby to get her daily dosage of CBD? That’s when Boyer dove headfirst into the world of CBD. He was searching not only for a tastier way to consume it, but also a way to ensure a very specific dosing, and in a form that she could easily carry.
Boyer began talking to CBD Unlimited, thanks to his connection with Steinhart, and purchased a CBD isolate that served as the starting point. He then started looking for the perfect honey.
“That turned out to be extremely challenging,” Boyer said. “I needed to find an apiary that had the ability to produce large amounts of honey. It needed to be Midwestern, and I wanted to use clover honey and be as close to organic as possible.”
Once he found it, he set about devising a formula that evenly distributed the CBD isolate throughout an entire batch of honey. This turned out to be a bit of a struggle.
“The math seemed easy; I’ve been doing math all my life. But a very simple formula converting grams of isolate into the weighted gram of honey, with the end result of 2 milligrams of CBD to 1 single gram of honey — not so simple!” Boyer said. “It was $30,000 later, with lots of extra honey sticks and multiple lab test results and tons of advice, from chemical engineers to people who work with weights and measures for a living — everyone had great advice — but the variables were just too challenging: the heat of the honey, how long it’s agitated, the time it takes to fill each stick, the temperature of the building, the temperature of the CBD.”
Finally, it all came together.
He said he “nailed it” on the third attempt. Each honey stick has 5 grams of honey and 10 milligrams of hemp-derived isolate. He said the product is lab-tested and the results are posted at RubyBees.com.
The packaging is special in its own right.
“I have yet to see anything like it,” Boyer said. “We developed an exterior wrapper that protects the actual honey sticks from pathological diseases. I’ve seen children sneezing on exposed honey sticks in stores, so I knew something needed to protect RubyBees.”
Boyer’s son and oldest child, Pierson Boyer, serves as the company’s operations manager. The family business calls its Pontiac headquarters “The Beehive,” and its products are now appearing in doctors’ offices, yoga studios, health food stores, restaurants and minimarts across Oakland County and the country.
Steinhart said he’s delighted by how things worked out for his friend’s family. He also wanted to share some advice on CBD.
“There is no one-size-fits-all approach to better health. Some people react better to different modalities of CBD,” Steinhart said in an email. “For example, if a person is diabetic, it is essential that they consult with their doctor before using our honey sticks. Also, even though CBD is a very benign molecule with no known side effects, anyone taking any medication should discuss whether CBD is appropriate for them with their physician.”
Gregory L. Barkley, the interim chair of the department of neurology at Henry Ford Hospital and the co-founder in 1994 of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Program at Henry Ford Hospital, said his facility is a National Association of Epilepsy Centers Level IV Epilepsy Center, the highest level.
“Cannabidiol (CBD) has been approved for the treatment of epilepsy by the FDA,” he said in an email. “The prescription product has the brand name of Epidiolex. It has a concentration of 100 mg/mL in sesame seed oil and is sold in 100 mL bottles. CBD is available without prescription as derivatives of hemp plants and sold nearly everywhere. There are no rules regulating the quality and purity of these hemp oils. CBD is available from medical marijuana dispensaries to those who hold Michigan medical marijuana cards. It is also now available from the approved ‘recreational’ marijuana dispensaries,” he said.
Barkley noted that the prescription product is made to strict FDA regulations.
“Many people use CBD products for many ailments, including seizures. I advise people that they should check the chemical analysis of any cannabis product to determine exactly what they are consuming, not only for the cannabinoids, but also for impurities such as molds, residual solvents and other potentially dangerous chemicals. CBD may be consumed as an oil, a capsule, in edible products or smoked. We have seen the dangers of vaping products. ... The CDC has advised people not to use vaping products because of the risk of respiratory failure. The oral products are much safer to use. The safest way to get CBD is to have a prescription for Epidiolex.”
For more information, visit www.rubybees.com.