Nikolai Alfieri is a processing operations consultant at Solo Extracts in Portland, Oregon. (Courtesy of Nikolai Alfieri)

Food & Weed: Extracts pro Nikolai Alfieri credits cannabis with boosting well-being

Some people turn to weed and/or food to help themselves feel better, but it’s not every day someone utilizes marijuana for eating healthy and healing food.

For Nikolai Alfieri, an Oregon-based cannabis extracts consultant, blending the two has allowed him to mend his body and mind, and grow stronger.

“I use the munchies to eat a lot of vegetables or whole grains,” Alfieri said in an interview with The Cannabist. He added that while he normally incorporates these foods in his diet, cannabis enhances them. “It’s difficult to do because a lot of people associate smoking and eating junk food, which is a common misconception.”

The main reason the 39-year-old pushes to keep a healthy diet is due to hereditary high cholesterol. He first found out he had this issue when he was a freshman in college. After his third high test reading, his doctor told him to regulate his diet or he would have to get on medication. That’s when he decided to start eating better foods and add a hearty dose of biking to his lifestyle.

Unfortunately, the biking led to a couple of big accidents which, paired with scoliosis, pretty much destroyed his body for a while. Then in 2001 while he was living in New York City, the September 11 terrorist attacks left his mental state jarred and unhappy. The combination of these incidents pushed Alfieri to use pot for medical reasons, though he says it’s always been a part of his life.

Alfieri says marijuana helped him manage pain and and calm his anxiety, and eventually he became so enamored with cannabis and the ways it had helped him, that he departed New York for Oregon, and then left his IT job to start his own extract business in Portland.

That was in 2013, and over the course of three-plus years he studied various extraction methods that could isolate the compounds tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD) and flavorful plant terpenes by way of molecular separation and crystallization. Alfieri says this process enables the creation of cannabinoid extracts perfect for many things, including making edibles that have the potent properties of marijuana, but not a heavy weed taste.

He has since worked with several Oregon cannabis concentrates companies as a consultant, showing how to use extraction machinery and giving guidance on the best ways to extract cannabinoids. He is now a processing operations consultant at Solo Extracts in Portland.

Like the variety in his job, he also mixes up his cannabis consumption. He says he would typically “vaporize concentrates, isolates and distillate during the day, and sometimes an edible at night to aid sleep.”

Alfieri’s normal diet consists of a lot of high-protein foods such as chicken and nuts, as well as fresh salads and fruit, seeds, avocados and cooked fish. His go-to meal is a tortilla-less burrito served in a bowl, and to indulge he goes for a scoop of strawberry or vanilla ice cream spiked with chunks of dark chocolate. When he uses cannabis, this basic way of eating doesn’t change.

“Because I have been a medical consumer and use it for medical reasons you could say I will always have the munchies because I am often stoned,” he said. “It’s flirting with the devil when one has the munchies. I could be 400 pounds and have a heart attack if I don’t watch myself.”

In Alfieri’s daily life, food and weed don’t just help him maintain a healthy lifestyle; the pair have also brought to the surface this art-school dropout’s natural creativity.

“I have gotten lucky with one or two things in the kitchen,” he said.

One such dish was the shepherd’s pie he made for his girlfriend this past Valentine’s Day.

“I used a torch to brown the tips of the mashed potatoes as well as added fresh thyme,” he said. “The torch thing was used on an oil glass bong that I had next to me, so I fired it and finished off the dinner. It was awesome.”

Are his eating and toking adventures paying off? Yes, he said. Today Alfieri is back on his bike and his cholesterol is down without medication, thanks to exercise, a little puff here and a handful of whole grains there.