Photo Credit: Denise Truscello
Olivia Newton-John’s musical career has spanned five decades with more than 100 million albums sold, garnering four Grammy Awards, numerous music awards and 10 number one hits, including “Physical,” the number one single in the 1980s, a starring role in the 1978 musical hit Grease, and another in the cult classic, Xanadu; with enough musical accolades to prompt Billboard Magazine to name Newton-John one of the Greatest of All Time Hot 100 Women Artists in 2015.
In 1991 she was named the first Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations Environment Programme, serving as National Spokesperson for the Children’s Health Environmental Coalition (CHEC), now Healthy Child, Healthy World (HealthyChild.org).
This honor came after her daughter Chloe’s best friend passed away from a rare form of childhood cancer, inspiring a lifelong concern for cancer patients in Newton-John.
Her own first bout with breast cancer came shortly thereafter in 1992, with Newton-John doing what any modern woman at that time would do when faced with cancer, she went through surgery and nine months of chemotherapy.
Once her cancer was in remission, Newton-John dove headfirst into breast health advocacy and helping others. She established a partnership with Austin Campus in her hometown of Melbourne, Australia, opening the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre. The Centre has a focus on providing the same therapies that had helped Olivia through her own cancer journey, such as acupuncture, meditation and yoga.
To further the philosophy that good health must include mindful therapies, she opened Gaia Retreat & Spa in Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia—a place to renew, refresh and restore; with the resort garnering many awards, including TripAdvisor’s number three spot on its Top 10 Celebrity-Owned Hotels in the World and the World Luxury Hotel Awards 2018 #1 Global Hotel of the Year.
Photo Credit: Kathryn Burke
Love, Herbs and Happiness
In 2008 Newton-John married her longtime friend, John Easterling, otherwise known as “Amazon John,” for his work with the Amazon rainforest’s rich botanical heritage of beneficial plants and his advocacy to protect it.
The union wasn’t just a love match, as Easterling’s knowledge of plant-based remedies took center-stage when Newton-John’s cancer returned in 2013—this time in her shoulder with mets to her lungs.
The cancer was found by chance, after she was rear-ended in a car accident. “It was two traumas, really,” Newton-John explained to CULTURE. “My sister had just passed away months prior from brain cancer, so I was suffering from emotional trauma. After they did an MRI on my shoulder, then a biopsy, the tumor began to grow. I feel this made things worse, and I committed to a new level of focus on natural treatments after that experience.”
“I had tried cannabis years ago and had a bad experience, so it was a whole new mindset I had to get into in order to realize the plant as an important part of my treatment. With cannabis I was able to substantially reduce my morphine use over time, by using John’s cannabis formulation.”
After spending the last 30 years importing and formulating remedies from plants from the Amazon, Easterling’s instincts led him back to the garden for Newton-John. Guanábana, camu camu, cat’s claw, Sangre de grado, and some mushrooms are just some of the superfoods from the Amazon that he formulated as a master herbalist for his wife, along with a strong cannabis tincture.
Six weeks into the plant-based treatment, Newton-John’s daughter, Chloe, flew into Los Angeles, California for a group viewing of the scans. Where there had been nine spots in her lungs, there were now just four, with her cancer markers dropping substantially.
Cannabis or plant-based remedy patients typically wait for the skepticism from whatever technician or doctor standing-by, as they share an alternative treatment, but this time was different.
“We expected the radiologist to roll his eyes,” Easterling explained. “But, he asked us to send him all the data! He wanted to know everything we were doing, right down to the plants, formula and dosage.”
Photo Credit: Denise Truscello
Another Bout, More Plants
The couple said things went well after the last bout, and then in 2017 Newton-John began having lower back pain, written off initially as sciatica pain.
“We got lazy with my maintenance treatments,” Newton-John shared. “I was doing my Vegas residency and was playing tennis when the back pain started.”
Maintenance regimens for plant-based cancer patients require due diligence. By September of 2018, Newton-John said she was doing a wellness walk in Australia, and the pain in her back worsened.
“The pain was excruciating,” Newton-John shared. “That’s when we found the tumor had metastasized to my sacrum, as Stage Four. We did some targeted photon radiation at that point, morphine for the pain, and I kept doing herbs. I was flat on my back in bed for one month, then in a wheelchair then used a walker for a month, then a cane—and now I’m walking without assistance.”
Easterling said they used algae and fucus help chelate the excess radiation out of her system after the treatments. And although the Centre doesn’t recommend using cannabis at this time, they do respect patient’s choices concerning the beneficial herb used commonly in the U.S. with cancer treatments.
Olivia was able to spend time recovering in the wellness center that bears her name in Australia, albeit, incognito.
“I wanted to be able to experience the healing like everyone else—and I didn’t want to draw attention to myself—so, I wore a knit cap and a medical face mask when I walked the hall in my walker,” she mused. “It was such a gift to be there and go through the treatments—not just medical, but through art, meditation, mindfulness, and prayer. We flew home directly from the hospital with me in a wheelchair, using a walker—with seven prescription medications in my possession.”
Cannabis isn’t yet legal in Australia. Two years ago the country began a medical cannabis program, but it’s limited in scope, so far. The good news is, Newton-John shared that the center named after her is now planning a clinical study with cannabis and cancer.
“My husband, John, has been working with herbs for decades, I really don’t do anything but glean from his wealth of knowledge. He makes the pudding, I just eat it.”
Photo Credit: Kathryn Burke
Rich in Remedy
When the couple returned to their home in California, Easterling was able to roll up his sleeves and get to work on Newton-John’s remedies from the garden—and the garage, so to speak.
“Our garage is full of herbs,” Newton-John laughed, while Easterling rattled off the many superfoods from around the world occupying the couple’s space.
“I’ve got hundreds of pounds of medicinal plants from the rainforest and around the world,” he shared, speaking of beneficial plants and superfoods commonly used in Latin America. Aside from the many plants he has been importing form the Amazon, his newfound focus is now on cannabis.
Easterling began formulating a cannabis remedy for Newton-John, growing a number of cultivars himself in his research garden. His focus is on the plant as chemovar, a more scientific approach to looking at the many compounds, via terpene and cannabinoid extraction from the whole plant to treat the cancer and the entire body, building the immune system so it can aid in fighting the disease.
His process includes running multiple (26) chemovars of flower material in dry ice, separating and concentrating the trichomes, then immediately extracting those in cold alcohol using Extractohol, a 190 proof organic sugar cane alcohol. The extract is then filtered. He calls this formulation Extract One Tincture.
This Extract One Tincture is a full profile extract of cannabinoids in their acidic or A-form with their naturally occurring terpenes (there are more than 140 known and researched cannabinoids found in cannabis, out of nearly 500 beneficial compounds). Some of the Extract One Tincture is run in a distiller with heat, decarboxylated and concentrated into an oil, or Extract Two Oil.
Extract Two Oil is a fully decarboxylated oil with high concentrations of cannabinoids including tetrahydrocannabinol otherwise known as THC, the compound causing psychoactivity.
He then blends the Extract Two Oil, which is highly soluble, into the Extract One Tincture. This formula is the remedy Newton-John takes using a dropper, consuming 1,500 milligrams throughout the course of the day. This works out to about 600 milligrams of THC and 200 milligrams of CBD in both acidic and decarboxylated forms.
The mixture is highly psychoactive, and the patient must start with a very low dose and titrate their way up to a therapeutic dose to more effectively deal with cancer cell death and numerous other symptoms, while building the immune system.
“Olivia is sensitive to the THC, so by taking small drops throughout the day she was able to acclimate to the higher doses in about six weeks,” Easterling explained.
It was difficult for the world’s sweetheart to share her cannabis use, even though it was part of a serious cancer protocol, as the stigma is so great. She just doesn’t fit the stereotypical stoner image.
“I had tried cannabis years ago and had a bad experience, so it was a whole new mindset I had to get into in order to realize the plant as an important part of my treatment,” she said. “With cannabis I was able to substantially reduce my morphine use over time, by using John’s cannabis formulation.”
Mainstream media has reported that the cannabis tincture she takes helps with pain, but Easterling eagerly expounds on its many healing properties, including the potential to cause cancer cell death.
“Cannabis initiates a number of healing responses that can result in apoptosis, cancer cell death—while healing and strengthening the body,” he detailed. “Another important part of the larger picture is the starting material and how the plants are cultivated. I first grew cannabis in 1970, and every part of Olivia’s medicine is from plants I grew in my research garden.”
Easterling has cultivated 26 different types of cannabis plants to date—all grown, as he says, “Bio-harmonically, using a microbial blend of bacteria with a gemstone elixir, and Amazon herbs that go directly into the soil.”
“The pain was excruciating. That’s when we found the tumor had metastasized to my sacrum, as Stage Four. We did some targeted photon radiation at that point, morphine for the pain, and I kept doing herbs. I was flat on my back in bed for one month, then in a wheelchair, then used a walker for a month, then a cane—and now I’m walking without assistance.”
Photo Credit: Mark Sullivan Bradley at Gaia Retreat & Spa
Tending their Garden of Wellness
While many may not realize the power of plants involved in Newton-John’s treatment, both are grateful for the research being done around the world with cannabis and other healing plants for serious ailments.
At the time of this writing, Easterling is traveling the medical cannabis circuit around the world, speaking out on plant-based therapies and the role cannabis plays in the healing process—especially where his wife and cancer are concerned.
“Her markers are going down, the tumors are shrinking and disappearing,” he surmised. “We are just going to keep doing what we’ve been doing, while spreading the word to help others.”
Currently Newton-John uses only two prescription medications that block estrogen and 12 milligrams of morphine. This is down from 60 milligrams just three months ago. The rest of her regimen comes from nature’s botanical pharmacy.
Her pain is under control, and her mobility has increased substantially. She is back to feeding the horses, driving on her own, meeting with friends and carrying on a full and active life. Even Easterling agrees it’s quite an extraordinary story, from an extraordinary woman.
As for Newton-John, she’s grateful that the love of her life is also her own personal apothecary, tending to their garden, her health and the health of the planet.
“My husband, John, has been working with herbs for decades, I really don’t do anything but glean from his wealth of knowledge. He makes the pudding, I just eat it,” she laughed.
Don’t Stop Believin’
Pub. Gallery Books
Time and time again, major setbacks like courageous battles with stage 4 cancer and bone fractures haven’t deterred Olivia Newton-John from achieving her goals through her unbridled career in music, film and philanthropy. In the history of music, few entertainers have sold 100 million albums, yielded 10 number one hits, over 15 top 10 hits and won countless awards with the ease and grace of Newton-John. But beyond her domination in pop music and musical film, Newton-John has a heart of gold, and it’s evident in her ongoing environmental, animal and humanitarian efforts including her partnership with Austin Health and the creation of the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre in Melbourne, Australia. Newton-John’s recent conquest has been tackling cancer. Just over 40 years after the release of Grease, Newton-John’s retrospective is a timely look at over four decades of fame and triumph over darkness. Her personal journey is a tale of wellness and resolve—beginning in her childhood years and into her post-fame exploration into major philanthropic efforts in Australia and beyond. Newton-John’s tell-all memoir is delivered through her wit and humor that drove her into superstardom in the first place, from when she was undiscovered.