At 21 years old, Rich Dunfield IV felt like an absentee father, he said. Struck in his prime with painful ailments after a tick bite — nerve and belly problems, anxiety and depression — he was home but not present.
“My entire life was rooted in fatherhood. I started young, but I embraced it. Lyme Disease was stripping that away from me,” said Dunfield, founder of Native Hemp Co., a product line he launched in August that is rooted in CBD, a cannabis compound known to relieve various forms of inflammation without the intoxicating effects of marijuana.
Having left a college athletic career at Missouri State University to help support and be closer to his first daughter in 2013, Dunfield worked in the automotive industry before moving to real estate, flipping homes and managing properties, he said. But the impact of Lyme Disease eventually became crippling, he added.
“I realized that without good health and without feeling like you, it’s really hard to reach your dreams,” Dunfield said. “There weren’t a lot of answers.”
For three years, he chased treatments — beginning with traditional antibiotics, then turning to an organic, plant-based diet, he said. Dunfield hoped getting away from processed foods and a sedentary lifestyle would help, he said, describing his exploration of natural remedies.
“We started stripping away my ailments and learning the power of nature to heal,” he said. “And then a year ago, CBD ended up finding me.”
Fresh from the farm
Dunfield was skeptical of the hemp-based solution, he said, but research and consultants he found through his journey kept circling back to CBD.
“The first night I got a good source, I took the right amount. I fell asleep on the couch, and when my wife came down the stairs, I woke up. She looked at me, and I said, ‘Man, this is a new life,’” Dunfield recalled. “It’s hard to explain, but I knew it inside.”
More research, trips to industry expos and hemp farm visits followed, as Dunfield developed a business plan to bring relief not only to himself but others who could potentially benefit from the products, he said.
“I realized this could be the start of a revolution of health,” Dunfield said. “The cannabinoid system within our bodies is a true system like the endocrine system, the thyroid system — and when you turn it on, it’s going to help your cells and organ systems communicate better, be more efficient with the energy, and overall create homeostasis. You feel good. You feel like you.”
He ultimately found a farm in Colorado that had chosen to grow hemp instead of marijuana when the latter was legalized in 2014, he said. The operation uses pharmaceutical-grade processes to create lab-tested CBD for products like those sold by Native Hemp Co., and is strictly regulated by the department of agriculture, Dunfield said.
“Our product is a full-spectrum CBD,” he said. “So when they break down the hemp plant — which has no THC, by the way — the process uses super food grade ethanol instead of harsh chemicals like CO2 or butane, so you’re getting the most of the hemp plant.”
The bootstrapped, Kansas City-based company currently offers CBD in four forms: tinctures, softgels, salves and dog treats. Brisk online sales began in late August, Dunfield said.
“I’m blessed to have found a farm willing to work with someone at my level because I’m not a big corporation,” he said. “I’m a small entrepreneur with a dream, but they realized that someone like me is going to reach the community much more with a product like this.”
A new dog, a new life
While friends and family members already are seeing the benefits of Native Hemp Co., Dunfield said, he’s also witnessed positive changes in a four-legged companion: his 5-year-old Great Dane, Cosmo.
After three weeks on the CBD dog treats, his 150-pound pet has become a completely different animal, Dunfield said, describing Cosmo’s longtime anxiety.
“He’s now able to better handle his energy, being more calm and interactive. His behavior has always been out of love, but just like with humans, he has to learn how to use that energy,” Dunfield said. “The CBD helps the brain process information at a better level and he can be a happier dog, communicating the right way.”
The dog treats use the same ingredients as the products intended for humans, he said, with the packages specifying an amount recommended based on weight.
“Pets are like our superheroes: When no one else loves us, they’re there for us,” Dunfield said. “If we’re going to have a happy life, that’s often going to include a happy pet.”
Native Hemp Co. announced this week its dog treats would be carried in the Petland at Independence Center — a first step to wider brick-and-mortar availability, Dunfield said.
He also is working with personal health care professionals, chiropractors and natural healers to help spread the word about CBD and get more of his tinctures, softgels and salves stocked locally, Dunfield said.
“It’s important to let people know that it is possible for one plant to rewrite so many systems in our body to work better for us,” he said.
“CBD relieves muscle and joint pain,” Dunfield added, noting some studies have shown it aids with relief related to diabetes, epilepsy and neurodegeneration. “It’s wide-ranging because it gets to the cell receptors to move that pain out.”
He hopes to help people on similar journeys to his own, he said, while avoiding the pitfalls of potentially unnecessary dependence on opioids and other pharmaceuticals.
Now 25, Dunfield and his wife — the high school sweetheart who he said has inspired him since he was 10 years old — have three daughters.
And a new life, he said.
“They keep me busy. They keep me motivated. I want to build something great for them. I want them to know the power of taking life into your own hands,” Dunfield said. “I’m not here to push this on anyone. I can only present my story, the research and let people make their own decision about whether it’s right for their situation.”
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