Have you ever noticed farm animals or wildlife eating cannabis before? If you have, your first thought is probably “Oh crap! My plants!”… But once you’ve checked your fencing and re-secured your cannabis, the next question you undoubtedly ask yourself is “I wonder why they like to eat marijuana?!“. Cannabis has been on this planet for untold millennia, and other plants and many animals have turned to it as a source of nutrition. These plants have also been a part of the human story for thousands of years; some new archaeological evidence suggests we’ve cultivated and consumed hemp & cannabis for over 10,000 years! Whether it’s textiles, tools, weapons, food or medicine, cannabis has had numerous applications across the globe, and one of the most under-utilized forms is also one of the most beneficial & convenient: raw cannabis leaves & flowers.
Whether you’re an avid smoker, a dedicated edibles connoisseur, or a proponent of marijuana concentrates you know that this one-of-a-kind plant we call cannabis has as many benefits as it does strain names. It may seem a little strange when you see some deer munching on wild cannabis leaves and flowers, or when you hear about hemp farmers feeding the whole plant to their livestock, but the truth is that many people – and animals – eat raw cannabis on a regular basis. There are a lot of health benefits to be had from munching on raw cannabis leaves or chomping down on the buds, the only question is: Can you stomach it?. As you can imagine, it’s not the easiest thing to eat due to the strong plant fibers and the potent flavors & aromas associated with cannabis. Some people love the tastes and smells of cannabis – you can count us among these Mary J superfans! – but we definitely understand why some Canadians have found it tough to choke down this wholesome plant on its own. Nevertheless, once you learn how to prepare raw cannabis properly, you’ll realize that it’s one of the best ways to consume this healthy herb.
Did you know that raw cannabis DOESN’T get you high? That’s right, there’s no psychoactive effects when you eat raw buds and leaves! This may seem counter intuitive, but it’s the ganja’s honest truth – THC, the active compound most prominently responsible for the “high” you feel from smoking cannabis is a byproduct of heat (decarboxylization). THCA is the raw, unprocessed form of THC that is present in the cannabis plant and it is this cannabinoid (among many others in their natural form) that you consume when you eat/drink raw cannabis. Eating marijuana might seem like an outlandish, hippie-off-the-grid idea to many people but it’s actually a safer way to get the multitude of nutrients, vitamins and proteins from cannabis than smoking or eating edibles. If you’re looking to feel the high, then don’t eat raw weed – it’s non-psychoactive, but very beneficial to your overall health.
So, it’s safe and beneficial to your health when you consume raw cannabis… but how should you do it? Eat it? Drink it? Garnish with it? Just like there’s many ways to light up your favorite herb, the only limits on how you consume raw cannabis is your own imagination (or food preferences). Let’s take a closer look at some of the health benefits of eating raw cannabis, and then we’ll go to the kitchen and show you some popular ways to consume marijuana leaves and flowers.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF EATING RAW CANNABIS?
Cannabis has many benefits when smoked, eaten or consumed in its many forms. The cannabinoids – the active compounds like THC and CBD – are the most well-known agents for the therapeutic and medicinal value of consuming marijuana, but this plant is also full of essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals. From a pure dietary perspective, the cannabis plant in all its varieties is a profoundly nutritious source of proteins, minerals, vitamins and fatty acids. Phytocannabinoids are still present in raw cannabis just like they are when you smoke, vape or cook cannabis, but ones like THC, CBD, CBG, CBN are present in their acidic form (i.e. THCA, CBDA, etc). These acidic form cannabinoids have their own profiles of positive health effects, and when combined with the value of terpenes (essential oils that contain potency, flavors, aromas and an entire spectrum of effects) it’s clear to see why consuming raw cannabis has a lot to offer beyond just nutrition. When it comes to eating raw cannabis or hemp, there’s a few things you should know about how to maximize the benefits to your health.
What kinds of nutrition does cannabis bring to the table (literally)? Just like with many plant food sources, the nutrition you receive from eating it depends on what part of the plant you’re consuming. With cannabis there are four main parts to eat: seeds, stalks, leaves and flowers. Cannabis seeds, like hemp seeds, are a significant source for things like protein, vitamins (B’s, A’s, C’s & E’s), minerals (such as iron, calcium, magnesium, etc), and beneficial fatty acids, including omegas 3-6-9 and stearic acid. It is this last category that is particularly prevalent in cannabis; the omegas content in just a tablespoon of cannabis/hemp seed oil can be more than enough for a daily recommended value (DV %) – 800-1000 mg of omegas 3, 6 or 9.
Let’s move on from the seeds and look at the components of a grown plant. Leaves, flowers and the stalks are also consumed by many people for the jam-packed nutrients they provide. Like many fruits and vegetables, cannabis is often juiced in order to harness the essential nutrients without having to digest those hearty plant fibers. Juicing presses the moisture and contents like terpenes, flavinoids and cannabinoids from the plant itself and provides a convenient – albeit a potent weed smelling/tasting – concoction of health-boosting goodness. Juicers are very common at most retail or online stores, and they’re easy to incorporate into any daily routine. When you separate the nutrients from the cannabis plant, you’re getting a direct and potent source of iron, zinc, potassium, vitamins and the raw forms of cannabinoids like THCA & CBDA – all without the hassle of cooking/baking/preparing cannabis, and without the risks of psychoactive effects.
What’s more, when you consume raw cannabis you aren’t just getting the healthy benefits of “eating your greens” like any other vegetable, but cannabis is ultra-unique in the phytochemicals it provides. Its hundreds of plant compounds, such as terpenes, flavinoids and cannabinoids are relatively new to the scientific community; we’ve just started to scratch the surface of their positive effects on the health of our minds and bodies. These phytochemicals are stored in the trichomes of the buds – the tiny hair-like or crystalline protrusions that give cannabis flowers their “sugary” appearance. These plant compounds, like limonene (lemons), terpinolene (apples) or myrcene (lavender) aren’t just in cannabis, but they are superbly concentrated in this wondrous plant we call marijuana. Terpenes like limonene which are most commonly associated with citrus fruit like lemons, can have the same kinds of impacts on our health in addition to evoking similar sensations. This is great to hear, because many people are afraid to try consuming raw cannabis due to its overpowering musk or after tastes. If you have a favorite strain you like to smoke, have as an edible, or even just enjoy the scent of, try eating that plant first as the familiar flavors & aromas will go a long way in improving your perception of raw cannabis.
WHAT DOES CONSUMING RAW CANNABIS DO FOR YOUR HEALTH?
Although there’s a lot of heated debate surrounding the best ways to consume cannabis in terms of most healthy, there’s really no argument when you add raw cannabis to the mix. Raw cannabis’ nutritional value, availability of cannabinoids in their acidic forms and the unadulterated terpenes (none lost in heating, processing) makes it an absolute powerhouse of health boosting properties. When you introduce raw cannabis plant material or cannabis juice to your system, it immediately begins to have an impact on your mind & body in a number of ways. First of all, cannabinoids interact with your Endocannabinoid System (ECS); all humans and many animals have an ECS, which is a complex network of nerves and receptors that initiates actions between plant compounds like THC & CBD and the effects on our neurological and physiological health. For instance, when CBD is consumed the Cannabidiol compounds interact with your CB1 or CB2 receptors (part of your Endocannabinoid System). These receptors act like transmitters, relaying information along your nervous system and neural network which activates such things as the release of anti-oxidants, reduction of pain or anti-inflammatory effects.
The positives don’t just stop at pain & inflammation relief. As many of you will already know, cannabis is very multifaceted when it comes to what it can do for your health, fitness and general quality of life. Your ECS receptors are located in your major organs, glands, connective tissues and most importantly in your brain, so in effect any cannabinoids that interact with your body can influence all of the functions of these parts of your body. When you consume THC or CBD, your Endocannabinoid System can effectually instigate appetite, ease nausea, relax an anxious or stressed mind, improve the consistency and quality of sleep, help to boost your body’s immunity, and even soothe gastrointestinal issues and support cardiovascular health. The applications seem almost endless, the more we study medical marijuana the wider our eyes become at how influential this plant can be on our health.
Eating raw cannabis or drinking raw marijuana juice has been used as a natural health supplement as well as a treatment for many of life’s ailments, including:
- Arthritis, chronic pain or inflammatory conditions (Lupus)
- Lethargy, fatigue or loss of appetite
- Neurodegenerative diseases (Parkinson’s)
- Severe anxiety, stress-related conditions or PTSD
- Insomnia, sleep deprivation related to pain or neurological disorders
- The symptoms of cancer (weakened immune system, pain, insomnia, lack of appetite, anxiety)
There is a lot of research currently underway, but until more studies have been conducted we’re standing at the precipice of a mountain of information surrounding cannabis. Marijuana for medical purposes has a long, rich history in this country and the entire human story, but it can be tough to promote this as fact until the supporting research is published. Still, there are thousands – if not millions – of people that have had their lives positively impacted by medical cannabis; there’s no discrediting these peoples’ accounts. Nonetheless, the science has to play catch up to the vocal faction of medical cannabis users if we’re to make any real progress in understanding the full spectrum of health benefits of cannabis.
What we do know is: consuming raw cannabis, either in food, drink or supplementally, can have profoundly positive effects on a person’s health & well-being. Cannabis in all its forms can interact with our Endocannabinoid Systems, but raw cannabis has the advantage of its undiminished terpenes, flavinoids and plant compounds – not to mention the natural state of its nutrients like iron, calcium, potassium and vitamins A, B, C & E.
WHAT ARE THE BEST WAYS TO EAT RAW CANNABIS?
How people consume cannabis in their diet hasn’t changed much since ancient times – eating the flowers/leaves, juicing the leaves/stalk, pressing the seeds or whole plant for oil extraction. What has changed is how much we know about the benefits of eating this unique plant. Cannabis is a flowering plant, so it is technically more like a fruit, but we tend to consume it like a vegetable. Salads, salad dressings and smoothies are the most popular ways to eat raw cannabis but there’s really only one thing that determines how you consume it: your taste buds. Some people love the flavors and aromas of cannabis, so naturally these folks are more prone to eating cannabis leaves in their salads or garnishing with some crumbled buds. For others, this might sound crazy – choking down the tough plant fibers and pungent flowers isn’t for the faint of heart (or stomach). However, as we said before the only thing limiting your ability to consume cannabis is your creativity – you can juice it, chop it, blend it, press it, garnish with it, and add a dash of raw cannabis to just about any meal or snack you can think of. Cannabis, like any popular health supplement these days, can be introduced to any part of your day; all it takes is a little imagination and ingenuity.
The health supplements market, consuming protein powders or supergreens products can be beneficial, undoubtedly; however, the ultimate nutritious food cannot be synthesized or made in a lab. There’s no replacing the raw, natural powers of a plate full of spinach, beans, fruits or superfoods – what nature provides is the purest form of the nutrition we seek. Health supplements provide a concentrated, convenient and often cost-effective way to consume these essential nutrients that would otherwise be difficult to get from food alone. Nevertheless, when it comes to the absolute purest form of nutrition or medical benefits, there’s no beating the raw power of the plant itself.
We mentioned the fact that raw cannabis is high in the acidic forms of cannabinoids, like THCA or CBDA, but does not have any “high” effects like with THC. With no risks for psychoactive effects altering how you tackle your day, what’s getting in the way of consuming a daily dose of raw cannabis? For most Canadians, it’s the problem of access. How do you get your hands on some fresh cannabis? It’s not like it can be found in every grocery department… And it can be hard to grow. Thanks to Canada’s federal legalization of cannabis, these issues of access are becoming much more scarce, while cannabis products and services continue to crop up (no pun intended). Also, every Canadian domicile (household) is legally allowed to grow four of their own cannabis plants (“Four Plant Rule” – The Cannabis Act). So, next time you plant your garden (as long as it’s not in your front yard…) make sure you leave some space for a handful of marijuana plants that you can grow, harvest, smoke, cook and most importantly eat raw!
Before you decide on a source of cannabis, we also talked about the importance of terpenes and flavinoids. If you’ve ever tried some fancy new diet, you might’ve run into the problem of failing to commit to it because the food options either weren’t tasty or satisfying enough. We don’t want you to run into this problem with raw cannabis either, because the potential for undesirable flavors is very common when it comes to eating drinking raw weed. If you’ve never considered what kinds of cannabis you like, try smoking or sampling some edibles of a few strains of cannabis. Remember, you won’t be getting high when you eat your cannabis raw, but the terpenes (flavors, aromas, health effects) will be intact and as potent as ever, so having some familiarity with certain kinds of marijuana can be like shopping for herbs and spices – just a dash or two of this, or that can be the difference between a satisfying meal or a disastrous left-over. To get a better handle on the many terpenes, which strains have what kinds, and why you might want to try them, our friends at Leafly have created an incredible terpene profiling system. Check them out, study up on your terps, and start sampling!
You’ve now determined where to get your cannabis, and what kinds you like to eat/drink and why. What’s next? You won’t need a barbecue or even a chef’s hat to get started – just a knife, cutting board, grater, grinder, juicer and blender. As always with preparing fruits or vegetables, make sure you soak or wash your fresh cannabis thoroughly to ensure any pests or bacteria are separated from the plant. Cleanliness is doubly important with consuming raw cannabis because you’re not cooking it like with most meal prep – the element of heat is not on your side to help fry any negative bacteria or lingering bugs. Once you’ve made sure to scrub and soak your leaves/flowers to your personal comfort level, it’s time to get started. Ready? Set?…
What comes next is completely up to you. Personal preference and medical needs ultimately dictate which kind of raw cannabis consumer you should be. Do you own a juicer? Excellent, this is one of the best ways to consume raw cannabis because you’re extracting the essence of what makes marijuana healthy – the cannabinoids, the terpenes and the vitamins & nutrients from the plant in its purest form. Not a fan of juicing? Prefer to whip up a delicious smoothie? Another great choice is a fruits, veggies and ganja shake! Smoothies are one of the most versatile and healthy food combinations today – not to mention you can customize them to any taste, any consistency and for many reasons (breakfast energy boost, lunchtime snack, after dinner healthy treat, etc). Maybe you’re more of a chef than you are a blender, and you want to get your hands into the plant (literally). Well sharpen your favorite knife and get chopping! Pare some cannabis leaves or grate some buds onto your favorite salad, on top of a bowl of oatmeal or as a garnish for that special pasta you’re so good at making. Like we said, the ways you can include raw cannabis in your diet are subject to how creative you can be, so don’t stop at just taking our suggestions… start experimenting! Cannabis can actually have a very favorable flavor or texture value for certain meals, it’s just a matter of pairing this health-boosting plant with the meals you enjoy cooking or eating.
Again, just be cognizant to keep the cannabis raw and uncooked – if you introduce heat or put cannabis in an environment where its chemical composition might be altered, you might risk the psychoactive effects of THC. Need to have access to raw cannabis on-the-go for your busy lifestyle, but you don’t have the time to prep it our make fresh meals/snacks each day? A little trade secret among our cannabis-juicer friends is to press cannabis juice, or mix it in with a more flavorful drink like pineapple juice or coconut water and freeze them into ice cubes or popsicles. Now you’ve got a long-lasting, non-heat treated, convenient way to get the benefit of raw cannabis on demand.
FOR YOUR HEALTH: The Raw-some Power of Cannabis
How much cannabis should you consume in a day? Well it’s important to not exceed your possession limits set out by the Cannabis Act, but some studies have suggested trying 30 grams of fresh, raw cannabis per day as having some positive health benefits for the average person. Everyone’s cannabis needs are different, so just use this 30 grams baseline as strictly that – a standard to build upon. Your personal health, wellness and lifestyle should be the major determining factors for what, how and why you consume raw cannabis. We hope you give raw cannabis a try, don’t be afraid to experiment with it in many kinds of food or drink, and start realizing the raw-some power of cannabis.