Cannabis Juicing: The Reality of Whole Plant Therapy

By Gooey Rabinski | May 21, 2015

Juicing vegetables is nothing new for health-conscious consumers seeking to gain the benefits of phytonutrients and vitamins. Some patients, however, have gained significant benefit from juicing the fan leaves and flowers of raw, undried cannabis.

This is obviously a very different approach than traditional smoking or vaporizing, both of which employ heat to cause chemical changes in the cannabinoids found in the plant. Cannabinoids are stored in the plant in the form of acids and denoted as THC-A, CBD-A, CBG-A, etc. It is only during the application of heat (a process called decarboxylation) that these acids are converted to the cannabinoids with which many cannabis consumers are familiar: THC, CBD, CBG, etc.

When juicing raw plant material, no psychoactive THC is consumed because the molecule simply is not present in the plant. Thus, patients who juice experience no euphoria.

Exemplary Patient Recovery

Dr. William Courtney, a physician in Mendocino County, California, is one of the foremost advocates for cannabis juicing. Courtney gained notoriety after helping his wife, Kristen, overcome a collection of debilitating ailments, including systemic lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, endometriosis, and autoimmune disease — using only cannabis juice. After many weeks of drinking the juice of THC-A-dominant plants, Courtney was able to wean herself off more than 40 different pharmaceutical drugs, many of which delivered negative side effects.

Dr. Courtney focuses on the possible therapeutic value that is lost when cannabinoids are decarboxylated. He claims that 99 percent of the value of cannabis is lost when it is burned or vaporized. In the documentary Leaf, he explains that a given amount of cannabis leaf will, when juiced, provide 500-600 mg of THC-A (the non-psychoactive precursor to THC). Courtney considers this to be a good daily dose. If smoked, this same amount of cannabis would deliver only 10 mg of THC (a standard dose). Based on his work with his patients in Mendocino County, Courtney believes that 500-1000 mg of THC-A is necessary to provide proper efficacy.

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Thus, the question becomes one of the medical efficacy of the raw, acidic form of cannabinoids versus their heated, non-acidic siblings. Unfortunately, not enough is known about phytocannabinoids (those derived from plants like cannabis) and their interaction with the endocannabinoid system of the human body.

While completely anecdotal, the story of Kristen Courtney’s miraculous recovery using only raw cannabis juice is both unusual and inspiring. Her case should be taken seriously by the medical establishment in an effort to deliver similar results for other patients.

Is Cannabis Juicing Practical?

The biggest disadvantage of juicing is the inability of patients to find enough raw plant material to juice on a daily basis. Those living in states that have legalized medical marijuana and allow commercial or home cultivation will find it easiest to obtain enough fresh trim to experiment with juicing. Also, because plant material must be fresh, leaves that have dried or been stored for extended periods are not recommended.

Unfortunately, the volume of plant matter that is recommended by Dr. Courtney — 15-20 large fan leaves and a couple of buds per day — will be difficult or impossible for most patients to obtain on a regular basis. Even in states with legal medical marijuana that permit home cultivation, a garden of three to six plants simply can’t provide this amount of leaf material. Typically, only patients that are able to purchase large quantities of trim from commercial growers or community gardens will be capable of juicing on a daily basis.

Some have questioned the validity of Courtney’s approach. To obtain more credible numbers, one patient sent 30 fan leaves for analysis to a lab in Los Angeles. The lab found the leaves to contain 11.5 mg of cannabinoid acids. However, to satisfy the goal of 600 mg of cannabinoid acids, a patient would have to obtain and juice 1,500 leaves per day.

Even for the few patients who can obtain enough fresh, raw plant material, will they be willing to forego the euphoria associated with smoking, vaping, or consuming edibles? With so much medical benefit delivered by the plant when smoked or vaped, is juicing really practical or even recommended for the average patient (especially those who live in states where cannabis is illegal)? This imperative question may only be answered after scientists have more access to the plant for research. Perhaps it will depend on the specific medical condition being treated.

Instructions for Cannabis Juicing

Dr. Courtney recommends the following guidelines for obtaining and juicing raw cannabis.

  • Harvest leaves prior to the trichomes turning cloudy, or amber. Trichomes should be clear when leaves or buds are used for juicing.
  • Use a juicer or blender. A blender is preferred because it is easier to clean.
  • Store a single batch of raw cannabis juice, refrigerated, for up to three days.
  • Mix raw cannabis leaves with another vegetable to decrease the bitterness. Many patients who juice recommend a 10:1 ratio of carrots to cannabis.
  • Consume cannabis juice with each meal, roughly three times per day.
  • Use 15-20 large fan leaves in a blender for a typical batch (three servings, or one day).

Gooey Rabinski

Gooey Rabinski is the author of Understanding Medical Marijuana.

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