There’s a new trend growing among health-conscious cannabis enthusiasts. For the longest time, the herb has been considered one of the world’s most beloved smokable plants. Yet, the most recent hype is a nutritional one: raw cannabis.
More exciting than broccoli, raw cannabis is a superfood. It contains a variety of beneficial nutrients, some of which are thought to be unique to cannabis. Here’s why fresh cannabis bud is good for you and how to use it:.
What is raw cannabis?
Raw cannabis refers to fresh leaves and bud. In this case, “fresh” means undried and unheated. Typically, once cannabis plants have reached full bloom, they are harvested, trimmed, dried, and cured.
Much of the time, excess fan leaves are discarded as compost. Flower is often processed for extractions or sold as medical or recreational cannabis.
Once flower is harvested and drying begins, the plant goes through significant chemical transformations. When raw, cannabis is not psychoactive. As the plant ages, however, chemical compounds concentrated in the plant’s trichome resin glands begin to degrade.
This degradation is what produces the herb’s famous psychoactive effects. Aging, heat, and light are the primary culprits that trigger transformation. This is why cannabis is often smoked, vaporized, or cooked prior to consuming.
The proper name for this breakdown process is decarboxylation. When you take fire to some herb, you transform acids found in resin glands into more active compounds like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the molecule that produces the famous cannabis high.
Why is raw cannabis good for you?
While the classic cannabis buzz is both fun and therapeutic, there are some surprising benefits to keeping the plant raw. In fact, many medical cannabis patients now incorporate both “activated” and raw cannabis into their treatment regimens. Here are five reasons why:
1. Cannabinoid acids
Cannabinoid acids are the precursors to more commonly known cannabinoids like THC and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is found as tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) and CBD is found as cannabidiolic acid (CBDA).
For the most part, THC and CBD are considered the two primary active compounds in cannabis. However, a growing body of evidence has discovered that cannabinoid acids are more valuable than many might have guessed.
Some of the benefits of these acids include:
- Neuroprotective antioxidant (THCA)
- Anti-Nausea and vomiting (THCA and CBDA)
- Anxiety relief (CBDA)
- Anti-cancer (THCA and CBDA)
- Analgesic (THCA)
- Anti-inflammatory (THCA and CBDA)
A raw cannabis juice or sauce would be an excellent way to quell a nervous stomach or potentially ease pain from an inflammatory condition.
2. Dietary terpenes
Cannabinoid acids aren’t the only beneficial nutrients in raw, dietary cannabis. Terpenes, the aroma molecules that give cannabis its tantalizing scent, also have health promoting properties.
For example, a 2014 study treated mice with a terpene called beta-caryophyllene. This molecule is what provides a crisp, pepper-like aroma to some cannabis strains. The researchers found that treatment with beta-caryophyllene seemed to calm anxiety and trigger behavioral changes during depression.
Similarly, research from 2012 found that a plant extract containing the terpenes linalool and beta-pine reduced depression-like behavior in rodent models. Linalool provides a floral, lavender-like scent to some cannabis strains. Pinene provides a crisp, pine forest aroma.
3. Vitamins and minerals
There’s no reason why you can’t use cannabis as what it is: a vegetable. Cannabis leaves and flowers contain vitamins just like many green, leafy plants. Some of the common vitamins found in leaves include:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin K
These vitamins and minerals have several important roles to play in the human body. These include immune function, blood clotting, oxygen circulation, and more.
Again like many leafy greens, cannabis leaves offer a rich source of dietary fiber. Fiber is essential for proper digestion. Beneficial microbes that inhabit the digestive tract feed on fiber, encouraging the growth of healthy gut flora.
Recent research has found that gut microbes can influence pain perception and inflammation. Surprisingly, studies have also shown that gut microbes contribute significantly to mental health. Including fibrous greens into your diet is a great way to build a healthy gut.
5. Relief without the high
Unlike inhaling or ingesting decarboxylated cannabis, raw cannabis does not provide a high. While THCA will slowly convert to THC as the plant ages, freshly harvested bud is safe to eat or drink without any risk of a high.
Though more research is needed, medical marijuana patients often add the raw herb into their diets to enhance the therapeutic effects of their regular cannabis treatments.
Evidence suggests that while both CBD and CBDA can both reduce symptoms like inflammation, both cannabinoids tackle the issue via different mechanisms. For this reason, raw cannabis makes for a powerful and safe addition to any wellness routine.
How do you use raw cannabis?
The benefits of raw cannabis sound amazing, but how do you use it? Raw cannabis leaves and buds can be stored in the refrigerator like any other salad or vegetable.
Wrap leaves and buds in a kitchen cloth and store in a crisper for freshness and texture. Buds can also be stored in an air and moisture-tight container.
Once you’ve acquired some leaves or fresh buds there are a few ways to incorporate the herb into your diet.
1. Juices and smoothies
Blend it up! Juices and smoothies are two of the most popular ways to incorporate raw cannabis into your diet. Smoothies tend to have more fiber, which means that you can typically rest assured that you’re getting as many cannabinoid acids as possible.
Simply throw in some fresh flower into the blender or juicer, and you’ve got yourself a healthy cannabinoid-laden meal.
Cannabis leaves make for excellent additions to tossed salad or an herbaceous meal. Use as a substitute or an add on to herbs like parsley, oregano, and cilantro. Since the plant tends to have a strong flavor and aroma, only a small about of cannabis leaves will likely be needed.
3. Dressings and sauces
Do you have a favorite salad dressing? Dressings and sauces are an easy way bring cannabis into the everyday kitchen. Throw a little raw cannabis into the blender or food processor while preparing dresses, sauces, and chilled soups for an added superfood boost.
This post was originally published on June 12, 2017, it was updated on October 5, 2017.