Juicing is one of the most efficient ways to absorb all of the beneficial and valuable nutrients from fruits and vegetables. With the increase of salts and sugars in the typical Westerner’s diet, many of our digestive systems are not functioning at 100%. Meaning when we eat a plate of healthy vegetables, half of those nutrients are not absorbed by our bodies and are simply wasted. By condensing vegetables into a juice, you can consume twice as many vegetables while also being able to absorb those nutrients more efficiently.
The process of juicing separates the vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals from the fiber of the fruit or vegetable — leaving you with a nutritious, concentrated elixir.
While many people focus on the flowers of the cannabis plant, our girl Mary Jane is technically a vegetable until she begins to flower and produce resinous buds.
Cannabis leaves contain the same about of fiber, iron, and calcium as any other leafy greens such as kale or spinach. The only difference between cannabis leaves and your average leafy vegetables is that cannabis leaves are filled with ultra-beneficial cannabinoids.
Don’t worry, these aren’t the kind of cannabinoids that will get you high — well they are, but they don’t get you high unless you heat them up first (hence the necessary decarboxylating process when you cook edibles). But the thing is, when cannabis is heated, a majority of the beneficial enzymes and nutrients are lost!
So today, we’re going to talk about the health benefits of consuming “inactive” cannabinoids through raw cannabis leaves.
Cannabinoids are highly nutritious for our bodies and communicate directly with our endocannabinoid system. There are some doctors who believe many common diseases are caused by an unbalanced endocannabinoid system. This complex system in our body regulates our immune system, nerve functions, and even bone activity. When your endocannabinoids system is out of wack, so is your body. Raw cannabinoids, in the form of juice, help replenish our body’s endocannabinoid system more quickly than smoking or eating cannabis.
Dietary specialist Dr. William Courtney says that “you are actually walking away from 99% of the benefits cannabis provides when you cook or smoke cannabis.” Dr. Courtney became one of the leading advocates for raw cannabis juicing after he experienced the benefits first hand. His wife was suffering from systemic lupus, endometriosis, autoimmune disease and rheumatoid arthritis when he decided to begin treating her with fresh cannabis juice. He sourced THCa-dominant plants, and after weeks of drinking the juice, she was able to slowly remove over 40 pharmaceutical drugs from her health regimen.
Ingesting raw cannabis won’t get you high so it is a great option for someone who isn’t looking to experience the “recreational” side of marijuana. Plus, your body is actually able to tolerate larger doses of cannabinoids in its raw acidic form which is important for someone battling cancer or any other significant illness.
To elaborate, before cannabinoids are heated and activated into the potent compounds that we’re more familiar with, they exist in an acidic form. When cannabis leaves are juiced, all the raw cannabinoid acids are concentrated into a superfood juice. Cannabinoids in their raw acidic form have been shown to have anti-tumor properties, help improve cell function and oxygenation, reduce inflammation, diminish damage caused by free radicals, and improve two-way cellular communication (which eases nerve damage and inflammation).
When juiced, cannabis leaves release an abundance of phytocannabinoids. Two in particular, CBDa (cannabidiolic-acid) and CBGa (cannabigerolic-acid), offer significant pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory benefits that are difficult to obtain in smoked or baked cannabis.
CBGa is a fascinating cannabinoid, sometimes referred to as the stem cell cannabinoid, CBGa can become THC, CBD, CBC, and CBG through different types of biosynthesis. CBGa is known to relieve pain, slow bacterial growth, reduce systemic inflammation, and inhibit cancer cell growth.
CBDa is the acidic form of CBD, so when it is heated it transforms into CBD. In its raw form, CBDa has shown to slow bacterial growth, reduce nausea, reduce systemic inflammation, and inhibit cancer cell or tumor cell growth.
Another significant health benefit of cannabis leaves are their high fatty acid content — the cannabis plant contains all 21 known fatty acids, including the ones that the body is unable to make itself! Having the adequate amount of essential fatty acids in your system reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke as well as provides relief from severe joint pain. A remarkable and growing body of research from the American Institute for Cancer Research suggests that omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids may reduce cancer risk and help inhibit cancer growth.
Cannabis is food for your body, but it is also food for your mind. The flavonoids present in cannabis play a crucial role in building brain receptors. These antioxidant powerhouses are best ingested when raw cannabis is juiced.
Terpenes are also a valuable component of cannabis but they are volatile and have a low boiling point. When you light up or decarboxylate cannabis, many of those beneficial terpenes evaporate into the atmosphere. So juicing raw cannabis captures those valuable terpenes and delivers them to your body efficiently. The terpenes found in cannabis all have individual health benefits, but overall they help boost the immune system and defend against disease.
We’ve talked a lot about juicing the cannabis leaves, but what about juicing fresh cannabis flower? Cannabis flower is going to be your most potent source of THCa. The acidic form of THC has a wide variety of health benefits including but not limited to: relieving pain, reducing nausea, reducing inflammation, easing the ability to sleep, inhibiting cancer cell growth, suppressing muscle spasms, improving immune system functions, and slowing damage to the nervous system and brain functions. THCa begins to convert to THC directly after harvest, so it is best to utilize the freshest flowers as possible if you’re looking to benefit from THCa.
At this point, you’re probably wondering, “where can I get some fresh cannabis, already?!” Well, this is the difficult part. If you are in a non-legal state, it will unfortunately be nearly impossible. Hemp seeds which can be found in your local grocery or natural foods store do have some of the health benefits we talked about today and can be substituted if you lack any other option (just toss a handful in your smoothie or cereal).
However, if you live in one of the 28 states (plus D.C.) that have legalized the medicinal or recreational use of cannabis, you might be in luck. The big fan leaves on the cannabis plant are many times highly underutilized by growers — often they are thrown away or composted, and these are valuable gems getting tossed to the wayside!
If you can make friends with a grower, they will be a great consistent supply of fresh leaves in large amounts. However, what I would recommend is to stop by your local dispensary and pick up a couple clones. They sell for about $10 each, and you can keep it in a bright window next to any other herbs or plants you might grow in your home. By having cannabis plants right in your home, you can simply pluck off leaves and use them as needed. If you keep them under a light 18 or 24 hours out of the day, they will remain in a vegetative state — meaning they will not flower or produce buds (if you don’t want your neighbor raising eyebrows at the smell). But if you decide to flower them, then you have the ability to juice fresh cannabis buds which is a rare treat for many patients out there!
*If you’re interested in growing your own cannabis, check out our Grow Guide series to learn more.
It’s important to note that fresh cannabis juice (just like any fresh vegetable juice) is highly perishable. I would advise making the juice as needed rather than storing it in your fridge. However, I have also had success making a big batch and freezing it in ice cube trays for a nice medicinal punch to my morning smoothie.
While smoking cannabis can be a delectable experience, the juice is quite bitter and not-so-pleasing to the palette. I would recommend mixing it with another fresh juice such as carrot, apple, orange, or something sweet to combat that bitterness. If you want to just stick with pure cannabis juice, dilute it with water at the very least because it is a very acidic juice by itself.
Please feel free to ask any questions or drop your favorite cannabis juice recipe in the comments below!