If you’re familiar with cannabis, then you know that raw marijuana is non-psychoactive. Because of that fact, you might be wondering why you would ever want to eat unheated weed. Well, this herb may actually turn out to be one of the most nutritionally valuable plants we’ve found yet.
Why go raw?
Marijuana is a superfood. This incredibly unique plant contains over 400 different chemical compounds. The number of vitamins, essential oils, and acids found in cannabis has led experts like Dr. William Courtney to call weed a “dietary essential.” Marijuana is a particularly special plant in the world of nutrition because the herb contains extremely high concentrations of cannabinoid acids. Turns out, these acids are incredibly important for basic cell function.
Two of the primary cannabinoid acids that have been studied thus far are THCa and CBDa. When you heat these acids via smoking, vaping, or cooking cannabis you break them down into slightly different chemicals. Specifically, you degrade them into psychoactive THC and cannabinoid CBD. The process of converting these cannabinoid acids into their “active” form is known as decarboxylation, or “decarbing.”
Active THC and CBD have their share of benefits, but the one major downside to decarbing is that your body can only handle small amounts of these now activated cannabinoids. Explained best by to Dr. Courtney:
“We have a series of cannabis strains called ACDC. ‘AC’ stands for alternative cannabinoid, which is the CBD acid molecule, which has come into focus lately as being very important as an anti-inflammatory. And ‘DC’ stands for dietary cannabis. […] If you do heat it, then your dose is around 10mg. And if you don’t heat it, if it’s raw, then your dose is around one to 1-2,000mg.”
When you eat raw cannabis, your body is able to process extremely large amounts of THCa and CBDa without issue. Your body then converts these acids into the nutrients it needs via your own metabolism.
Consuming these cannabinoid acids is important because they help your cells communicate with each other via the endocannabinoid system. Consuming more cannabinoid acids may be the key to the prevention of chronic diseases caused by endocannabinoid deficiencies. Endocannabinoid deficiencies are thought to play a major role in the development of medical conditions like:
- Irritable Bowl Syndrome
- …and potentially many more!
Courtney suggests that high doses of raw CBDa and THCa are much more effective than their broken-down counterparts when it comes to their:
- Anti-inflammatory properties
- Anti-diabetic properties
- Anti-ischemic properties (ischemia occurs when your blood vessels constrict, preventing oxygen from flowing to certain parts of your body.)
Cannabis as a nutritional powerhouse
As with all living things, nutrients power our basic bodily functions. For example, your body cannot produce the depression-fighting neurotransmitter serotonin without key B vitamins. Like other leafy greens, cannabis contains a wealth of nutrients and proteins when eaten as a raw herb or vegetable.
Some of the key nutrients include:
Terpenes are essential oils found in cannabis and other plants. They give marijuana strains their unique scents and flavors. These compounds have many medicinal and nutritional benefits on their own, but when they’re partnered with cannabinoids their health benefits increase. Some of the most common terpenes in cannabis include:
- Linalool: This terpene gives cannabis a floral, lavender-like aroma. It’s known to have anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and anticonvulsant properties.
- Pinene: As its name suggests, this essential oil has a strong pine-like scent. Pinene is neuroprotective and helps strengthen the functioning of the nervous systems.
- Limonene: Another aptly named terpene, limonene is found in strains with a citrus aroma. Limonene can help prevent gastrointestinal issues, boost metabolism, and lower cholesterol.
When you go raw, the quality and the sheer number of terpenes that you’re consuming increases dramatically. This is good news if you’re in need of a serious health-overhaul.
Omega 3 & 6 Fatty Acids
There’s a reason hemp-based foods have become so popular these days. Marijuana leaves and hemp seed are not only high in protein but contain the perfect ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 essential fatty acids. This is incredibly important because we cannot produce these fatty acids on our own; we need to get them from dietary sources.
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are key to brain health. The human brain is nearly 60% fat, and we need a constant intake of the right kinds of fat to protect against neurogenerative diseases. EFAs are also key to maintaining balance in the endocannabinoid system.
Essential Amino Acids
Cannabis also contains all of the essential amino acids. Like the essential fatty acids, our bodies cannot produce essential amino acids on their own. We need to get these acids from our diet. Amino acids are necessary for cell function. They help cells maintain their structure, repair damaged tissue, and help them transport nutrients.
You can find these amino acids in fan leaves, but hemp seed contains the highest concentration.
Back in 2003, the U.S. Federal Government patented CBD after discovering the cannabinoid’s incredible antioxidant and neuroprotective properties. Antioxidants are key to preventing cell damage, which can lead to poor health and serious illness.
In their pre-patent research, they found that CBD was a more powerful antioxidant than vitamins C and E. Because you can consume extremely large amounts of CBDa when you eat raw cannabis, you also drastically increase the quantity of antioxidants you take in per serving.
Some raw recipes to try
The number one way Dr. Courntney suggests consuming raw weed is through juicing or blending uncured flower or fan leaves. Of course, you can also toss some leaves in with other veggies for a nutrient-packed salad. Marijuana leaves also make for delicious substitutes for herbs like parsley or cilantro.
Here are a few simple and tasty recipes to get you started. To keep things raw, throw in some fan leaves or some fresh flower instead of activated tinctures or concentrates. If you want to kick up the protein quality, add some shelled hemp seeds.
- Cannabis Watermelon Juice
- Green and Oh-So-Groovy Smoothie
- Date Smoothies
- Blueberry Canna-Bliss Smoothie
Much more research needs to be done to show just how raw cannabis is metabolized in our bodies. But, experts like Dr. Courtney have shown that you can do far more with the herb than just smoke it. Incorporating more raw weed into your diet allows you to consume over 60 times as many cannabinoids in one sitting than when you puff on a bowl or eat an activated edible.