Juicing cannabis, you say? And here I thought I was hip to all of the latest health trends (as well as the older ones). Somehow the cannabis juicing movement has flown under my radar so far, but that’s about to change.
We can probably agree that it sounds like a really healthy thing to do. But is it? What are the health benefits – and downsides, if any – of fresh, raw cannabis juice?
Cannabis juice how-to’s
Different parts of the cannabis plant can be used for juicing. Both the leaves and the flowers are a great choice, depending on what you have available. The stems are better left out, since they contain too much fiber and could wreak havoc on your juicer.
As an approximation, ten big fan leaves yield about a tablespoons of juice. Suggested by Dr. Courtney, the only cannabis juice expert known to the internet, is a daily dose of 20-30 big shade leaves or 2-3 raw colas of 2-3 inches long.
Ideally, it should come straight off the plant and be consumed within fifteen minutes. As with all greens, the nutritional content is never better than right after harvest, and degrades fast.
Juicing cannabis isn’t for everyone
The concept of cannabis juicing (yes, that’s actual marijuana we’re talking about, not industrial hemp) is not very inclusive. Unless you live in an area where marijuana is legal for at least medical and preferably recreational use, it’ll be difficult to have access to enough fresh plant material.
To smoke or not to smoke
Cannabis juice is supposed to be made from leaves and flower. Obviously, those buds can only be used once, so between juicing and smoking them you may have a dilemma on hand.
You can also choose to use the leaves for juicing and save the flower for other purposes. The fan leaves aren’t as densely packed with terpenes as the colas, but they’ll do better than nothing.
Does marijuana juice make you high?
In theory: No. THC is the psychoactive cannabinoid, and raw cannabis doesn’t contain any THC – yet. The precursor of THC is called THCa (the a stands for acid) and only after being heated does THCa convert to THC. This process of converting THCa to THC is called decarboxylation.
When smoking or vaping dried flower, it happens on the spot, when making cannabutter it takes place in the frying pan (or this fancy cannabutter machine) and when juicing cannabis or marijuana straight from the plant it doesn’t occur.
At least, it shouldn’t…
However! Yes, there’s a big, fat however. No one can completely guarantee the absence of psychoactive THC in cannabis juice, due to the possibility of some accidental decarboxylation.
It’s hard enough to decarboxylate on purpose, you might say – how the heck does one do so by accident?
Various things can cause the a in THCa to degrade, dissolve, disappear. And when that happens, what’s left is… drumroll… psychoactive THC. Even though the cannabis itself may still be raw.
So-called spontaneous decarboxylation is a whole topic of its own.
Raw cannabis decarboxylating with age
Interesting to know is that decarboxylation tends to occur naturally over a long period of time. Technically, raw but very old marijuana could contain some actual THC (without the a).
When trichomes get disrupted in some way, this can also start the process. If the juicer isn’t as slow as it’s supposed to be, the friction of the juicing process can contribute to making decarboxylation happen sooner than gradually over time and without the high heat.
Chemical reactions causing decarboxylation
The acid present in fruit containing citrus acid can allegedly dissolve the THC-acid, but there isn’t much research to be found on this process. Avocado, coconut oil, lemon, tangerine and orange juice get mentioned for causing decarboxylation to some extent. There seems to be a potential for interaction with certain substances containing a fat and/or an acid.
In my clunky lay-person terms, it sounds as though another acid comes in to dissolve the THCa’s acidic tail, leaving the leftover THC free to be absorbed by any fat present in the concoction and hitch that ride into the body.
Or none at all
Then again – some say they’ve juiced cannabis with pineapple, bananas, mango, blueberries, strawberries, spinach and even apple cider vinegar without noticing anything at all.
Is cannabis juice illegal?
Yes. Juicing cannabis or marijuana is no more legal than smoking weed. Only in areas where recreational and/or medical marijuana use is allowed, the fresh cannabis leaves and buds are so too.
Enough fresh cannabis for juicing
It goes without saying that the best way to have access to trusted and fresh plant material for juicing is to grow it yourself.
Keep in mind that USA states allowing personal marijuana grow-op’s have capped the amount of adult plants and seedlings one can possess at any given time. These numbers vary per state, but they’re easy to look up. Click on the image below for an overview of state-by-state marijuana laws.
While growing your own marijuana is no doubt the best way to guarantee a supply of fresh and organic greens, I seriously doubt the number of plants allowed can be enough to start juicing cannabis daily for an extended period of time. Probably more like an occasional shot of cannabis juice, and a sturdy dose of patience while waiting for the next crop to mature. Cheers!
Are there any undesirable side effects to drinking cannabis juice?
There is the part where raw cannabis juice could actually get you insanely stoned. On the other hand, if a high is what you’re after, the juice isn’t a very dependable way to achieve this. Considering the vastly different experiences and opinions surrounding cannabis juice, it’s like playing THC roulette. And while neither getting high nor not getting high has to be a downside per se, not knowing what exactly will happen definitely counts as one.
Then there’s the part where you can only legally explore the health benefits of cannabis juicing in states & countries that allow the growing or trading of this heavily blacklisted “vegetable”.
For argument’s sake, let’s add one more drawback. Apparently, there can be pathogenic microbes on the outside of the plant and people with a compromised immune system should be careful. (Mentioned by Michael Backes of the Abatin Wellness Center, a medical marijuana collective, in this article.)
This one I’m not sure I fully understand. He doesn’t seem to mean there are any cannabis-specific pathogens living on marijuana plants, but is referring to those that can be found on any cultivated plant. If random pathogenic microbes pose a risk to the immuno-compromised wannabe cannabis juicer, then should he or she refrain from eating all leafy greens – kale, spinach, lettuce, etc… – just to be on the safe side?
Surely, the takeaway can’t be that folks with a weak immune system should refrain from eating their vegetables.
Health benefits of cannabis juicing
Since almost every single article online about juicing cannabis is all praise, I wanted to do things a little differently here and not shy away from the critical questions. Of course raw cannabis juice has some awesome health benefits. It’s a leafy green after all, so how could it not?
Cannabis juice is a good source of:
As with juicing any fruit or vegetable, it is important to not ingest any pesticides. Only organically grown cannabis should be used for juicing. Otherwise you’re exposing the body to the residue of chemicals used in the conventional growing process and bringing in health problems instead of eliminating them.
High doses (literally) of cannabinoids, without the (mental) high
The most amazing thing about juicing raw cannabis is that you can ingest a huge amount of cannabinoids. Much more that the body is able to handle comfortably when THC is involved. (Of course, for this to be accurate you need to be sure these cannabinoids are indeed not carboxylated. Dr. Courtney recommends to test with a little bit of juice, which sounds like a fine strategy if your schedule is wide open. Alright, alright… we’re done with the downsides – this part is about everything positive on juicing cannabis.)
These large doses of cannabinoids work their magic without the high associated with THC. While cannabis juice’s strong suit allegedly is in its not-to-be-underestimated preventative effect, there’s a list of conditions it may potentially be of help with.
- Multiple sclerosis
- Digestive & Gastro-intestinal issues
- Exhaustion & low energy
- Pain management
Neuroprotectant & antioxidant
Cannabinoids are anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-oxidant and neuro-protectant, among their many other virtues. None other than the US government has registered a patent for these last two properties. Even though there isn’t a whole lot of research available, it makes sense that cannabis juice can be beneficial for issues related in some way to degeneration and inflammation.
There is some potential evidence that THCa may help improve nausea and vomiting, and do so even better than THC. This study was done on rats and shrews.
This study is being cited in an article on crescolabs as source material showing the anti-cancer properties of THCa, one of the main cannabinoids in fresh cannabis juice. However, when you actually work your way through the study, it is not saying anything of the sort. On the contrary, other cannabinoids (mainly CBD) are found to have the most potential to fight cancer cells.
Check with your doctor first
Cannabis is a powerful medicinal herb. Ask a doctor experienced in working with medical marijuana whether juicing cannabis can be a good fit for you. Experiment at your own risk. I’ve done my very best to paint a full picture of risk and reward, but nothing can beat the advice of a (marijuana-friendly) medical professional.
Should we all have started juicing cannabis yesterday?
It’s hardly a surprise for cannabis to be right up there with some of the most nutritious leafy greens. Rich in anti-oxidants, calcium, iron, beta-carotene, anthocyanins and more, it seems like a no-brainer to put this juice on the list of healthiest things you can do for your body.
Healthy over high
What makes cannabis juice quite different from any other green goo is the random conversion of THCa to THC. Depending on personal preference, this risk can be an awesome bonus or an insurmountable downside to juicing cannabis.
Use fresh cannabis and a slow juicer, not a high speed one – that’s usually the more expensive one – to limit the chances of inadvertently brewing up a concoction that’ll make you take the long way to work.
Cannabis juice has much to offer
The concept of cannabis juicing definitely sounds promising on many fronts. It also needs more research. Which ailments cannabis juice can help with or heal, how raw cannabinoids interact with the human cannabinoids system and the lack of specifics surrounding the decarboxylation of fresh marijuana are all area’s for further investigation.
And a few limitations
A generous and ongoing fresh supply of leaves and/or colas is needed to juice at the level recommended by cannabis juicing expert Dr. Courtney. Even in legalized areas, small scale home growers will have a hard time keeping up with that amount, due to current restrictions on the number of plants.
No panic, it’s organic
While a full-on cannabis juicing cure may not be within reach of most people, that doesn’t mean you can’t do some personal experimenting with the amount you do have available. As long as you’re not one to panic over an unintentional psychoactive breakfast smoothie and keep it organic – no pesticides! – things should be well and end well.
Have you tried juicing cannabis? Let us know your findings in the comments!