Cannabis is among the oldest cultivated plants. Even with an ancient history, it can come as a surprise that smoking cannabis through a pipe or rolling it into a cigarette is a fairly recent breakthrough to humankind.
Instead than lighting up the herb, Robert Clarke, researcher, and Mark Merlin, a professor of Botany at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, suggests that cannabis flowers and preparations were likely more often eaten for their medicinal effects rather than inhaled by early humans.
Cultures in various parts of the world developed different ways to utilize the nutritional and healing powers of cannabis. In In the Himalayas, for example, mixing cannabis leaf powder and honey is was thought to promote "youth, vitality and virility." It is even speculated that ancient women ate raw cannabis flowers and used raw plant materials to ease pain and nausea during childbirth.
What is raw cannabis?
While these historical facts are interesting, what exactly is raw cannabis, anyway? Does this mean you should chow down on some Blue Dream you've just picked up?
Eh, not quite.
Raw cannabis refers to plant material taken fresh off of the herb without being heated, dried, or aged. Just like snipping off a few leaves of lettuce, raw cannabis is kept in its vegetable state.
Once leaves or fresh bud get harvested, they go in the fridge like any other fresh herb. Unheated tinctures and extracts can also be made with raw cannabis and are found in some cannabis shops and dispensaries. Unlike the dried buds sold in coffee shops, dispensaries, and dime bags across the globe, raw cannabis is not psychoactive.
The herb becomes slightly psychoactive as it dries and ages. Yet, the powerful "high" that so many cannabis fans have come to know and love only happens when the plant is heated via smoking or cooking. It is safe to consume raw cannabis without experiencing euphoric effects.
Three Amazing Compounds in Raw Cannabis
You might be wondering: if raw cannabis is not psychoactive, what is the point of wasting a perfectly good bud by eating it? As it turns out, raw cannabis is a nutritional powerhouse. Here are three amazing reasons to keep your herb raw:
Most cannabis consumers know that the primary psychoactive in the herb is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Raw cannabis only contains trace amounts of THC. Instead, the cannabinoid is found as tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), which transforms into THC when heated. Additional cannabis compounds found as acids in raw cannabis.
While cannabinoid acids have long been overlooked as "inactive", a growing body of research suggests that this is far from the case. In fact, early laboratory experiments suggest that THCA can reduce inflammation and ease nausea and vomiting in rodent models.
Cannabinoid acids aren't the only beneficial molecules in the cannabis plant. Terpenes are the aromatic chemicals that give the herb its unique scent and taste. The cannabis plant can produce an estimated 200 different terpenes. While not all of these terpenes are expressed in large concentrations in any given sample, many of the most common cannabis terpenes are expected to have beneficial health effects.
Myrcene, a musky terpene common in Kush varieties, is thought to aid in muscle relaxation. Linalool, a floral terpene also found in lavender, has calming and anxiety-relieving qualities. Other terpenes, like pinene, can open up airways in the lungs.
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Eating plants is good for you. Like a fresh bunch of kale, raw cannabis contains many of the micronutrients common in other leafy greens. These include vitamins, ketones, amino acids, fatty acids, and enzymes. Raw cannabis also contains proteins, glycoproteins, and fiber. Even if cannabis did not contain cannabinoid acids, its leaf material would still be beneficial thanks to this buffet of micro and macronutrients.
How do you use raw cannabis?
Raw cannabis can be used just like any other culinary herb. The only catch is that it can't be heated. Here are three common ways to use raw cannabis:
Juices and smoothies
Using a wheatgrass juicer or a high-speed blender, raw cannabis can included in juices and smoothies. Unfortunately for some, the herb still has a distinctive taste. You might want to mix it with sweet flavors like apple or pineapple, or shot it like wheatgrass.
Salads and sauces
Raw cannabis fan leaves can be chopped and tossed into salads along with other superfood greens. It can also be blended into dressings for a flavor and nutritional boost in a similar manner to cilantro or parsley.
Tinctures and extracts containing raw THCA and other raw cannabinoids are becoming more readily available in medical and recreational cannabis dispensaries. Tinctures can also be made at home by "washing" chopped and raw materials with a high proof grain alcohol, which dissolves fatty resin from plant material and captures cannabinoid acids without activating them.