4 Healthy and Green Uses for Cannabis Leaves
Don’t throw away your cannabis leaves! Here are four uses for marijuana leaves that are better than putting them in your local landfill.
Leaves are the primary energy gatherers of the cannabis plant. Green chlorophyll in the leaves helps harvest the sun’s energy, transforming it into vital fuel. Without healthy leaves, the cannabis plant is not able to live up to its full potential.
However, it is the buds of the cannabis plant that are harvested for medical and recreational use, meaning marijuana leaves that are pruned during cultivation and harvest are often seen as a byproduct, rather than a valuable product of the cannabis plant.
Here, we will discuss the various potential uses of marijuana leaves to ensure you are getting the most out of your cannabis plant each and every harvest.
Types of Cannabis Leaves
Before diving into all the exciting ways to use cannabis leaves, let’s start with some marijuana leaf basics.
Many users ask about how many leaves the marijuana plant has. While the number of leaflets (the individual fingers of the leaf) on marijuana leaves may differ depending on the type of cannabis plant, its place in the growth cycle, and more, they will have a odd number of leaflets, with mature leaves displaying serrated edges. Usually the number of leaflets is between 7-9, but some marijuana leaves can have up to 13.
When deciding how to use cannabis leaves, it’s important to first recognize that there are two types of leaves on a cannabis plant – the fan leaf and the sugar leaf. The two types of cannabis leaves have unique features that you may find makes them more ideal for a particular use.
- Fan Leaf : Broad marijuana leaves that shoulder most of the cannabis plant’s light gathering. Cannabis fan leaves are often recognized as the iconic symbol for cannabis. Fan leaves on indica plants are typically darker green with wider “fingers,” while sativa’s fan leaves often are lighter in color with lean, slender “fingers.” Cannabis fan leaves on hybrid cannabis strains generally feature a blend of the two. These leaves are typically trimmed during cultivation and contain low levels of cannabinoids. While they are among the most under-recognized and under-utilized parts of the cannabis plant, cannabis fan leaves are filled with flavor, resin, and phytonutrients that support wellness and health.
- Sugar Leaf : Smaller marijuana leaves that grow close to the cannabis plant’s flowers or “buds” during the plant’s flowering stage. Often times marijuana sugar leaves are hidden, with only their tips peaking through the larger marijuana fan leaves. Marijuana sugar leaves are usually trimmed after harvest to make buds appear more appealing to consumers, either before or after drying and curing . Sugar leaves are typically coated in white, delicious trichomes as if coated with a dusting of powdered sugar, and contain higher levels of cannabinoids than fan leaves.
These two types of marijuana leaves are often discarded, but they can be very valuable for making nutritious and cannabinoid-infused beverages and edibles that you can make at home or to amend previously-used soil to grow strong and healthy plants. Here are 4 healthy and green ways to use your cannabis leaves.
Juicing Raw Cannabis Leaves
The cannabis plant is highly nutritious, containing significant levels of essential vitamins and minerals, omega fatty acids, proteins, fiber, terpenes, flavonoids, and of course, cannabinoids. Raw cannabis fan and sugar leaves are great for upping the nutritional impact of green juices.
When kept fresh and raw (not dried or heated), cannabinoids in the cannabis plant are found in their acid form rather than their “active” form, meaning you will not experience psychoactive effects or a “high” from eating or drinking raw cannabis leaves. Cannabinoids in their acid form, such as THCa and CBDa, provide their own unique benefits through their interaction with the endocannabinoid system.
Cannabis juice can be made at home with any type of blender. The raw cannabis leaves and even buds are first pulverized and then hand-pressed through a strainer or cheesecloth, which separates the pulp from the juice. Alternatively, a home juicer can be used to add marijuana leaves to any preferred juicing blend of fruits or vegetables.
Cannabis Leaf Butter
Although you can make much more potent cannabis-infused butter with the plant’s flowers, marijuana leaves, especially sugar leaves, can also be used to create cannabinoid-infused butter or cannabutter.
To create cannabis leaf butter, you will need to heat your butter and leaves over low heat. This will both decarboxylate your cannabinoids and assist in their absorption into the butter. The same general technique can be used to infuse cannabinoids into oils like olive oil or coconut oil. Once the butter has been strained of the plant material and cooled, it can be spread on toast or used to create any number of cannabis-infused edibles. Try incorporating your cannabis leaf butter into baked goods like brownies, or using it to top baked potatoes or a steak at dinner for a twist on the traditional marijuana edible.
Get full instructions for making cannabis butter here .
Cannabis Leaf Tea
Marijuana leaves can also be dried and used in teas. Simply add dried marijuana leaves into hot water for a soothing cannabis herbal tea. If you do not enjoy the taste of the cannabis plant by itself, you can add other herbs and botanicals for taste or to draw on the benefits of various herbs.
The psychoactive effects of drinking cannabis tea is often debated. The hot water in tea is not likely to be hot enough to cause decarboxylation, which “activates” THC so that it can interact with the body to cause its euphoric effects.
Additionally, the resin of the cannabis plant, which is what holds cannabinoids, is fat soluble. For the cannabinoids to efficiently produce psychoactive effects, the resin needs to be dissolved into a carrier fat. One way to do this would be to add milk or cream to your tea.
A more effective method might be to heat dried cannabis leaves in some coconut oil. This will extract and amplify whatever cannabinoids happen to be present in the leaves. This cannabinoid-infused coconut oil can then be added to loose leaf tea and used to create tea with activated cannabinoids and a carrier fat to make them more easily absorbed by the body.
Composting Cannabis Leaves
If you are growing your own cannabis at home, either indoors or sun grown, then there are a few ways to use cannabis fan leaves better than as compost.
Composting is a great way to add the nutrients your plants need to your soil. By simply collecting your kitchen and yard waste, including leaves from your cannabis plants, you can divert as much as 30% of your household waste away from landfills and into your garden where its nutrients can help support bigger, healthier marijuana plants. Additionally, microorganisms living in compost help aerate the soil, break down organic material, and ward off plant disease.
Whether using your compost on your cannabis plants, your home garden, or both, you will be saving the nutrients in your household waste and returning them to the soil where they can provide the most benefit.
Read More About the Cannabis Plant
There is always more to learn about the cannabis plant on our Cannabis 101 page , including articles about growing marijuana at home, the types of cannabis products available, and picking the best dispensary for you.What can marijuana leaves be used for? What are the uses for cannabis leaves? We're here to give you some great ways to use your cannabis leaves! Click to read more!
Hemp-derived CBD vs. marijuana-derived CBD: what’s the difference?
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- Isolate vs. full-spectrum CBD
- The entourage effect
- Which to choose? Experts weigh in
Cannabidiol (CBD) has become an increasingly common fixture in medicine cabinets and on the shelves of local convenience stores and major drugstores. There is growing awareness that not all CBD products are made the same, nor are they even necessarily derived from the same kind of cannabis.
There are two classifications for the cannabis plant that produces CBD: hemp and marijuana.
Hemp-derived CBD is sourced from industrial hemp plants, which are grown primarily for their fiber and seeds. Hemp plants tend to differ from marijuana plants in appearance; they are often skinny and scarce in foliage. Hemp is also differentiated from marijuana by its levels of THC, the cannabinoid that possesses intoxicating properties. Under U.S. law a hemp plant must contain no more than 0.3% THC.
Marijuana-derived CBD is extracted from marijuana plants that have thick, lush foliage and flowers that are generally grown and consumed for their intoxicating properties. The U.S. government defines marijuana plants as those which contain more than 0.3% THC. While most marijuana plants contain THC as the predominant cannabinoid, there are several strains of marijuana that are rich in CBD.
That being said, whether CBD is extracted from hemp or marijuana, it remains identical on a molecular level.
One critical point of difference between hemp-derived CBD and marijuana-derived CBD is the resin content of each plant. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
“The CBD molecule and its associated pharmacology are the same, whether it was extracted from hemp or from marijuana. CBD is CBD, regardless of where it was originally derived from,” explained Jeremy Riggle, Ph.D, chief scientist at Mary’s Medicinals, a medical cannabis company known for its Transdermal Cannabis Patch.
Despite the identical molecular constitution of hemp-derived CBD and marijuana-derived CBD, there are certain factors that differentiate CBD products sourced from the two plants.
One critical point of difference between hemp-derived CBD and marijuana-derived CBD is the resin content of each plant. Cannabis resin is found within the trichomes of buds and, to a lesser extent, on the leaves.
Marijuana plants usually contain copious amounts of resin, while industrial hemp plants contain significantly less. Following that logic, marijuana offers a more abundant source of CBD than hemp. In order to extract CBD oil from hemp plants, a much larger quantity is needed.
There is an exception to this rule. Some emerging craft hemp varieties possess unusually high concentrations of CBD, such as Cherry Charlotte, Cobbler, and Berry Blossom. These cultivars contain between 12% and 20% CBD content with 0.3% THC or less.
Where and how the CBD is sourced has a major effect on contamination levels. A lack of stringent local regulations surrounding the production and refinement of hemp could lead to highly contaminated CBD products.
For instance, in China there are few regulations enforced on the agricultural industry, leading to the production of hemp-derived CBD products that tend to contain high levels of contaminants. Studies show that, due to the country’s mining activities, some regions in China have water and soil that are contaminated with heavy metals.
These contaminants manifest as toxicants within the hemp that can potentially taint CBD oil sourced from these plants. In order to remove the risk of ingesting contaminated CBD, it is safer to consume hemp-derived CBD products that are grown without chemical pesticides and tested by a third party.
Isolate vs. full-spectrum CBD
CBD isolate products are those which contain only the CBD molecule, with no accompanying terpenes, THC, or other cannabinoids. For patients with certain medical conditions, or those wishing to avoid THC, CBD isolates made from hemp may be preferred. The alternative to CBD isolates would be whole-plant or full-spectrum CBD products.
CBD isolate products are those which contain only the CBD molecule, with no accompanying terpenes, THC, or other cannabinoids. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
“Full-spectrum hemp is the extraction of all of the components — cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, etc. — of the hemp plant including low levels of THC,” explained Dr. Chanda Macias, CEO of Women Grow, an organization connecting female professionals in the cannabis industry; and CEO of National Holistic, a healing center based in Washington, D.C.
Marijuana plants, on the other hand, tend to contain a more diverse terpene profile than hemp. CBD products derived from marijuana plants also tend to contain THC levels higher than 0.3%.
“When you extract from marijuana, you get the added benefit of added terpene profiles that you can customize. Terpenes have an important therapeutic value,” said Dr. Herve Damas, a physician specializing in CBD treatment for professional athletes and director of Grassroots Herbals, a producer of CBD products.
The entourage effect
Research indicates that full-spectrum CBD products, whether extracted from hemp or marijuana plants, may offer enhanced therapeutic benefits.
“The entourage effect is essentially the synergy, in terms of outcome, that has been observed when cannabinoids are combined with other minor cannabinoids and terpenes,” Riggle said. “The combined effect is more pronounced in combination than in isolation, helping to prolong or enhance the overall effects.”
Various studies have shown that the entourage effect could help increase the clinical efficacy of CBD. One meta-analysis paper, published in September 2018, demonstrated that epileptic patients responded better to CBD-rich cannabis extracts that were complemented with other cannabinoids and phytonutrients.
Knowing where and how your CBD is sourced will provide major insight into potential contamination levels. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
One of the study’s authors, Fabricio Pamplona, Ph.D, observed, “It’s not necessarily always present in every clinical indication, but we observed that the patients reported lower doses with full-spectrum CBD than with pure/isolated CBD.”
Patients taking CBD-rich cannabis extracts also experienced fewer side effects. “It’s a complicated system that is not yet entirely understood, but the current evidence suggests there is definitely an entourage effect when cannabinoids are combined either with other cannabinoids or with terpenes,” Riggle added.
Which to choose? Experts weigh in
One significant consideration which influences consumer choice between hemp or marijuana-based CBD products is the law. Following the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, industrial hemp was removed from the government’s list of controlled substances. As a result hemp-derived CBD became legal in all fifty states.
In contrast, marijuana-derived CBD products can only be purchased in states where medical or adult-use cannabis has been legalized.
For those who have the freedom to choose the plant source of their CBD, the experts tend to highlight the benefits of choosing whole-plant products when possible.
“I treat patients with both hemp and marijuana CBD products and I couldn’t say one is more effective than the other. I can concur that most of my patients find that having THC, even the 0.3% found in hemp-derived CBD products, more effective than products with 0% THC,” Damas said.
Macias pointed out that there are medical conditions that respond only to CBD with varying levels of THC, while other conditions do not require the use of THC to achieve medicinal effects.
“Full-spectrum hemp can provide an entourage effect. The medicinal benefits of a hemp-derived entourage effect will depend on the medical condition, stage of the condition, patient physiology, and the dose response,” she explained. “I do believe, however, that CBD-rich marijuana extracts offer greater therapeutic value than full-spectrum hemp CBD, as it pertains to specific medical conditions.”
For those who have the freedom to choose the plant source of their CBD, the experts tended to highlight the benefits of choosing whole-plant products when possible. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Experimenting with both hemp-derived and marijuana-derived CBD with varying levels of THC and CBD may be the key to finding the right product for your needs. Ideally, choose an organic product of a low concentration, and incrementally increase your intake or product concentration until you find a level that works for you.
“At this point, what we know about cannabinoid therapy is that it is highly individualistic and depends to a significant extent on the symptoms being treated,” Riggle said. “The clinical data is not there yet to provide a one-size-fits-all answer to this question.”Hemp-derived CBD vs. marijuana-derived CBD: what’s the difference? Copy article link to clipboard. Link copied to clipboard. Contents Resin Contamination Isolate vs. ]]>