The Science Behind Eating Raw Cannabis

Written By Scott Jacks
April 29, 2021
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The Science Behind Eating Raw Cannabis

You can inhale it in papers, pipes, bongs, and vapes; you can cook it into almost any food or drink, and you can even absorb it through your skin. Cannabis is one of the most malleable drugs, so anyone can find a method of use that suits their lifestyle and preferences. However, there is a new consumption method hitting cannabis culture: eating cannabis raw. What are the claims of raw cannabis proponents, and is there any merit to what they say? Read on to find out.

What Raw Cannabis Can Do for You

When people talk about eating raw cannabis, they aren’t talking about cannabis seeds or hemp hearts. Rather, they mean the fibrous parts of the cannabis plant — the vegetable matter, like the leaves and buds. In fact, these parts of the cannabis plant actually do qualify as vegetables, as a vegetable is essentially an edible portion of a plant’s leaves, stalks, or roots.

As a vegetable, raw cannabis offers one primary benefit: dietary fiber. Consuming plant fiber is essential for healthy digestion, and it can be useful in lowering cholesterol, regulating blood sugar, and maintaining a healthy weight. Healthy adults are recommended to ingest between 20 and 40 grams of fiber per day — and raw cannabis could certainly provide a significant portion of that dose. In addition to fiber, cannabis can offer consumers trace amounts of important vitamins, like calcium, sodium, and potassium, as well as some macronutrients like protein and fat. However, cannabis is not a significant source of these nutrients, so you must eat a balanced diet even if you want to add raw cannabis to your pantry.

Ultimately, you should consider raw cannabis to be like other leafy greens you might add to a salad — with one exception: terpenes. Unlike other vegetable matter, cannabis is bursting with organic compounds called terpenes, which provide more intense aromas than typical vegetable matter. Research on terpenes has found many of them to have positive physiological and psychological effects, especially antioxidants, anti-inflammatory agents, and antidepressants. Different varieties of cannabis boast different types of terpenes, so it might be beneficial to grow or purchase different strains of cannabis plants for a more varied terpene diet; you can talk to budtenders at an Arizona dispensary to better understand the terpenes in different strains.

It is important to note that raw cannabis won’t do for you: get you high. Though almost every part of the cannabis plant contains cannabinoids like THC and CBD, they are in their raw form until they are decarboxylated, or exposed to heat, which changes their chemical structure. As a result, the body doesn’t process cannabinoids the same way you consume cannabis raw, and you almost certainly won’t experience any psychological effects.

The Downsides of Raw CannabisThe Downsides of Raw Cannabis

There is plenty that eating raw cannabis can do for you, but there are some concerns you might want to consider before you start chowing down on the bud you buy at your local dispensary. For one, the flavor of raw cannabis can take some getting used to. Because cannabis has not been bred for raw consumption, it tends to have an intensely bitter flavor that many do not particularly enjoy. What’s more, cannabis’s fibrousness can produce a tough texture that requires plenty of chewing to digest properly. In a word, raw cannabis can be gross.

Even if you are accustomed to whole foods that are a bit less palatable, you should need to be careful about the source of the raw cannabis you consume. Because most commercial cannabis growers don’t expect consumers to eat their buds literally, many grow ops utilize fertilizers and pesticides to improve their crop health and yield. Unfortunately, these cultivation tools can linger on the product available for sale at dispensaries, making them unsafe to eat. Tests have found traces of chemical pesticides, salmonella, and E. coli on cannabis samples.

You might be able to wash away some of these contaminants, but a better strategy is to grow your own cannabis crop from home. Then, you can control what products are used in cultivation, and you can ensure that your raw cannabis is as fresh as possible before you eat it.

Cannabis is non-toxic and offers several benefits to those able to stomach the strange vegetable. However, if you want to get high, you are better off consuming cannabis regularly — by smoking, vaping, or using properly made edibles.

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