Whether you prefer edibles, vapes, bongs, pipes, or an old-fashioned joint, there’s usually one element that exists among all the popular methods of consuming cannabis: heat.
You’ve probably heard of THC and CBD, two of the many cannabinoids found in cannabis. The acidic versions of THC and CBD—THCA and CBDA— as well as other cannabinoids are found in raw cannabis. Heat ‘activates’ these cannabinoids, so that humans can feel the effects. This process is called decarboxylation.
In other words, heat is essential to cannabis consumption if you want to reap the benefits of THC and CBD. Heat is what makes it possible to feel high, and it’s why cannabis can be used to treat anxiety, seizures, insomnia, and more.
However, for the past few years, many people have been praising the benefits of raw cannabis. In an article for Forbes, wellness writer Kristian Astre writes: “Without being heated, THCA doesn’t have any psychotropic effects but still offers some benefits including decreasing inflammation, treating nausea and loss of appetite, improving sleep issues like insomnia and reducing chronic pain.” Multiple cannabis-specific publications, from Massroots’ blog to The Fresh Toast, have also covered the trend.
One of the biggest advocates for raw cannabis consumption is William Courtney, MD, a California-based physician. Courtney believes that fresh cannabis should be a normal part of everybody’s diet, and he suggests juicing cannabis regularly to benefit from the plant.
According to Courtney, one of the benefits of raw cannabis as opposed to heated cannabis is that raw cannabis is not psychoactive. Since we need to heat THCA to get THC, the intoxicating element of cannabis, raw cannabis cannot get you high. This is good news for those of us who want to reap the benefits of cannabis without feeling intoxicated. Consuming raw cannabis will feel totally different to consuming cannabis through smoking, vaping, edibles, and tinctures—and it can have different effects on your body.
So what exactly are these effects? What does the scientific research say about the benefits of raw cannabis?
Unfortunately, not much. At present, there is very little research out there that focuses specifically on raw cannabis.
There are, however, some studies on THCA and CBDA, the acidic versions of cannabinoids. Studies have suggested that THCA and CBDA can have the following benefits:
- Reducing oxidative stress, which is associated with the degradation of our bodies’ cells due to ageing.
- Soothing nausea and vomiting
- Preventing prostate cancer
- Working as an analgesic, aka reducing pain
- Reducing inflammation
Additionally, many believe that raw cannabis, being a leafy green plant, contains vitamins and fiber.
Unfortunately, these studies are mostly based on mice models or are in vitro studies, meaning that they use cells in a lab environment to test out a hypothesis. There aren’t any definitive human-based studies that confirm the benefits of raw cannabis. That’s not to say that it isn’t beneficial, but simply that we don’t yet know.
The verdict? Much like most areas of cannabis science, the benefits of raw cannabis haven’t been studied enough for us to make a claim about it. In future years, as cannabis becomes legal in more places, further research will be conducted. Hopefully, this will include in-depth research on raw cannabis and the acidic versions of cannabinoids.
You might still be tempted to add raw cannabis to your diet. If you want to try raw cannabis, get fresh leaves or buds straight off the plant. When you buy cannabis from a dealer or dispensary, the buds are usually cured and not fresh. Wash them thoroughly before you use them, as you would with any fruit or vegetable, to avoid consuming pesticides. Raw cannabis can be added to a salad or smoothie, or it could be juiced. Note that it tastes a little bitter, and it might take time for you to get used to the taste.
Sian is a writer, journalist and editor who covers cannabis, health, and social justice. Her work can be found on Healthline, Teen Vogue, Everyday Feminism, HealthyWay, and HelloGiggles. Visit her website or follow her on Twitter.