Is Cannabis The Next Superfood?

Move over kale, there’s a new superfood in town. Cannabis isn’t just for smoking anymore. This nutrient-dense powerhouse will heal your body and mind.

Dec 18, 2016

The cannabis plant has been overlooked in the western human diet for decades. Though mankind has been using the plant for millennia, it’s status as a coveted dietary essential is only just immersing. Over the past decade, grocery stores have seen an influx of hemp food products. With good reason, too. Hemp is protein-packed and filled with essential nutrients. But, what about psychoactive cannabis? As it turns out, maybe folk’s should be eating their weed after all iuf they want a true superfood experoence.

Healthy hemp

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The hemp plant has been vital to humankind for thousands of years. Not only has the plant been used as a psychedelic by our ancestors, but cannabis seeds proved to be a nutritious source of food throughout the centuries.

Both psychoactive cannabis and hemp are the same species of plant. However, much of the nutritional research on the plant has been conducted on plants classified as hemp, not psychoactive cannabis.

However, both plants have similar genetics and it’s fairly safe to assume that the two have a common nutrient profile.

Hemp is considered a superfood in its own right. Here are a few reasons why:

1. Essential fatty acids

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Eating enough fatty acids is essential for a healthy endocannabinoid system (ECS). Fortunately, hemp seed contains an awful lot of fatty acids. In fact, a tablespoon of hemp seed can contain up to 1000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids, and 2500 mg of omega-6 fatty acids.

Omega fatty acids are essential for brain health, and many neurological and mental health conditions are associated with inadequate omega-3 intake. Hemp is also a great source of gamma linolic acid (GLA), which is a type of omega 6 fatty acid with unique characteristics.

While many omega 6 fatty acids are thought to promote inflammation, GLA appears to have the opposite effect. GLA has a wealth of potential health benefits, including:

  • Easing diabetic neuropathy
  • Easing arthritis pain
  • Managing acne
  • Managing eczema
  • Easing symptoms of ADD/ADHD

For more information on dietary fat and endocannabinoid health, check out this article here.

2. Protein

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30 grams (2 tablespoons) of shelled hempseed contains 11 grams of protein. As far as plants are concerned, this is a rarity. Even the power-packed chia seed falls behind hemp in terms of overall protein per serving.

In contrast, chia seed contains about 4 grams per serving. This makes hemp a particularly valuable protein source for vegans and vegetarians.

3. Vitamins and minerals

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Hemp seeds are a good source of a few different vitamins and minerals. The first is vitamin E. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant that helps maintain healthy skin, hair, and immune function. Two tablespoons of hemp seed contain up to 77% of the daily value of vitamin E.

30 grams (2 tablespoons) of shelled hempseed contains over 48% of your daily value of magnesium, which is necessary for over 300 biochemical reactions in the body. Unfortunately, at least half of Americans are deficient in this vital mineral.

Raw dietary cannabis

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Smoking isn’t the only way to consume cannabis. Many medical cannabis patients and herb-lovers add raw cannabis to their treatment plan.

Raw cannabis leaves can be used as a common household herb, adding a unique flavor to blended dressings and pestos.

Brewing a simple tea out of a single fan leaf is also popular in Jamacia, where some families still give the brew to schoolchildren.

Though it is possible that heat may activate the cannabis acids slightly, cannabis resin will not dissolve in water. This tea will not be psychoactive, though it may be sedative.

But, why use raw herb? Some experts argue that cannabis should be a regular part of the human diet. Here’s why.

Cannabinoid acids

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If you have ever tried the cannabis plant, you know that it is unique among flora.  Not only is the plant psychoactive, but it contains dozens of bizarre chemical compounds that are, to date, not present but in a mere handful of other plants.

These compounds are called cannabinoids, named after the cannabis plant itself.

In a raw and uncured plant, the herb is not psychoactive. The plant becomes psychoactive when it is heated or dried.

The raw cannabis plant is covered in tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCa), which is different from the THC that produces that signature cannabis “high”.

THCa transforms into THC when the herb is heated. THCa is nonpsychoactive, but the compound may still have some health benefits of its own.

According to Dr. William Courtney, a doctor that recommends raw cannabis to patients, cannabinoid acids are,

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antioxidant
  • Anti-diabetic
  • Anti-ischemic
  • Have anti-tumoural effects

Courtney also articulates that the standard dose of raw cannabis can be significantly higher than a dose of activated cannabis. While the recommended dose of activated THC is about 10 oral milligrams, a dose of raw cannabis acids can be up to a thousand milligrams.

The most common way to use dietary cannabis is via smoothies or juicing fan leaves and raw buds.

For more information on dietary cannabis, take a look at the article here.

Getting the most out of your edibles

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Cannabis-infused foods are not only fun to make, but they produce more potent psychoactive effects than raw or smoked bud. Edible cannabis is metabolized in the body different than the inhaled flower.

When you eat the herb, the body converts THC into a more potent metabolite, called 11-hydroxy-THC.

11-hydroxy-THC more easily crosses from the blood and into the brain than THC alone. As a result, the high from oral cannabis is more powerful and longer-lasting than after smoking.

If you’re hoping to get the most from your edibles, there are a couple of important things to consider:

1. Decarboxylate prior to cooking

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As just mentioned, there are many benefits to consuming raw cannabis. However, many patients and cannaisseurs out there prefer the psychoactive variety.

To make sure your edibles are living up to their THC-laden potential, it’s best to decarboxylate the cannabis prior to cooking.

Decarboxylation is the process of transforming THC and other cannabinoids into their active form.

Decarboxylating prior to cooking means that you can simply throw some active cannabis into just about whatever you’re making, so long as the rest of the cooking process uses low heat.

Pre-cooking decarboxylation also ensures that you are getting a substantial dose of active cannabinoids in your meal.

The best part? The process is simple. Toast your dried cannabis bud on a baking sheet using a low oven temperature.

For complete decarboxylation instructions, take a look at the article here.

2. High-quality fats

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Cannabinoids are fat soluble compounds. That means that they dissolve in fat and stored in fat after consumption. This is why cannabis edibles are often made with infused butter or oil.

However, when it comes to fat, not all sources are created equal.

Coconut oil is considered one of the best carriers for cannabis-infused edibles. The fat that comes from coconut is unique among other plants.

Coconut oil is a saturated fat with some unique features. Unlike other forms of fat, coconut oil is filled with medium-chain triglycerides (MCT), which the body quickly metabolizes into energy.

Other types of fat are made of long-chain triglycerides which take long for the body to break down. MCTs are directly metabolized by the liver and can easily cross the blood-brain barrier, whereas long-chain fats are cannot. Long-chain fatty acids must go through another metabolic process before they can be used for energy.

Opting for a high-quality delivery system makes the cannabis compounds more bioavailable. This means that the body can put cannabinoids to use more effectively. Infusing your herb in fat is the best way to get the most bang for your buck.

Additional high-quality fats for infusions:

  • Hemp seed oil: Rich in omega-3 fatty acids
  • Ghee: Clarified butter
  • Butter: Grass-fed varieties are higher in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin K
  • Avocado oil
  • Olive oil

Growing nutrient-dense cannabis

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World agriculture is facing a serious dilemma. Fruits and vegetables remain one of the greatest sources of nutrition for human beings. Yet, today’s agricultural soils are missing proper quantities of key nutrients. One such nutrient is magnesium, which is abundant in hemp.

For humans to have nutritious foods to eat, plants and animals need nutritious foods as well. The same goes for cannabis. When growing cannabis plants to use as medicine or as a dietary supplement, it’s important to start with a highly nutritious growing medium.

Here are three things to consider for nutrient-dense cannabis:

1. Color

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Middle school health classes often harp on the importance of “eating the rainbow”. It’s true, the most nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables are filled with color. Typically, the darker or more colorful the plant, the more nutrient-dense the food.

It’s a fair guess to say that most people think of a green, dense herb when they picture cannabis. However, the plant can produce an array of colors depending on growth conditions, ranging from red to a deep black. Flavinoid molecules called anthocyanins are to thank for the dazzling bouquet.

Anthocyanins are the compounds that color blueberries, raspberries, tomatoes, and other fruits. The darker the color, the more anthocyanins. These compounds are important for nutritional health.

A 2004 review on the topic suggests that anthocyanins can:

  • Decrease inflammation
  • Protect DNA from damage
  • Support strong cell membranes
  • Help maintain hormone health

Another paper suggests that the molecules contribute to heart heath and have anti-cancer properties. Eating a colorful assortment of fruits and vegetables is one way to get ample anthocyanins.

But, the coloration in cannabis leaves and buds also contain these same compounds. That’s yet one more reason to throw a purple cannabis leaf into your next smoothie or pasta sauce.

For more information on growing colorful cannabis, take a look at the article here.

2. Use a nutrient-rich growing medium

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Plants will be nutrient-dense and filled with beneficial cannabinoids and terpenes when they have a nutrient-dense growing medium.

Many of today’s agricultural crops lack nutrients due to poor soil conditions, so starting with the best medium possible will help ensure the health of you and your plant.

Supplementing with nutrients can also increase the potency and terpene production, both of which have medicinal value.

For more information on building healthy soil, read the article here.

3. Healthy microorganisms

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One of the easiest ways to improve the health of your growing medium is with supplemental microorganisms. Both soil and hydroponic gardeners can benefit from compost tea and microorganism-enriched solutions.

Why? Plants and soil microbes have a symbiotic relationship. Plants secrete sugars from their roots which feed bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In return, soil microbes excrete valuable nutrients that the plant uses to thrive.

As explained by soil doctor Doug Weatherby for Sustainable World Radio,

Individual bacterium are all little pockets of minerals and nutrients. They’re little bags of fertilizer. Nutrients are a byproduct of the healthy reaction between a plant and microorganisms.

So, want to make your plants as nutrient-rich as possible? The key is in the dirt. For more information on soil microbes and what they do, take a look at the article here.

The healing properties of hemp and the cannabis plant are immense. Not only does the herb contain ample fatty acids and essential nutrients, but it produces phytochemicals that are rare amongst the plant world.

To get the most out of your cannabis, a highly nutritious growth environment is vital. Plants are only as healthy as the soil they have grown inside.

Dec 18, 2016