Is Juicing Raw Cannabis the Miracle Health Cure That Some of Its Proponents Believe It to Be?

07/04/2013 18:11
Fact-checking one of the newest trends in administering cannabis for therapeutic use.
William Courtney, a Mendicino County-based physician, recommends eating — or juicing and then drinking — raw cannabis leaf and bud as a way to achieve megadose therapeutic impact from marijuana without psychoactive effect. The green plant contains tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in its acid form, THCA, which is not psychoactive.

Leading proponents of ingesting raw cannabis — not just in response to illness but for general health maintenance — include Dr. Courtney’s wife Kristen.


For many years, an ailing Kristen Courtney had struggled with systemic lupus. Her prognosis was dismal. But her condition improved dramatically after several weeks of ingesting raw cannabis and drinking the juice of THCA-dominant plants. The plant also contains small amounts of several dozen other cannabinoids (compounds that are unique to marijuana) in their acid form.


Convinced that they had discovered a cure for chronic illness, the Courtneys became passionate advocates of juicing. They have inspired a following of true believers in Northern California and beyond. Juicing, the Courtneys argue, is the best way to consume cannabis therapeutically. But many of their claims about the advantages of juicing cannabis are unsubstantiated and misleading.


A dietary supplement


Courtney recommends “expanding our use of cannabis from the 10-milligram psychoactive THC dose to the 600-to-1000 milligram dietary dose.”


He explains in an online Q&A: “The main psychoactive compound in dried, aged cannabis is delta-9 THC, which is absent in the raw, fresh leaf. In general, patients do not experience a ‘high’ from consuming the raw product. However, other compounds in the plant, such as the terpenes [which give cannabis its unique smell], may have an effect on mood or energy levels.


“Raw bud has a higher concentration of cannabinoids than leaves and is an excellent method of consumption if you have the resources to make this possible. Both are extremely beneficial but they are best combined . . . Bud should be at the state where the trichomes are fully present but not yet amber (i.e., cloudy). Leaves for eating or juicing should be picked from plants well into flowering stage.”


For palatability, the Courtneys recommend blending raw cannabis with “a minimal amount of organic fruit or vegetable juice, just enough to cut the bitter taste of the raw cannabis.” 


A wheat-grass juicer is recommended for those using large quantities of leaf. A blender is the preferred method for juicing buds —“quicker, easier to clean, and you recover closer to 100% of what you put in,” according to Courtney.  


Raw cannabis, not rinsed, should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer in bags that extend the freshness of vegetables. The Courtneys recommend soaking cannabis leaves in water for five minutes before juicing. 


THCA is cleared rapidly from the blood. Courtney suggests splitting the juice into small portions to be consumed during the day. 


Not for Everybody


Raw cannabis does not provide acute symptom relief, Courtney acknowledges, although “some effects can be immediate.” One patient at the Humboldt Patient Resource Center in Northern California reported immediate relief from severe nausea after drinking juiced cannabis. 


Some effects, according to Courtney, “take three days to be appreciated. Others build for weeks. Full clinical benefit may take four to eight weeks to take effect. It takes that long for plant (phyto) cannabinoids to fully saturate the body’s adipose (fat) tissue. Phytocannabinoids are stored in the adipose tissue, as are the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E & K.”


Courtney cautions people with kidney or gallbladder problems that raw cannabis might pose a risk. He would not recommend it for a patient with Hypercalciuria, type II, Enteric Hyperoxaluria, or Primary hyperoxaluria.


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