Long before it became a ubiquitous symbol of the modern global cannabis community, the marijuana leaf was a source of powerful inspiration (artistic and otherwise) for stoners in many cultures throughout history.
In this post, the all-things-cannabis experts at Honest Marijuana break down the biology behind the most common types of the marijuana leaf in addition to showing you a few leaf variations you may not have heard of.
We’ll also make sure that you can spot signs of poor leaf and plant health. Lastly, we’ll discuss the benefits of juicing and cooking your leaves into cannabutter in order to make the most out of them.
A Brief History Of The Marijuana Leaf
The cannabis plant has been around for a long, long time. Longer, in fact, than many people realize.
Stoners of yore — and we’re talking extremely yore — have been drawing the marijuana leaf on cave walls for millennia.
Take, for example, this cave painting in Kyushu, Japan dated from around 10,000 years B.C.
See the seven-lobed indica leaves in the orange circles? Ancient marijuana, man! And is that a unicorn at the top? Methinks it is! It’s no wonder that some of the best cannabis in the world comes from this area.
And lest you think the cannabis craze was isolated in the far east, check out this illustration of the Egyptian goddess Seshat. Pharaoh Tuthmosis III described this deity as, “she of the seven points.”
She’s obviously got marijuana on her mind. Smart lady.
Even the ancient Greeks got in on the marijuana-leaf action. Below is an illustration of the cannabis sativa plant taken from the Vienna Dioscurides, a Greek medical textbook, dated at around 512 A.D.
Scientists now call these ancient plants landrace strains because they are very different from the high-THC and high-CBD strains you can buy at your local dispensary.
Landrace strain or brand-new variety, it’s obvious that humans have recognized the marijuana leaf (and the cannabis plant as a whole) as a source of artistic inspiration, medicine, and, yes, psychedelia, for at least 12,000 years — and probably a lot longer.
Isn’t that groovy, man? We’re part of a long history that stretches back to before the domestication of crops and animals. Can’t say that about too many things these days.
Now that you know a bit about the history of the marijuana leaf — this really is a tiny amount; there’s so much more to learn — let’s turn our attention to the types of marijuana leaf we see today.
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.
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.