Is Cannabis a Superfood?
When it comes to the cannabis plant we smoke it, extract it, cook it, or bake it. But are there any health benefits experienced by just eating it raw? Luis Cordova examines if raw cannabis can be considered a superfood.
With no real scientific criteria to define it, the term superfood has become overused in modern lexicon. Many dietitians regard the concept of superfoods as a marketing tool for the purpose of selling healthier and sometimes not so healthy products. The term was first introduced during World War One as a marketing tool to sell bananas. After scientists began studying the nutritional value of consumer foods, the use of the term has evolved. Many marketers promote superfoods with magic abilities to reduce weight or heal many diseases. However, when it comes to science, there is no specific definition or test is used to determine what constitutes a superfood.
The modern definition of superfoods are foods that are unprocessed, rich in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. These types of compounds are mainly derived from fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Chemical analysis of superfoods shows high levels of antioxidants, carotenoids, micro-minerals, and other beneficial properties. Because of these attributes, many medical practitioners now believe cannabis should be considered a superfood.
Should Cannabis be Considered a Superfood?
Cannabis can be grouped as a superfood because of its health benefits, nutrient value, and chemical compounds. Cannabis seeds, specifically Cannabis sativa (hemp), contain many amino acids, proteins, and healthy fatty acids. Hemp seeds contain iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, and folate. They also contain a large amount of protein for their size, as well as vitamin C and small amounts of vitamin B. Hemp seeds provide more than 30 per cent fats, including linoleic acid (omega 6) and alpha linolenic acid (omega 3). These fatty acid types are good for the heart and protect against many other diseases. They have also been shown to reduce inflammation, allow for management of arthritic pain, and remove particulate matter caused by air pollution. While the seeds are beneficial, cannabis contains many vitamins as well as nutrients found in the leaves, stems, buds, and roots of the plant.
Read also: The Benefits of Eating Raw Cannabis
As the entire cannabis plant can be used for food, doctors advise cannabis should be eaten in its raw state. Cannabis in its raw state (before decarboxylation) contains a vast array of cannabinoid acids, however, two are the most concentrated: tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA). THCA is a compound offering many medicinal benefits while being not intoxicating. It is primarily found in raw or living cannabis. THCA is composed of two isomers named THCA-A and THCA-B. Due to THCA-B’s stabilization and crystallization abilities, research for this isomer is focused on the modeling of the molecule for cannabinoid receptor studies and the biosynthetic cannabinoid pathway. For this reason, the medicinal benefits are not well known. However, THCA-A is of growing research interest for its therapeutic properties, which include anti-inflammation, neuroprotectiveness, anti-emetic, and anti-proliferative properties. These properties can reduce nausea, pain, cancers, and other neurodegenerative diseases. THCA-A is of great interest but lacks clinical application. This is largely due to its thermal instability and how easily it is decarboxylated into THC.
The heat instability is so great, it can be decarboxylated by smoking, baking, and even storing at room temperature. To overcome this instability clinically, extracting using olive oil shows greater durability for a longer period of time when compared to other extraction methods. Additionally, shelf life can be extended when storing without any heat inputs, exposure to sunlight, and being stored in a refrigerator.
Other studies have shown THCA-A can be protected in its raw state when glandular trichomes with 10 per cent terpenoids are present. Essentially, the trichomes act as a seal and the terpenoids provide many antioxidant compounds protecting the internal compounds from thermal degradation as well as oxidative stress. THCA-A is of great potential as it shows it can bind to cannabinoid receptors at lower concentrations. However, THCA-A is more desirable therapeutically as it is both more potent and has no psychoactive effects. For these reasons, it is the main reason why juicing or eating raw cannabis is of great benefit.
Much like THCA, CBDA is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid compound with many therapeutic effects. CBDA is an acidic precursor to CBD and is easily morphed into CBD with heat. CBDA is largely found in the leaf material of cannabis. While there is much information regarding CBD, the study of CBDA is just beginning. However, it has been reported that CBDA is a selective cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) inhibitor. COX-2 is the main pathway responsible for pain, inflammation, and other diseases in humans. CBDA has also been reported to aid in the reduction of highly aggressive breast cancer cells. CBDA also helps in reducing symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and some symptoms of psychosis. Furthermore, these chemical compounds have shown to create synergy with the gut microbiome by reducing inflammation, creating greater microbiological diversity, inhibiting gastric acid secretion, and enhancing food intake.
Is Cannabis a Superfood?
Considering the modern definition of what a superfood is, it’s difficult to argue cannabis is not a superfood. Not only does cannabis offer many health benefits, it can be consumed in many ways, and is able to be eaten in its entirety. Cannabis chemical compounds have been shown to greatly inhibit many disease-causing pathways. In time, cannabis may become one of the greatest therapeutic plants we know. Research has shown the best way to get all these benefits is to consume the plant in its raw form and use every part of the plant. The best way to get all these benefits is to juice or eat the plant from seed to root.