Generally when you hear talk of “eating” cannabis, it's concerning edibles—THC-infused goodies that will blast you to the moon if you aren't careful. Thanks to the psychotropic and medicinal values of marijuana, the plant's nutritional value has been ignored by most.
That's probably because you can't get high eating the raw plant. Until the (non-psychoactive) THCA of cannabis becomes (the psychoactive) THC through decarboxylation—the removal of a carboxyl group. This chemical reaction happens with the simple application of heat. Which is why you have to burn or cook the raw flower when you smoke it or eat it, if you want to feel its effects. The same goes for the precursor of CBD: Without decarboxylation, the CBDA will never change.
You'll often hear people call this “activating” the THC or CBD. That's a misnomer—THCA and CBDA aren't the “inactive” forms of THC and CBD at all. They're different compounds that have their own host of benefits. The problem is they're just not as sexy as their progeny.
More research has been done concerning THC and CBD than their precursors, so the latter's medical efficacy has yet to be established. In fact it might not hold too much in that area—a 2006 Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics study, “Antitumor activity of plant cannabinoids with emphasis on the effect of cannabidiol on human breast carcinoma,” tested a handful of cannabinoids (the compounds found in cannabis) for their ability to inhibit tumor growth in a specific form of breast cancer in mice. According to the study, CBD was the most successful at fighting tumor growth, while CBDA was the worst.
This is just one case, but if it doesn't get you high, and it doesn't cure cancer, then why would anyone waste their time (read: money) looking into it? My guess is we won't be seeing a ton of work on it in the near future.
But there is some interest. In 2008, the journal Drug Metabolism and Disposition published “Cannabidiolic acid as a selective cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitory component in cannabis,” which suggested CBDA could be effective in treating inflammation.
And the British company behind the first FDA-approved CBD drug Epidiolex, GW Pharmaceuticals, owns a patent on CBDA for treating “generalized” epileptic seizures. The company is also reportedly looking into its use as a nausea treatment.
THCA has had a little more luck getting the spotlight. It's been suggested that it has anti-inflammatory traits and can be used to treat nausea and appetite loss. A study published in the journal Phytomedicine found THCA might protect some neurons from induced cell death—implying treatment for certain neurodegenerative diseases, like dementia.
More famously, THCA and CBDA got some attention a few years back due to a sudden craze for raw cannabis juicing. There was some misinformation swirling around—lots of confusion about their lack of interaction with the endocannabinoid system and claims about “purity.”
The trend was spearheaded by Dr. William Courtney, who became a juicing advocate after his wife allegedly treated her systemic lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and endometriosis by juicing raw cannabis and carrots daily over a 30-month period. Courtney's claims about raw marijuana's healing properties are purely anecdotal and based solely on one subject, but they are well-documented and should at least give reason to investigate.
But even without any medicinal benefits, the plant has nutritional value similar to other leafy greens. According to MarijuanaBreak, cannabis is rich in fiber, flavonoids, essential amino acids, magnesium, calcium and phosphorous.
Courtney's recommendation was juicing 15 leaves and 2 buds (the fresher, the better) a day with carrot juice for flavor. Stems should be removed to avoid scratching your throat.
This could be feasible if you're growing your own cannabis, but could quickly get pricey for anyone else. Two buds a day could easily come out to a couple hundred dollars a month, and I wouldn't even know where to buy leaves.
Meaning you might be better off just eating a kale salad, smoking your marijuana and waiting for the science.
That being said, it should be noted that hemp seeds are universally recognized for their value as a source of protein, fiber and healthy fat. Hemp even contains a specific omega-6 fatty acid called GLA that is not found anywhere else.
And, if you weren't aware, hemp is cannabis. It's not a cousin or “in the same species,” it's cannabis that has been specifically bred to be low in THC. So all of the nutritional benefits of hemp seeds applies to marijuana seeds. You're welcome.