How to make use of the leftovers from your cannabis harvest
List of contents
- Reusing cannabis leaves
- Reusing cannabis stalks and stems
- Reusing cannabis roots
While the goal of cannabis cultivation is to produce beautiful-looking, resinous and potent buds that result in an enjoyable and effective smoking experience, there are many other parts of the plant that are often left unused and discarded, including stems, leaves and roots. While these components may not be the most desirable parts of the plant, instead of going straight into the trash they can be used in a variety of ways to ensure you get the most out of your grow.
Reusing cannabis leaves
One of the most (unfairly) undervalued parts when it comes to the pruning and trimming processes are the fan and sugar leaves. However, both types of leaves can be reused once the plant has been harvested.
- Sugar leaves: These are the small leaves that form around the bud of the plant, and are usually covered with resin, which is why they are called sugar leaves, as they have the appearance of being sprinkled with sugar. Due to the concentration of trichomes in sugar leaves, they are ideal for producing cannabis extracts such as bubble hash, dry sift, BHO or cannabis butter for use in various culinary recipes.
- Fan leaves: The larger leaves that protrude from the plant are named for their distinctive shape and serve as the main source of capturing the sun's energy, tending to appear in greater quantity on sativa varieties. These leaves do not contain high levels of cannabinoids but are excellent for juicing and making teas and are of particular interest to people looking to produce creams and salves.
Cannabis leaf tea
Perhaps the most obvious use for cannabis leaves is to make a bookmark or use them as decoration, as their characteristic shape is a treat for the eyes. But if you decide to make tea with them instead, you'll just need to follow a few simple steps:
- Heat some water in a pan, add the leaves and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Add half a tablespoon of coconut oil or a splash of full-fat milk to the tea and add honey, lemon or mint, according to taste. The oil or fat will absorb the cannabinoids, making the tea stronger than it would be with just water.
- Strain with a sieve or fine gauze to remove plant debris.
Now you have a drink full of therapeutic properties. Although to a much lesser extent than the buds, cannabis leaves also contain cannabinoids and terpenes that we can take advantage of with this delicious custom-made cannabis tea.
Some people also use the leaves to dress salads and make cannabis juice, recipes that also allow us to enjoy all of the plant's properties. However, the THC content of leaves is very low, so they would not cause a psychoactive effect. The leaves will, however, help to cleanse the body of toxins, while also producing an anti-ageing effect. It has even been shown that the antioxidant properties can protect brain cells, as raw cannabis possesses neuroprotective qualities.
Compost your cannabis leaves
If you're not a fan of tea or detox juices, you can also add the leaves to your homemade compost and make use of the nutrients they contain in future grows, as well as reduce the use of chemical fertilisers. You can add both weed leaves and branches to your composter and thus turn what would have been waste into a rich source of life.
Home composting is by far the easiest way to get a purely organic harvest. The truth is that nature itself provides excellent soil for growing cannabis, but in most cases, it needs to be enriched, either because we are growing indoors or because the soil needs additional nutrients for optimal plant growth.
Cannabutter with sugar leaves
Now that you have made use of the large fan-shaped leaves, you can go for the sugar leaves. These leaves are rich in cannabinoids and are ideal for making delicious cannabis butter. Due to the fat-soluble nature of cannabinoids, meaning that they dissolve in oil, we can make the most of the plant's properties by adding this butter to our recipes.
However, they must first be decarboxylated, i.e. heated to activate their cannabinoids and optimise their therapeutic and psychoactive properties. To do this you should chop the leaves or grind them in a blender and spread them out on a baking tray. Then bake in the oven at 100 ºC for 40 minutes.
Today we are going to delve into the cannabis decarboxylation process, by which cannabinoids lose their acid form and "activate" many of their properties. This is an essential process when preparing cannabis edibles, so they have the desired effect, and a basic step to make the best recipes.
Now you can make your own cannabis-based butter:
- Place 300 ml of water and 250 grams of melted butter in a pan and mix them together.
- Add the sugar leaves (ground up and decarbed) and cook gently on a low heat for 8 hours.
- During this time, add 50ml of water every hour, to avoid it drying out. Stir the mixture and ensure that it doesn't boil too hard.
- Strain the mixture through a cheesecloth to leave a viscous, green-coloured liquid.
- Pour the liquid into one or more glass recipients, close them and place in the fridge. This will allow the butter to solidify which aids the removal of any excess water. The butter should now have the characteristic light green colour typical of this preparation.
When preparing recipes with it, you should keep in mind that, unlike other preparations mentioned in this list, butter made with sugar leaf contains enough THC to cause psychoactive effects. This makes it an ideal ingredient to prepare a really fun meal.
Reusing cannabis stalks and stems
Before you ask if you can smoke the stems, be aware that they contain very little THC, the cannabinoid responsible for the cannabis "high". So smoking stems will bring you far more risks than benefits: you are more likely to cough excessively or experience a sore throat if you don't remove the stems when you're rolling a joint.
However, for centuries, the stalks of hemp plants, the low-THC variety of cannabis, have been used for their fibrous qualities, to make paper, rope, boat sails, uniforms and just about everything else you can imagine that is now made from synthetic fibres (curse you, nylon!). In fact, hemp has been one of the most important crops for the development of human civilisation in ancient times. And you too can use harvested cannabis stalks to make various materials.
Although it can be a bit laborious, cannabis stalks can be turned into paper and help to reduce tree felling. All you need is a mosquito net stapled to a wooden frame to give you a flat surface to strain the pulp from the stems and a blender.
If you want to make your own cannabis paper, follow these simple steps:
- Put a mixture of stems and paper in equal ratios (1:1) in the blender and add water so that you can stir the mixture easily, then blend well.
- Pour the blended mixture over the mosquito screen and allow the excess water to drain away to obtain the pulp.
- Move the screen frame gently to spread the pulp around evenly and obtain a square sheet of paper.
- Allow to drain for 24 hours then hang the resulting sheet of paper to dry.
Now you have a sheet of paper made with the stems from your harvest, enjoy it!
Textiles from stems
If you don't need drawing paper and prefer to do your writing on the computer, you can also use the stems to make twine which can be used for many purposes. To turn the stems into fabric it is necessary to strip them of their outer fibres, a process called decortication. Rub the stems with your fingers to separate their fibres into individual strands, then twist the strands together and see what strong cordage they form.
Also, for those who are aware of the negative health effects of using a lighter (inhalation of butane fumes), a hemp wick is a great alternative, and you can easily create your own using cannabis stems. To do this, peel the stems with scissors or a sharp blade until you get long, strong fibres. Then twist them around each other to form a rope, bending and twisting tightly. Once you've twisted until you can't take it anymore, dip the string in some beeswax and let it dry. You already have your own hemp wick to light your joints or to make a candle with melted wax, for those romantic occasions where you can win over your partner. Or for when we have to light our way in a blackout, which could also happen.
Tea with stems & stalks
If handicrafts are not your thing and you prefer to go back to a simple tea, you'll be happy to know that you can also make a tasty drink from the stalks. Just don't forget to decarboxylate them. Heat the oven to 110 °C and bake the stems for 60 minutes. Now you can make delicious tea from them.
Put a pot of water to boil and add the chopped stalks. Add a teaspoon of coconut oil and let it simmer for 7-8 minutes. Then strain the stems. Now you have an exquisite tea with a strong flavour that you can use to garnish a unique recipe and really impress your guests.
Mulch for your garden
You can use a wood chipper to break up the stems and create mulch. You can then add this mulch to your compost pile or return it to your garden. Mulch should only be applied to crops growing in living soil to ensure that it breaks down over time and becomes food and new habitat for beneficial insects. Also, keep in mind that you never want to use plants that have had disease or infestation; they are likely to spread that disease through the mulch.
Now, if you found the stems of this plant useful, just wait until you see how you can take advantage of its root system.
Reusing cannabis roots
While not as commonly reused as stems and leaves, cannabis roots also have a purpose post-harvest. In fact, cannabis roots have been used in medicine since 2,700 BC, particularly in Chinese culture. The roots were processed and used to treat pain, gonorrhoea and even haemorrhages during pregnancy. Other cultures have also used cannabis roots to treat various conditions, such as fevers, wounds, ulcers and abscesses, as well as sciatic and joint pain.
Cannabis roots to make topical creams for the skin
So if you'd like to make your own homemade preparation to treat any of these symptoms, you can use the leftover roots from your harvest to make a topical cream. To do so, you'll need to chop up the dried roots and grind them into a homogeneous powder. Use this cannabis root powder to mix with liquid or fats to make homemade creams and oils, to get the most out of the therapeutic properties of cannabis roots through your skin.
Other concoctions with cannabis roots
In addition, they can also be used to make a tea that is packed with therapeutic properties, such as relief from joint pain and cramps, relief from gout and other similar pains. In addition to tea, a kind of homebrew can be made from the root. To do this, the powder is boiled along with something aromatic (cinnamon stick, aniseed, etc.) in an earthenware pot for 12 hours. After that, it is cooled, strained and drunk. What's more, if it is boiled again to reduce it after this process, a dark-coloured substance is obtained that can be used to make a tincture.
And now for a less conventional use... Gunpowder!
The roots of cannabis can not only be consumed. Throughout history, different civilisations found other uses for this material which many see only as a waste product, but nothing could be further from the truth. The ancient Chinese, in addition to its medicinal properties, made it into a component of gunpowder. Thus, according to old documents, once dried, ground and roasted, cannabis roots were mixed with bamboo roots, pine resin and other substances. This was used to create ammunition for weapons as varied as explosive catapults and a tyoe of hand grenade.
So that's it for our list of applications for a harvest full of possibilities. We hope that some of them have inspired you to try them at home (except for the explosives and grenades, lest we have an accident) so that you can make the most of all the effort and patience you invested in your plants. Time to get to work!