This article appears in Volume 8 – Issue 7 of SKUNK Magazine.
DR. WILLIAM COURTNEY, a well-known and respected medical doctor who specializes in cannabis, came into our dispensary, the Humboldt Patient Resource Center in Arcata, California, almost four years ago to talk about a program he wanted to implement with our help.
He believed that we as mankind had evolved into our current form by consuming cannabis as a staple component of our diet and that our health had declined as our supply of cannabis decreased over the past century. He explained how the cannabinoid receptors in our bodies are identical to the cannabinoids present in the plant in the form of phytocannabinoids and how he believed that many of mankind’s health problems could be alleviated by consuming raw cannabis in both leaf and flower form.
Dr. Courtney went on to tell us that cannabis juice would work incredibly well in helping to reduce inflammatory issues for patients suffering from those maladies. He believed so completely and had such good feedback from people that had tested the theory with him that we immediately agreed to assist him.
The doctor would monitor the patients while a nutritionist named Chelsea would work on the patients’ diets and I would calculate leaf load available so we could determine how many patients we could work with and deal with the patients on the actual how-to.
High CBD plants were described as ideal because high CBD levels have the greatest anti-inflammatory effect, but plants such as Sour Tsunami, Harlequin and Canna Tonic – all high CBD strains – were not so readily available then.
We provided the patients with leaf that we harvested from our vegetative and flowering plants. The Humboldt Patient Resource Center grows all of its cannabis on-site and with a library of 50-plus plants, we had a lot of different leaf to choose from; it was rare that a patient got the same kind of leaf package twice.
We weighed the leaf into 140-gram packages, which, at a dosage rate of 10 grams of green leaf per day, would be enough for a two-week supply. 10 grams of green leaf was the minimum dose and Dr. Courtney said there really was no upper limit because seeing as it wasn’t heated, the conversion of THC into a psychoactive form would not occur and there would be no debilitating results from high usage amounts.
We recorded the strain name on each package, so the patient would know and be able to report back to us how it was working or not working and anything else they may have noticed.
Availability more than anything determined quantities available for use. Each patient took a package home with a juicer that our director, Mariellen Jurkovich, provided to them free of charge to make the process easy. They reported back weekly to the doctor and to Chelsea. I would see them every two weeks when they came into our shop for their next package of raw leaf.
The results were phenomenal. The average patient began to notice a positive effect within two to three weeks and by a month, many of the arthritic patients who used to come in using canes and walkers no longer did. For inflammatory issues, more than 80 percent of the patients derived great relief.
It was so exciting to see this taking place as the patients had the joy and vitality that health-related issues had taken away returned to them. We saw so much but there is not enough space here in this article to describe it all, so we will focus on the inflammatory patients primarily.
These patients told their friends about what they were experiencing and their friends would come in to join the program, but we had no way to provide them with leaf as we were at capacity with the existing patients we had. They were beginning to come in daily and I felt terrible in not being able to assist these people, so I came up with a home juice production system that would serve as a leaf creator if an individual had a place to cultivate.
Humboldt County has a wattage limit in place to control the scope of legal medical grows and each residence is allowed 1,200 watts of light with which to cultivate medical cannabis. I used this number as my constraint as to what could be done legally for home juice production. 1,200 watts in this case was 2,600-watt digital ballasts powering hortilux metal halide bulbs.
2,600-watt lamps cover an area of approximately 32 square feet, which works out to an area of four-by-eight feet in size, which is the size of many plastic hydroponic tables. These tables can hold 21 plants in seven-gallon pots of black gold potting soil, but any quality soil would work.
The table and the lamps would need to be enclosed in a grow tent, which would allow for a quickly set-up grow room, helping the user avoid extensive construction work. The tent would need one fan for air circulation and a 16-inch vortex fan to pull fresh air into the tent and exhaust the warm, CO2-deficient air out. The table would sit on five-gallon buckets to lift it off the floor of the grow tent.
The plants, in this case LA Confidential, were vegged in this tent for 45 days under 18 hours of light a day. I used Cutting Edge Solutions’ three-part hydroponic nutrient solution as my food source; we use organics at the shop but most people I worked with had little intuitive feel for growing and a solid three-part really simplifies that for the juice cultivator.
Cutting Edge is highly regarded in the medical community as a high-quality, very consistent nutrient line, but once they knew better plant cultivation skills, the patients had the ability to use what they were using or convert to an organic style of cultivation.
While I say three-part chemical nutrient formulations produce a quality juicing product, I do not feel the same way about chemical pesticides, fungicides and plant growth regulators. These products are not for consumption and should not be used in juice production. I used organic neem sprays to combat any problems I faced from pests or pathogens and rinsed the leaf in pure water before juicing to remove the leftover organic oils from the spraying process, which is good practice for any vegetable, really.
I pinched the terminal ends of the branches once every ten days to encourage branchy profuse growth. Because we were growing biomass-meaning leaves, not flowers, we wanted excessively leafy plants, as we would be harvesting that leaf as our crop.
There is nothing special about the length of 45 days for the veg period. It was how long it took for the 21 plants to fill the tent to capacity without getting too big in height, which would result in leaf burn from the close distance to the lamps. In the end, it’s the variety you choose that will dictate the time required to build the plants to the adequate size needed.
When I harvested the leaf, I cut the plants in half height-wise and thinned out the leaf canopy of the remaining plant matter. This allowed us to begin the vegetative cycle again without having to replace the plants and it also shortened the next cycle, as the plants already had a great root base and good branching structure.
Outdoor gardens are ideal leaf producers and organically grown outdoor cannabis plants are absolute leaf factories. You can harvest enough leaf from a ten-by-ten outdoor garden to last a year if stored properly.
To me, outdoor organic production is best on all fronts, but not everyone has access to a good growing location, so that is why I focused on indoor production during these juicing trials. After all, the average patient has extra room at home to install a small system, but not a safe place outside to grow what’s needed.
The leaf was then run through a wheat grass juicer, which used a geared assembly to crush the leaf to extract the juice. You can use any type of juicer, but if you intend to do this often, the gear type juicer does a beautiful job of extraction.
Once all the leaf was juiced, I measured the amount, poured my desired dosage into plastic containers representing three weeks of juice usage and put them away in the freezer for storage.
The quantity of juice derived from raw leaf varies greatly on many factors. I found that a dosage amount in line with Dr. Courtney’s recommended amount of ten grams of green leaf a day at the low end came out to about a teaspoon of juice. A tablespoon would be a triple shot. I multiply that by 21 days, which gives me a three-week supply, then I freeze it in that increment to make it easy for usage.
Leaf keeps for about two weeks in the fridge, but juice stays pretty consistent for up to a month. We tested out the juice to determine how to store it and if there would be problems if it was held in the freezer and found that patients who used the frozen juice had no change in effectiveness in their opinion.
You can also dry the leaf in a dark, dry area under warm but not hot temperatures. This can then be ground up and placed into a smoothie or made into a tea. That tea can be blended with other herbs to change the taste and accentuate effect. The leaf can also be eaten raw but for most, that’s the least palatable option.
News of the program spread and I now speak to people around the country on this topic. I have even had well-funded individuals fly their representatives to us, asking us to teach them the process so they could return to their employers and produce juice for them to assure a steady supply.
The majority of the people who became interested in juicing were not prior cannabis users, they turned to cannabis because the anti-inflammatory drugs they had been taking were causing them too many health problems from years of use and they had become desperate for relief. So desperate they turned to a plant they only knew as an illegal drug for many years before Prop 215 passed here in California, allowing for legal medical use.
As high CBD strains became available, we acquired some wonderful specimens which we proceeded to clone out and make available free of charge to any patients wanting to begin their own juicing program. (High CBD would be anything over 10 percent CBD.)
I also helped create juicing support groups so that by working as a team, all members had constant access to fresh leaf in the quantities needed and desired. Any overages would be donated to those who did not have any. This really got the program into the community. So much so that outdoor growers would donate leaf to these groups which the members would then make into raw juice and share with other medical cannabis patients – talk about incredible to see.
Some Things to Think About
- It takes about three weeks to feel the effect and about three weeks to lose the effect.
- Higher doses are not better than smaller, more frequent doses throughout the day.
- Consistency is king. Medicate six out of every seven days, so your levels of cannabinoids stay consistent.
- Don’t worry so much about strain type and use what you have until you get what serves you best.
A really good recipe my girl made up for the patients to make the juice a bit tastier and to boost anti-inflammatory response:
Cannabis juice at the dosage you use
1/2 large cucumber
5 stalks of celery
1-inch chunk of ginger
Juice it all, combine and enjoy!
photos by Enrico Bouchard