While most people think of pot brownies when they think of cooking with cannabis, I would like to argue that for people with compromised immune systems, sugary foods are not the most healthful delivery system for cannabis. That is especially true for people who are trying to recover from injury or illness, whereas, in palliative care the priority is making the patient comfortable.
Food is a Pleasure Center: Striking the balance between nutrition, pleasure and medicine
Food is a pleasure center for most people. But often times, when people get sick – especially those going through chemo, the taste buds change or people simply lose their desire for food. In the last 6 months of my mother’s life, the drugs she had been taking really started to take their toll. Things that she once loved made her gag at the sight of it. And what seemed palatable one day was nauseating to her the next. When she decided to try cannabis in food she started with peanut butter cookies. They were sweet and salty and one of the few things that “sounded” tasty to her. The cookies stimulated her appetite. Then she started to desire more savory foods like potato and veggie popovers and pizza – all made with cannabis butter. Those foods helped take the edge off of her prescription drugs, reduced her anxiousness and controlled her nausea and vomiting. It was pretty amazing to watch it work.
How to Incorporate Cannabis into Healthier Foods
After she died, I spent lots of time, thinking about how to incorporate cannabis into healthier foods and how to share that with others. This entire project Chronic Relief and the forthcoming book under the same title were born from this question. I LOVE to cook. It’s both a creative outlet for me and an intellectual challenge to make something delicious and healthy. Among my friends and family, I am known for my interest in health, wellness, nutrition, gardening, and how to use food as medicine. People are amazed at what I can get their picky loved-one to eat and come back and ask for more. Helping people figure out how to improve their diet in an easy and satisfying manner is sheer joy for me. As is helping people understand how the food we eat impacts our mind, body and soul. When people start to connect the dots of their own wellness and see results I feel very satisfied.
When cooking for the sick and injured I recommend a few basic principles:
- Find something that seems appealing to them
- Use fresh ingredients and good fats
- Make things that are nutrient dense
- Choose foods that are relatively easy to digest
- Minimize gluten to reduce inflammation
The therapeutic components from the cannabis plant exist in the glandular trichomes on the surface of cannabis leaves and flowers. You can use the plant material to make cannabis butter, olive oil, coconut oil or any type of oil you prefer. You can also drop ground herb directly into dish that is going to be cooked. However if you are going to do that, please remember that to get the trichomes to release the medicine so it can be used by your body, you must cook it (low heat) with a fat. That is why most cannabis recipes begin with a cannabis butter or oil. Low heat and fat are required when cooking with cannabis. The heat will help release the medicine so it can then bind to the fat.
Tips for Cooking with Cannabis
It is important to remember that cannabis ingested (swallowed) is processed through the liver so it provides a more psychoactive effect than inhalation. A little bit goes a long way. This is not the time to say, “If a little bit is good, then a lot must be better.” Certain studies have shown that there is “sweet spot” or a therapeutic window for providing relief against pain and that if too much is consumed, some patients will experience more pain instead of less. Start by ingesting small amounts. The recipe featured in this blog uses a small amount (3 tbsps.) of butter and oil – I think the combination gives better flavor, but you can use one or the other. After you have cooked the dish and tested it for its impact, you can add more butter or oil later if necessary.
When cooking with cannabis there are a couple of important things to remember:
- Potency of your dish depends on the potency of the bud or leaf you use. Buds have 75% more trichome density, therefore, more medicine. However, leaves (if you can get them) can be a more cost effective way to make butter and oil.
- A little can go a very long way. Ingested cannabis processes through the liver unlike smoked cannabis which processes immediately through the central nervous system. Because it processes in the liver, the psychoactive effect is magnified.
- It will take 60-90 minutes to feel the effects depending on how much someone eats, their body, and the chemistry or the plant material used.
- The effects will last for 6-9 hours. That is why it is so important NOT to eat too much. People who consume too much can find it to be a fairly unpleasant experience. It won’t kill you but you will be glad when it gets out of your system.
- Start slow until you know how products with butter or oil affect you.
One of my favorite recipes that we share in the book is Ecuadorian Quinoa Stew. Stay with me here – give it a chance! It is vegetarian (add roasted chicken if you need some meat), easy to cook, keeps well for several days, is full of fresh ingredients, is high in protein, easy to digest and has NO gluten. A friend of mine made it for me for lunch one day. Admittedly, I was not too excited about it when she described it, but it would have been rude to have expressed my skepticism, right? I thought it just sounded weird. On the contrary, it is scrumptious!
After my mom died this friend was supportive at times when others had moved on. She has also been super supportive of my book and my cannabis education efforts. It only seemed fitting to me to include her awesome recipe in the book. Besides, it is so darn good, it would be wrong of me not to share it with you. So a big thanks to my friend who shall remain nameless for sharing it with me!
Don’t be intimidated be the ingredients list. This will take you 20-30 minutes to make. And it even tastes better the next day!
Equadorian Quinoa Stew
Quinoa, is an ancient grain from South America available in many grocery stores and most health food stores. It is an excellent source of essential amino acids, calcium and has more protein than any other grain. Because its carbohydrates are slow releasing, it does not cause a spike in blood sugar.
- ½ cup raw quinoa
- 2 tablespoons canna olive oil (click for the recipe)
- 1 tablespoon of canna butter (click for the recipe)
- 2 cups chopped onion
- 1 teaspoon of sea salt
- 1 cup diced potatoes
- 1 cup chopped red or green bell peppers
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 3 cups water or vegetable stock
- 1 ½ cups chopped fresh or un-drained canned tomatoes (14 ½ ounce can)
- 1 cup diced zucchini or yellow squash
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Toppings: Chopped scallion, chopped fresh cilantro, avocado, crumbled tortilla chips, grated Cheddar or Monterrey Jack cheese, dollop of Greek yogurt optional. I prefer mine with all of the above but add what you like. Fresh cilantro brightens any dish and is itself a healing herb.
Rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer under cold running water. Set aside to drain.
Warm the oil and butter in a non-reactive soup pot, add the onions and salt, cover and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the drained quinoa, potatoes, bell peppers, coriander, cumin, oregano, black pepper, water or stock, and tomatoes. Cover and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until all of the veggies are tender.
Stir in the lemon juice. If desired, serve with a sprinkling of the scallions, tortilla chips, and grated cheese. A dollop of Greek yogurt on top is also delicious and will add more protein to the soup. Additional butter or oil can be used for a more potent dish.
This recipe will be one of five electronic recipe cards for anyone who gives $25 or more on our RocketHub crowdfunding campaign for the publishing of our book. Support Cannabis Education: http://rkthb.co/32069
The Chronic Relief blog is written by Nishi Whiteley, marketing and strategy consultant and cannabis educator. To learn more about the safety and efficacy of cannabis as medicine please visit www.MyChronicRelief.com .