Waste not – Cannabis Flower

by Kayla Johnson

Any patient who uses cannabis flower regularly as their medicine of choice has likely encountered stems here and there, depending on the quality of their purchased flower. For the ones who are able to grow at home, when harvest time rolls around, there Is almost no end to the stream of stems. While many people choose to simply discard them, they can actually be put to good use once you’ve let them accumulate for a few weeks.

While stems don’t have the heavy coverage of trichomes like the actual flower, they can contain anywhere from 1-3% THC.  That little bit adds up, especially if you’re a daily consumer. It’s well worth taking advantage of this extra bit of goodness. When you have to be extra mindful of a budget, for instance, or any other circumstance that keeps you from replenishing your supply, the stems you save can really come in handy when you’d be dry otherwise. Consider it a bonus that you’re slowly investing in and, luckily, it doesn’t take long before you’ve got enough to make use of.

While you technically can grind these stems up and smoke them, it’s not necessarily the greatest use of them. Plus, smoking stems can lead to headaches that last for several hours and the smoke is extremely harsh. We’ve got better plans for them.

Before you try using your stems for any of the ideas we’ve collected, it’s important to activate the THC in them by decarbing them, just as you would if you were using ground flower for anything other than smoking. This can be easily accomplished by heating your oven to 200*F, placing your stems (plus any leaves or shake, if you have any from growing) in a single layer on a baking sheet and heating it for 30-45 minutes, until dried and slightly toasty. Allow them to cool, and if you don’t plan to use them right away, store them in a dark, airtight container. Once you’ve done this, you’re ready to try one of the four ideas below.

  1. Weed stem tea – this is one of the most common ways people reuse their stems and it’s one of the easiest as well. It can provide lasting effects without seriously impacting your day and, if you prefer, you can blend it with your tea of choice to cover the taste of cannabis. Place 1-2 grams of your decarbed stems inside a reusable teabag, or even a piece of cheesecloth. Boil water, and pour over the stems.  Add another teabag of your choice if you wish. Steep five to ten minutes, then remove the bags, add milk or sugar, and enjoy.
  2. Weed stem tincture – Tinctures can be a great way to take your dose of cannabis flower in an easily adjusted manner. With stems, the results can vary based on how many stems you use and whether or not you add additional leaves or shake.  In some cases, it can be stronger than you might expect. Test your initial doses in a low and slow manner until you find what works for you, that way you don’t accidentally end up taking more than you need.  It’s an easy process to make tinctures, but it does take at least 30 days, so you’ll need some patience. To make it, roughly chop your stems and add them to a liter of Everclear or another high percentage alcohol. Reseal the bottle and store in a dark, cool place for a least a month, but make sure to shake it every few days. This helps the alcohol absorb the cannibinoid goodness fully. When it’s been at least thirty days, strain the mixture into a dark glass bottle then give a small amount a try.
  3. Weed stem butter – Okay, this one is a given. Many people who make their own cannabutter simply add the stems to the rest of their flower, but you can actually use stems exclusively to make butter, leaving your flower free for smoking or other uses. Bear in mind, it will take more stems to give it a stronger effect, but you can get a mild effect with as little as seven grams of stems to one cup of butter. Prepare it in at least that amount of ratio over medium heat for 30-40 minutes, then strain through cheesecloth into an airtight container and let cool. Use for baked goods, or add a bit to your coffee or tea in the mornings for a mild, soothing experience with your morning caffeine jolt.
  4. Weed Stem skin ointment – This one takes a bit more time to stockpile the stems, but if you suffer from skin conditions, or are looking for something to help soothe bug bites come summertime, using a cannabis-infused skin rub can give you significant relief without the high. You’ll need 25-35 grams of stems for this, along with 1.5 cups coconut oil, ⅓ cup beeswax, and an additional ⅓ cup of olive oil if you wish. Melt your coconut oil (and olive oil if you’ve added it) in a saucepan over low heat, making sure to stir constantly. Take your decarbed stems, chop them roughly,  and add them to the oil. Stir continuously over low heat for 25 minutes, and remove from the heat. Strain through cheesecloth into a jar and let cool. Then apply.
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