The flowering buds of the cannabis plant have always been the star of the show due to their high concentration of cannabinoids like THC and CBD that create effects for consumers. But what many don’t know is that other parts of the plant—specifically the trim removed after harvesting—can be used for a variety of purposes.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through some ways to repurpose your seemingly useless cannabis trimmings to avoid being wasteful with this amazing plant.
- What Exactly Is Cannabis Trim?
- What’s the Difference: Sugar Leaves vs. Fan Leaves
- Things You Can Do With Cannabis Trimmings
- Key Takeaway
What Exactly Is Cannabis Trim?
Cannabis trim is everything that’s removed from cannabis plants after they are harvested, including the sugar leaves, fan leaves, and bits of cannabis buds. After cannabis plants have fully grown, professional cultivators and home growers pick the plants and trim them with trimmers (trimming scissors). This is often done by hand, though larger commercial operations will sometimes use machines to complete the trimming process.
The purpose of trimming cannabis post-harvest is to create a more visually appealing and potent product by removing excess plant matter. Although trim is not nearly as potent as buds are, it does contain some trichomes that house cannabinoids. Trim should not be confused with shake, the loose buds and trichomes that fall off naturally in storage. Trim is generally not smoked due to its harshness and low cannabinoid content, whereas shake is sometimes smoked for a cheaper high.
What’s the Difference: Sugar Leaves vs. Fan Leaves
Fan leaves are the larger leaves protruding from the branches of the cannabis plant and contain virtually no psychoactive properties (cannabinoids). Sugar leaves, however, are typically heavily concentrated in cannabinoid-rich trichomes, making them much more useful overall than fan leaves. Sugar leaves are much smaller than fan leaves and grow directly from the buds rather than the branches. When repurposing your trimmings, these small leaves are ideally what you want to use.
Things You Can Do With Cannabis Trimmings
Now that you understand cannabis trimming, let’s take a closer look at some things you can do with your trim. Most commonly, people grind up their trim leaves and add them to soil, food, or drinks. As you will see in the list below, trim is highly versatile and can be repurposed into something useful for everyone.
1. Use Cannabis Trim for Concentrates and Extracts
One of the most common things cultivators typically use cannabis trimmings for is the production of cannabis concentrates and extracts. Through various methods, any existing cannabinoids in the trim can be extracted and turned into concentrates like shatter, wax, and kief. To prepare your cannabis trimmings for extraction, simply grind them the same way you would grind flower for a bowl or joint. Keep in mind that some concentrates require solvents.
2. Add Trimmings to Food
Cannabis trimmings can also be added to foods both within recipes and as garnishes. The first thing you’ll need to do is activate any cannabinoids in your trim through a heating process called decarboxylation. After decarboxylation has been completed, the trim can be added to any food for a mild buzz. Consider adding leaves to a salad or grinding the decarbed trim finely for brownie mix. Trim can also be made into butter, oil, or flour for more effective edibles, which is discussed further below.
3. Add Trimmings to Drinks
You can also add cannabis trimmings to beverages. If you’re looking to make a psychoactive drink, you will first need to decarb the trim to activate the cannabinoids. However, you may lose terpenes—aromatic compounds—and phytonutrients during decarboxylation, so decarbing the trim is not suggested if you’re interested in adding flavor rather than CBD or THC to a drink. Let’s explore some of the most common cannabis-infused beverages.
To make cannabis milk with your trimmings, finely grind them after decarbing. It is recommended to use a quarter-ounce of cannabis trimmings per 4 cups of whole milk. Simply place the ground cannabis and milk into a pan on low heat and allow it to simmer for about an hour to an hour and a half (ensure the liquid does not reach boiling point). Finally, separate the milk from the plant material by sifting it through a micron silkscreen or cheesecloth and allow the milk to cool before consuming.
Alcohol and cannabis tend to increase the effects of each other, so cannabis-infused vodka is an efficient way to get the most out of your trim. One of the most common forms of alcohol to be infused with cannabis is vodka. In fact, vodka has been utilized for many years to make cannabis tinctures like Green Dragon. To infuse vodka with cannabis trim, simply grind your cannabis after decarbing it and soak it in vodka for a prolonged period of time before removing the plant material.
If you’re interested in getting something other than a high out of your leftover cannabis, juicing is the way to go. Dietary cannabis specialist Dr. William L. Courtney has long advocated for juicing raw cannabis to obtain the benefits of THCA and other essential nutrients found in the plant. Just throw your cannabis trimmings into a countertop juicer to create your own raw cannabis juice. To boost the flavor and nutrition, you can add fruits and vegetables to the juice as well.
Cannabis-infused coffee can be made at home with ease. First, grind your trim—the recommended combination is a half-gram of cannabis and 3 cups of water. Throw the water in a pot with a small amount of coconut oil or butter and bring to a boil. Next, reduce the water to a low, simmering heat and add the cannabis. Leave the mixture on low heat for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally, before straining the mixture and using the infused water to prepare your coffee like normal.
4. Make Edibles: Cannabutter, Cannaoil, and Cannaflour
Many folks use cannabis flower to create cannabutter, cannabis oil, and cannaflour, and trim can be used for this purpose as well (though the final product will be less potent than if flower was used). These substances can then be used in place of normal oil, butter, or flour to create cannabis-infused treats or condiments such as cookies and salad dressing. Before diving into the recipes for each infused ingredient (linked above), make sure to decarb and grind your trimmings to activate the cannabinoid content.
5. Create a Topical Salve or Cream
The nutrients and cannabinoids in cannabis can also provide benefits when applied topically. To make a topical cream, lotion, or salve with your trim, you will first need to decarb and grind the plant material to activate the cannabinoids. Then, you will need to create a cannabis-infused oil. Feel free to add other nourishing or fragrant ingredients to your mixture like vitamin E or essential oils.
At this point, you can either add the infused oil to a cream or lotion you already use or combine the oil with beeswax to create a thick topical called a salve. If you would prefer a thinner consistency, just add any kind of oil (coconut, olive, avocado, etc.) in small amounts until the mixture is how you’d like it. You can also play around with adding shea or cocoa butter to create a more lotion-like substance.
6. Create Herbal Cooking Spices
Cannabis trimmings can also be utilized as a cooking spice. Simply decarb the trim and then grind it to the consistency you desire. Your cannabis “spice” can be stored in a spice container and used just like any other spice—try using it on pizza, pasta, and salads for some extra flavor, nutrients, and possibly a slight canna-buzz depending on the amount you use.
7. Use for Garden Compost
If you have a garden, consider composting your cannabis trimmings. Composting is a great way to reduce waste and enrich soil. Cannabis stems, stalks, and leaves low in cannabinoid content typically have high nitrogen and low carbon levels, making them a perfect product to add to compost. You can also make the trim into compost tea for feeding plants during cultivation.
8. Smoke Your Cannabis Trim
If nothing we’ve suggested so far has caught your eye, you can always simply smoke your leftover cannabis trimmings. That’s right—just like with the trimmed buds/flower, you can dry out the leaves and smoke them. You won’t receive the same cannabinoid content and flavor profiles—and smoking trim is known to be harsher on the lungs—but it’s still a better use of your trimmings than throwing them in the trash.
Cannabis trim might not be the most desirable part of the marijuana plant, but there are many things you can do to increase its usability. It’s important to remember that trim-based products will have much lower potency than flower-based products. That said, you can definitely swap in flower for any of the above uses to get that higher potency.
Interested in growing your own cannabis or using any of the cannabis products included in this article to medicate? Sign up for an appointment with a medical marijuana doctor here!
This blog post was originally written by Chane Leigh and published on 1/3/20. Updated on 1/13/22.
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