The humble cannabis brownie started a revolution in medicine when a gutsy woman named “Brownie” Mary Jane Rathbun started delivering pot brownies to San Francisco AIDS wards in the 1990s. But in today’s wide marijuana marketplace, consumers are starting to look for healthier choices, and chefs are responding.
Cannabis-infused edibles, once limited to unwholesome, sugar-laden confections, have branched out to embrace infused cannabis superfoods. A new crop of prepared foods now comes packed with antioxidants, omega-3s and other components that can contribute to overall health.
According to Clint Werner, a San Francisco macrobiotic chef who is author of the best-selling “Marijuana Gateway to Health,” a proper diet stimulates and regulates the endocannabinoid system, a major network of nerve cell receptors in your body that interact with the compounds in cannabis.
He says those who need large doses of cannabis and get them by consuming edibles should limit their sugar and fat consumption. Fats and sugars can cause inflammation that will all but cancel out the effectiveness of the medicine.
“I find it dismaying that so many of the cannabis edibles available in medical dispensaries are loaded with sugar and other refined, empty caloric additives,” Werner said.
“Ingesting edibles that contain other anti-inflammatory and health-guarding ingredients such as turmeric or blueberries can likewise give cannabinoids a boost in lowering or resolving pro-disease pathologies,” he added.
We’ve gathered some of the best-made widely available and wholesome selections around. Each lets the rest of the edible work alongside its star ingredient, cannabis, in the most curative way possible.
Ellen Holland is a freelance writer based in Oakland.
Swerve Bars, $6-$20, www.swerveconfections.com:
Combining Ayurvedic herbs and ice-water-derived hash, these edibles represent the fusion of of a 3,000-year-old tradition with the new uses of cannabis. Developed in India, Ayurvedic medicine is one of the oldest medical systems in the world and promotes health through a balance of body, mind and spirit. These bars come in three selections with cannabis added for each bar’s intended effects — Buzz, Snooze and Snuggle — and include other ingredients such as maca, a supplement used to promote energy and endurance, and cacao, the raw, pure form of chocolate, which boasts a high level of antioxidants. Each bar has a base ingredient of coconut and tastes like a bowl of healthy cereal loaded with wholesome toppings.
Think of a Fruit Roll-Up — only unlike the sugary fruit snack, these edibles are a simple, nourishing combination of cannabis and fruit puree. Fruit Slabs are essentially the “fruit leathers” found at health food stores, infused with potent medicine. The packaging allows for sampling a small bite and saving the rest. The “weedy” taste isn’t completely hidden, but the fruit puree dissolves quickly, so those who are uncomfortable with the taste of cannabis won’t have to endure it for too long. With minimal ingredients, these are workable solutions for those with dietary restrictions.
Protein bars can supply nutrition on the hectic days when there isn’t enough time to sit down for a meal. The Lift Bar includes protein from cannabis’ sister plant, hemp, as well as ice-water-derived hash — a concentrate made by extracting THC-rich oils from marijuana flowers using water and ice. With the addition of oats, maple syrup and cinnamon, these bars taste like a bowl of breakfast oatmeal.
These edibles are soft, chewy pillows of pure decadence. The macaroons are perfectly moist, with just a hint of natural sweetness. While non-cannabis-infused macaroons can sometimes be cloyingly sweet, these macaroons let the natural flavor of coconut come through. With 200 milligrams of THC in a package — 20 times higher than Colorado’s recommended dose for newbies — these deserts are also very strong. They taste ambrosial, without even a hint of cannabis flavor, so watch the dose.
OM Edibles CBD Toasted Sesame Miso Broth, $32, www.omedibles.org:
This savory edible boosts gut health in two ways. First, it includes the non-euphoric pot molecule cannabidiol, a compound in cannabis that’s gaining traction for its wide array of medical applications. Second, it includes miso, a paste made from fermented soy and rice which is chock-full of antioxidants and probiotics. When combined with warm water, this broth is a soothing way to ease nausea and treat conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome.
We couldn’t omit from our list the tried-and-true edible that started it all. Lifted Superfood Brownie Bites are a blend of dates, almonds, papayas, cashews, cacao, cranberries and, of course, cannabis. One of these bites, which come in a pack of four, has 25 milligrams of THC. The taste pulls from the dried fruits — simple, tart and sweet.