The Marijuana Leaf: Everything You Need To Know

The marijuana leaf is often what people think about when they imagine cannabis. It’s probably one of the most widely recognized botanical images globally. Marijuana leaf has a long history of use as a drug for medicinal, recreational, religious, and philosophical purposes.

Modern history has a complicated relationship with this beloved plant, despite its many benefits. So, what gives the marijuana leaf such an infamous background? Let’s explore its history, distinctive features, and variations to understand how it got such a reputation.

The marijuana leaf has been around for much longer than you think

The marijuana leaf has an incredible, colourful history – from hunters and gatherers to ancient civilizations to modernity, humans have been growing marijuana for about 12,000 years. It places the marijuana leaf among humanity’s oldest cultivated crops. Cannabis plants are believed to have evolved in the steppes of Central Asia (Mongolia and southern Siberia), where people primarily used them in textile.

Cannabis plants were used to make ropes and fabric as far back in the history of China and Japan. Although that was the case, this was primarily due to using a subspecies of cannabis, known as hemp – a nonpsychoactive form of cannabis used in manufacturing products such as oil, cloth, and fuel.

As its spread turned more to the east, there has been evidence of ceremonial use amongst early European tribes in Ukraine and Southern Russia.

When did smoking come in?

It wasn’t until half that period (around 4500 BC) that people widely sought its psychoactive properties. The first record of the drug’s medicinal use dates back to 4000 BC. Ancient Iranians introduced marijuana leaf to the Assyrians, who primarily used it in religious ceremonies. Its migration then took it to Eastern and Southeastern Europe, where traders introduced the marijuana leaf to many cultures.

Shamans would burn it to induce a trance, and early civilizations of India would use it therapeutically for use in food and drink. Much later, people uncovered smoking pipes for hashish in archaeological sites in the Middle East, parts of Asia, and Africa around 800 AD. Its widespread use in many cultures has made the marijuana leaf a mainstay in society. Whether you’re using it recreationally or medicinally, the marijuana plant plays a significant role in human history. Now, the evolving legal status of cannabis is the subject of ongoing controversy around the world.

3 main marijuana leaf types

Cannabis strains are either pure or hybrid varieties of different marijuana leaf types. These varieties have specific characteristics, features, and benefits for the purpose of making them more effective. The two species of Cannabis that are commonly grown are Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa. Cannabis ruderalis also exists, but it isn’t widely grown for industrial, recreational, or medicinal use.

Sativa leaf

The sativa leaf is the characteristic leaf when people think of the symbol of cannabis. Cannabis sativa is indigenous to Eastern Asia but has now widespread global cultivation. It has long and slender-fingered fans that develop as many as 13 altogether. This marijuana leaf thrives in tropical and warmer climates to deal with long, hot, and humid summers.

It has the largest leaves of the three, as the sativa leaf evolved to take advantage of the extended hours of sunshine. They grow the tallest out of the three with long and lanky plants, making them best suited for outdoor growing. They are light green colour and take much longer to grow than the other two. This marijuana leaf also has many serrations that give it a jagged appearance.

Indica leaf

Indica leaves are broad, short, and wide. It has origins in the Hindu Kush mountain range. The harsh and variable climate makes the indica leaf well-suited for cultivation in temperate climates. Because it grows in stringent environments, this marijuana leaf develops and flowers faster with denser foliage and buds.

The marijuana plant doesn’t grow that high and is shrubby and stocky, perfectly suited for indoor cultivation. Its broad leaves allow the plant to absorb more sunlight, especially in climates where the hours of sun shorten or are harder to get. The dark green colour hints at the higher levels of chlorophyll in the plant that help it receive energy, which hastens growing time.

Ruderalis leaf

The ruderalis leaf is the smallest of them all, with comparisons drawn to the leaves of young sativa plants. Compared to indica and sativa, ruderalis doesn’t contain as many cannabinoids and terpenes. Consequently, this marijuana plant is grown less commercially, recreationally, and medicinally than the other two.

Although that’s the case, it typically contains a higher concentration of CBD, making it attractive for those trying to treat anxiety and seizures. It does have resistance to insect and disease pressures and has evolved to flower regardless of how much sunlight is present. This marijuana leaf develops 3-5 thin, slender fingers.

How the marijuana leaf can help identity sickness or growing issues

Your marijuana leaf can inform you of the state of your marijuana plant. Each strain has unique properties that will influence the final result of your plant. When these properties aren’t present when your plant has fully developed, it might be signs of sickness and growing issues.

It could be related to many plant stresses and environmental factors that make a difference in the marijuana leaf you enjoy. Because the appearance and properties of the leaves provide a strong indicator of marijuana plant health, it’s important that you recognize the signs and know what might be affecting it.

Your plant’s genetics

Suppose you are growing your marijuana plant in conditions that aren’t right for its growth. In that case, you can expect that it will have trouble trying to develop. The genetics of your marijuana plant will differentiate in the way it grows compared to other marijuana leaf types.

For example, certain marijuana leaves will sprout in a way that would show deficiencies in another plant – so be knowledgeable of what you’re planting. Depending on the genetics of your plant, you will find differences in the smell, size, and shape.

Lack of nutrients

The size, shape, taste, and smell of your marijuana leaf are greatly influenced by the nutrients it receives. If components are lacking in the soil, such as nitrogen, magnesium, calcium, and potassium, their development will get thrown off. They all play roles in influencing the terpene, cannabinoid content, and physical appearance of your plant.

If your marijuana leaf is showing signs of discolouration or lack of the above properties, the lack of nutrients might have a role in that.

Influence of light

Besides nutrients, the type of light source and how much light is received can significantly impact the look of your marijuana leaf. Any change in the environment can cause them to feel threatened and stressed. A sudden shift in the type, strength, or exposure to light can alter the plant. It can cause premature, underdevelopment, or sudden change in marijuana leaf appearance.

Some plants require specific periods of light for growth of the plant. Even the brief exposure to light during a period when it should be dark can cause it to stress out and not fully develop. If you find success with a particular type of light (if you’re growing indoors), make sure you replicate the same light source when you need to replace it.

Temperature and humidity

Due to the direct relationship between temperature and relative humidity, relative humidity also fluctuates when temperatures fluctuate. It can result in the marijuana leaf developing contaminants such as mold, mildew, or a late flowering cycle.


Pests can make their home on your marijuana leaf, significantly impacting its growth. It’s important to identify the level of pests that are present on your plant. It can come in the form of insects or fungus that steal nutrients or eat the plant directly. That can destroy the marijuana leaf or turn it yellow.


Sometimes the quantity of what you give your marijuana plant will overload or stress the plant. If you overwater your plants, your roots suffocate and are less likely to take in vital nutrients and oxygen. Similarly, too many nutrients and fertilizer from overfeeding can cause the leaves to turn brown or yellow and cause the marijuana leaf to turn crispy or curl.

Can you smoke marijuana leaf

Believe it or not, you can smoke a marijuana leaf. The entire marijuana plant contains cannabinoids (except the stem and roots). If you’re looking to smoke this part of the marijuana plant, you need to understand the differences in a marijuana leaf and what part makes you high.

Fan Leaves

Fan leaves have quite a large surface area to absorb sunlight to help the marijuana plant capture its energy to grow. It usually develops during the plant’s growth phase and acts as emergency storage for nutrients like potassium and nitrogen. These leaves contain small amounts of THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids because they bloom during development.

Sugar Leaves

Sugar leaves are rich in trichomes giving them a sugary appearance. These leaves grow near the cannabis buds during the flowering stage. Because cultivators want to make their cannabis buds more appealing, they trim the sugar leaves from the bud. If you’re looking to smoke a marijuana leaf, sugar leaves are the best choice – though they don’t give the same high as a bud would.

Smoking leaves is a possible option for many people, but you shouldn’t make it a habit. Smoke the large marijuana leaves with caution because they may contain large amounts of unknown fertilizers or chemicals. Instead, since sugar leaves are used as trim, use them for making budder or hash.

Are there health benefits to eating raw marijuana leaf

Cannabis leaves are rich in many chemicals such as antioxidants, polyphenols (chemicals that greatly benefit the human body and help fight disease), and anti-inflammatory compounds. In some research, CBD is a stronger antioxidant than vitamins C or E.

Raw marijuana leaf can help prevent cell damage, stimulate appetite, decrease nausea, and improve the state of physical and psychological issues. Consuming the raw plant doesn’t cause the “high” feeling.

Instead, it’s an excellent alternative for those who do not enjoy the psychoactive feeling associated with marijuana. You also preserve much of the benefits and compounds by consuming the raw marijuana leaf compared to when you smoke or cook it.

What you can use the marijuana leaf for

People think that leaves offer no substance compared to the bud – and they are wrong! Marijuana leaves, other than smoking, have many alternatives which you should try out. You can preserve more of the cannabinoids and terpenes depending on your chosen method. That’s why you should think twice about discarding the leaves!

H3: Improve the contents of your meals

Marijuana leaves are a fantastic addition to your favourite foods and beverages. You can grind the marijuana leaf down and mix it with just about any meal you can put together – it works as a simple, dry seasoning. Sugar and fan leaves work well if you steep them for a couple of minutes for some psychoactive cannabis tea.

 If you have a blender or crusher, you can juice your marijuana leaf, especially if you don’t want to deal with the effects of THC – you don’t have to deal with the high!

Make Cannabutter

Sugar leaves work best to create cannabutter. Cannabutter, or cannabis-infused butter, is a common way to make edibles. Because THC binds to fat molecules easily, butter is the perfect medium to mix your marijuana leaf with. You can use cannabutter to make a variety of edibles and baked goods. Or you can enjoy it as cooking oil or an additive to your breakfast, lunch or dinner!

Create your own “skincare” products

Salves work well with fan leaves if you have plenty left over. Fan leaves have a higher content of CBD, which is perfect when you’re creating salves. Because of the soft consistency of salves, they can penetrate the skin deeply, helping you out with pain, inflammation, and wounds. You can start incorporating these ointments into your skincare routine for fast and incredible relief from your stubborn aches and pains

Author Bio: Elijah Thomas

Elijah is the Head of SEM at Speed Greens, the #1 Online Dispensary in Canada. Speed Greens’ mission is to bring every customer quality products at the lowest price with the best service in the industry. The company comprises passionate individuals who firmly believe in the healing aspects of marijuana and offer a user-friendly platform to find the right product for you. You’re only a few clicks away from the guaranteed delivery of the highest quality marijuana products right to your front doorstep. You’ll never have to worry again about where your cannabis products are coming from!



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