What to Do with Cannabis Fan Leaves?

Stephen Andrews
07 Nov 2022

Marijuana fan leaves are the large, broad leaves that protrude directly from the stem and branches of Cannabis plants. While they might not be as rich in THC as other parts of the plant, that does not mean they are obsolete and you should toss them away after harvest. Fan leaves can be used in teas, smoothies, salads, and much more.

Fan leaves support the cannabis plant throughout the vegetative phase. They enable plants to absorb enough energy from light that is then converted into food needed for growth. While they might not be a smokable component of the cannabis plant, it's a pity to dispose of them following the harvest. A lot of growers unfortunately do this even though there are various purposeful ways to use them post-harvest. 

Main traits of Cannabis fan leaves:

  • They grow directly from a branch or the stem.
  • They are easily differentiated from sugary leaves.
  • Contain very little resin and cannabinoids.
  • Help us determine whether a cultivar is sativa or indica. Large, bright green leaves with slender tips indicate sativa dominancy. Distinctly broad, dark green fan leaves signal it's indica. 
  • Changes in the fan leaves may indicate weakness, illness, or pests attacking the Cannabis plant. 

Defoliating or Removing Cannabis Fan Leaves

Even before the harvest, some growers methodically remove cannabis fan leaves. Such a practice is good for improving airflow and light exposure to parts of the plant that appear to be underperforming. Therefore, the ultimate purpose of defoliation is to stimulate growth. 

When the Cannabis plant is struggling and weak, the indications that something is wrong will almost certainly show on the fan leaves. This is another reason why removing fan leaves is sometimes even necessary. Discoloration, yellowing, and other damage on the leaves may indicate a nutrient deficiency, lockout, water issues, and other forms of stress. 

Defoliating should be done carefully to avoid additional stress on the plant. A plant can tolerate up to three defoliation sessions, which can be split 1 or 2 during vegetation and 1 shortly after the plant begins to flower. Removing fan leaves during flowering requires extra caution, as new leaves won't grow back. Mistakes may easily disrupt the plant's energy balance and stunt growth. 

A grower should avoid removing over 10% of the plant's foliage in a single defoliation attempt. Because they are more thick and bushy, indica plants may require to defoliate more often than other cultivars. Sativas are more stretchy and usually most buds have sufficient access to light and air, therefore less need to remove fan leaves.

a tray with grinder, joint, rolling paper and fresh green cannabis fan leaves.

How to Use Cannabis Fan Leaves? 

Unlike buds and small sugar leaves, cannabis fan leaves retain only a small amount of cannabinoids and terpenes. This is the primary reason why they are not so attractive and end up in the garbage or at best in a compost pile. Nevertheless, there are plenty of things you can do with fan leaves, especially if they appear green and healthy. 

Raw cannabis has a high nutritional value. It contains fiber, calcium, iron, omega-3, fatty acids, and many other vitamins and minerals. So, some of the uses of fresh leaves would be to use them for tea or juice, or add in a salad, smoothie and even cannabutter.  


Marijuana fan leaves might not be the tastiest ingredient in the world, however, you can easily cover up the bitter taste if you mix it in a rich salad with plenty of sweet vegetables such as tomatoes, squash, bell peppers, or boiled potatoes and onion. You can also combine it with cheese and roasted veggies. 


If you can't tolerate at all the taste of marijuana leaves, try putting them in a smoothie. Blend the fan leaves with other green vegetables such as spinach, cucumber, and kale (add apple and lemon for extra flavor). Or you can experiment with more sweet combinations, using fruits like bananas or strawberries as the basis of the concoction.


You've probably heard about bhang. It's a popular edible cannabis drink in India that has also been used in spiritual practice for centuries. There are various ways to prepare bhang, all of which require using raw cannabis plant material. So, one option that works it is to use fresh fan leaves. Bhang is made by mixing the fresh cannabis plant material with water, warm milk, chopped almonds, ginger, honey, and other ingredients such as cinnamon, cardamom, and garam masala.  

Prepare a tea

Cannabis tea was used in folk medicine for centuries, so this is sort of going back to our roots. Our ancestors believed that tea from cannabis could help with rheumatism and urinary problems, among other issues. While there are various types of cannabis tea, one way to prepare is to steep several fan leaves in hot water. Wait about 10 minutes for a relaxing, distinctive warm drink that can be enriched with cinnamon, honey or lemon. You can go a step further and mix the marijuana leaves with other herbs such as mint, lavender, or green tea. 

Home cosmetics

Last but not least, you can use cannabis fan leaves to prepare your own cannabis topicals, such as balms and lotions. One simple way is to steep cannabis fan leaves in hot coconut oil for around 2 hours. For this, you will need a bain-marie where you work the mixture of coconut oil and fan leaves. Alternatively, you can try using beeswax as the basis for your canna balm. 

How to Store Cannabis Fan Leaves? 

When you have excess cannabis fan leaves coming in from your garden, freeze them in a ziplock bag. Then, whenever you need them in the kitchen, you can take them out and use them. Avoid using frozen leaves for fresh servings such as salads as the leaves will be wet and mushy, but you can use them for plenty of other recipes that you can browse in cannabis cookbooks or learn from cannabis chefs in your circle of friends and acquaintances.

Another option is to dry the cannabis leaves and store them in jars the same as you would for dried flower. You don't need to cure the leaves or anything like that. Just keep them and use them whenever you want. 

Stephen Andrews