cannabis fan leaf

What Are Cannabis Fan Leaves?

Published : Oct 15, 2020

Keep reading to find out what fan leaves are, and the crucial role they play in growing healthy, resilient cannabis plants. Even better, we have put together five ways you can use fan leaves once plants have been harvested!


Fan leaves are an essential component of the cannabis plant’s anatomy, but they aren’t the only. To help understand their function, we need to know where on the cannabis plant they exist, and what other structures exist alongside them.

Starting from the bottom of the cannabis plant, we have the roots, followed by the main stem, fan leaves, branches, and sugar leaves. Toward the top of the cannabis plant, among the smaller sugar leaves, will be your trichome loaded flowers. Usually, it is the flowers or colas we’d be most interested in, but that doesn’t mean the remaining parts of the cannabis plant are useless. Head back down to the bottom, and we find the much larger fan leaves, an often forgotten part of the cannabis plant.


Don’t be fooled into thinking fan leaves are just for show. Their large, multi-fingered shape is an essential tool for collecting as much sunlight as possible. The primary purpose of fan leaves is to support photosynthesis. The leaves themselves are also packed with phytonutrients and, to a much lesser degree than sugar leaves and buds, cannabinoids.

Fan leaves are also incredibly useful for understanding your plant’s overall health. Given that the majority of fan leaves are located near the bottom of the plant, any issues with nutrients or water will show on fan leaves first. After all, they are the closest to the root system.

Carefully observing fan leaves throughout the vegetative stage can give you an early indication of problems and deficiencies. Powdery mildew, infestations, nutrient burn, and a lack of water—all of these aliments will show in the fan leaves first, so take note!

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that it’s beneficial to retain fan leaves during the vegetative growth phase to encourage healthy development. However, many growers will trim excess leaves during the flowering stage to improve airflow and strengthen bud development.


Whether you have a few fan leaves left over after pruning or a huge selection of foliage lying around, below are five ways you can put them to good use.


This may take some practice, but many cannabis connoisseurs swear by the authentic experience of rolling fan leaf joints. The key is to dry them flat so they’re easier to roll. You could also try creating Thai sticks using hemp string to keep your bundle of fan leaves, flower, and hash oil together. Either way, there’s plenty of ways you can utilise fan leaves in your daily smoking rituals. Plus, imagine the look on people’s faces when you arrive with a giant fan leaf joint in hand—priceless.


A symbol of sophistication, tea has been consumed around the globe for over 5,000 years. With the help of fan leaves, you can bring the same level of class and wisdom to your favourite herb. Although the resin, and therefore the cannabinoid content, is much lower in fan leaves than other parts of the cannabis plant, brewing the leaves will help extract every last drop.

For an organic experience, leave dried fan leaves to steep in hot water with a teaspoon of coconut oil, creating a homemade herbal tea. Don’t expect intense waves of euphoria, but there should be enough cannabinoid content to provide a very mild, relaxing buzz.


Juicing raw cannabis leaves has become increasingly popular in recent years. Not only is there nutritional value in the leaves, stalks, and seeds, but fresh juice contains a diverse spectrum of cannabinoids/cannabinoid acids. However, cannabinoid acids in raw leaves (like THCA and CBDA) haven’t been activated by heat, and therefore interact with the body differently. You won’t get high, but there is research to suggest that raw cannabinoids may have several health benefits of their own. While studies are ongoing, juicing is a simple, effective, and tasty way of putting unwanted plants and leaves to good use.


Remember watching cooking shows as a kid and seeing the chef use basil leaves as a garnish? Bring a touch of stoner innovation to your culinary skills by using fan leaves instead. You can use the entire leaf for dramatic impact, or flatten, dry, and crush them before sprinkling on a range of dishes.

The flavour can be pretty overpowering, so we advise using your fan leaf garnish sparingly. And don’t worry about intoxicating your guests, THC levels will be minuscule at best.


Think of tinctures as a more advanced, and more potent, cannabis-infused tea. Rather than steeping the fan leaves in water with a touch of fat, we use exclusively alcohol or coconut oil. These bind with cannabinoids more effectively, ensuring you capture all of the available THC, CBD, etc. Either heat the leaves gently in coconut oil or let them steep in vodka for several weeks. Once you’re happy with the mixture, sieve out the remaining plant matter and store in a glass dropper bottle.

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Follow the link to find out why fan leaves are an essential part of the cannabis plant. They can be used as rolling papers, to make tea, and much more.

Indica, sativa, or hybrid? How to read a cannabis leaf

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  1. What does an indica leaf look like?
  2. What does a sativa leaf look like?
  3. What does a ruderalis leaf look like?
  4. What is a hybrid cannabis leaf?
  5. Why is it important to know the difference between cannabis leaves?
  6. What can I do with cannabis leaves?
  7. Health benefits of cannabis leaves

While there are countless strains of cannabis to choose from , there are only four known “types” of cannabis: the well-known indica and sativa, along with the lesser-known ruderalis, and finally the hybrid, which is a combination of the others. Each has its own physical characteristics that make it identifiable to growers. Most notably, the leaf.

In this guide to reading cannabis leaves, you’ll learn how to identify each type of leaf just by looking at them. We’ll also share insider tips on the different ways you can use marijuana leaves.

What does an indica leaf look like?

First named in 1785 for a kind of marijuana that grows in India, the indica leaf is short and stout, possessing between seven and nine wide, finger-like structures.

Steven Somoza of Hydroponics, Inc. in Los Angeles, California, has more than eight years of cannabis cultivation experience and shared with Weedmaps, “ Indica-dominant strains tend to have a stocky bush-like appearance, typically developing fat and wide leaves.”

The indica leaf’s short stature makes it a good choice of cannabis to grow indoors. You can spot an indica leaf if you pay attention to color, as indicas are a deep shade of green, which signifies a high chlorophyll content. Pure indica strains may include Hindu Kush, Purple Kush, and Afghani Kush, but pure strains of any kind are rare and challenging to find.

The indica leaf is short and stout, possessing between seven and nine wide, finger-like structures. The slender sativa leaf has more fingers than the indica leaf, sometimes as many as thirteen.

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What does a sativa leaf look like?

In contrast to indica plants, sativa plants fare better outdoors due to their exceptional height (up to 12 feet). The slender sativa leaf also has more fingers than the indica leaf, sometimes as many as thirteen.

In contrast to indica leaves, sativa-dominant genetics “typically grow lengthy, can take longer to mature, and develop skinnier leaves” according to Somoza.

Besides size and finger differences, you can distinguish between an indica and a sativa leaf by the latter’s lighter shade of green. Pure sativa strains may include Jack Herer, Panama Red, and Durban Poison, but connoisseurs debate whether these strains are truly pure or simply sativa-dominant. Jack Herer, for example, may be 80% sativa and 20% indica depending on the plant.

What does a ruderalis leaf look like?

Originating in Russia and Central Asia, ruderalis is a separate species of autoflowering cannabis that grows in the wild. It is shorter than sativa and indica, sometimes only reaching a foot or two tall. Ruderalis leaves are thin and each plant only exhibits three to five delicate fingers. Russian Auto CBD is one of the only known pure ruderalis strains, as most that contain this species are hybrids.

What is a hybrid cannabis leaf?

Finding pure marijuana strains is no easy task these days and hybrids are ubiquitous. Hybrid leaves tend to be harder to identify as they may favor their parent strains in different ways. White Widow, Cannatonic, Blue Dream, Gorilla Glue, Chemdawg, and Sour Diesel are some of the many popular hybrid weed strains available.

Why is it important to know the difference between cannabis leaves?

The ability to distinguish between cannabis leaves, particularly the indica and sativa varieties, is a useful tool for both new and seasoned growers. For starters, knowing how to read cannabis leaves gives cultivators insight into how well (or how poorly) their plants are flourishing.

Somoza elaborated, “A new grower must learn to ‘read’ these leaves as just one of many ways to get a feel for the plant’s health. Most deficiencies and problems will show at the leaves with quick enough onset: drooping, tip-curling, leaf spotting, pest damage, etc.”

To assess the health of your cannabis plants, do a quick, daily check-up to see if any of those signs are present. Somoza also advised, “Get in the habit of rubbing your leaves and turning over and inspecting leaves when you defoliate.”

Keeping a watchful eye on leaves during all stages of growth can help familiarize you with what makes a healthy cannabis plant and what constitutes a struggling one.

What can I do with cannabis leaves?

Raw cannabis leaves are versatile and valuable, so be mindful the next time you trim them from your plants. First, let’s identify the two types of cannabis leaves that you’ll encounter whether you’re growing an indica or sativa-dominant strain:

Sugar leaves: Coated in white trichomes, sugar leaves are small and grow from the buds. Somoza explained the process of sugar leaf development this way: “ As cannabis matures, the bracts or buds of the plant will swell and develop ‘sugar’ that will grow and fall on surrounding leaves. These sugar leaves are loaded with cannabinoids and are still useful when trimmed off during or after harvest.”

As a rule of thumb, indica strains produce more resin glands which yield a greater amount of trichomes. Therefore, indica strains tend to have more sugar leaves than sativa strains.

Fan leaves: Bearing a smaller amount of trichomes, these larger and broader leaves are easily seen protruding from marijuana plants. Like sugar leaves, fan leaves are also useful, as Somoza revealed, “ I find that fan leaves are great for composts or a compost tea that goes right back into your garden.”

Both sugar leaves and fan leaves have an array of uses and benefits in the kitchen and in the medicine cabinet. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Both sugar leaves and fan leaves have an array of uses and benefits in the kitchen and in the medicine cabinet. Here are a few things you can do with cannabis fan leaves and sugar leaves:

  • Make a raw cannabis juice from the leaves. Just pop a handful into the blender and sprinkle in other healthful ingredients, such as spinach, kale, apple juice, ginger, or maybe even almond milk if you want to experiment with a marijuana milkshake!
  • Whip up some cannabutter that packs a punch with powerful cannabinoids. Sugar leaves make a great basis for cannabis leaf butter which you can spread on bread like any other special herb butter.
  • Infuse coconut oil with raw cannabis leaves and use in recipes for baked goods like cookies and brownies. You can also use cannabis coconut oil on the skin.
  • Chop up the leaves and toss into a romaine salad with your favorite superfood fixings like blueberries and flax seeds.
  • Brew a potent cup of cannabis leaf tea and squeeze in some fresh lemon juice for an immunity boost.
  • Compost any leftover cannabis leaves to ensure that not one part of the plant goes to waste.

Health benefits of cannabis leaves

Besides adding a flavorful twist to your recipes, cannabis leaves carry many potential health benefits. Cannabis is a plant and as such contains essential nutrients and antioxidant properties as any other leafy green would.

Raw marijuana also boasts heart-healthy “good fats” in the form of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. You may incorporate omega-rich avocado or salmon into your diet to derive skin benefits, but raw cannabis leaves can offer some of the same perks. If you need more fiber in your diet, raw cannabis leaves are excellent sources and can aid with digestive issues including constipation.

Further, cannabis fan leaves and sugar leaves are abundant in aromatic terpenes that may have antibacterial, antiviral, and even anti-tumor properties. Researchers have conducted numerous studies on the possible anti-tumor effects of cannabis terpenes, some of which have yielded encouraging findings. For example, myrcene, the most abundant terpene in cannabis, has demonstrated the potential to kill human breast cancer cells in a 2015 study published in the Journal of the Korean Society for Applied Biological Chemistry. Another study, published in 2012 in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that the terpene cedrene, as an essential oil ingredient, might contribute to killing tumor cells in human tissue .

Whether your cannabis leaves end up in the compost pile to nourish the earth or in your body to nourish you, they can be nutritional powerhouses.

Indica, sativa, or hybrid? How to read a cannabis leaf Copy article link to clipboard. Link copied to clipboard. Contents What does an indica leaf look like? What does a sativa