How to Make Homemade Cannabis Oil (or CBD Oil)
What is Cannabis-Infused Oil
Cannabis oil is made by lightly heating (and thus infusing) cannabis in a “carrier oil”. Cannabinoids like CBD and THC, the most active components in cannabis, are both hydrophobic. That means they don’t like water, and are actually repelled by water molecules. On the flip side, CBD and THC are both fat-soluble. They like to bind with fatty acid molecules – such as those found in oil. When cannabis is steeped in oil, the THC and CBD molecules leave the buds or plant material and become one with the oil instead.
A wide variety of oils can be used to make cannabis oil. However, coconut oil and olive oil are the most popular and common. Coconut oil and olive oil are both pleasant-tasting and very nourishing for skin, making them versatile options for either medicated edibles or topical applications. Plus, they both have strong natural antifungal and antimicrobial properties. This helps prevent mold and extends the shelf life of your cannabis oil. Coconut oil is higher in saturated fat, which may bind fat-loving cannabinoids even more readily than olive oil.
Hemp Oil, CBD Oil, THC, or…
Your choice! You can make cannabis-infused oil with hemp or marijuana, depending on what is legal and available in your area. Or, what you’re desired end-results are. Hemp oil will only contain CBD (or a very minuscule amount of THC), while marijuana-infused oil will likely contain both THC and CBD. The ratio and concentration of THC and/or CBD depends on the strain of marijuana and particular plant it came from.
Generally speaking, THC is psychoactive and CBD is not. But THC does a lot more than change your state of mind! Studies show that THC has even stronger pain and stress-relieving properties than CBD, which is known to help with insomnia, seizures and inflammation. While they each have notable and distinct stand-alone benefits, an oil or salve containing both CBD and THC has the highest potential for a wide array of health benefits (albeit illegal in some places). Known as the “entourage effect”, the synergistic combination of both THC and CBD through whole-plant cannabis consumption and extracts is more powerful than either one on its own.
Why Make Cannabis Oil
Cannabis oil is the foundation ingredient for ultra-healing homemade topical lotions, ointments, and salves – my favorite way to use it! Both THC and CBD have excellent anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties. Studies have shown that cannabinoids have the ability to reduce acne, fine lines and wrinkles, soothe redness and irritation, and balance natural skin oils. Also, cannabinoids (THC especially) are analgesic – meaning they reduce pain. I regularly use our homemade cannabis salve on my knees, ankles, and other aching or inflamed joints and muscles.
Furthermore, making cannabis oil is one of the most reliable ways to create medicated edible cannabis products. Even so, it is extremely difficult to determine the exact potency of homemade edibles or cannabis oil. Because of this, it is suggested to consume with caution in very small doses at first. Cannabis oil can be consumed on its own, or added to other edible cannabis recipes.
On the other hand, simply chopping up weed to add to your brownie mix is not a good idea, for many reasons. As we already explored, cannabinoids are fat-soluble. That means that they not only bind with oils during the infusion process, but also that cannabinoids are more readily absorbed and digested in our bodies when they’re consumed with fat – such as oil. If you add raw cannabis to baked goods, it is less likely that the cannabinoids will bind to fats for a consistent and effective edible experience. Using decarboxylated cannabis to make cannabis oil further increases precision and consistency.
Using Decarboxylated Cannabis for Oil
The cannabinoid compounds found in raw cannabis (THCA and CBDA) are not the same as those found in cannabis that has been heated – such as those inhaled (THC and CBD) when you ignite or vaporize cannabis, or when cooking with cannabis. The process of heating and “activating” cannabis is called decarboxylation. It is what makes cannabis psychoactive, and also more potent for medicinal applications.
Yet when it comes to heating cannabis, it is best to do so low, slow, and methodically. There are time and temperature “sweet spots” where raw THCA and CBDA are converted into active THC and CBD. But without a precise process, over-heating or under-heating cannabis can lead to uneven activation of THC and CBD. Even worse, it may even destroy the THC or CBD altogether!
1 cup of loosely ground decarboxylated cannabis. To be more precise, I suggest to use a kitchen scale to weigh out approximately 7 to 10 grams (a quarter ounce or just over), depending on your tolerance.
1 cup coconut oil or other oil of choice, such as olive oil. We like to use organic coconut oil because it is solid at room temperature (and tastes good), which makes it perfect to eat a tiny spoonful of, spread on bread like butter, or use in a salve. (Note that our salve recipe calls for 1.5 cups coconut oil, so scale up if you intend to make that)
Optional: A few grams of raw cannabis. In addition to decarboxylated cannabis, we like to add a little handful of raw homegrown bud to our oil as well. While the most significant and well-documented health benefits from cannabis are attributed to active THC and CBD (found in decarbed cannabis), there are also emerging studies showing some promising health benefits from their raw forms – THCA and CBDA. Therefore, we like to use a little of each to create a full-spectrum and well-rounded finished product.
A double-boiler, or make-shift double boiler (such as a glass pyrex bowl or stainless steel bowl perched on top of a saucepan with water below) OR a crock pot/slow cooker
Cheesecloth, like this organic unbleached cheesecloth
Fine mesh strainer
Storage container, such as a mason jar with lid
Recommended: a probe thermometer
HOW TO MAKE HOMEMADE CANNABIS OIL
The most important aspect of making cannabis oil is to not overheat it. In fact, some folks choose to add decarbed cannabis to oil and allow it to infuse at room temperature (in the dark) for several weeks, rather than heating it at all.
The heat applied in this recipe simply helps expedite the cannabinoid extraction process to bind with oil. However, because we are starting with already decarboxylated cannabis, the goal is to avoid heating it over 200 degrees. 120 to 180°F is even better. Maintaining a lower temperature will preserve the already-active THC and CBD content as well as the terpenes. That is, unless you intentionally want to convert THC to CBN to create a very sleepy and sedate final product.
That is where the double-boiler or slow cooker (with a low temperature setting) come in handy! Even over the lowest flame, heating oil in a pot directly on the stove is much more difficult to prevent overheating, and also creates “hot spots” – destroying our precious cannabinoids.
I suggest monitoring the oil temperature with a probe thermometer if possible. Because oils have a higher boiling point (or “smoke point”) than water, the oil will not appear to be as hot as it really is! For example, the oil may be well over 212 degrees but not visibly bubble and boil like water would at the same temperature.
- If your cannabis is not yet decarboxylated, grind or tear it up into fairly small pieces. Spread evenly on a baking sheet, and heat it in the oven on 250°F for 25 to 30 minutes.
- Add water to the bottom pan of your double-boiler. Now add 1 cup of coconut oil to the top section of the double-boiler. Heat until it melts. (OR, on the low/warm setting in a crock pot)
- Stir in 7-10 grams of decarboxylated cannabis into the melted oil. Feel free to also include an optional few grams of raw ground cannabis if you desire.
- Continue to heat the cannabis and oil over a low heat for 30 to 60 minutes, stirring occasionally. You can continue this process for several hours if desired, though many recipes call for only 20 to 30 minutes. If available, use a probe thermometer to check the temperature. Adjust the heat as needed to maintain the oil below 200°F. We aim for a target temperature range of around 130 to 150°F and infuse for one hour.
- When the time is up, line a strainer with cheesecloth and position it over a glass bowl. Pour the cannabis and oil mixture through the strainer. Gather the cheesecloth and gently squeeze out the excess oil from the cannabis. Warning: the oil will be hot, and your hands will get greasy! You may want to wear food-grade gloves.
- Transfer the strained cannabis-infused oil into a storage container. It is best to use a glass storage container with a tight-fitting lid. Store the finished oil in a cool dark location. We keep ours in the refrigerator.
Ideally, use your cannabis oil within 6 months to 1 year. As long as it doesn’t mold, the oil doesn’t “go bad” over time – though the potency can decrease as some THC will naturally convert to a more sleepy cannabinoid called CBN.
How to Use Cannabis Oil
When it is finished, you can use you cannabis oil any way you’d like!
- Add homemade cannabis oil in any body care recipe that calls for cannabis-infused oil, such as this topical salve recipe. It can help heal sore muscles, joints, inflammation, eczema, psoriasis, and even slow or prevent skin cancer cell growth!
- Use cannabis oil in meals or medicated edible recipes. Try to use as low of heat and cooking time as possible to preserve cannabinoids and terpenes. Look for “no bake” recipes, or ones that you can only lightly heat the oil again in a double-boiler. For example, you could make these chocolates, some no-bake cookies, or add medicated coconut oil to a frosting recipe. Another option is to use the coconut oil like butter on toast, or mix it into already-cooked pasta or sauce.
- Enjoy a small dose in a cup of hot tea or other warm beverage, perhaps with a dab of honey.
- Consume a small dose of the oil straight on its own. Try holding a small amount of oil in your mouth or below your tongue (sublingually). According to Leafly, “sublingual dosing offers a fast onset, shorter duration, and lower intensity than traditional oral cannabis edibles”.
- Use the cannabis-infused oil directly on skin
Homemade Cannabis Oil Potency: Proceed with Caution
Homemade cannabis edibles are tricky because it is very difficult to determine their exact potency. Without laboratory testing (which is expensive and not readily available to most people) it is virtually impossible to calculate the THC and CBD content of the finished cannabis oil or medicated edibles that you prepared.
First of all, if you are using homegrown cannabis like we do, then you likely don’t know the strength of the bud you started the process with. Even if a strain is marketed to have a particular THC and CBD content or ratio, homegrown plants can vary wildly depending on how they were grown, harvested, dried, cured, and stored. Furthermore, there are variations within plants (expressed as phenotypes) that leads them to have differences even among plants of the same strain.
Say you make oil or edibles with cannabis purchased from a dispensary, and thus has a tested and known THC and CBD content. Even then, the potency of the end product depends on several variables that make it difficult to calculate: How old the pot is, and how you stored it. The time and temperature it was decarboxylated. The process you used to make your oil or edible. Did you cook the the edible further? How old is the edible, and how has it been stored? All of those factors can either increase active THC and CBD content, or decrease it with further heat and time.
Dosing Homemade Cannabis Oil & Edibles
Always start out with very small amounts of cannabis edibles or oil (particularly those containing THC) – also known as “micro-dosing”. I don’t consume edibles often, though we regularly vaporize cannabis and make salve. When we do make cannabis coconut oil, I always start out with only 1/4 to 1/2 a teaspoon of straight oil and then scale up next time if needed – but not right away!