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The Complete Guide to Cannabis Oil Infusions

There are many reasons to make your own cannabis infused oil, including but of course not limited to:

  • Inaccessibility to edible products. Newer cannabis markets may have limited options for edibles, and you may not be able to find the type of edibles you’re looking for.
  • Complete control over quality. When you make your own infusion, you get to choose a quality of both cannabis and oil that meet your standards.
  • Avoiding allergen- and sensitivity-triggering ingredients. Unfortunately, the majority of edibles on the market are still sweet and processed. If you need to avoid things like sugar, gluten, dairy, or food dyes, making your own infusion allows you to create edibles that fit your dietary needs.
  • You can retain a truly full spectrum of phytonutrients. Many extraction methods used by manufacturers involve stripping away parts of the plant that aren’t cannabinoids or terpenes. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the cannabis plant, like any other herb or plant, has other beneficial nutrients that can support your well-being.

How eating cannabis is different from other consumption methods

When you ingest cannabis, it can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 4 hours for you to feel the effects, and those effects can last anywhere from 4 to 7 to 24 or even 48 hours, depending on your dose and what else you’ve eaten. This is much different from smoking, where the effects can be felt immediately and last between 2 to 4 hours, or delivering it mucosally where effects can be felt within 5 to 15 minutes and last 2 to 4 hours. Click here to learn more about the methods of cannabis consumption.

Because of ingestion’s different onset time and length of effects, edibles are great for people who need deep, long-lasting relief throughout the day or night. On the flip side, edibles are not a good choice for people who want to feel effects immediately or people who want to have a shorter cannabis experience.

Edibles are known as one of the trickier ways to consume cannabis because of their variability in onset time paired with the fact that the active compounds in cannabis become more intense when ingested.

What makes edibles more intense than other methods of cannabis consumption?

There are lots of ways to consume cannabis, and each method has its own pros and cons. Eating cannabis provides a much different experience than smoking or using it sublingually. When cannabis is infused into an oil or fat and then ingested, it must be processed by our liver before taking effect — and our liver converts Delta-9-THC into 11-Hydroxy-THC. 11-Hydroxy-THC’s molecular structure is smaller than Delta-9-THC, which allows it to more easily enter our bloodstream and nervous system. 11-Hydroxy-THC is also able to better bind to our CB1 receptors than Delta-9-THC. This means that you can have a more intense psychotropic or “high” experience when you ingest cannabis than when using other methods of consumption.

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How to use your cannabis-infused oils

One of the best benefits of making your own cannabis-infused oil is that you can substitute it for the oil in just about any recipe you want. Whether you’re making brownies, scrambled eggs, granola, or salad dressing, you can use an infused oil to replace some or all of the original oil in your recipe. Just remember to be mindful with dosing — see below for tips!

When cooking with your infused oil, you want to make sure that they don’t get so hot that they destroy the cannabinoids you’ve worked hard to activate and infuse. When using on the stovetop, keep your temperatures low, at around 200°F and never above 250°F. When baking, 350°F is considered safe (your food’s internal temperature will never get as hot as the oven itself), but you can play it safe by baking at 340°F in case your oven temperature fluctuates.

You can also infuse coconut, MCT, jojoba, olive, almond, and other oils with cannabis for use in skincare products including anything from lip balms to bath scrubs and body butters. Click here to check out a collection of infused food and bodycare recipes from our friends at Hempsley.

How to Make Homemade Cannabis Oil (or CBD Oil)

Are you interested in making your own cannabis-infused oil? I don’t blame you! Making homemade cannabis oil is a great way to create a highly healing, concentrated, and versatile cannabis product. It is ready to use in edible recipes, topical salves, or even enjoy straight on its own. Especially if you use organic homegrown cannabis like we do, this is an excellent way to use up any extra or “fluffy” stuff too. It also happens to be very easy to make cannabis oil at home!

Follow along with these step-by-step instructions to learn how to make homemade cannabis oil. We’ll also briefly discuss the science behind cannabis oil, and what types of cannabis to use to make oil. Finally, we’ll go over various ways to use homemade cannabis oil, including some notes about caution and dosing with edibles.

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.

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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.

I personally like to use strains that are high in both THC and CBD to make oil and salves. To learn more about the differences between strains, CBD and THC, see this article: “Sativa, Indica & Autoflowers, the Differences Explained”.

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. (I personally prefer to make homemade cannabis tinctures over edibles.)

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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!

The content (activation or decomposition) of THC with time and temperature. Note that CBD takes about 2x as long at the same temperatures. Graph courtesy of 420 Magazine

Most cannabis oil recipes call for cannabis that has already been properly decarboxylated first. The most common and fuss-free way is to decarb cannabis in the oven, and then add it to oil over a very low heat afterwards – avoiding further decarboxylation. Some folks choose to decarb their raw cannabis on the stovetop simultaneously with the oil infusion process. However, that requires significantly more careful monitoring to hit that time-temperature sweet spot (and not ruin it).

Therefore, our cannabis oil recipe calls for decarboxylated cannabis as well. I provide very brief instructions on how to decarb raw cannabis below, but you can read further information about exactly how and why to decarb cannabis in the oven in this article.

    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.