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How To Make Your Own Cannabis-Infused Oil (Canna Oil) & Cannabutter

There are many products with all sorts of ratios such as THC:CBD of 3:1, 1:20, 5:2 and so on. Yet, when people try these ratios out, they sometimes find that two products, even with the same ratios, can have widely different effects, and sometimes even no effect. There are a few reasons for this, including: mislabelling of products; different extraction methods will have an effect on the final product; and the interaction between CBD and THC and all the other cannabinoids and terpenes not necessarily listed on the label.

Table of Contents

 

How to make cannabis-infused oil (canna oil) 

To decarb your cannabis for making cannabis oil or butter, all you need to do is the following:

Step 1

 

Break up any cannabis flowers or “buds” you have into smaller pieces. Not too small, though – you do not want to break up the trichomes too much. For oil, the standard starting amount is 3.5 grams of flower to half a cup (8 tablespoons, 4 ounces or just under 120ml) of coconut oil, depending on the THC content of the flower. If you want an easy way to calculate the strength according to amount of cannabis at your disposal, strength of your cannabis and how many portions you want: http://www.howtoedibles.com/. Please note that coconut oil, olive oil and butter all carry cannabinoids differently as well. Coconut oil is most renowned for carrying the most cannabinoids, although olive oil and butter can be useful for different types of recipes.

Step 2

 

Layer the pieces onto a rimmed baking tray lined with baking paper/parchment.
Place the baking tray into the center of a preheated oven. For a quick decarboxylation, a temperature of 240°F (115°C) to 248°F (120°C) for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, is enough.

Step 3

 

Once the cannabis is decarboxylated properly, it should appear darker in colour – usually a light brown/yellow colour, and not as green as cannabis is when fresh.
Allow the decarboxylated cannabis time to cool.

Step 4

 

Once cooled, you can coarsely grind the cannabis and store it in an airtight container, to be used at your convenience.

Step 5

You can combine the cannabis and the coconut oil in a crock pot on low for about 4-6 hours, stirring occasionally. A double boiler on low for 6-8 hours, stirring occasionally, works well. You can combine the two directly in a saucepan on low heat, stirring more regularly, for 3 hours. This is most susceptible to scorching. You can add a small amount of water to the oil to prevent scorching. The temperature of the oil should never exceed 245°F. Once done, you can strain your canna oil through a cheesecloth or stainer to get rid of the plant material. You can use the leftover plant material in another recipe.

You can add lecithin to the oil as well to improve bioavailability. The usual amount most people recommend is 1 cup of cannabis to 1 cup of oil, but we recommend starting with about 5-7 grams of 16%+ THC cannabis to 1 cup oil, especially for beginners with low tolerance. However, a concentrated product can be more eficient, and you can use less! Overall, the amount to use is up to you and what you feel most comfortabe with.

 

Step 6

 

As cannabinoids are lipophilic, the decarboxylated cannabis is usually infused into a butter or oil (usually olive oil or coconut oil due to their high smoke points, bioavailability and health benefits) to be used as an ingredient for whenever a medicated edible is wanted. Oils are more versatile than butter, as butter is usually restricted to be used for cooking, whereas cannabis-infused oil can be used as a topical.
Some people skip this process and put the cannabis in directly with their cooking. Assuming some sort of fat is used, this may provide some effect, but it will not mix into the food you are cooking properly. Decarboxylating first is best if you want better, more consistent results.
Decarboxylating the cannabis first means it can be used in a wider variety of applications – topicals as well as edibles. You can add decarbed cannabis to olive oil or coconut oil and leave it to infuse for a week or two, then straining it of plant matter to prevent mold and bacteria.You want to keep the temperature low to preserve the shelf life of your oil.

Once made, your canna oil is ready to use as you please. Some make recipes out of it, others a homemade tincture to be applied directly under the tongue. Some use it as a salve/topical, others as an addition to their coffee, tea or other beverage. You will want to ensure not to overheat the oil, and remember that cooking with oil (in particular baking) is different from cooking with butter.

Alternatively

 

You can also infuse raw cannabis directly in olive or coconut oil by first getting the cannabis-oil mixture to a temperature of between 212°C (100°C) and 230°C (110°C) in order to decarboxylate it, then simmering and double boiling it for around 1- 2 hours at a temperature of between 158°F (70°C) and 199°F (93°C). Double boiling ensures that the oil does not go above 212°F (100°C) after the initial decarboxylation, and means you can decarb the cannabis at a lower temperature over a few hours. However, we recommend decarboxylating the cannabis first rather than decarbing in the oil, as this is more efficient.
If double boiling already decarbed cannabis, a temperature between 100°F and 120°F (38°C – 49°C) in a double boiler for between 1 and 5 hours is ideal. Use a cheesecloth to hold the raw or decarbed cannabis as you double boil it to avoid having to strain the oil afterwards. Although raw cannabis can be added directly to oil, it is still best to decarb the cannabis first in order to ensure CBDA and THCA are properly converted to CBD and THC and to keep the shelf life of your oil. The left over plant matter can also be used to make edibles.

How Do I Make Cannabis-Infused Butter (Cannabutter)?

Step 1

 

You must first decarboxylate the cannabis, as instructed above in Steps 1 and 2. So first you must decarboxylate and grind the cannabis. Then, the process of making a simple cannabutter is not so difficult.

Step 2

 

Add 1 cup of water and 1 cup of butter to a saucepan, slow cooker or stock pot, and simmer on low until the butter has melted. For 1 cup butter and 1 cup water, we recommend using between 5 g and 10 g of cannabis and testing to see how much lower or higher you would prefer to go. Remember: you do not necessarily have to get “high” or “stoned”. For many medical cannabis users, the ideal is a therapeutic amount, meaning that they are functional and the psychoactive effects are not overwhelming.

Step 3

 

Add your ground, decarboxylated cannabis to the butter-water mixture in the saucepan. The more cannabis you use and how long you infuse it for will determine the strength of the cannabutter.

Step 4

 

Simmer for 2 to 3 hours, ensuring the butter doesn’t boil. The ideal temperature is between 158°F (70°C) and 199°F (93°C).

Step 5

 

Strain the cannabutter – get a jar, a funnel and some cheesecloth. Once the cannabutter is cooled (but not solid), strain it by lining the top of a funnel with some cheesecloth, and pouring the cannabis-infused butter mixture into a jar. This will remove plant matter from getting into your butter, which can help the cannabutter last longer.

Step 6

 

Put the jar of cannabutter in the fridge to cool and solidify into a butter.

If there is excess water in the jar, you can remove the solid butter with a knife or a spatula, and drain the water.

You can now use this butter in your favourite recipes!

Remember to dose slowly! You can always take more, but not less.

Cannabis-infused butter; cannabutter
Cannabutter. Author: Cannabis Training University. From https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cannabis_Butter.JPG (CC BY-SA 3.0).

The positives of making your own cannabis oil

Various types of oil in different styles of container.
Picture by Cottonseed Oil. From https://www.flickr.com/photos/cottonseedoiltour/5052424228

This inconsistency has lead to more and more people making their own cannabinoid-based oils. There are both positives and negatives to doing this. Let’s start with the positives: more control over what you put into your oil; more control over the strength of your oil; the ability to utilize the oil for many different applications (e.g. cooking, topicals); you can get a full spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenoids, and therefore all the medical benefits of the entourage effect; and the fact that your edibles need not be sugar-laden treats all the time.

The negatives of making your own cannabis oil

 

Now, for the negatives. Most people cannot easily get their own homemade oils tested for safety (e.g. molds, pesticides, heavy metals) and consistency of cannabinoid-terpenoid content. Getting a precise cannabinoid and terpene profile is also very difficult with homemade oils, especially as most people do not have access to the specialized equipment and techniques required to make such products. Yes, you can measure it with a dosage calculator, but it is an approximate rather than exact guide.

We must also warn that decarboxylating your cannabis and eating it is usually far stronger and longer-lasting than smoking or vaporizing cannabis, so be careful and make sure you microdose. When eaten, THC passes through the stomach and then processed by the liver (second pass effect) before entering systemic circulation. THC is converted into 11-hydroxy-THC, which has a greater psychoactive effect.

Yet, for all the difficulties in making a cannabis oil with a precise cannabinoid-terpenoid profile, it is not so difficult to make a simple, good quality cannabis oil at home rather safely using well-grown flowers and a few simple cooking methods.

What about lecithin?

Lecithin is a phospholipid (a type of fat) that allows for ingredients to stick and bind together. Lecithin is essentially an emulsifier. Adding lecithin to your recipes and/or into your oil can help the canna oil bind together with other ongredients more readily, and improve shelf life as well. Sunflower lecithin is best for a range of diets. Eggs are a source of lecithin as well, and act as a binding ingredient in baking. Lecithin can also increase the bioavailability of cannabinoids.

Decarboxylating your cannabis – what is it and why do it?

 

“Decarboxylating” cannabis essentially refers to a chemical reaction where a carbon atom is removed from a carbon chain, resulting in the release of carbon dioxide (CO2). In order to change THCA to THC and CBDA to CBD, the raw cannabis flower must be decarboxylated first. Decarboxylating also makes certain cannabinoids, such as CBD, more bioavailable (i.e. your body can process it more easily). However, this is not to say that there are not any benefits to non-decarboxylated cannabinoids, and they may work in tandem with decarboxylated cannabinoids.

Essential oil; tincture; infused oil in a tincture bottle; medicine bottle with pipette.
Tincture.

A few things to consider when making a canna oil”>A few things to consider when making canna oil

 

  1. One way of ‘testing for strength” is to take several bottles of coconut or olive oil and add different amounts of cannabis to each of them. For example, if you have three bottles of 500ml olive oil, you can use 7 grams of decarbed cannabis measuring between 15% and 25% THC for one bottle, 14 grams for another, and a full ounce of 28 g grams for the third. Please note that using 14 g or over of cannabis measuring at 14%+ of THC in 500 ml of coconut oil will likely be quite strong.
  2. Similarly, you can make butters in batches with different amounts of cannabis in them. You can use lower amounts of cannabis flower if you are particularly sensitive to THC (about 5 grams). Of course, the amount of THC in the cannabis flower matters as well, as does the amount you wish to dose.
  3. It is worth remembering that the ovens found in our kitchens tend to fluctuate in temperature and have different temperatures in different parts of the oven.
  4. Many cannabis oil and butter recipes online tend to use high amounts of cannabis (usually 10 grams or more). Having a potent oil or butter has its uses, as only small amounts need to be used for the desired effect, but it is also easy to over use. Using less cannabis makes less potent oils, giving you more control over your dosage. Some prefer to use smaller amounts of cannabis in their oils, whereas others suggest to make the oil or butter as concentrated as possible, and use less of it if larger amounts prove overwhelming. The logic behind this is that highly concentrated oild and butters waste less cannabis, and that you can be guaranteed at least some effect in what is a very uneven product in terms of cannabinoid distribution.

 

Be warned, though: decarboxylating your cannabis in this manner will certainly give your home a distinct aroma for a certain amount of time. If you are worried about your house smelling of cannabis, it is perhaps best to do this when you have some time to yourself and make your edibles in a well ventilated environment.

Decarboxylation of Gallic Acid, yielding pyrogallol.
Decarboxylation of Gallic Acid, yielding pyrogallol.

What about cannabis that isn’t decarboxylated? Does it have health benefits?

 

Raw cannabis and some of the acidic cannabinoids it contains may possess health benefits. However, the question arises: how does a non-dercarboxylated cannabinoid that doesn’t necessarily affect CB1 or CB2 receptors have any medical effect? Hence, when it comes to acidic cannabinoids, it can be very difficult to tell what effect it is having, and on which receptors.

CBDA, for example, is a COX1 and COX2 enzyme inhibitor, making it a compound with very useful anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties. THCA, meanwhile, may have antispasmodic properties. It may be ideal to have a mixture of decarboxylated and non-decarboxylated cannabinoids for a full spectrum of health benefits, depending upon the condition. For pain specifically, though, it does seem that a mixture of cannabinoids is best. Focusing on just CBD and/or THC alone will likely decrease the pain relieving potential of cannabinoids.

Similarly, focusing on non-decarboxylated cannabinoids alone is not enough. Decarboxylated cannabinoids of all sorts can work in conjunction with non-decarboxylated ones and become a more effective medication overall.

One potential way of getting more acidic cannabinoids into an oil is to infuse non-decarboxylated flowers into olive or coconut oil alongside decarbed ones, but remember that cooking with it may still change THCA to THC. Raw cannabis is also likely to contain moisture in it, so is more prone to mold. Care also must be taken to ensure that any raw cannabis flower is as clean and pesticide- and pathogen- free as possible.

Perhaps the best way to retain acidic cannabinoids is to keep an eye on what temperature you are cooking your oil in. Different cannabinoids decarboxylate at different rates, so even if you decarboxylate at 240°F (115°C), you will likely still have some acidic cannabinoids left. Alternatively, you can decarboxylate your cannabis at a lower temperature of around 194°F (90°C) to 212°F (100°C) for around 60 minutes (1 hour) in order to retain the terpenoids and prevent decarboxylation of all the cannabinoids, then slowly double boiling it as instructed under point 11 above.

Molecular structure of cannabidiolic acid (CBDA); chemical structure of CBDA, precursor to CBD.
Cannabidiolic acid (CBDA). From https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cannabidiolic_acid.png

How potent is cannabis-infused oil?

 

If you are ingesting it, then it can be quite potent. Another problem with homemade edibles and oils is that knowing precisely how much of each cannabinoid is present in each portion or spoonful is extremely difficult. For this reason, it is ideal to use different amounts of decarboxylated cannabis in each different batch of oil, and use no more than 1 teaspoon at a time, or even less if you have made a particularly strong batch of oil.

To give an example, if you have infused 3.5 g of decarboxylated cannabis in 500 ml of extra virgin olive oil, you may want to ingest no more than half a teaspoon full (around 2.5 ml). Then wait an hour to see if you feel OK, and repeat if you still feel you need more to beat any pain you may have. Remember: you can always take more, but you can never take less.

Of course, much of what is written above is written with the assumption that cannabis flowers with a high amount of THC are used. Using cannabis flowers where with a CBD:THC of 1:1 or higher (e.g. 2:1, 3:1 etc.) will dampen or even negate any psychoactive effects. The strain you use will affect which cannabinoids and terpenoids end up in the oil. Basically, if you want to avoid having too much THC in your oil, use a strain with low amounts of THC in it.

Some would advise to find a particular strain or group of strains, and make oils, butters and edibles as concentrated as possible. This way, you need only small amounts, and you can be sure that each amount you take has at least some cannabinoids in them, even if they are not evenly distributed throughout the product.

Decarboxylating CBD

 

The process described above decarboxylates both THCA and CBDA into THC and CBD. However, as stated already, different cannabinoids decarboxylate at different rates. The general rule of thumb seems to be that decarboxylation of cannabis flower is best at a temperature of between 194°F and 248°F (90°C and 120°C) for 30 to 60 minutes (1 hour), with some loss of cannabinoid concentration. The “sweet spot” for various kinds of cannabinoids seems to be around 230°F (110°C) for around 30 minutes. Go above 293°F (145°C), and it becomes very difficult to know precisely how cannabinoids behave, and it is likely you will start to lose them as well as the terpenoids as heat increases. Decarboxylation is a necessary process if you want to get the therapeutic effects of CBD and efficiently convert CBDA to CBD. THC, meanwhile, will likely start to convert into cannabinol (CBN) if the temperature goes above 266°F (130°C). CBN tends to have “sleepy” effects, especially when combined with THC, myrcene, linalool and alpha-humulene (which are terpenes often found in many cannabis types, and is usually most associated with indica strains, although this is not a hard-and-fast rule).

What’s the shelf life of cannabis-infused oil?

 

Cannabinoids do not last forever, and over time and exposure to light, air and heat, will decrease in potency. Acidic cannabinoids in particular are very unstable, and do not tend to last for very long when outside and exposed to the air. Kept in a cool, dark place, cannabis-infused oil should retain its potency for about 12 – 18 months (1-1.5 years).

Any impurities in the cannabis-infused oil will also affect how long a cannabis-infused oil will last for. This is one reason why properly straining any plant material from the oil is important, as you do not want to have mold and bacteria growing in your oil. However, as it is difficult to get rid of all plant material, added to the fact that the oil will have been exposed to heat and air, the shelf life will likely be around 12 to 18 months.

Some may heat their cannabis-infused oil at a low temperature of around 140°F (60°C) for around 10-15 minutes on occasion to kill off some of the impurities left behind during the infusion process. Coconut oil is also a favorite base for cannabis-oil infusions due to it having antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. Some prefer to use olive oil for its adaptability for different dishes.

The cannabis has been infused into the oil. Do I have to cook this oil at a specific temperature?

 

As cannabinoids are decarboxylated at high temperatures, if you want to retain any acidic cannabinoids, you will need to cook at lower temperatures or use the infused oil without cooking it. Once the oil or butter has been infused, you can heat it to a maximum of 350°F (approx 176°C) to keep all the cannabinoids from burning off. We recommend cooking at below 284°F (140°C) or even 248 (120°C).

Limonene; chemical structure of limonene; limonene molecular structure; limonene struttura.

Is there any other way to retain terpenes?

 

Sadly, cooking your cannabis-infused oil at high temperatures can sometimes burn off  some of the terpenes. One way of overcoming this is by infusing your cannabis oil with fresh and dried herbs and spices such as rosemary and peppercorns, or even lavender flowers (linalool) and lemon & orange rinds (limonene).

Will my infused oil taste of cannabis?

 

Much of the flavor and effect of cannabis comes from its terpenes and flavonoids. Infusing decarboxylated cannabis into oil will certainly impart the flavor of the cannabis into the oil. Whilst the terpenes and flavonoids may be pleasant when smelled (and even smoked or vaporized), the taste of cannabis when eaten is not usually as pleasant. Many people try and overcome the taste with sugar, hence the huge variety of medicated sweet treats available on the market.

However, refined sugar is not really medicine in most cases, so this is not always the best way to ingest cannabinoids when it comes to living healthily. With that being said, there have been dramatic improvements in the types and quality of products over the past few years, and many producers have started to make far healthier edibles, as well as improving the quality of their tinctures and capsules. There has also been significant progress on making cannabinoids hydrophilic and water soluble, which can improve absorption of cannabinoids in the human body and give it applications for different parts of the body (e.g. the eyes).

Whilst straining away the plant material from the oil will get reduce the unpleasant taste, it will not get rid of it entirely. Matching the flavor profile of the cannabis-infused oil to the dish is possible, but not easy considering the amount of terpenes and terpenoids at play. Other ingredients can certainly mask the flavor, as can infusing the oil with other herbs and spices. Infusing a low weight of cannabis into the oil reduces potency as well as the cannabis taste, but this is not always ideal.

How do I use cannabis-infused oil?

 

You can use cannabis-infused oil as a tincture by placing a few drops under your tongue, or use a small amount in your cooking in replacement or addition (if a recipe calls for 15 ml of oil, you do not necessarily want all 15 ml to be cannabis-infused oil, for example) to your normal cooking oil or fat . You can also use such oils as a topical for inflamed joints and skin, or indeed even as a conditioner for your hair!

Coconut oil; wooden spoon; jar of coconut oil; coconut oil on wooden spoon.
Coconut oil – fantastic for skin and hair. Picture by DanaTentis. From https://pixabay.com/en/coconut-oil-on-wooden-spoon-2090580/

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