For many years we have been involved with clinical cannabis and the production of cannabis oil with friends who are suffering major illnesses. As the medical group of our local cannabis association expands, more people are coming to the open support meetings, some of whom are successfully treating themselves, others who are looking for information about what cannabis oil is.
The cannabis bud can be vaporized or used in a tincture to alleviate many ailments. But to treat serious diseases such as cancer or Alzheimer, you have to ingest a more concentrated amount of cannabinoids for these to have an effect.
For an overview of how cannabinoids can be used therapeutically, please read our Novice Guide to Medical Marijuana
What is cannabis oil?
Whenever you read about “cannabis oil” concerning the treatment of debilitating diseases, you’re reading about Full Extract Cannabis Oil (FECO). This is also popularly known as RSO (Rick Simpson Oil), as it was through his website describing how he put his cancer into remission using cannabis oil that thousands became aware of how to make it.
Cannabis Oil is a highly potent and extremely concentrated means of ingesting cannabinoids.
This oil is made by separating the resinous glands (trichomes) from the plant using either a solvent or a CO2 extraction method. Later the solvent will be removed through a careful process of heating.
The result is a viscous substance, almost solid at room temperature, made out of millions of amber trichomes, so many that it looks black.
How to make cannabis oil?
Extracting cannabis oil is a time-consuming, and even risky, task. You need large cannabis crops to be able to produce large amounts of cannabis oil.
That’s why it’s not something people usually share or massively sell. That’s also why there are bigger chances of getting scammed when buying cannabis oil online.
Here is a valuable article to learn to spot scammers selling cannabis oil online.
One possible course of action to acquire legit cannabis oil could be reaching out to a cannabis dispensary or association. Also, if you’ve been diagnosed with an agressive illness and you belong to a support group related to your illness, make the first move and ask other patients where they’re getting their medicine from.
However, the best way to consume good quality, medical-grade cannabis oil, is making it by yourself. Or asking a loved one supporting you through your disease for help in the extraction process.
Today we share a step-by-step tutorial to make your own homemade medicinal cannabis oil.
But first, the big question:
How much bud (cannabis flowers) do you need to make cannabis oil?
As mentioned, cannabis oil is purely made out of the trichomes, those tiny gland clusters on top of the female cannabis flowers. Thus, it takes a great deal of bud to make a decent quantity of cannabis oil.
Gas chromatographical analysis of a well-made oil should show something like 80-90% combined THC & CBD content, with the remaining 10% being made up of other cannabinoids.
The amount of oil produced will depend in part upon the strain and the method used to separate these trichomes from plant matter, but a general guide is that it takes 500g of well-dried bud to make 50-60ml (g) of medical-grade cannabis oil.
Step-by-step guide to make cannabis oil
Step 1: Decarboxylation
Firstly, buds are decarboxylated by gently heating in order to activate the chemical compounds. Place the buds in an electric oven on its lowest setting for an hour. When finished, crumble the dried buds into a powder. (you can use a blender for this)
Step 2: Solvent-extraction
Then, we use a solvent-extraction process to separate the cannabinoid-laden trichomes from the plant matter.
We use 99.9% Isopropyl Alcohol and steep the bud material for 6 minutes. Isopropyl Alcohol leaves virtually zero oil traces and is relatively non-toxic. In addition, the short steeping time reduces the chances of other plant elements making it into the wash.
Using wide-mouthed jars, fill three-quarters with the ground and frozen bud and pour in alcohol up to the brim so that all plant matter is well covered.
Set a timer to countdown.
Step 3: Filtering
.Prepare a line of filtering bottles – we place a coffee filter inside a metal cone inserted into the top of a wide-mouthed glass jar.
As soon as the time is up, pour the steeped bud and liquid into these cones to filter out the plant matter. You can now dispose of the waste residual.
The end result of this stage is dark brown water-like liquid.
Step 4: Evaporating the solvent
Next is the first stage of evaporating the solvent out of the liquid. Remember that the cannabinoids you want to keep will vaporize at 125-145C, but luckily isopropyl and food-grade alcohol reach boiling temperature at 88C.
You can get the bulk of the solvent out of your potential oil solution by gently heating it. Many people use a purpose-bought rice cooker for this, but we much prefer to use an essential oil distiller.
Rice cookers are the cheapest means of gently heating off the solvent. However, WARNING!! The solvent is highly flammable, which means just the tiniest drop of alcohol condensing near an electrical spark can cause an explosion.
ALWAYS USE THE RICE COOKER OUTDOORS ON A WINDLESS DAY TO MINIMIZE RISKS – AND ALWAYS BE SUPER-CAREFUL! (and watch out for the fumes too)
Stills are relatively inexpensive and work well enough. As the alcohol evaporates from inside, it condenses and pours out into a collecting jug.
Some fumes are produced, but the risk of explosion is minimal, and they are safe enough to use in a well-ventilated room.
There is a difference between water stills and essential oil/alcohol stills – the former heat faster and hotter and can burn the oil.
Be vigilant whichever means you use: the aim of this stage is to evaporate the bulk of your solvent, but none of these methods are exact enough to remove all of it, and you don’t want to burn the oil, which may happen as it becomes thicker.
As soon as the oil becomes the consistency of engine oil, remove it from the still/rice burner and move on to the next stage.
Step 5: Evaporating solvent residuals
The final stage of making medical-grade cannabis oil is a little time-consuming and needs careful attention. Transfer your oil to a heat-proof glass, and over a gentle heat, bring it up to 120C to evaporate any residual solvent and water.
It can take hours to reach this temperature, and once there, you must keep the oil at 120C (not higher!) until all bubbling ceases. You should be left with a tar-like substance that solidifies as it cools.
You can use a coffee warmer or hotplate on the minimum setting for this process. Still, we’ve invested in a digital magnetic stirring plate: this spins while heating, removing the possibility of “hot spots” and burning.
Invest in a laser temperature reader to see how hot the oil is getting.
How do you take cannabis oil?
Firstly, you need to find out your dosing regime. Different illnesses need different amounts administered daily to have a sufficient effect. And unlike conventional medicines that a doctor prescribes, you will have to be responsible and involved in your own medication.
Research online what other sufferers have found helpful and make personal contact to ask for detailed information about how much and when they take their oil.
Always start with a tolerance plan: if the advice is to take 1 gram/ml of oil per day (for example, if treating cancer), understand that it can take up to a month to ingest that amount with ease. So start off with a small fraction, e.g., 0.1g/day, and increase until you achieve the required dosage.
This is where a tolerance plan can be useful. To accurately measure dosage, we advise mixing a small amount of oil with a neutral agent such as olive or coconut oil.
How to follow a tolerance plan?
Start with a low ratio e.g., 0.5 ml of oil with 18.5 ml of coconut oil. This 19ml of medicine is easily divided into daily doses (You can buy empty capsules online).
Once you are comfortable with 1ml per day, take 2 capsules daily, either both at once or morning and evening. Continue increasing in increments, and the next time you “dilute” your cannabis oil, use a higher oil:mixing agent ratio.
It’s unnecessary to fuss around with filling capsules: gently heating the oil in a bay Marie will soften it enough to draw into a 1ml syringe (without a needle). Although not as accurate, you can use the syringe’s measurements to mark out 0.2ml quantities either directly under the tongue or onto a piece of bread.
Oil is sticky (and doesn’t taste pleasant) and will stick to your mouth and teeth so be warned!
What are the side effects of cannabis oil?
Cannabis has been demonized as a noxious substance for so many years that a lot of sufferers feel reluctant to accept it as an alternative medicine. Obviously, one major concern for those patients and their supporting relatives is:
Is cannabis oil safe to use?
Besides its potential to alleviate many medical conditions, cannabis is unique for its low toxicity. There has NEVER been a recorded cause of death due to cannabis overuse. Additionally, new studies often refute previous claims of addiction/gateway drug/onset of schizophrenia.
Furthermore, a study conducted by Thomas Clark, Professor and Chair of the Department of Biology in Indiana University, found the following:
Side effects of cannabis oil
However, despite not being a life-threatening substance, you need to understand there are certain side effects associated with cannabis oil use, especially because this is an extremely concentrated form of ingesting cannabinoids.
These are some of the temporary side effects you may experience when using cannabis oil:
Reduced blood pressure
Cannabis oil can reduce blood pressure, so if you suffer from low blood pressure, you need to be especially careful, especially when standing up.
On the other hand, this could be a positive consequence for hypertensive patients.
Until you build up a tolerance to the drug, it will likely induce deep drowsiness and a desire to sleep – and sleep longer.
Of course, for many ill people, lack of sleep is a problem, and getting a good rest is beneficial.
Start taking the oil 2 hours or so before the time you usually go to bed, but head to the bedroom an hour earlier so you are already reclining when it starts to take effect. You may feel unsteady and uncoordinated so it’s best to lie down. This sleepiness will last into the morning so have no plans for early activity.
THC is psychoactive, and you may experience mild hallucinations. You will most likely find your mood lifted and more liable to laughter at silly things.
Most importantly, know that any mental effects or disorientations are merely the result of the oil; they will pass and have no lasting consequences. Reassure yourself: “all is well with the world.”
Potentiate other drugs
Cannabis may increase the effects of other drugs that cause drowsiness, including antidepressants, alcohol, antihistamines, sedatives (used to treat insomnia), pain relievers, anxiety medicines, seizure medicines, and muscle relaxants.
It doesn’t conflict with these medications but can boost them. You may need to consider reducing these medications as you take the oil.
Increase in appetite: often a good thing, as many illnesses reduce appetite but be careful what you eat if you need a special diet. You may not have the same mind control.
Some people experience restlessness which can present as stress. If this happens to you, change the scene – even from one room to another.
Get into a good film to distract yourself, try reading a book, listening good music that you enjoy. You’ll find that your senses are heighten, so look to any activity that usually feels enjoyable and pleasant.
Is CBD oil and cannabis oil the same?
Many people get confused between cannabis oil, CBD oil, hemp oil, and even hash oil. And I don’t blame them: over the past few years; it seemed as if the terms are interchangeable.
We used to describe our oil made from cannabis plants with a high CBD content as “CBD oil”. When Rick Simpson first referred to the oil he used to beat his cancer, he described it as “hemp oil.” So: cannabis oil (RS oil)/CBD oil/hemp oil are all the same, right?
Cannabis oil is made from the Cannabis plant. CBD oil and hemp oil are made from hemp. The cannabinoid content is not the same in both species.
Yes, hemp contains THC, but in such low quantities as to be negligible for therapeutic purposes. Taking CBD oil is at the same level as taking vitamins: it will be beneficial to your overall health but won’t treat any illness.
The thing is, in many parts of the world, CBD oil made from hemp is classed as legal (because it has no psychoactive effect) and thus can be made freely available for sale through the internet and marketplaces such as Amazon.
Here is where we get a little contentious. There are many companies out there selling “cannabis oils” and listing all the diseases you can treat with it. Now, these sites and advertisements often have misleading information.
They sell legal plant-derived hemp extract, while drugs containing plant-derived marijuana extract are still awaiting FDA approval. Indeed, hemp is a subspecies of the Cannabis Sativa genus: but hemp is not the same plant as cannabis, and its chemical composition is different.
In conclusion, they’re not selling cannabis oil.
I’ll say it again: oil made from hemp is not the same oil that Rick Simpson used to treat himself with. As Rick Simpson himself has said, THC plays an important part in therapeutical use.
Researching CBD OIL products made me aware of another grey area, especially if you are thinking of buying Oil Drops.
Some companies don’t list the % of CBD in the drops at all – e.g., Medipen sells 15 x 1ml Cartridges for £299 / 349€ / $367, but only describes them as being “high strength cannabinoid oil.” Canabidol sells a 10ml bottle for £20 / 23€ / $24.50. Sounds great, doesn’t it? How much of that liquid is CBD? Who knows? They describe it as being “Canabidol CBD Oil 10,000mg Cannabis Sativa L. Full Extract Hemp Oil 250mg (10ml)”.
As a grow shop in Spain, we can buy CBD drops from our distributor: the retail price for a 10ml bottle containing 15% CBD (or 1500mg) is around £230 / 280€ / $295. So if you see drops for sale for a tenth of that some, and a description stating “made from high content 15% CBD, you can guess that they’ve diluted it 10 times. That whole bottle only contains 150mg of CBD and a drop a day means you will be getting 0.75mg CBD daily. It simply isn’t enough to reset your body’s malfunction. If you smoked just one joint a day of high CBD weed, you’d be getting 28-36mg CBD.
Remember the introductory paragraphs to this article? Cannabis Oil has such potential to treat illnesses because it is a highly concentrated, potent means to ingest cannabinoids. CBD oil (in drop form) is not just NOT concentrated, and it is a pathetically diluted means of ingesting cannabinoids. To suggest that it has a medicinal quality is misleading and exploiting the innocence/ignorance of consumers.
What illness can be treated with cannabis oil?
Now that we’ve made clear the abyssal difference between ingesting CBD oil and cannabis oil, we can talk about the illness that can be treated with cannabis.
There are hundreds of different disorders that can be treated with medical marijuana, often abbreviated as MMJ. Cannabis Cure has a ton of useful resources, case studies, and valuable information about the diseases that are being treated with medical marijuana.
However, not all of these need the high concentration of cannabinoids found in cannabis oil. For example, muscular pain can be easily and effectively relieved with a quick vape of cannabis bud as and when it hurts.
In other cases, for example for Parkinson’s sufferers, they can either treat their tremor attacks at the time with a joint or choose to microdose cannabis oil daily to reduce/remove the likelihood of such attacks taking place.
On the other hand, some other illnesses need the higher concentration of cannabinoids found in cannabis oil to experience significative improvement. The following is not an exhaustive list, but includes:
Conclusion on cannabis oil
Wrapping up, we’ve seen that using cannabis oil and medical marijuana in general provides relief, and can even cure, a myriad of illnesses and medical conditions.
Fortunately, the scientific community along with marijuana advocators are greatly contributing to make MMJ a legal alternative treatment. For those who are still reticent to accept it, we encourage them to find and study the broad evidence out there that points to cannabis oil as a life-changing drug.