Cannabis Oil – What Is It and How Can You Make It?
Medical cannabis comes in many forms, but over the last decade, cannabis oil has become the medicine of choice for those diagnosed with a serious or terminal illness. Although marijuana as medicine is undergoing scientific study for the treatment of many diseases, its potential to treat cancer is the by far the most exciting. Cannabis oil as a viable cancer treatment is gaining traction among doctors and patients alike.
What is Cannabis Oil?
It seems like there are more names for cannabis oil these days than trees in the forest. Cannabis oil also goes by Rick Simpson Oil (RSO) after its original Canadian creator Rick Simpson. You might also find it labeled with F.E.C.O (fully extracted cannabis oil), Jamaican hash oil, or going by phoenix tears.
Whatever name it goes by, RSO is an extremely potent cannabis extraction. It was popularized initially, perhaps by accident, by Rick Simpson. In the 90’s, long before cannabis was cool, Simpson stumbled upon literature on medical marijuana. At the time, he wasn’t satisfied the conventional prescriptions he was given to treat a recent workplace accident. In frustration, he turned towards cannabis.
He found success with his first self-experiment but was then diagnosed with skin cancer some years later. After undertaking his own research on cannabis for cancer, he decided to take his treatment into his own hands. Using cannabis in a topical solution, he cured his cancer within only a short timeframe. His doctor refused to acknowledge marijuana in any capacity. Because he couldn’t find official support, Simpson decided to take his cannabis oil extraction to the masses; he wanted to show the world that they could make their own medicine. Rick Simpson Oil was born.
Cannabis Oil is usually stored in an easy to dispense and dose syringe format. Quality cannabis oil is a deep, dark green, so dark that it often looks black. If you squeeze it out on to your finger, it’s the consistency of thick glue. It is not something you want to make a mess with. Although it is an extraction, it is not an isolate; it contains all of the medicinal properties of the plant. Instead of just THC or CBD, it contains the full-spectrum of terpenes and cannabinoids
Why Cannabis Oil?
The primary reason why people prefer cannabis oil above smoking or eating an edible is due to potency and ease of use. Smoking cannabis, or even vaping, isn’t always an option for cancer treatment. Imagine lighting up a joint in the cancer ward? Even for cancer patients at home, smoking can trigger respiratory issues.
Edibles are another option, and today there is no end to foods filled with THC. Baked cannabis goods have moved far beyond brownies. Step inside a reputable dispensary, and you’ll easily get overwhelmed with the sheer magnitude of choice.
Candies, gummies, baked goods, and chocolates are now one of the most popular ways for users to consume their weed. But for people battling a terminal illness, dosing with refined sugars and empty carbohydrates does nothing for their wellness. Sugars and carbs are two types of food that cancer patients, in particular, are usually advised to stay away from.
Finally, cancer and other terminal illnesses need incredibly high doses of cannabinoids to reap the full medicinal benefit. Trying to reach those high levels through smoking or with an edible can be difficult. You’d pretty much commit to smoking 24 hours a day or eat an entire plate of cookies to reach those levels.
What Does the Research Say About Cannabis and Cancer?
There is no more denying it, cannabis as medicine is here to stay. The more research performed on the plant, the more positive medicinal benefit that science uncovers. Despite what the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in the United States has to say on the matter, national and international organizations are jumping on board.
Co-Therapy for the Side Effects of Chemotherapy:
Even the American Cancer Society highlights the benefit of medicinal marijuana as a co-therapy to chemotherapy. Chemotherapy, while required to combat some types of aggressive cancer, is never easy to manage. The side effects are extremely debilitating and can leave patients almost in worse physical shape than before the treatment.
Cannabis can help alleviate nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy treatments. It also helps people maintain a healthy weight during the procedure. In fact, THC for chemotherapy is so well documented that the FDA has approved synthetic cannabinoids for this same application. But why would you consider a laboratory produced synthetic drug when the “real” cannabis plant works a lot better?
Potential as A Tumour Fighting Compound:
There is also growing evidence to suggest that cannabinoids work to actively fight cancer itself. Most of the research has also demonstrated that cannabinoid do so without harming the nearby healthy cells, something which chemotherapy cannot do. Both laboratory and animal studies evidence cannabinoids preventing cancer cell growth, increasing cancer cell death, and stopping the flow of blood to cancer cells which stems their ability to grow. Cannabis as a cancer-fighting compound is discussed more in-depth on the National Cancer Institutes website.
Treatment of Neuropathic, Cancer and Chronic Types of Pain
Because cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system, they can have a direct influence on the experience of pain. Both CBD and THC target pain perception, although each focuses on a different type of pain. Cannabidiol can help reduce inflammation, and neuropathic pain, while THC has been shown to reduce chronic pain and pain related to cancer. They both target neuropathic pain.
When using cannabinoids for cancer, it’s important to source whole plant medicines. Using the whole plant pulls benefit from the full spectrum of available cannabinoids. Cancer pain is complex, and relying on more then one cannabinoid helps target the pain from multiple angles.
The Potency of the Entourage Effect
Cannabis oil may be one of the most natural and most potent ways to use medicinal cannabis. Unlike an isolated or synthetic cannabinoid, it also takes advantage of something called whole plant medicine.
Cannabis oil is an extraction of the whole plant. There are well over 80 known cannabinoids in cannabis, all with unique medicinal effects. Although each cannabinoid has special medicinal characteristics when used alone, together they work synergistically.
This synergistic effect is called the entourage effect. The entourage effect is why so many people prefer whole plant-based cannabis oil, instead of an isolate. Together the cannabinoids support each other, making a whole plant extract, like RSO, much more powerful than the sum of its parts.
How to Make Cannabis Oil
Thanks to Rick Simpson, everyone can make cannabis oil at home with only a few basic kitchen gadgets. Many patients using RSO produce their own at home to save money, and also to maintain full control over the process. Here is how you can make your own cannabis oil at home:
Equipment and Ingredients of RSO
- Large rice cooker – large enough to hold 6 or more cups
- Coffee filters
- 4-6 Large wide-mouth mason jars
- Grinder – Blender will work as well
- Heat gun
- Electric hot plate – do not use any heat source with an open flame
- 190 proof grain alcohol
- 1 Pound of cannabis6 or more syringes
Safety Protocols for Cannabis Oil
Importantly, if you choose to make cannabis oil at home, you should be fully aware of the risks. Because the process combines heat with 190 proof alcohol, there is a risk of fire or explosion if not handled safely.
Never produce cannabis oil in an area with open flames. As examples, never use a heat source with an open flame, and never smoke in the same area as production.
The safest place to do this process is outside, in a well-ventilated area. If you do decide to make cannabis oil inside, ensure all windows are open, and there is more than one fan going at the same time. As the alcohol evaporates, it can build up to toxic and extremely explosive levels if not ventilated properly. The risks are very real, take steps to stay safe.
Step-by-Step: How to Make Cannabis Oil at Home
- The first step is to grind the full pound of cannabis in a grinder, or blender. Even if you have a larger blender, small batches blend better and more evenly. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but try to reach a relatively fine grind. There should be no leftover buds. Other options are to soak the plant material first and then grind it. Do your research and determine what works best for you.
- Once the full pound reaches a perfect consistency, fill a wide mouth mason jar with the cannabis. Fill to just below the rim, and use as many jars as necessary, there is no need to compress the plant material.
- Next, it’s time for the wash. This step removes the vital medicinal resin compounds from the plant including the cannabinoids and terpenes.
- Pour 190 proof alcohol over the top of the cannabis, until it covers the plant matter completely. Its essential to source 190 proof grain alcohol, and not substitute for less, otherwise you might compromise the integrity of the final product.
- Don’t forget to wash out the leftover resin and crystal from the inside of your grinder with a splash of alcohol.
- Seal and shake each jar for at least three minutes each.
- Remove the lid; it’s time to filter out the plant material. Using the rim of the jar lid, push a coffee filter up through the middle. The edge of the filter should peek out from under the bottom of the rim, but only by a few millimeters. The rest of the filter should form a bubble through the middle of the jar rim. When this filtration system is screwed back on to the jar, it allows for maximum filtration area – and dramatically speeds up the process.
- Turn the jar and filter system upside down over another empty wide mouth jar. Once fully strained, the same plant material can be washed using the same technique a second time.
- Once all plant material has been washed twice and fully drained, pour into the rice cooker. Again the more substantial the rice cooker, the better, but you can also work in batches if needed.
- Bring the rice cooker outside or into a well-ventilated space before cooking. Set up the fan in advance to blow air over the top of the rice cooker while it is reducing the cannabis liquid. Use the fan whether you are working inside or outside.
- Set the rice cooker on the cook setting, and leave the lid off. The vapors need to move away from the rice cooker to dissipate as quickly as possible.
- Once the cannabis mixture has reduced as much as possible, its time to move it back inside and decarboxylate it. In order words, cook it down to a thick cannabis oil consistency.
- Keep the fan handy, and place the mixture from the rice cooker on to your hot plate.
- The mixture needs to sit at 180 to 190 degrees Celsius for one to two hours depending on quantity.
- Use a heat gun to maintain an accurate and consistent temperature.
- It is ready to remove from the heat source when there are no longer bubbles forming, and the surface is smooth.
- Use syringes to extract the sticky cannabis oil from the pot. Syringes are also the most efficient and mess-free way to store your cannabis oil.
How to Dose Rick Simpson Oil
Most experts advise new patients to start off slow when dosing cannabis oil. It’s incredibly potent, and it can take a while to build up a tolerance. Usually, the primary cannabinoid in RSO is THC, which is a psychoactive compound. For anyone new to cannabis, it can take awhile to build up a tolerance.
Mike Wise from OG Labs and host of The Mike Wise Show recommends using an indica heavy strain of cannabis for treating terminal illness and cancers. Indica’s are sedative in nature, and encourage the body to sleep. Wise encourages his patients to rest during this healing process and states that many of his patients sleep during the first three weeks of treatment.
Wise, as well as most other industry experts, suggest the following dose guidelines for Rick Simpson Oil:
- Start dosing ½ a grain of rice at a time. Use the syringe to squeeze out a small portion of cannabis oil that is approximately the size of ½ a grain of rice. For those experience with high doses of THC, you can begin with a full grain of rice. One grain of rice is approximately 1 ml of cannabis oil.
- Take the initial dose (either ½ a grain of rice or the full grain of rice) three times a day for four days.
- If you are nervous about getting high, take the initial dose at night.
- After four days, double the original dose. For example, double from ½ a grain of rice to one full grain, or from one full grain to two grains. Again, continue to take this dose three times a day.
- Continue to double the dose every four days, until you reach approximately one gram a day. One gram is approximately 1 ml of cannabis oil.
- The goal is to take 60 grams of cannabis oil over the course of 90 days to benefit from its full medicinal capabilities. Some people may wish to continue treatment after the course of the initial 90 day period.
Some people don’t mind the taste of cannabis oil and take their doses by smearing it over their gums or spread on a piece of toast. For others, this isn’t enjoyable. Wise recommends purchasing gel or vegetable capsules at a local pharmacy to make the experience much easier to swallow.
Instead of doling out the grain of rice on a finger, squeeze it into the gel capsule. Wise also notes that adding a small amount of coconut oil to the capsule increases the medicinal absorption rate of the cannabinoids. Once capped, take it orally or for the most potent medicinal effect, as a suppository.
A Final Word on Rick Simpson Oil
Part of the reason why people are turning towards cannabis as medicine is because patients can literally grow their own medicine from a seed. Some medications in the U.S can cost thousands of dollars a month, so being able to grow your own marijuana and produce your own cannabis oil can have immediate cost savings.
Plus, people want to know what they are putting in their bodies. Cannabis oil is all natural, yet extremely effective in treating pain, inflammation, and the side effects of chemotherapy. If the preliminary research is anything to work off of, it may also target cancer itself.