Keep reading for a tried and true process for making cannabis oils and butters. These can be put in almost any food or drink, though you will want to carefully test your creation out to determine proper dosage. The following is an excerpt from The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved: Inside America's Underground Food Movements Come learn how to easily make your own cannabis-infused oil, ready to use in medicated edible recipes, topical salves, or even enjoy straight on its own. There are many great uses for cannabis trim. Learn how to get the most from it and how to discard it legally without getting into trouble.
Recipe: Extracting Cannabis into Oil or Butter
Keep reading for a tried and true process for making cannabis oils and butters. These can be put in almost any food or drink, though you will want to carefully test your creation out to determine proper dosage.
The following is an excerpt from The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved: Inside America’s Underground Food Movements by Sandor Ellix Katz. It has been adapted for the Web.
Note: It is important to consider the current laws in your state before you get busy in the kitchen with your THC.
Though cannabis is most often smoked, at least in the United States, it also has a long history of being enjoyed as food. Many regions of the world have developed elaborate culinary traditions for the preparation of cannabis food and drink. Eating cannabis rather than smoking it spares your lungs, though because it metabolizes and takes effect much more slowly, dosage is more difficult to regulate.
Generally the way people cook with cannabis is to extract the THC into butter or oil. THC is oil-soluble, so it can be easily extracted into fats, but not into water. THC is most concentrated in cannabis flower buds, but it is found in lower concentrations throughout the rest of the plant. Cooking with cannabis butter or oil is an ideal way to make use of the leaves and stalks of the plant, after the flower buds have been separated and trimmed for smoking.
A disclaimer: Consider the current laws in your state before cooking with cannabis. The following recipes are intended for legal usage and are not encouragement to break the law.
My friend S. — who lives in California, where she uses legal medical cannabis to control her fibromyalgia — makes cannabis snacks for several of the organized cannabis-buying clubs in the Bay Area. S. collects discarded leaves and stalks and cooks them into butter and olive oil, which she incorporates into various delicacies. She uses 1 ½ pounds of leaf for 5 pounds of butter or oil. If you grow your own cannabis or know someone who does, leaves and stalks are inevitable by-products that are abundantly available. If you have only buds available to you, use ¼ to ½ ounce per pound of butter or oil.
The simplest method is direct extraction.
- First, grind the dry plant material to expose maximum surface area.
- Then sauté the well-ground plant material in butter or oil, very gently, for an hour or more.
- After sautéing you can strain out the plant solids and use just the infused butter or oil, or you can allow the butter or oil to remain coarse and leave the cannabis fibers in it. Fiber gives your digestive system a good scrub.
S. uses a more involved method, which I will describe for the adventurous connoisseur. S. has cooked far more cannabis than anyone else I know, and she is emphatic that the best way to extract the THC is by water extraction. This involves slowly and gently cooking the cannabis in butter or oil that is mixed with water. The addition of water enables you to cook the brew longer without any danger of burning, and S. says that it enables a fuller extraction of THC. Be aware that this is a strongly aromatic process which S. does legally—in accordance with state but not federal law—in her urban California neighborhood.
For water extraction, place the plant material in a cooking pot, cover it with water, add the butter or oil, and gently heat on a stovetop. Once the brew begins to bubble at the sides—before it comes to a full boil—lower the heat, insert a heat distributor (a metal plate, often of several layers, that absorbs and spreads the heat) between the burner and the pot, cover the pot, and gently cook. S. recommends cooking for eighteen hours for a full extraction. If this is not practical, cook as long as you can.
As in salad dressing, the oil (or melted butter) will float to the top. When you are done cooking, you need to separate the cannabis oil from the water and spent plant fiber. The easiest way to separate out the plant fibers is to pour the cannabis-oil-water brew through a strainer and squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can. Unfortunately, some of the precious butter remains trapped in the spent plant material.
S. says the most effective way of separating out the plant fibers without losing any oil is to fashion something akin to a French coffee press, a porous disc that presses the plant fibers to the bottom of the pot, under the water and out of the oil. Hardware cloth (a steel mesh available in hardware stores) or an aluminum pie plate with holes poked in could becut to shape for this purpose. Use a spoon or other implement to press the disc down, trapping the plant fibers beneath it, and hold them at the bottom of the pot. Then move the whole pot, with the disc weighted down, to the refrigerator and cool it to congeal the oil or butter. Once the fat is congealed, carefully scoop it out, leaving behind the water and plant material to discard.
Use your butter or oil however you like. Spread it on toast, bake with it, or cook anything you like with it. Use just a little to start, until you gauge the potency and appropriate dosage. In contrast with smoking cannabis, which affects the brain within minutes, your body needs some time to metabolize the THC when you eat cannabis, so it doesn’t take effect as quickly. In the interim, it is sometimes tempting to eat more; be aware that it is easy to eat too much cannabis. An overdose won’t kill you, but it can make you feel disoriented, disabled, and uncomfortable. Start with a small amount, then wait two or three hours to see how it affects you before eating more.
Always keep cannabis in a safe place, and clearly marked, to prevent people from unknowingly eating it.
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.
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.)
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.
What Do You Do With Your Cannabis Trim?
Trimming cannabis is essential for ensuring healthy plants and excellent yields, but for many home and professional cultivators, it raises the question: What do you do with your cannabis trim?
What Is Cannabis Trim?
When we talk about the trim, we’re referring to the leaves that are intentionally pruned from the plant during a harvest. It shouldn’t be confused with shake, which includes the loose leaves and stems that fall off naturally.
Shake is high in THC and other cannabinoids, while trim tends to have much lower cannabinoid content. For this reason, many growers simply discard their trim assuming that it has no value. However, when you realize all the things that can be done with those discarded leaves, you may think twice about tossing them aside.
Sugar Leaves vs Fan Leaves
Cannabis trim actually refers to two different types of leaves: sugar leaves and fan leaves.
Sugar leaves are the small leaves that grow out of the buds.
Fan leaves are the larger leaves that protrude from the branches.
If you’re hoping to turn your trim into a psychoactive product, fan leaves are virtually worthless. There are fewer trichomes and therefore fewer cannabinoids and terpenes. When making concentrates and other preparations, you want to focus on the smaller sugar leaves. These contain heavily concentrated trichomes, so they’re much better for various extractions.
What Can You Do With Cannabis Trim?
There are numerous things you can do with your weed trim. For instance:
- Make concentrates and extracts
- Enhance your meals and beverages
- Make cannabutter and other edibles
- Create homemade salves
- Compost it
Let’s break down these options one by one.
Turn Your Cannabis Trim Into Concentrates & Extracts
The most versatile way to recycle your cannabis trim is to extract the kief and make concentrates. There are three simple ways to collect the kief:
- You can invest in a bud trimmer that automatically collects the kief as you harvest. This is the least time-consuming method for smaller operations.
- You can use a silkscreen. Just rub the trim across the screen as though you’re grating cheese; the kief will automatically separate from the leaf and accumulate beneath the screen.
- You can use a dry sift tumbler. If you want to collect large amounts of kief quickly for a commercial operation, this is the way to go.
Once you collect your kief, the sky’s the limit. You can make it into dry sift hash, or use a high quality rosin press to heat and pressurize your concentrate into rosin, an extremely potent solventless extract. A rosin press with really strong heating plates can even produce the extract from the trim itself (eliminating the need for you to manually collect the kief beforehand).
Add Marijuana Trimmings to Foods and Drinks
You can add cannabis trimmings to just about anything you eat or drink, but regardless of which foods you decide to enhance, the first step is to decarboxylate.
How to Decarboxylate Your Cannabis Trim
Decarboxylation is the heating process that activates the cannabinoids—the heat converts non-psychoactive THC-A into psychoactive THC. So if you eat uncooked leaves, you’re not going to enjoy much of a buzz.
Thankfully, decarboxylation is a simple process. Just spread your leaves over a baking sheet and place them in the oven at a temperature of 240 degrees Fahrenheit (or 115 degrees Celsius) for 1 hours. That’s all there is to it.
How to Enhance Your Meals With Cannabis Trim
Sugar leaves and fan leaves both make excellent food and drink additives, even if you aren’t adept at making edibles. For instance:
- You can place the leaves in your tea for added flavor and a touch of psychoactive potency
- You can grind them down and mix them into your salads, oatmeal, or just about anything else.
- You can toss them in a juicer or blender with other nutritious ingredients and make a highly potent canna-juice.
Some people are also fond of cannabis milk, which is easy to create with cannabis trim:
- Just heat some milk in a pan until it simmers, and then add a few leaves to the mix.
- Stir constantly for at least half an hour until the milk reaches a yellowish consistency.
- Then strain the milk to remove the plant material and let it cool.
The easiest way to strain is by placing cheesecloth over a colander and straining the milk into a bowl beneath. The result is delicious and refreshing.
Make Cannabutter With Your Weed Trim
Cannabutter is such a versatile ingredient that it warrants its own section. After all, it’s the basis of some of the most popular edibles on the market.
If you’re interested in making your own baked goods or other elaborate edibles, just set aside your sugar leaves as a basis for cannabutter. You’ll need the following:
- 2 cups of butter (about 450g)
- 4 cups of water
- ¼ cup of decarboxylated sugar leaves
The process is as follows:
- Decarboxylate your sugar leaves (see previous section for details).
- Add your butter, water, and decarboxylated leaves to a pan and simmer on low heat for about 4 hours, stirring occasionally.
- Let the mixture cool.
- Line a colander with cheesecloth, and place it into a large bowl.
- Pour the mixture into the colander and allow it to strain through the cheesecloth and into the bowl.
- Use a spatula to push the leaves firmly into the colander, squeezing the excess butter through the grates.
- Once you’ve collected as much cannabutter as possible, place the bowl in a refrigerator for at least 3 hours or until the butter becomes firm. Remove the cannabutter from the bowl and store it in an airtight container.
Turn Your Cannabis Trim Into Salves
If cannabutter isn’t your thing (or if you’re just looking for more uses), you can use the same basic process to make your own cannabis-based skincare products.
Whereas cannabutter requires sugar leaves for best results, salves actually work well with fan leaves—as fan leaves tend to be higher in CBD. You’ll need:
- 2 cups of coconut oil
- ½ cup of beeswax
- ⅛ cup of decarboxylated sugar leaves or fan leaves
The process is as follows:
- Decarboxylate your leaves.
- Mix your decarboxylated leaves with the coconut oil in a pan, and let everything simmer at a low temperature for about 25 minutes.
- Strain the mixture just as you would your cannabutter, using a colander, bowl, and cheesecloth. Set it aside.
- Place your beeswax in the pan and let it melt at a low temperature.
- Slowly pour your cannabis mixture back into the pan and stir it all together.
- Let it cool, and then place it in an airtight container.
Store your salves in a cool location.
Dispose of Your Cannabis Trim Responsibly
Although you may want to explore some creative ways to use your marijuana trimmings, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to use all of it, especially if you’re growing commercially. And maybe you’re not interested in making edibles or extracts.
At any rate, you need to be mindful of how you discard your trimmings. Because they’re part of the cannabis plant and have the potential to be psychoactive, you need to treat them as you would treat any other cannabis waste.
The laws for handling cannabis waste vary from one jurisdiction to the next, so you’ll need to refer to any regulatory authorities and licensing agencies where you live.
In California, for example, cultivators are exempt from the law that requires most cannabis businesses to render their waste unusable and unrecognizable, but there are still a number of specific regulations that must be followed.
For instance, any business that generates two or more cubic yards of waste per week must recycle all organic waste. The waste may be composted on-site, self-hauled to an organic waste recycling facility, or hauled away by a waste disposal provider that recycles organic waste.
If you’re a small-scale home grower, your best bet is probably to compost your trimmings or haul them yourself to an approved facility. If you run a commercial operation, you should always work with a licensed cannabis waste management services provider. The laws regarding cannabis waste are myriad and complex, and failure to comply can jeopardize your licensure or subject you to massive fines. Always go with the professionals.
Other Things You Can Do With Cannabis Trim
Because cannabis trimmings contain the same cannabinoids as the buds (just in much lower concentrations), you can use your trim in most of the ways you’d use marijuana. Pack it into a dry herb vaporizer, mix it with your regular weed in a bowl or joint, or transform it into other cannabis-based preparations.
Your leaves won’t give you as much of a buzz, but sometimes that’s a good thing. If you’re looking to microdose your cannabis, or if you want the effects of the CBD more than the THC, those fan leaves and sugar leaves can provide the perfect balance. You get the experience and benefits of consuming cannabis, but without getting baked.