The Complete Guide to Cannabis Oil Infusions

Why make your own cannabis infused oil? 

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.

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. 

Let’s walk through the 5 steps of creating your own cannabis-infused oil:

  1. Choose an oil for your cannabis

  2. Prepare your cannabis herb

  3. Decarboxylate or “activate” your cannabis 

  4. Infuse your oil

  5. Calculate Potency

 

1. Choosing an oil for infusing your cannabis

Cannabinoids (such as THC and CBD) are lipid soluble, meaning that they bind to fat. This allows you to infuse cannabis with any oil or fat such as butter, ghee, or glycerin. The oil or fat you choose is completely up to you, depending on how you plan to use your cannabis infusion. Below we introduce a handful of oils and their benefits. Keep in mind that although some of these oils have high smoke points, THC will be completely destroyed at 250°F, so be mindful of how you’re using the oil.

  • Butter. Butter is a common ingredient in recipes, making it a popular choice when infusing cannabis to create your own edibles. Keep in mind that butter can start to burn or “smoke” at 302°F, so it’s best used in baked good recipes. 
  • Canola oil. As a relatively tasteless oil, canola oil has a smoke point of 400°F and is great for baking, frying, and sautéing. While it doesn’t have as many nutrients as olive oil, it does have both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids as well as Vitamins E and K. 
  • Olive oil. Olive oil has anti-inflammatory properties, is loaded with antioxidants, and has a smoke point of 405°F. Olive oil is great for baking as well as making infused salad dressings, hummus, and pesto (all of which you don’t have to heat!). 
  • Avocado oil. Avocado oil is rich in the healthy fat oleic acid, can reduce cholesterol, and has a smoke point of 520°F. Avocado oil is great for making muffins, soups, stir fry, and more. 
  • Coconut oil. Coconut oil is naturally dairy-free, vegan, and allergen-friendly. Both MCT oil and refined coconut oil are rather tasteless, as compared to unrefined coconut oil which has a distinct coconut flavor. 
    • Refined (smoke point of 400°F) and unrefined coconut oil (smoke point of 350°F) are both solid at room temperature, making them great for recipes such as Hempsley’s Hemp Seed Pumpkin Truffles that use coconut oil to hold the shape of the truffles together. 
    • MCT or fractionated coconut oil (smoke point of 320°F) is a liquid, making it great for adding to smoothies or using in skincare products like Hempsley’s DIY Relief Roller. 

Whatever oil you choose to use, be sure to measure out how much oil you are using so that you can do an accurate potency calculation. 

2. Prepare your cannabis herb

After choosing your oil, you’ll need to prepare your herb. It’s important to weigh out how much cannabis you’re using in order to get accurate dosing calculations. See below for more information on calculating your oil’s potency to get an idea of how much cannabis flower you should use in order to reach your desired level of potency. 

Keep in mind that you can always dilute your oil after infusing; for example, if a recipe calls for ½ cup of butter, you can use just 1 tablespoon of infused butter and leave the rest as regular butter. 

While you can infuse with whole cannabis flower, it’s best to grind the buds up to increase the surface area of plant material to allow for more effective infusions. When doing oil infusions, it’s best not to grind your cannabis too finely because it will be harder to strain out of your finished product. It’s also recommended to use a hand grinder or your fingers to to break your buds apart; putting them in an electric processor can cause it to become too fine and also release chlorophyll, which will make your oil taste more “green.” 

 

3. Decarboxylate or “activate” your cannabis

In its raw form, cannabis has very little to no THC or CBD — instead, your plant material has THCA or CBDA, which are acidic versions of these cannabinoids that aren’t able to bind as well to our endocannabinoid receptors. In order to be converted from THCA to THC or CBDA into CBD, the plant material must be heated. This process is called decarboxylation or “activation.” Check out the graphic below, made with our friends at Hempsley, to better understand how cannabinoids are formed within the cannabis plant. 

THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids decarboxylate or “activate” at different temperatures, so you’ll want to choose a temperature that activates the cannabinoids you’re seeking. While you can “toast” your cannabis at higher temperatures for shorter periods of time, most people agree that it’s more effective to toast at a lower temperature for a longer time period. 

  • THC is activated between 200-265°F. We like to toast at 245°F for 20 minutes. 
  • CBD is activated between 230-290°F. We like to toast at 245°F for 30 minutes. 

Keep in mind that decarboxylating your cannabis is optional; acidic cannabinoids such as THCA, CBDA, and CBCA all have their own therapeutic properties. Skipping this step is also a great option for anyone who wants to experience the benefits of cannabis without feeling “high.” Click here to learn more about the therapeutic benefits of these cannabinoids with our friends at Hempsley. 

That said, the process of infusing your cannabis with heated oil will still activate some of the acidic cannabinoids. If you want to minimize the activation of cannabinoids in your oil, try a cold infusion using the instructions below. 

If you happen to forget to decarboxylate your cannabis before starting the infusion process, you can simply infuse your cannabis for longer (up to twice as long) to help activate more of those cannabinoids. 

Steps for Decarboxylating: 

  1. Preheat your oven to 245°F, or whatever temperature activates the cannabinoids you want to activate (see above for more information)
  2. Toast the cannabis
    1. If smell isn’t a concern for you, cover a baking sheet or other oven-safe tray with parchment paper to keep the cannabis from sticking to the pan. Bake for 20 minutes. 
    2. If you want to minimize smell, you can decarboxylate your cannabis in a mason jar. Be sure your jar doesn’t have a rubber seal on the lid as it can melt in the oven. Place your mason jar on top of a damp, folded towel on your baking sheet to keep keept he jar from rolling or burning the herb. Bake for 60 minutes, shaking the jar every 15 minutes using an oven mitt. 

 

4. Infuse your Oil

There are many ways to infuse your oil with cannabis. When using any method, be sure to keep the temperature between 180-245°F to make sure the cannabinoids are not destroyed. Remember, less heat for a longer period of time will produce a better infusion than a higher temperature for a short period of time. 

Cold Infusion

Time to infuse: 4-6 weeks (or 1-2 weeks in sun) 

While this method may take longer, it produces little to no smell, is very low maintenance, and has no chance of burning. 

Supplies: 

  • Oil of choice, Note: this infusion method only works for liquid oils such as olive, avocado, canola, or MCT oils
  • Dried cannabis flower
  • Wax paper
  • Dry and sterilized glass jar (moisture or other contaminants can degrade the quality of your infusion) 
  • Cheesecloth or other filtration system 

Directions: 

  1. Fill your jar up to ½ full with ground cannabis flower (remember to decarboxylate if you want to activate the THC and CBD). 
  2. Pour room-temperature oil over the herb, covering the herbs completely by 1 inch. 
  3. Stir with a dry, sterile spoon until the herbs are completely covered. 
  4. Place a piece of wax paper on top of the jar before tightening the lid to protect your infusion from any residue on your lid. 
  5. Roll the jar in your hands to mix the oil and herbs even more. 
  6. Place the jar in a dark but warm area; direct sunlight can degrade the quality of your oil, but you need warmth to help the cannabinoids release into your oil.
  7. Allow the mixture to infuse for 4-6 weeks, shaking the jar every few days. If you want to speed this process up, place your jar in a brown paper bag and set it in an area of your home with direct sunlight for 1-2 weeks. 
  8. When ready, strain your infusion through a few layers of cheesecloth into another clean, dry jar. 
    1. You can squeeze the cloth to get the most oil possible — but know that this will likely result in more small particles ending up in your infusion. If this bothers you, you can strain it again through an unbleached coffee filter. 
  9. Label and store your oil in a cool, dark place.

Heated Infusion

Time to infusion: 

  • Crockpot or Slow Cooker: 4-6 hours
  • Double Boiler: 6-8 hours

This method gets you an infused oil much faster than the cold infusion, but it can produce more smell — which may be a problem if you need to be discreet. To keep the smell and mess to a minimum, we like to infuse our oil inside a mason jar. This method also helps prevent burning of the oil. 

Supplies: 

  • Oil of choice (liquid or solid) 
  • Dried cannabis flower
  • Double boiler, crockpot/slow cooker, or pot with tin foil (see below for details)
  • Cheesecloth or other filtration system, such as a metal strainer
  • Digital thermometer for best results 

Directions:

  1. Add oil and decarboxylated flower to your mason jar.
  2. Place a piece of wax paper on top of the jar before tightening the lid to protect your infusion from any residue on your lid. 
  3. If you have a double boiler or slow cooker, now is the time to use it. Put your jar inside the basin and fill with water so that it’s at least as high as the mixture in your jar. 
    • If you don’t have a double boiler or slow cooker, you can roll up 4 pieces of tin foil, as shown in photos below, and place them in the bottom of a pot to elevate your jar away from the heat. This prevents the oil from burning and the jar from breaking. 
    • You can also use a saucepan — but this method is most susceptible to burning, so we never use it. 
  4. Place the jar in the water before turning on the heat. This will help raise the temperature of the jar slowly so that it doesn’t break. 
  5. Allow to simmer for 4-8 hours, depending on your method, and stir every 30-60 minutes. 
    • When using a crockpot, 4-6 hours usually does the trick
    • When using a double boiler or the makeshift pot method described above, let it infuse for 6-8 hours. 
    • Use a thermometer to make sure the temperature stays between 180-200°F. We left our makeshift double boiler on low, checking it regularly to make it sure it didn’t get too hot. 
    • Be sure to add more water to your pot as it evaporates throughout the infusion process. 
  6. After you’ve finished infusing, let the jar cool enough so that you can touch it then strain your infusion through a few layers of cheesecloth into another clean, dry jar. 
    • You can squeeze the cloth to get the most oil possible — but know that this will likely result in more small plant particles ending up in your infusion. If this bothers you, you can strain it again through an unbleached coffee filter. 
  7. Label and store your oil in a cool, dark place. Be sure to keep infused butter in the fridge! 
Step 1: Choose the oil you’d like to infuse
Step 2: Weigh your herb so that you can do an accurate potency calculation
Step 2: Grind your cannabis herb to increase the plan material’s surface area and get a better infusion
Step 3: Decarboxylate your cannabis to activate cannabinoids like THC and CBD
Step 4: If you don’t have a crockpot or double boiler, you can roll up 4 pieces of tin foil and place them in a grid shape in the bottom of a pot. This will elevate your mason jar off the bottom of the pot to avoid burning the oil or breaking the jar.
Step 4: Put your decarboxylated cannabis and oil of choice into the basin and fill with water to at least as high as the mixture in your jar
Step 4: For best results, use a thermometer to make sure that the temperature of your water stays between 180-200°F
Step 4: Filter your infusion through a metal strainer lined with a couple layers of cheesecloth
Step 4: You can squeeze the cheesecloth to get more oil out of your infusion, but this may increase the amount of small plant particles that end up in your oil. You can filter again through a coffee filter if this bothers you.

5. Calculate potency

Unless you invest in an at-home THC tester, there’s no way to know exactly how potent your infusion is. You can, however, do a calculation to get a rough estimate of potency. 

  • Multiply grams of flower used by 1,000 to convert to milligrams 
    • Example: 3.5g x 1,000 = 3,500mg
  • Multiply the milligrams used by the percentage of THC and/or CBD (or more accurately, THCA and/or CBDA)  in your flower. If you don’t know the potency of your cannabis, the average “high-THC” strain is around 18-22% THC; we typically assume that mystery strains have 20% THC. This will tell you the total potential milligrams of THC in your infusion. 
    • Example: 3,500mg x 0.2 = 700mg 
  • Multiply your total potential milligrams by 90%. Only about 75-87.7% of THCA converts into THC during decarboxylation, so multiplying by 90% helps prevent underestimating how much THC is in your infusion. 
    • Example: 700mg x 0.9 = 630mg 
  • Divide the total number of mg by your serving size. 
    • Example: Let’s say you infused ½ cup of butter (24 teaspoons). 630mg divided by 24 teaspoons = 26.25mg THC per teaspoon 

 

Dosing Homemade Cannabis Infusions

The effects of ingesting cannabis last much longer than other methods of consumption, so it’s important that we make sure to start low and go slow. Again, the calculation above can give you a good estimate of potency, but there’s really no way to know exactly how much THC is in your infusion. Because of this, it’s important to consistently measure each dose and track your experience. 

One great way to get consistent dosing with your solid oils (such as butter or coconut oil)  is by putting it into a silicon mold right after infusing. Cannabinoids settle in oil based on their weight, so doing this immediately after infusion, when the cannabinoids are still evenly dispersed throughout the oil, can help you avoid some doses being more potent than others. 

If you don’t have a mold to help with creating pre-made doses, be sure to cut a vertical section from your jar of butter or coconut oil rather than scraping from the top. If you’re working with a liquid olive, avocado, or MCT oil, be sure to shake well before measuring your dose. 

When ingesting THC for the first time, we recommend starting with a microdose of 2.5mg and waiting at least 12-24 hours before using more. If you didn’t feel the desired effects, increase your dose by 1mg of THC each time you consume until you find your best dose. 

Play it safe with each new batch, starting slow and documenting your experience. Click here to download our printable cannabis journal pages to start tracking how your infusion affects you!

 

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