How to Make Cannabis Infused Edibles
For those who prefer to avoid smoking or vaporizing cannabis, cannabis infused edibles are a great solution. In fact edibles represent one of the fastest growing product categories among medical and recreational dispensaries nationally. Nearly 5 million edible products were sold in Colorado alone in 2014. For those living in less tolerant states, you can make your own edibles at home with surprising ease. In this guide I will cover how to make edibles, how to determine dosage, and why the high associated with edibles feels so strong.
Conceptually, the process of making edibles is very similar to that of cannabis concentrates; the goal being a pure, therapeutic combination of cannabinoids and terpenes. The primary difference is that edibles typically utilize a food-grade solvent like coconut oil (or another fatty substance) as opposed to a hydrocarbon like butane to extract the cannabinoids from the starting material. There are literally hundreds of ways to make edibles, and most of them will ‘work’ to some degree. However, what really makes this recipe so effective is the increased bioavailability of the cannabinoids – in essence, how easy it is for your body to absorb the THC, CBD and other beneficial compounds.
- Cannabis starting material
- Coconut Oil or MCT Oil (others will work but seek those with high MCT content)
- Soy Lecithin
- Crock Pot
Step 1: Select Your Starting Material
Edibles can be made using nearly any cannabis product; buds, trim, kief, solventless hash, solvent-based concentrates, or reclaim. I have even used the washed trim from an ice water hash extraction to make edibles. Just note that the quality and potency of your starting material will play a large roll in the strength of your edibles. Thus, edibles made from cured, ground buds will be significantly stronger than the same batch derived from already-been-vaped (ABV) buds. Be mindful of whether your starting material is indica, sativa, or hybrid so you can anticipate the effects it will induce. You can also seek out starting material with a specific cannabinoid profile, i.e. selecting the ratios of THC and CBD that induce the desired effects and are effective in treating your symptoms or ailment. Note that CBD-only edibles will be non-psychoactive, whereas THC-rich edibles are very psychoactive. If you only have access to high-THC starting material and you seek relief without the psychoactivty, I recommend juicing raw cannabis.
Step 2: Prepare the Material
If using whole buds or trim, make sure that the material is ground up relatively fine. I prefer to use a traditional grinder as opposed to a food processor or blender, as they typically pulverize the starting material. If using hash that has greased up or congealed into a sticky ball, attempt to break up the hash into smaller pieces; the goal being to increase the exposed surface area.
Step 3: Decarboxylate
This is a very important, but often overlooked step in the edible baking process. For those who are unfamiliar, the cannabinoids present is your starting material likely exist in their acidic, non-activated form. What does this mean? It means that THCa (‘a’ signifies acid) for instance, maintains many of the therapeutic properties associated with THC but NOT its psychoactive properties. Thus, if you desire the typical ‘high’ associated with edibles, you need to decarboxylate, or activate, your cannabinoids prior to infusing. Although the decarboxylation process begins immediately following the plant’s harvest, it must be accelerated with heat to ensure that all of the cannabinoids have converted from their acidic to their activated forms. For reference, this same process of decarboxylation is what occurs when you light up a one hitter or joint of cannabis.
Unless you are working with a cannabis concentrate (like CO2 oil) that is labeled ‘activated’, you will need decarboxylate your starting material to maximize the effect of your edibles. To do so, I recommend preheating your over to approximately 220-225°F. It helps to use an oven thermometer to check the accuracy of your oven; ours ran nearly 20 degrees hotter than it was set! The specific temperature will dictate how long it takes for your starting material to decarboxylate. As you can see on the chart below, it will likely take between 45 and 60 minutes to fully decarb your material at this temperature. If using a different temperature, be sure to adjust your oven time accordingly!
I recommend slightly amending your decarb time based on the moisture levels in the starting material; very dry material will need less time and fresher material will need significantly more time (it needs to dry and then decarb). In our experience, it is better to overdo the decarb than to come up short and not fully activate your cannabinoids. For reference, if you continue to decarb once all of the THCa has converted to THC, it will begin to convert to CBN, the strongest sedative of the known cannabinoids. Accordingly, if you desire sleep-inducing edibles, you should leave the tray of material in the oven longer than is suggested on this chart. The length of additional time will impact the ratio of THC to CBN in the edibles.
If you want to use edibles for insomnia, a decarb time in excess of 2-3+ hours will convert significant amounts of THC to CBN and you will produce significantly more sedative edibles.
Note that although the decarboxylation process can continue during the actual oil infusion, it happens at a significantly slower rate. Therefore, we suggest activating the material prior to placing it in the oil or butter. Here our specific recommendations for each type of starting material:
- If using trim or buds, spread the ground starting material thinly on a cookie sheet and place in the oven at 220-225°F.
- If using kief, dry sift, or ice water hash (cooking grade or otherwise), spread the concentrate thinly on an oven-safe Pyrex or ceramic dish and place in the oven at 220-225°F.
- If using BHO, PHO, or other solvent-based oil, put concentrate on parchment paper in an oven-safe bowl and place in oven at 250°F until bubbles taper off (roughly 30 minutes per chart above).
- If using reclaim or activated CO2 oil, you do not need to decarboxylate further as they are already been full activated.
Step 4: Infuse and Emulsify
Place the starting material and coconut oil in a crock-pot on low for 2-3 hours. If a slow cooker is not available, you can use a tin foil covered, oven-safe dish at 220°F for 2-3 hours. Keep in mind that if you infuse the oil for longer than 3 hours, some of the THC can begin to convert to CBN, making the effects more sedative.
THE WHY This seems to be the step where many recipes differ; some call for butter heated in a crock pot while others call for honey heated on a hot plate…who is right? Nearly all of these recipes will ‘work’; however, our goal is NOT to make oil with the most aggregate THC possible, but rather oil with most amount of available THC for your body to absorb. Thus, we are going to select the best inputs for increased systemic bioavailability i.e. the same amount of THC is absorbed more efficiently and thus feels stronger.
Why is this recipe different than others I've seen?
This method is designed to produce oil with most amount of available THC for your body to absorb, rather than oil with the most aggregate THC possible.
What does that mean?
From a cooking standpoint, cannabinoids like THC and CBD are only soluble in lipids (fats) and alcohol – not water. Furthermore, certain types of fats are easier for the body to absorb.
Why is it better?
This makes the use of coconut oil especially helpful for those who suffer from impaired fat digestion and gallbladder issues.
Do I get higher?
The effects may feel more intense as the THC is more easily absorbed by the body when bonded to the MCT's in coconut oil.
Give me the Science...
Because alcohol extractions are typically used for tinctures, I will focus on fat based extractions for traditional edibles. For increased bioavailability, I suggest using coconut oil, which is high in medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). The reason being that MCTs are small, and easily digested relative to the long chain triglycerides (LCTs) found in most fatty foods (olive oil, canola oil or butter). Unlike other types of fats, MCTs don’t need to be broken down before they’re used for energy, and they don’t require any extra energy to digest or absorb. This makes the use of coconut oil especially helpful for those who suffer from impaired fat digestion and gallbladder issues. Note the MCT oil, which is comprised of 100% MCTs, can also be used.
Bonus: Add Soy Lecithin
For an additional boost in bioavailability, I suggest adding 1+ teaspoon of soy lecithin to the crockpot with the starting material and coconut oil. Soy lecithin is a naturally occurring compound found in all cells in nature, plants and animals. The inclusion of lecithin homogenizes the oil and boosts your body’s ability to absorb the cannabinoids; resulting in more intense effects from the same starting material.
If you’ve ever felt frustrated because edibles don’t affect you, try switching to coconut oil and incorporating the use of soy lecithin.
Step 5: Cool and Strain
Once infused, let the oil cool to a level where it won’t burn your hand when touched. If you used buds or trim, you should strain the starting material from the oil. Pour the oil over a folded cheesecloth set in a metal strainer (optional). After most of the oil has drained, use you hands to squeeze the remaining oil from the cheesecloth.
Note that if you used grinder kief, dry sift, ice water hash, or a solvent-based oil, there will likely be nothing to strain.
Step 5: Consume or Save
Voila! You have just created an easily to absorb oil that is packed with activated, beneficial cannabinoids. You can inject the oil directly into gelatin capsules, take a spoonful straight, or incorporate it into your favorite recipe.
What can I make?
Any recipe that calls for butter or oil can be substituted with cannabis-infused coconut oil. The one thing to keep in mind when cooking with cannabis infused oil is to keep the oven/stove temperatures at or below 300°F. As temperatures begin to exceed 315°F, you risk inadvertently vaporizing your precious cannabinoids. If a baking recipe calls for a temperature of 350+°F, we recommend baking at 300°F and extending the baking time accordingly (even if that means 30+ minutes longer).
Do you have any recipe suggestions?
Sure! Try our blueberry bread.
How do I figure out the dosage for other recipes?
I have put together a guide to help you calculate edible potency and dosages for any recipe. Click here to figure out how much cannabis material you need to make your favorite dish.
Can I save the extra oil?
If you do not wish to consume the oil immediately, you can store it in a cool, dark place (like a pantry) for months on end. Whether you realize it or not, you have also made an activated topical oil that can be used on the skin to relieve pain, swelling, soreness, and arthritis!
*Special thanks to BadKat for her research and information regarding bioavailability and edibles.
How many mg of THC should I eat?
Everyone is different! Please consult my dosage guide, which breaks down recommended dosages by experience level. Overdoing it can make for an unpleasant experience – start slow!
Why are edibles so much stronger than any other consumption method?
The effects induced by edibles are more intense because THC is converted to the more psychoactive 11-hydroxy-THC by the liver. This compound is approximately 5 to 10 times stronger than the original THC.
How long does it take for edibles to hit?
Edibles have a delayed onset time, which means it can take anywhere from 20 to 90+ minutes before any effects are felt. Onset time is directly related to digestive process – eating them on an empty stomach results in a faster processing and vice versa.
How long do the effects associated with edibles last?
The effects associated with ingested cannabis last anywhere from 4 to 8+ hours, which is much longer than the other consumption methods.
My coconut oil solidified, is that normal?
Yes! Coconut oil, infused or not, will remain solid at room temperature. To turn it back into a liquid, use a hot water bath, double boiler or place it in the oven at 200°F until liquefied.