For thousands and thousands of years the human race has used the cannabis plant to treat everything from menstrual cramps to leprosy. In 2900 BC the Chinese emperor Fu Hsi said the plant possessed “both yin and yang”. Ancient Egyptians used marijuana to treat glaucoma and inflammation. In Greece they used it for ear aches and swelling. Early American settlers used marijuana to treat depression (which they had plenty of). And in 1850 this ancient plant was added to the U.S. Pharmacopeia, and was known to successfully treat neuralgia, tetanus, typhus, cholera, rabies, dysentery, alcoholism, opiate addiction, anthrax, leprosy, incontinence, gout, convulsive disorders, tonsillitis, insanity, excessive menstrual bleeding, and uterine bleeding, among others.
Using coconut oil to create marijuana-infused medicine
Over the years humans have devised many, many ways to ingest marijuana. Some people like to smoke it. Others like to eat it by infusing it into food. Still others make a highly-concentrated paste-like substance that is so potent that a patient need ingest only a minuscule amount of it in order to medicate. But one of the easiest, safest and healthiest ways to consume medical marijuana is by infusing it into coconut oil.
The many health benefits of coconut oil
One of the fastest-growing trends among the “healthy eating” crowd nowadays is coconut oil, and for good reason. The health benefits of coconut oil are many, and include hair care, skin care, stress relief, cholesterol level maintenance, weight loss, boosted immune system, proper digestion and regulated metabolism. Coconut oil can also provide relief from kidney problems, heart diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, HIV, and cancer, while helping to improve dental quality and bone strength. The benefits of coconut oil can be attributed to the presence of lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid, and their respective properties, such as antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-fungal, antibacterial and soothing qualities.
Because coconut oil has become so popular it can be found in nearly any grocery store or big box supply store nowadays. If you would prefer to order coconut oil online you can pick some up here.
Methods of infusing coconut oil with marijuana
Though there are several different ways to infuse marijuana into coconut oil, the end result — when done properly — is cannabinoid-packed medicine that can be incorporated into just about any type of food, swallowed in easy-to-make capsules, stirred into a warm beverage (mmmm chai tea) or applied topically, on the skin. It is this versatility that makes marijuana-infused coconut oil so popular.
There are two methods that we will focus on for infusing coconut oil with marijuana: In a crock pot, which is how the majority of people will do it, and in a device designed specifically for creating infused oils called the Magical Butter Machine. The crock pot method can be done by anyone, but tends to be messy and much more time consuming than a Magical Butter, which does almost everything automatically and beeps loudly at you when your attention is needed. On the downside the MBM is on the pricey side and, sadly, out of the budget of many patients.
Before infusing your oil you will probably want to decarboxylate your medical marijuana by essentially roasting it in the oven at a very low temperature. Decarboxylation is a chemical reaction that releases carbon dioxide (CO2), and converts the non-psychoactive THC-A into THC, which is the main chemical in marijuana that produces a “high”. If your goal, however, is to avoid as much of the euphoria that typically comes with ingesting marijuana as possible then feel free to skip this step.
How to decarboxylate marijuana in your oven
- Preheat oven to 240°.
- Break up your material (bud or trim) but do not grind.
- Place your material on a cookie sheet or shallow baking pan covered in aluminum foil and spread out in a thin, even layer.
- Cover with aluminum foil and place it in the oven for an hour.
Things to know before doing this:
- It is smart to double-check your oven’s temperature, as certain cannabinoids begin to boil off around 250°F.
- Decarboxylation produces a very strong odor, so be sure to do it when it won’t bother others (if you don’t want them to know you’re doing it).
- If you are not going to use your decarboxylated material immediately it can be stored in an air-tight, opaque container.
- If you are interested in learning more about the science behind decarboxylation, Marijuana Growers Headquarters has a fantastic article that explains the process in more depth, as well as a handy chart that shows the temperature at which various cannabinoids and flavinoids begin to boil off.
How much marijuana to use
The question as to how much, what strain and what form (trim or bud) to use will be a personal preference. Those with higher tolerances to marijuana or very high pain levels may prefer to use a strong sativa, while patients seeking sedative and sleep-inducing effects might opt for an indica or hybrid strain. If you are a grower or otherwise have access to trim material you can use that as well.
For the recipes below we recommend using marijuana flower, or a combination of flower and trim. You can also use just trim and leave out the bud, but you will need to use more of it if you want to achieve the same potency that you would with a flower infusion.
A word about Lecithin
Lecithin is a yellow-brown colored fatty substance found in all living things (it’s a gooey substance that makes up about a third of your brain). Lecithin contains choline, which is used throughout your entire body as a major ingredient in each and every cell membrane. Besides the fact that your brain absolutely loves this stuff, lecithin provides other benefits when it is included in marijuana infused oils.
First, lecithin gets more cannabinoids into your brain and other cells and it gets them there faster since, you know, your brain is made of the stuff. Second, lecithin increases the effectiveness of the cannabinoids as well as the intensity of the effect. Also, lecithin acts as an emulsifier in the infusion process, helping more cannabinoids to bond with the oil molecules.
Sunflower lecithin is now widely-regarded as being a better alternative to traditional soy-based lecithin. You can probably find sunflower lecithin in your local health foods store, and you may find it in liquid form, granule form or both, either of which is fine. If you can’t find sunflower lecithin locally it’s easy to order online.
Method #1: Crockpot
- Combine 1 cup of organic coconut oil with1 tbsp sunflower lecithin (liquid or granules) in crock pot set on low or warm (150° -160° F is ideal).
- Stir in 14 grams of dried marijuana or marijuana flower and trim. If using trim only try 21-28 grams.
- Cover and stir every 30-45 minutes.
- Simmer 2-3 hours. Turn off and let cool.
- Once cool, strain through cheesecloth. It’s easiest if you use small wire strainer with a handle to catch the bulk of your material. Holding this over a bowl that has had several layers of cheesecloth secured over it with rubber bands works really well.
- Twist your cheesecloth, which should now have gross organic material all over it, into a ball. Now squeeeeeeze that medicine out into the bowl until you’ve got every drop or your hand gets tired, either one.
Method #2: Magical Butter Machine
As we said earlier there are big benefits to using a Magical Butter Machine for your infusions: It’s drop-dead easy to use, it’s fully-automated and it is super easy to clean up with a built-in cleaning cycle. It was designed to precisely extract the nutrients and flavor from herbs and infuse them into oils, butters and both alcohol as well as glycerin-based tinctures.
- Combine 2 cups of organic coconut oil with 2 tbsp sunflower lecithin (liquid or granules) in the MBM. If your coconut oil is solid you can liquefy it in a microwave set on defrost for 3-5 minutes.
- Add between 14 and 28 grams of marijuana bud, trim or a combination of both. There is no need to break anything up or grind anything. The MBM has a high-speed commercial immersion blender that sounds like a space ship every time it spins up. My guess is even the toughest Mexican brick weed would come out beaten to a pulp. The blender is very thorough.
- Set the temperature to 160° and press the 1-hour button.
- When the timer goes off let the oil cool down for about 30 minutes. After the oil is cool, slip the included “love glove” on one hand, hold the filter bag with the other hand over a bowl and pour the contents of the MBM into the filter bag.
- Squeeeeeeeeeze that medicine out of the bag into the bowl.
- Toss the left-overs into the compost pile, toss the glove and bag in the dishwasher and run the clean cycle on the MBM.
How to consume your newly-infused cannabis oil
Since coconut oil can so easily replace butter, oil and other fats that are frequently called for in recipes it can be included in many different types of dishes. Not just for brownies anymore, cannabis-infused coconut oil is great in dressings, sauces, pasta dishes and much more. Medicated sausage gravy anyone?
Another great way to consume coconut oil that has been infused with your favorite bud is by filling gelatin capsules and taking them on a regular basis. This is by far one of the best ways to regiment your medical marijuana intake, as it allows you to create and follow your own consistent recipe and take consistent doses. In other words, if you need to be able to schedule your medication then this may be the best option for you.
If you choose to use gelatin capsules then you can probably find everything you need in your local health foods store. You will need a supply of empty capsules (these size “00” work very well) and an inexpensive capsule filling machine, unless you want to fill the capsules one at a time. You will also need a plastic syringe, preferably one with a curved tip like this if you are using a filling machine. Capsules can be stored in a dark, dry place (like in a bottle in your medicine cabinet) for around 30 days. If you are making more than a 30 day supply it’s best to store the extra oil in an air-tight container in the refrigerator and make up a new supply of capsules when your medicine cabinet supply gets low.
What to expect
Everyone’s tolerance to cannabis is different, and some people’s experience changes based on how their body metabolizes the cannabinoids they have ingested. In most cases, infusing coconut oil with marijuana tends to produce effects that come on much slower than smoking, but last longer and tend to be more mellow-inducing. Many patients find that coconut oil is a great way to treat chronic conditions like Multiple Sclerosis, Cron’s Disease, Alzheimer’s, glaucoma and depression. Others use infused coconut oil in place of over the counter or prescription sleep medication because of its gradual onset, prolonged effect and ability to function normally the next morning.
Whatever your reason for using medical marijuana, there is a good chance that supplementing that intake with the many wonderful health benefits of coconut oil can assist in promoting healing and better overall health.