For those who prefer to avoid smoking or vaporizing cannabis (for any number of reasons), cannabis-infused edibles can be 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, we’ll cover how to make edibles, how to determine dosage and the science of why the high associated with edibles feels so strong. We’ll also talk about making CBD edibles from organic hemp flower.
Conceptually, the process of making edibles is very similar to that of cannabis concentrates: the goal is 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 solvent like alcohol or supercritical CO2 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 makes our recipe especially effective is the increased bioavailability of the cannabinoids – in essence, our process makes it easy for your body to absorb the THC, CBD, and other beneficial compounds.
– Cannabis (or hemp) starting material
– Coconut Oil or MCT Oil (others will work effectively to extract the cannabinoids, but MCT oil specifically can help your body absorb the compounds more quickly)
– Soy Lecithin
– Crock Pot or slow cooker
Step 1: Select Your Starting Material
Edibles can be made using nearly any cannabis product: buds, trim, kief, solventless hash, solvent-based concentrates, reclaim — anything with a measurable cannabinoid content will work. We have even used the washed trim from an ice water hash extraction to make edibles.
While, technically, “anything goes,” we should note that the quality and potency of your starting material will play a large role 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 ratio of THC to CBD that produces the effects you desire, whether for recreational use or medicinal purposes.
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 psychoactivity, we recommend juicing raw cannabis or using organic hemp flower, which is federally legal in all 50 states (yes, you can buy it online and have it shipped to your house).
Step 2: Prepare the Material
If using whole buds or trim, make sure that the material is finely ground. We prefer to use a traditional grinder as opposed to a food processor or blender, as these options tend to pulverize the starting material too much.
If you’re using hash that has greased up or congealed into a sticky ball, attempt to break up the hash into smaller pieces. The goal here is to increase the surface area of the concentrate to facilitate
Step 3: Decarboxylate
This is a very important and often-overlooked step in the edible baking process. For the uninitiated, the cannabinoids present in your starting material likely exist in their acidic, non-activated form.
What does this mean in practical terms? Essentially, 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 before extraction. For reference, this same process of decarboxylation is what occurs when you light up a one-hitter or joint of cannabis.
Unless you’re working with a cannabis concentrate (like CO2 oil) that is labeled ‘activated’, you will need to decarboxylate your starting material to maximize the effect of your edibles. To do so, we recommend preheating your over to approximately 220-225°F (our preferred range to decarb effectively without risking combustion). 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!
We 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 (the material will need to be dry in order to decarb effectively). In our experience, it is better to overdo the decarb than to come up short and not fully activate your cannabinoids.
Pro tip: if you continue to decarb after all of the THCa has converted to THC, it will begin to convert to CBN, the strongest sedative of the known cannabinoids. If you suffer from insomnia or sleep disturbances, 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 — the longer the time, the less THC and more CBN.
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 somewhat 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 are 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 the chart above).
– If using reclaim or activated CO2 oil, you do not need to decarboxylate further as these forms of cannabis are already fully 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.
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 to some degree. However, our goal is not to make oil with the most aggregate THC possible, but rather oil with the most amount of available THC for your body to absorb. Thus, we are going to select the best inputs for increased systemic bioavailability (meaning the same amount of THC will be absorbed more effectively and, therefore, felt more intensely).
How is this recipe different from others I’ve seen?
This method is designed to produce oil with the most amount of available THC for your body to absorb, rather than oil with the most aggregate THC possible. A high dose of THC doesn’t do much good if your body can’t absorb it effectively.
What does that mean?
From a solubility standpoint in cooking, 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 than others.
Why is it better?
Coconut oil can be especially helpful for those who suffer from impaired fat digestion and gallbladder issues. The medium-chain triglycerides are also easily absorbed by the body compared to longer molecules.
Do I get higher?
The effects may feel more intense with this method, as the THC is more easily absorbed by the body when bonded to the MCTs in coconut oil.
The Science Behind the Effects
Because alcohol extractions are typically used for tinctures, we will focus on fat-based extractions for traditional edibles. For increased bioavailability, we suggest using coconut oil, which is high in medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). This is because MCTs are small and easily digested relative to the long chain triglycerides (LCTs) found in most fatty foods like 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. You can also use pure MCT oil if you prefer, coconut oil just tends to be more readily available at grocery stores.
Bonus: Add Soy Lecithin
For an additional boost in bioavailability, we 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, but very helpful).
After most of the oil has drained, use your hands to squeeze the remaining oil from the cheesecloth. For maximum efficiency, you can also use a potato ricer on the bundle of starting material to squeeze out as much oil as possible.
Note that if you used grinder kief, dry sift, ice water hash, or a solvent-based oil, there will likely be nothing to strain. That’s okay, your oil is ready to go as it is!
Step 5: Consume or Wrap & Store
Voila! You have just created an easy-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 recipes in place of cooking oil or butter.
What can I make?
Literally, any recipe that calls for butter or oil can be made with cannabis-infused or hemp derived CBD-infused coconut oil. That said, we should make a special note about baking recipes that call for butter: the texture of the butter makes a difference to the texture of the finished product. If you’re making a cannabis pastry (advanced, but attainable), it may take some experimentation and blending of butter, coconut oil, and/or vegetable shortening to find the right texture.
Another 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 and weakening your edibles. 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).
How do I figure out the dosage for other recipes?
We have put together a helpful guide to help you calculate edible potency and dosage 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 do I get long-term relief provided by edibles without the high?
There are two main ways to achieve this objective; juicing high-THC strains or consuming an edible made from hemp-derived CBD or organic hemp flower. We’ve written the guide to juicing cannabis here – all you need is some fresh plant material.
While you can use CBD extracts and isolates to make non-intoxicating therapeutic edibles, you could also try using a strain of organic hemp flower to achieve the same effect. The process with hemp flower will be the same as with traditional cannabis buds, but you’ll be extracting CBD and other beneficial cannabinoids without high levels of THC.
We enjoy the hemp flower produced by Canna Comforts, whose high-CBD strains look, feel, smell, taste, and smoke just like the top-shelf cannabis strains that inspired them. Canna Comforts is committed to whole-plant medicine and cultivates top-quality, effective, organic, non-GMO hemp flower (Lifter strain from Canna Comforts shown in image below) that can be used to create therapeutic edibles, tinctures, and extracts — or enjoyed straight in a joint or bowl.
How many mg of THC should I eat?
Unfortunately, there’s no hard-and-fast rule to this. Everybody and every body is different! Please consult our dosage guide, which breaks down recommended dosages by experience level.
Overdoing it straight out the gate can make for an unpleasant experience, so start slow! Remember, you can always have another cookie or brownie, but once the THC is in your bloodstream you’ll have to ride it out.
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 when processed through the digestive system. This compound is approximately 5 to 10 times stronger than run-of-the-mill THC.
Additionally, the effects of THC last much longer when consumed orally than when inhaled. This is why it’s so important not to overdo the edibles: it can lead to that dreaded, uncomfortably high, couch-locked, “never coming down” feeling.
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. We know that looks like a wide window, and it is, but edible absorption time is finicky.
Onset time is directly related to the digestive process – eating them on an empty stomach results in 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, is saturated fat and will, therefore, remain solid at room temperature. To turn it back into a liquid, use a hot water bath and double boiler or place it in a heatproof dish the oven at 200°F until liquefied.