CBD oil is widely-available, but if you have easy access to hemp or cannabis, there are a couple of simple methods to make your own at home. 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
How to Make CBD Oil at Home and Save Money
With such a wide array of CBD products on the market, you might not have considered how easy it is to make your own. But if you’re looking to save money while still enjoying CBD, and you have access to high-CBD cannabis or hemp, you can actually make your own CBD oil pretty simply with equipment you likely have in your home already.
There are two main methods you can use at home – either an oil infusion or an alcohol infusion – and while it takes a little time, the result will be a pure and affordable CBD oil you can use however you like.
Make sure you use CBD-Hemp buds to make CBD oil – and not Hemp Seeds (read more on CBD vs. Hemp oil here).
DIY CBD oil (at a glance):
- Professional CBD oil is generally made with CO2 extraction, which isn’t feasible at home.
- Making DIY CBD oil is federally legal, safe and can save you money (not state-legal in ID or NE).
- First, heat your hemp or cannabis in the oven at 110 °C/ 225 °F for around an hour.
- Infuse the CBD in strong, drinking alcohol by covering your material in it and stirring for 10 minutes. Repeat the process until the liquid becomes clearer, then evaporate the alcohol away.
- Infuse directly in oil by mixing the two and gently heating (to around 100 °C/ 212 °F) for a few hours.
- You can make CBD tinctures by mixing your oil with shea butter, coconut oil and glycerine.
Companies Make CBD Oil by Extracting Cannabinoids from Hemp Plants with CO2 or Solvents
Companies make CBD using one of a few different extraction methods, but all basically involve stripping the CBD (and other cannabinoids) from the plant and then purifying the resulting extract.
The most common approach is supercritical CO2 extraction, which uses extremely cold (−69 °F/−56 °C) CO2, at the point where it becomes “supercritical” (i.e. somewhere between a liquid and a gas).
The CO2 is pushed through the hemp (or traditional cannabis, but hemp is more common) to extract the cannabinoids and terpenes, and then it gets sent to a separator where it returns to gaseous state but leaves the extracted material.
Other approaches are similar in principle, but using solvents such as butane, oils or fats to extract the cannabinoids. The mixture is then processed through winterization and distillation to purify it and minimize any unwanted components.
Making CBD Oil at Home Can Save You Money in the Long-Term
Making your own CBD oil is obviously more labor-intensive than just buying one that’s pre-made, so you might wonder what the benefit of making it yourself is.
Firstly, if you’ll be using CBD oil regularly, making your own will undoubtedly save you money over the long-term. If you buy some of the more complicated equipment (e.g. decarboxylators) it will take a little longer for you to break even, but if you want to maximize your savings you can make CBD oil with more everyday equipment.
If you don’t live near a store where you can buy CBD, it could also be much more convenient to make it yourself, and similarly if the legal situation in your state or country makes it difficult to buy professionally-made products, it may be the only way to get your oil.
Although it’s likely that professional companies using CO2 extraction will produce a purer product, if you make it yourself you can at least attest to the quality and be 100% sure which ingredients were used.
Making Your Own CBD Oil is Legal (Provided Hemp is Legal Where You Are)
The 2018 Farm Bill made hemp with less than 0.3% THC legal at the federal level, and in the EU there is a similar law with a 0.2% THC limit, and (pitifully) 0.02% in the UK.
If you’re making CBD oil with hemp that falls within these guidelines, it’s very likely that the process will be entirely legal.
If you’re using a high-CBD but also THC-containing strain of cannabis, it’s only legal if you live in a state with legalized marijuana for recreational or medicinal purposes.
Really, the crucial thing isn’t actually making the CBD oil; it’s the legality of the starting materials in your country or state.
Making CBD Oil is as Safe as Any Cooking
Making CBD is generally safe, although this depends on the method you use. If you use a basic approach, where you heat the material to decarboxylate it, the process is basically as safe as cooking food in the oven – provided you’re careful when handling a hot pan, everything is fine.
Solvent-based extraction is not safe to do at home, because it requires too much specialized equipment and there could be a risk of explosions, as well as the possibility of dangerous amounts of the solvent making it into the finished oil.
You can do it with strong ethanol (i.e. drinking alcohol), which carries some risks from the fumes and the flammability of the liquid, but these risks are easily mitigated with some common sense and good ventilation.
You Can Make CBD Oil with Everyday Kitchen Equipment
The good news is that you only need very basic equipment to make CBD oil. The requirements can differ a little bit depending on the method, but broadly speaking you can get by with this basic list:
- A slow-burning oven or purpose-made carboxylation machine
- Baking tray
- Cheesecloth/coffee filter/something else to finely-strain the material
- Double boiler (two fitted saucepans or two stacked together with a space between
- Glass bowl/mixing bowl
- Container to store finished oil
- Carrier oil (e.g. coconut oil or olive oil) / high proof (drinking) alcohol
Aside from this, everyday equipment like spatulas and wooden spoons may be needed depending on the method you use, and it can help to have a funnel or even a plastic syringe to ensure you get all of the finished material.
It Will Take 3 to 6 Hours to Make CBD Oil (Depending on Your Method)
The length of time it will take to do your extraction depends on the method you use, and whether you spend a little extra time purifying and extracting.
For alcohol-based extraction, the process can be completed in a few hours or even less, but if you’re adding oil to your material, it can take six hours or longer depending on how many times you heat the material.
Broadly, you should leave yourself around four hours if you’re using alcohol extraction and at least six for oil extracting, allowing for unexpected delays or issues cropping up during the process.
Decarboxylation and Infusion Are the Key Stages in Making CBD Oil
There are basically two steps to any home CBD oil process: decarboxylation and infusion.
Decarboxylation means activating the THCA and CBDA to remove the carboxyl group from the chemicals and turn them into THC and CBD, respectively. This is a necessary process because THCA and CBDA aren’t “activated” in this form and so won’t have any of the desired effects.
Once you’ve decarboxylated your material, you infuse it into either alcohol or oil to pull the key components out of the plant matter. For alcohol infusions, chemistry does the work for you (which is why it’s quicker), while for oil infusions you need to add heat and leave it some time for the process to complete.
You Can Activate CBD and THC in the Oven
Regardless of the method you use to make your CBD oil, the first part of the process is always the same: you need to decarboxylate your bud.
How your cannabis will look before and after decarboxylation. Photo by Emily Kyle
There are differing views on the best way to do this, but generally speaking, it’s recommended you set your oven to 110 °C/ 225 °F and bake ground-up bud for around an hour. THC carboxylates a little easier than CBD, so for CBD oil you can actually leave it for an hour and a half if you’re using a high-CBD strain. If you’re using more of a balanced strain, stick to an hour.
You can achieve the same basic effect with higher temperatures for lower periods of time, but it’s important to stay below the boiling points of CBD and THC (180 °C/ 356 °F and 157 °C/ 315 °F, respectively).
It’s also better to keep a low temperature for longer to keep as many of the terpenes (the chemicals that give the characteristic smell of cannabis) as possible.
In short, set your oven to this temperature, grind up your bud (not too finely), spread it out on a piece of parchment paper on a baking tray and let it cook for the appropriate amount of time. When it’s done, your flower will be slightly brown and dried out.
Method #1: Infuse the Material in Alcohol, Strain and Evaporate
If you’re using alcohol for the infusion stage, the process is fairly simple and should take around 20 minutes. Ensure you’re either outdoors or have good ventilation, because the fumes from the alcohol pose the main risk in this whole process.
- Place the decarboxylated material into a mixing bowl and add enough strong alcohol (something like Everclear is perfect) to completely cover the bud.
- You can stir the mixture with a wooden spoon to speed the process along, but in any case you should leave it for five to ten minutes.
- When it’s completed, strain the mixture through cheesecloth, a coffee filter or any other form of fine sieve and let the liquid fall into a bowl.
- You’ll notice a green color to the alcohol, which basically tells you that you have some cannabinoids and terpenes in your liquid.
- Repeat the process a few more times with the plant material, until the alcohol becomes much clearer at the end of the process.
- Now all you have to do is evaporate the alcohol from your mixture.
- Set up your double boiler (if you don’t have stackable pans, you can use a normal pan with a stainless steel bowl that fits in the top but doesn’t contact the bottom of the pan) and put the alcohol mixture into the top section with water in the bottom.
- Gently heat the mixture so the alcohol evaporates but without letting it get too hot. Just keep the burner on low and switch it off occasionally if needed – high-proof alcohol is volatile so it doesn’t need much to work.
- Once it’s finished, you should be left with a thick, gloopy oil that you can easily draw up into a plastic syringe or place into another container.
You should note that this process isn’t the best in terms of getting absolutely pure cannabinoids, but it’s a great approach for home extractions because it’s relatively straightforward.
Method #2: Infusing Your Material in Oil
Oil infusions are simpler in a sense but it takes longer to get a good result.
- Set up your double-boiler (or a metal bowl in the top of a regular pan) and add a mixture of oil and your decarboxylated flower to the top section.
- If you’re using coconut oil, you’ll need to melt it first so you can mix the flower in properly.
- Add water to the bottom of the pan and bring it to a simmer.
- It’s best to try to keep the temperature of the mixture in the top around 100 °C/ 212 °F, although it’s fine provided it doesn’t reach 150 °C/ 302 °F, which would evaporate the terpenes.
- Check it regularly with a thermometer and adjust the heat as needed.
- Leave it on the double boiler for around two to three hours – when it’s done the oil should be brown-green.
- You can leave it to cool for a few hours then repeat the process if you want to get the most out of the material, but whenever you’re done, strain it through cheesecloth into a container and your oil is ready.
Method #3: Cold-Pressed CBD Oil
Cold-pressed CBD oil is made through a simple process that doesn’t involve adding any chemicals or really anything more complicated than squeezing juice out of fruit. This makes it a possible method for home extraction, although it’s important to note that the result will be a little different than when other methods are used. This is because it keeps all of the phytonutrients, fats and oils from the plant.
The benefit is the simplicity of the process: all you need is a cold press/juicer and some hemp (buds have the most CBD but you can also add stems and seeds).
- Simply put the hemp into the cold press and apply some pressure (with minimal heat).
- This will grind the material into a paste, which you can then mix to help the oils distribute through the mixture.
- This in itself will be rich in CBD, but you can apply pressure to the paste again to draw the oil out.
Measuring CBD Tinctures is a Trial and Error Process
Unfortunately, if you use hemp or an ordinary cannabis plant to make your extract at home, it’s incredibly difficult if not impossible to know how strong your resulting oil will be. Simply, the efficiency of the process can vary substantially and it’s unlikely you’ll know the cannabinoid content of the material you started with anyway.
The only way you could really know is if you made the CBD oil by mixing a specific amount of pre-extracted CBD isolate into your carrier oil.
So the best advice in most cases is to start with a small amount of your oil and increase gradually once you get a feel for the strength.
Creating Self-Care Products at Home
Although many of the self-care products made with CBD are a little difficult to put together at home (for example, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to make yourself a bath bomb), you can make a CBD lotion pretty easily with the equipment you used to make your oil. Set up your double boiler, adding an inch or two of water to the bottom and putting it on a low to medium heat, then place half a cup each of shea butter and coconut oil to the top. Stir the two together as they warm up, aiming to remove any lumps and prevent them from burning.
When they’re heated, take the oils off the heat and transfer them to a heat-safe bowl or (if you have one) a glass blender, setting aside for around an hour for them to cool. Afterwards, add a third of a cup of aloe vera gel, 2 tbsp of vegetable glycerine and a couple of teaspoons of CBD oil (more if you like), along with an essential oil for fragrance if you like. Blend or hand-mix them together and your lotion is ready.
Making your own CBD oil at home is a much simpler process than you might have expected, and once you’ve gone through the process a couple of times, guides like this won’t even be needed. It’s worth trying different approaches if the first one you attempt doesn’t go well, but be sure to stick to a relatively simple method, because the methods professional companies use are expensive to do right. Once you have your oil, you can enjoy it in the way you would with any CBD, safe in the knowledge that you know exactly what’s in it.
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.