Skip to: “How to Make CBD Oil”
If you’ve been part of the cannabis community for any length of time, especially for medical purposes, you’ve likely heard a good deal about the therapeutic effects of CBD. Also known as cannabidiol, CBD is a cannabinoid with anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and anxiolytic effects. It can treat chronic pain and inflammation, regulate mood and sleep, ease nausea, and treat seizures and muscle spasms, just to name a few applications.
There is an overwhelming abundance of retailers selling CBD oil on the open market, but it can be hard to determine the quality and purity of the product you’re buying. Unless you’re buying from a trusted retailer like Joy Organics (see our CBD Buyer’s Guide to learn what to look for when buying CBD), sorting out the good products from the junk can be difficult.
You can skip the guesswork by making CBD yourself, in the comfort and privacy of your own home, with no special equipment or toxic chemicals. This way, you control every step of the process, from selecting the strain to choosing the dosage concentration, to the actual extraction itself; you know exactly what you’re getting in the finished product and can modify your materials or methods according to your specific needs. It might seem complicated, but we promise you, you can do this! Here, we’ll discuss the science of cannabinoid extraction and tell you how to make CBD oil at home for yourself.
First, we need to talk about choosing your starting material (aka the flower or extract you’ll be infusing into the oil). This is what determines the cannabinoid content of your finished CBD oil (and therefore its effects on you). This is especially important when using the method we’ll outline below, because it’s not possible to extract only CBD without taking other cannabinoids, like THC, along for the ride. This means that if you start with a high-THC flower, you’ll end up with a high-THC oil. There is no way to separate the THC from the CBD without specialized laboratory equipment. Therefore, depending on your starting material, your finished CBD oil may or may not also contain THC; it all depends on the cannabinoid content of your starting material.
You can absolutely use THC-rich strains of cannabis for your CBD oil if you choose. THC has a number of therapeutic benefits that may work in concert with those of CBD, producing synergistic effects. If you’re going this route, we recommend an indica strain, as you’ll get the benefits of high CBD and other beneficial cannabinoid content without the “head high” associated with sativas, which can make it hard to function for some consumers. This type of CBD oil (sometimes called Rick Simpson Oil, or RSO, in this high-THC incarnation) is especially good for patients suffering from severe chronic pain and various cancers. However, it can cause drowsiness and impairment at high doses so it may not be right for everyone.
If you choose this route, keep in mind that THC is the cannabinoid responsible for the psychoactive “high” of marijuana. Industrial hemp (which most standard CBD products are made from) contains less than 0.3% THC and does not induce these psychoactive effects. Cannabis with a higher THC content is only legal for use in areas where state legislature approves the use of recreational marijuana (or medical marijuana for users with a state-issued medical card). If you use a high-THC strain for your CBD oil, you should not use your oil before operating machinery or driving, and should proceed carefully until you find out how the oil will affect you. Cannabis, when taken orally, can take up to 90 minutes to take effect.
So, what do you do if you want to make CBD oil with little-to-no THC? If you’re fortunate enough to live in a state where cannabis is legal for you, you can request a high-CBD strain from your budtender at the dispensary; they’ll gladly point you in the right direction. However, if you don’t reside in a state where you can buy your flower from a trusted, licensed professional, Farm Bill-compliant hemp flower is legal for purchase, though it’s not available over the counter in most places.
This means that it is legal to order organically-grown hemp flower in all fifty states, and you can then use this hemp flower to make your CBD oil. Since hemp contains 0.3% or less THC, you won’t feel its effects, but you’ll get all the benefits from the high CBD, CBN, CBG, and other non-psychoactive cannabinoids contained in the hemp flower. You could also use raw CBD oil (meaning it has not yet been infused into a carrier oil), like uncut CO2 oil, instead of the flowers or buds as the starting material.
Whichever route you choose to go, the important thing is to choose a strain that will impart the effects you’re looking to achieve, as those effects will be the same as those created by the resulting CBD oil. We prefer to use Lifter strain from Canna Comforts (shown in image below).
If you’re able, try smoking or vaping a little beforehand to get an idea of what its effects will be like before committing. Any adverse or undesirable effects will wear off within an hour or two this way, as opposed to up to eight hours for cannabinoids ingested orally.
The method we’ll discuss here extracts cannabinoids (referred to as CBD from here on out for simplicity’s sake) through an easy process that requires little skill and relatively little time spent standing over a pot. There is another, more complicated (and potentially dangerous) method using alcohol as a solvent, but we feel like that deserves its own article (it isn’t for everyone), so we’ll save it for another time. Here, we’ll focus on a much more accessible method with fewer safety requirements: infusing CBD into a carrier oil.
This method works because CBD is soluble with nonpolar molecules, meaning it can’t dissolve in water (a polar molecule), but can dissolve in fats (nonpolar) and alcohols (technically a polar molecule overall, but alcohol has a special ability to bond with nonpolar molecules in ways that water cannot—polarity is a spectrum, and while water is far off to one end, alcohol is close enough to the middle to, well, go both ways). This extraction method takes advantage of the lipid-solubility, or dissolvability in fats, of cannabinoids.
Using a carrier oil as your solvent—we recommend MCT or coconut oils for increased bioavailability, but you could much more easily use olive oil, hempseed oil—heck, you could even use butter! Ultimately, it’s up to you and how you want to use the finished product. You will extract CBD into the oil using heat and then strain off the plant matter, leaving CBD-enriched oil behind. The resulting oil is much easier to work with than what the alcohol method yields, and there are fewer precautions you need to take throughout the process. To do this, you’ll need:
Since you’ve ground the herb up finely, the next step is to decarboxylate, or decarb, the flower, which changes the CBD into its active form, thereby making it more available to the body. To clarify, the CBDA (‘A’ for acidic) found in dried flowers is in its non-active form; thus, it needs to be decarboxylated into its active form, or what we traditionally think of as CBD. This can be done on a cookie sheet in an oven at 220-225 degrees Fahrenheit for about 60 minutes for maximum conversion. After the time is up, remove the flower from the oven to cool.
Once you’ve decarbed the starting material, mix your carrier oil and decarbed flower into the top of a double boiler and place over a pot of simmering (not boiling!) water. Low heat on most stovetops should be sufficient to get the water bath hot enough to extract the CBD without risking scorching the oil. You can also use a crock pot as an alternative to a double boiler.
2-3 hours is sufficient time for the CBD to dissolve into the oil; though, there is no harm in going longer. You don’t need to monitor the oil too closely: checking in every half hour or to stir and monitor its color should be sufficient. When it’s a deep, earthy brownish green, you’ll know it’s ready.
After the time is up, pour the oil and flower through some cheesecloth (coffee filters will work in a pinch) to strain off the plant matter, leaving behind the CBD-rich oil. If you’re using cheesecloth, be sure to squeeze out all the oil you can from the bundle of plant matter—a potato ricer is super handy for this, but not necessary if you don’t mind using a little elbow grease. Discard the leftover starting material, it’s work here is done. You can then place the oil in a bottle or jar and store it in a cool, dry place away from the sun and other light sources.
Congratulations, you’ve made your first batch of homemade CBD oil! The resulting oil can be used orally in the form of tinctures or made into gelatin capsules, or even added to food if the taste is unpleasant to you on its own. The oil can also be applied directly to the skin for topical pain relief, added to your favorite body care products before application, or incorporated into your diet a few drops at a time. Its uses are just as versatile as the CBD you would have bought from a retailer, only it’s custom-designed by you, for you.
In order to properly dose the CBD oil you just made, you can use our edible potency calculator here. The most important factor will be the amount of CBD contained in your starting material—any reputable supplier will be able to tell you this.
While there are a number of quality CBD oils available for purchase, making a high-quality CBD oil at home is attainable, affordable, and low-risk using the oil infusion method discussed above. Oil extraction uses indirect, low heat to gradually extract CBD without any harsh fumes or flammability precautions. It’s the safest and simplest way to supply yourself with homemade CBD oil.