How To Make Cannabis Oil (Step-by-Step)

yellow cannabis oil wax resin and green leaf on yellow background

For many years we have been involved with clinical cannabis and the production of cannabis oil with friends who are suffering major illnesses.

As the medical group of our local cannabis association expands, more people are coming to the open support meetings, some of whom are successfully treating themselves, others who are looking for information about what cannabis oil is and how to make it at home.

The cannabis bud can be vaporized or used in a tincture to alleviate many ailments. But to treat serious diseases such as cancer or Alzheimer, you have to ingest a more concentrated amount of cannabinoids for these to have an effect.

How to Make Cannabis Oil

Extracting cannabis oil is a time-consuming, and even risky, task. You need large cannabis crops to be able to produce large amounts of cannabis oil.

That’s why it’s not something people usually share or massively sell. That’s also why there are bigger chances of getting scammed when buying cannabis oil online. 

One possible course of action to acquire legit cannabis oil could be reaching out to a cannabis dispensary or association. Also, if you’ve been diagnosed with an agressive illness and you belong to a support group related to your illness, make the first move and ask other patients where they’re getting their medicine from.

However, the best way to consume good quality, medical-grade cannabis oil, is making it by yourself. Or asking a loved one supporting you through your disease for help in the extraction process.

Today we share a step-by-step tutorial to make your own homemade medicinal cannabis oil.

But first, the big question:

How much bud (cannabis flowers) do you need to make cannabis oil?

As mentioned, cannabis oil is purely made out of the trichomes, those tiny gland clusters on top of the female cannabis flowers. Thus, it takes a great deal of bud to make a decent quantity of cannabis oil.

Gas chromatographical analysis of a well-made oil should show something like 80-90% combined THC & CBD content, with the remaining 10% being made up of other cannabinoids.

The amount of oil produced will depend in part upon the strain and the method used to separate these trichomes from plant matter, but a general guide is that it takes 500g of well-dried bud to make 50-60ml (g) of medical-grade cannabis oil.

Step-by-Step Guide to DIY Cannabis Oil

Step 1: Decarboxylation

Firstly, buds are decarboxylated by gently heating in order to activate the chemical compounds. Place the buds in an electric oven on its lowest setting for an hour. When finished, crumble the dried buds into a powder. (you can use a blender for this)

TIP: We use a custom-bought countertop oven. We have not used it for cooking food. It’s a great way to ensure there are no residual fats or any other contaminant.

Step 2: Solvent-extraction

Then, we use a solvent-extraction process to separate the cannabinoid-laden trichomes from the plant matter.

We use 99.9% Isopropyl Alcohol and steep the bud material for 6 minutes. Isopropyl Alcohol leaves virtually zero oil traces and is relatively non-toxic. In addition, the short steeping time reduces the chances of other plant elements making it into the wash.

Using wide-mouthed jars, fill three-quarters with the ground and frozen bud and pour in alcohol up to the brim so that all plant matter is well covered.

Set a timer to countdown.

jars suitable for cannabis oil

TIP: Freeze both bud and solvent before steeping as this increases trichome release from plant material.

Step 3: Filtering

.Prepare a line of filtering bottles – we place a coffee filter inside a metal cone inserted into the top of a wide-mouthed glass jar.

As soon as the time is up, pour the steeped bud and liquid into these cones to filter out the plant matter. You can now dispose of the waste residual.

The end result of this stage is dark brown water-like liquid.

filtration diagram for filtering mixtures of liquids and solids through a funnel with filter paper

NOTE: the mashed-up bud might still be recognizable as bud, so be careful where you put it. Also, until the solvent evaporates from it, it is highly flammable. Small amounts (a scoop full) make an excellent fire starter if you use a wood fire.

Step 4: Evaporating the Solvent

Next is the first stage of evaporating the solvent out of the liquid. Remember that the cannabinoids you want to keep will vaporize at 125-145C, but luckily isopropyl and food-grade alcohol reach boiling temperature at 88C.

You can get the bulk of the solvent out of your potential oil solution by gently heating it. Many people use a purpose-bought rice cooker for this, but we much prefer to use an essential oil distiller.

Rice cookers are the cheapest means of gently heating off the solvent. However, WARNING!! The solvent is highly flammable, which means just the tiniest drop of alcohol condensing near an electrical spark can cause an explosion. 

ALWAYS USE THE RICE COOKER OUTDOORS ON A WINDLESS DAY TO MINIMIZE RISKS – AND ALWAYS BE SUPER-CAREFUL!  (and watch out for the fumes too)

Stills are relatively inexpensive and work well enough. As the alcohol evaporates from inside, it condenses and pours out into a collecting jug.

Some fumes are produced, but the risk of explosion is minimal, and they are safe enough to use in a well-ventilated room.

There is a difference between water stills and essential oil/alcohol stills – the former heat faster and hotter and can burn the oil.

copper distiller system

Be vigilant whichever means you use: the aim of this stage is to evaporate the bulk of your solvent, but none of these methods are exact enough to remove all of it, and you don’t want to burn the oil, which may happen as it becomes thicker.

As soon as the oil becomes the consistency of engine oil, remove it from the still/rice burner and move on to the next stage.

Step 5: Evaporating Solvent Residuals

The final stage of making medical-grade cannabis oil is a little time-consuming and needs careful attention. Transfer your oil to  heat-proof glass, and over gentle heat, bring it up to 120C to evaporate any residual solvent and water.

It can take hours to reach this temperature, and once there, you must keep the oil at 120C (not higher!) until all bubbling ceases. You should be left with a tar-like substance that solidifies as it cools.

magnetic stir plate for mixing

You can use a coffee warmer or hotplate on the minimum setting for this process. Still, we’ve invested in a digital magnetic stirring plate: this spins while heating, removing the possibility of “hot spots” and burning.

Invest in a laser temperature reader to see how hot the oil is getting.

laser temperature reader

Enjoy Your DIY Cannabis Oil

Now you know exactly how to make cannabis oil at home. While not as easy as simply purchasing a pre-made oil, it is a worthwhile process to ensure a quality product.

Once you’ve gone through all of the steps above, the next step is to enjoy and use your cannabis oil.

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