How to Make Homemade Cannabis Salve (CBD or THC)
To grow and make your own medicine… that is the stuff that dreams are made of, am I right?! We like to use our organic homegrown cannabis in a variety of ways, but making topical cannabis salve is on the top of the list. Cannabis salve can help to reduce inflammation, soothe skin irritation, joint pain, and more! It also happens to be quite simple to make your own cannabis salve, and easy to customize it to suit your needs.
Read along to learn how to make cannabis salve in 4 simple steps. With this recipe, you can use marijuana, hemp, high CBD, high THC, raw cannabis, decarbed cannabis, or any combination thereof! (Depending on what is legal and available in your area of course.) Let’s talk about benefits of each of those, how cannabis salve works, and what awesome healing potential it has.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links to products for your convenience, such as items on Amazon. Homestead and Chill gains a small commission from purchases made through those links, but at no additional cost to you.
What is Cannabis Salve
Maybe we need to step back a moment. How about, “what is a salve?”. A salve is simply the term for a healing solution that you put on your skin, including creams, ointments, or balms. Generally, salves are fairly thick, shelf-stable, and include nourishing oils such as coconut oil, olive oil, sweet almond oil, or others.
In our cannabis salve recipe, we prefer to use mostly coconut oil, because it is full of saturated fat that binds well with cannabinoids. It is also ultra-moisturizing. We also add a dash of olive oil to increase absorption and smoothness. To learn more about various carrier oils, check out our homemade calendula oil article – where I discuss the pros and cons of a dozen different oil options!
Salves also typically contain waxes or butters to bind the ingredients and make them semi-solid at room temperature. Beeswax is a popular option because it is readily available, easy to work with (especially when purchased in pastilles), and creates perfectly smooth results. See the ingredient list below for recommended vegan substitutions.
When cannabis is added to salve as an ingredient… voila! You’ve got yourself a cannabis salve. The most common way to add cannabis to a salve recipe is to create a cannabis-infused oil first, and then combine the oil with the other salve ingredients.
Therefore, that is exactly what we’re going to do in this recipe: make cannabis oil, and then the salve. But first: “what kind of cannabis should I use in my oil or salve?”
Using Decarboxylated or Raw Cannabis in Salve
How about a little bit of both?
If you aren’t familiar with the term, decarboxylation is the process of heating cannabis at an ideal time and temperature to transform raw cannabinoid compounds from their “acid” form to more active and potent versions. For example, CBDA and THCA are changed into CBD and THC respectively. Decarboxylation naturally occurs when cannabis is smoked or vaporized, but it needs to be accomplished by other means when using cannabis in oil or salves – such as by heating it in the oven. (Read more about decarboxylation here)
The medicinal benefits of decarboxylated THC and CBD are well-documented. Both are anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, high in antioxidants, relieve pain, relax muscles, and suppress tumor growth. This is especially true when they’re used and work together, known as the “entourage effect“. THC is a particularly powerful analgesic (pain-reliever). CBD has even more expansive healing applications, and can help relieve seizures, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriasis. That said, we definitely want to reap those benefits and use decarbed cannabis in this salve recipe!
On the other hand, emerging studies are revealing that raw THCA and CBDA have some pretty groovy perks too. THCA is showing a promising ability to reduce inflammation, muscle spasms, arthritis, and cancer. CBDA also fights inflammation and tumor growth.
Beyond CBD and THC, there are dozens of other compounds found in cannabis that may produce individual, interactive, or synergistic benefits, including phytocannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes. It should be noted that THC is psychoactive and CBD is not, though that doesn’t matter all that much when making a cannabis salve intended for topical use only.
Considering all of this, we like to use both decarbed and raw organic cannabis (containing both THC and CBD) to create a full-spectrum, well-rounded, ultra-healing finished product.
What Can Cannabis Salve Be Used For?
Cannabis salve is stellar at relieving many ailments! First of all, coconut oil and olive oil are extremely nourishing on their own – so you’re going to get plenty of moisture from your salve to heal dry, cracked, or otherwise irritated skin. If you add a few drops of essential oils to your salve, you’ll also get the benefit of aromatherapy.
The healing properties of your homemade cannabis salve may vary slightly depending on what type of cannabis you use. In general, cannabis salve can be used to treat or relieve the following :
- Rashes, itching, or other skin irritation
- General inflammation
- Sore joints
- Muscle aches
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Irregular cell growth (e.g. skin cancer cells)
Personally, I like to rub a little cannabis salve on my tight and sore neck muscles, shoulders, wrists, knees, elbows, ankles, bottom of my feet, and behind my ears. Hey, all this gardening (and sitting to blog) does a number on my body!
The beneficial effects of various cannabinoids. Chart courtesy of PotGuide
How Does It Work?
Did you know we all have an Endocannabinoid System? Yep. Just like we have an endocrine system, immune system, digestive system, and so on. Our bodies have natural receptors, literally made to interact with cannabinoid compounds. This includes both internal, naturally-synthesized cannabinoids and those from external sources – like those from marijuana or hemp. Neat, huh?
When cannabis salve or medicated topicals are applied to our skin, the THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids present in the solution penetrate the skin to bind and activate our localized endocannabinoid receptors. They won’t enter the bloodstream however, so topically-applied salve will not get you “high”.
HOW TO MAKE HOMEMADE CANNABIS SALVE
- 7-10 grams of decarboxylated cannabis (ground or torn to fairy small pieces). If your cannabis is not yet decarbed, see Step 1 in the instructions below.
- 1 ½ cups of coconut oil OR, 1 ½ cups of already-infused cannabis coconut oil (*see notes about using different types of oil below)
- Optional: 5 grams raw cannabis, dried and cured.
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup beeswax pastilles (vegan option: replace with the same amount of organic soy wax, candelilla wax, or carnauba wax)
- Optional: Essential oils of choice. I like using this certified organic lavender oil. Tea tree, peppermint, rosemary, lemon, or eucalyptus are also great choices!
- Optional: 1 tablespoon of shea butter or 1 teaspoon of vitamin E oil for additional antioxidants and moisture
- A double-boiler, or make-shift double boiler – such as a glass pyrex bowl or stainless steel bowl perched on top of a saucepan with water below
- Cheesecloth (if your cannabis oil is not already made)
- Mixing bowl
- Glass jars or salve tins, for storage
- Recommended: probe thermometer
Makes: Approximately 2 cups (16 ounces) of finished salve
*Notes: If you want to scale this recipe up or down: the general rule of thumb for salve is to use about 1 part of beeswax to 4 or 5 parts oil, including both coconut and olive oil. Since we use virgin coconut oil that is solid at room temperature, we can get away with lesser beeswax and the salve will still set up well. If you use a different carrier oil that is liquid at room temperature, either omit the extra 1/3 cup olive oil mentioned above, or increase the amount of beeswax pastilles to 1/2 cup.
Step 1) Decarboxylate Your Cannabis
If you haven’t done so already, the first step is to decarboxylate the cannabis you intend to use in this salve recipe. Or at least some of it, if you want to also use some raw material.
Grind or tear up the cannabis into fairly small pieces. Spread it evenly on a baking sheet, and heat it in the oven on 250°F for 25-30 minutes. Easy, right?
Step 2) Create & Strain Cannabis-Infused Oil
If you tuned into our “How to Make Cannabis Oil” tutorial, you will recognize these steps. The process is virtually the same, except we are going to use slightly more coconut oil here. If you’re interested in making medicated edibles, check out that article!
When making cannabis oil, it is important to not overheat it. Because we are starting with already-decarboxylated cannabis, maintaining a lower temperature will preserve the already-active THC and CBD content as well as the terpenes. Avoid heating it over 200 degrees F. 120 to 180°F is even better.
That is where a double-boiler comes in handy! Even over the lowest flame, heating oil in a pot directly on the stove is much more difficult to prevent overheating, and can create “hot spots” – destroying our precious cannabinoids.
I suggest monitoring the oil temperature with a probe thermometer if possible. Because oils have a higher boiling point (or “smoke point”) than water, the oil will not appear to be as hot as it really is! For example, the oil may be well over 212 degrees but not visibly bubble and boil like water would at the same temperature.
Steps to Make Cannabis-Infused Oil:
- Add water to the bottom pan of your double-boiler. Now add 1.5 cups of coconut oil to the top section of the double-boiler. Heat until it melts.
Stir in 7–10 grams of decarboxylated cannabis to the melted oil. Add an optional few grams of raw ground cannabis if you desire.
Continue to heat the cannabis and oil over a low heat for 30 to 60 minutes, stirring occasionally. Use a probe thermometer to check the temperature, and adjust the heat as needed to maintain the oil below 200°F. We aim for a target temperature range of around 130 to 150°F and infuse for one hour.
When the time is up, line a strainer with cheesecloth and position it over a glass bowl. Pour the cannabis and oil mixture through the strainer. Gather the cheesecloth and gently squeeze out the excess oil from the cannabis. Warning: the oil will be hot, and your hands will get greasy! You may want to wear food-grade gloves.
Keep the strained cannabis oil aside for now. It will be added to the salve mixture soon.
Step 3) Mix the Salve Ingredients
Just like the last step, we want to avoid excessively heating the cannabis oil in order to preserve cannabinoids. If you happen to be using solidified cannabis-infused coconut oil that you previously made, I highly suggest mixing everything in a double-boiler once again (since you’ll need to heat it longer and hotter to re-melt your oil).
On the other hand, if you just made your cannabis oil and it is still liquified, you can do this step straight in a pot on the stove – keeping the heat as low as possible once the cannabis coconut oil is added.
In either a pot or double-boiler, add ⅓ cup of beeswax. Heat until it is completely melted. Now turn down the heat to low. Next, stir in 1.5 cups of strained cannabis coconut oil and ⅓ cup olive oil. Now is the time to add the optional vitamin E plus a few drops of optional essential oils as well. Stir until everything looks completely combined. Once it is, quickly remove the liquid salve from the heat and transfer it into your storage containers of choice.
Step 4) Cool & Store
When it is ready, I pour the liquid salve straight into these 2 ounce glass jars, or these 4 ounce glass jars. You can also use these shallow wide aluminum salve tins. The cannabis salve will harden as it cools, and then it is ready to use!
It is best to store your finished cannabis salve in a cool dark location because light degrades cannabinoids. The amber and cobalt jars we use block UV light, which protects the salve if I leave it out.
Note: Sometimes, the surface of the salve may crack just a little bit as it cools. See the photos below. I have found that salve in our 2-ounce glass containers don’t crack, but larger volumes may. This is really only an aesthetic “issue” if you care. Personally, I don’t mind. It disappears as soon as you begin to dig in and use it!
However, some folks may not like the appearance of the cracks – particularly if the cannabis salve is going to be sold or given as a gift. To avoid settling cracks, put the cannabis salve in a mixing bowl before transferring it into a storage container. Allow it to only partially cool and solidify, whip and mix it up, and then pack into your containers.
Step 5) Feel Good
Lather up! Apply a thin, even layer to the affected area. You should start to feel the results within 5 to 20 minutes, depending on the severity of your issue and strength of your salve. Repeat several times per day as needed.
Will this make me smell like weed?
Just slightly! I find our salve to have a mild cannabis odor, but nothing overpowering. The coconut aroma also stands out. If you add essential oils to your recipe, that can also help to mask the smell. I often apply salve after showering (including before going to work) and don’t think there is much of a noticeable odor after a half an hour or so. No one has ever said anything to me at least!
How long does cannabis salve last?
When stored in ideal cool and dark conditions, homemade cannabis salve should last up to a year. The potency will only slightly decrease during this time. I try to use clean hands when I dig into my salve jars, to avoid introducing any contamination that could make it potentially mold or spoil faster. You could also use a salve spoon.
Ready to make your own medicine?
I hope you found this tutorial to be useful, interesting, and informative! I also hope that it helps you soothe your trouble spots, whatever those may be. Finally, please remember to heed caution depending on your local laws, and always be careful with your cannabis products around curious kiddos or pets.
If you enjoy this article, be sure to check out:
Please feel free to ask questions, or spread the love by sharing or pinning this post! Thank you for tuning in.
Learn how to make your own healing cannabis salve, using marijuana or hemp. It helps reduce inflammation, skin irritation, joint pain, psoriasis, & more!
How to Make Herbal Cannabis Salves
How to Make Herbal Cannabis Salves
When I first heard the word salve, let’s just say I was confused. Here was this small tin filled with a body cream, but everyone was calling it a salve, which I also couldn’t pronounce for the life of me.
Shortly thereafter, curious and confused, I began a quest to uncover what were these magical creams that aren’t creams at all and what can they even do? Well come to find out, they can do a whole heck of a lot! And, since I’m always up for trying a new DIY project, especially when it involves treating myself to a nice rub down afterward, I began digging and uncovering all the things these magical herbal salves could do for you.
However, I ran into a few hiccups along the way. There were plenty of recipes, but none involved cannabis alongside other medicinal herbs. And, while cannabis is a powerful and potent plant, I wanted more. More benefits, more healing, and more love!
But, there was nothing of the sort to be found. Annoying? Yeah, I thought so too, which is why I’m writing this today — to provide you with the helpful tips and pointers I wish I could have easily Googled and the answers appeared. I mean, it is nice when that happens…
So, what exactly is a salve?
Alright, so since I was confused about this, I’m sure there are others that may be too. It’s not a body butter or body cream or lotion. It is in fact a salve, which can be defined as:
“an ointment used to promote healing of the skin or as protection.”
While body butter or cream will lather and moisturize the body, they don’t do much else. Whereas, a salve can heal the skin, as well as ease muscle tension, joint pain, and inflammation within the body (and even more!). Pretty cool, right? I thought so too.
But that’s not all, there are loads of ingredients for you to choose from when making your salve! And, that’s what will give your save it’s special healing properties!
However, when you aren’t too sure what ingredient does what or how much to add, it can become quite confusing to figure out how to formulate the perfect salve for your needs.
Common Ingredients Used and Why
This is where I got slightly annoyed. Sure, there are loads of recipes, just Google “salve recipes” and you’ll come up with a whole slew of them, but none explained why the herbs were good or how you could further mix ingredients to benefit your specific needs. After all, we are all different!
So, I’ve put together a short list of common herbs that you can use in your salve and how the herb is going to benefit you.
- Arnica: Primarily known for its ability to quickly heal bruised skin, arnica is great to add into a pain relieving salve for arthritis, inflamed or tense muscles, and even just minor aches and pains.
- Calendula: This beautiful flower has a number of properties including anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial, which are believed to aid in reducing skin rashes and healing wounds.
- Cannabis (full spectrum): When choosing to use a full spectrum mix of cannabis, you will be extracting both THC and CBD, as well as other cannabinoids in the plant. By doing so, you can expect to receive anti-inflammatory and pain relief properties, as well as cancer, arthritis, and psoriasis fighting benefits.
- Cannabis (CBD hemp): If you prefer to use CBD hemp, which should not contain any THC, there are still amazing benefits! Some of these include anti-inflammatory, feelings of relaxation, soothing irritated skin, anti-aginging properties and more!
- Chamomile: More often known for drinking in tea to relax, chamomile also have a number of skin-loving properties as well such as reducing irritation and inflammation (effectively calming the skin).
- Comfrey: This herb is used in a number of sensitive skin recipes on the market already. Within the leaves there is allantoin and rosmarinic acid providing new skin cell growth and pain/inflammation support, respectively.
- Echinacea: Commonly used for its immune-supporting benefits, echinacea can also be used for its ability to fight acne, reduce wrinkles, and treat inflammation on any area of the skin. Just as it can aid in healing a cold, it can aid in fighting infections on the skin too.
- Goldenseal: Another option to use as an anti-inflammatory and anti-septic herbal treatment within the salve for skin disorders.
- Holy Basil (Tulsi): This plant also provides anti-inflammatory and joint pain relief properties, as well as de-stressing and anti-anxiety too. It could be a powerful herb to use simply as a tea while you make the salve!
- Meadowsweet: This herb is slightly different, as it will be more suited for a cough suppressant salve to treat bronchitis or a cold. It can also be used on individuals suffering from gout to relieve joint pain.
- Mint: Mint is another great addition to a salve focused on healing the respiratory system and clearing phlegm as well as for those looking to heal acne or reduce muscle tension.
- Motherwort: Over the years, the leaves of the plant have been topically applied for healing wounds, itching and Shingles. This herb is also known for it’s ability to reduce menstrual cramps and labour pains in pregnant women.
- Passionflower: Commonly thought to aid in reducing anxiety, passionflower is typically added to salves for its ability to boost blood circulation and provide anti-inflammatory properties.
While this is by no means a comprehensive list of herbs you can add into your salves, it’s a pretty good start for anyone just trying to start and test the waters with their own recipes.
All of the above herbs will be infused into oils for the salve – keep reading to learn how!
Choosing Essential Oils
For essential oils, I cannot possibly include all of the options available. There are hundreds. And, honestly, when picking essential oils, you should be asking yourself “what purpose is the essential oil serving me?”
- Emotional support (i.e. stress relief, relaxation)
- Primary ingredient
- Skin penetrating properties
- Complimenting ingredient for another oil or herb being added
Once you are able to answer this, you’ll have a better idea if the oil you would like to add will be suitable for what you wish the salve to achieve.
For example, if you were making a chest rub meant to penetrate and aid in respiration, the essential oil white camphor or eucalyptus would be the primary ingredient. However, you would also have harmonizing oils and herbs, such as peppermint, lavender, or herbs that aid in vasodilation.
A few common essential oils used in making salves include:
- Clary Sage
- Ylang Ylang
To gain more information on essential oils available, as well as what their healing properties are, visit this resource: https://www.aromaweb.com/essentialoils/default.asp.
Note: Always be mindful of where your essential oils are sourced from. It is best to find USDA organic essential oils where possible, otherwise, commercial or standardized grade.
Choosing the Oil Combination
First you will want to decide what oils you will use to infuse your dried herbs. Many simple salves may just use coconut oil with no other oils utilized. However, if you’re looking to heal cracked skin, a rash, or some other ailment, why not make the vegetable oils work for you too?
With a number of options to choose from, no matter what skin type you are, there’s a combination you can conjure up that’s just perfect for your skin.
Here are some of the most popular skin loving oils for you to choose from, as well as the properties they provide:
- Avocado Oil: Not always thought of, this fabulous oil is packed full of not only rich fatty acids, but it’s also packed full of vitamin E, potassium, lecithin, and other nutrients that aid in nourishing the skin. It aids in reducing inflammation, preventing breakouts, and reducing wound healing time.
- Castor Oil: Rich in fatty acids, castor oil is well known for helping those with dry or cracked skin. However, it also has anti fungal properties due to the high concentration of ricinoleic acid (an omega-9 fatty acid). Some studies conducted on this oil have shown the oil to reduce inflammation as well as relieve pain.
- Coconut Oil: Due to this oil being rich in fatty acids, it’s very nourishing for the skin, as well as a good moisturizer for dry, cracked or inflamed skin.
- Grapeseed Oil: Probably the lightest oil on this list, grapeseed oil is able to quickly absorb into the skin unlike many of the heavier oils on this list. Due to it’s high concentration of linoleic acid, the oil can aid in balancing out dry and oily patches of the skin, reduce inflammation, and aid in wound healing.
- Olive Oil: Used for hundreds of years in skin care, olive oil is full of skin loving nutrients. It contains omega-3, 6 and 9 fatty acids, as well as vitamins A, K & E and polyphenols (antioxidants).
- Sunflower Oil: For starters, it has vitamin E in it, which makes it a cheap and effective alternative to buying a bottle of pure vitamin E oil. And, if that’s not enough, this oil is packed full of linoleic acid, which has been proven to work as an anti-inflammatory.
Remember you don’t have to limit yourself to the above oils, as there are hundreds of plant-based oils to choose from. This is just a quick list of common ones utilized in salves.
Shop CBD Salves
How to Make a Cannabis-Infused Pain Relieving Salve
Now the fun part — putting all these wonderful ingredients together to make a heavenly pain relieving cannabis-infused salve!
Note: This recipe will fill approximately 20 – 2 ounce jars!
- 1 cup Grapeseed Oil
- 1 cup Coconut Oil
- 1/2 cup Avocado Oil
- 1/4 cup Sunflower Oil
*You can use a combination of any oils equaling up to the desired amount you wish to make.
- 2 oz Cannabis Trim & Flower
- 1/4 cup Comfrey Leaf
- 3 tbsp Chamomile Flowers
- 3 tbsp Lavender Flowers
Other Ingredients Needed:
- 1/4 cup – 1/2 cup Beeswax
- 0.5 oz – 1 oz Essential oils (orange, lavender, and peppermint)
- A double boiler or crockpot
- Cheese cloth
- Mixing utensils
- Latex gloves
- Medium-Large Bowl(s)
- Measuring Cup
- Thermometer (candy thermometer works well)
How to Infuse the Oil
First, we will need to combine and infuse the oil with the medicinal herbs we’ve selected.
- Grab your double boiler or crockpot along with the herbs you plan on infusing into the oil.
- Be sure to break up any large herbs, such as cannabis flowers, so the entir surface area of the plant can be exposed to the oils during the infusion process.
- Place all of your herbs into the double boiler or crockpot along with the oils. Be sure to mix everything around, so that all ingredients are fully immersed in the oil.
- Place on medium to low heat and let the oils infuse over the next 6-8 hours. Do NOT let the infusion exceed 107C/225F. Tip: Place a candy thermometer in the crockpot or double boiler to watch the temperatures.
- Once the time has passed, grab your cheesecloth, latex gloves, bowls, funnel to begin separating the solids from the liquids.
- Place the cheesecloth into the funnel and begin to ladle or pour the mixture through the cheesecloth.
- After full, squeeze the cheesecloth to remove any excess liquids.
- Repeat steps 6 & 7 until all oil and solids are separated.
- Cover the container that has your oil infusion in it until you’re ready to go on to the next steps.
Melting the Beeswax
With the oils infused, we’re ready to start adding the beeswax, which is what provides the salve with its thicker consistency.
For vegans, feel free to switch out beeswax for one of the following:
Beware that wax can be deceiving, so it is wise to take this part slow and steady. Otherwise, you will end up with a lot of chapstick.
To avoid a chapstick nightmare, we recommend adding in 2 tablespoons at a time. Typically, you’ll end up with about a 5:1 ratio of oils to beeswax (or roughly 1/4 cup per cup of oils).
This recipe used just under 1/2 cup and came to the consistency we wanted it, but you may want yours “soupier” or firmer than ours.
Remember: you can always allow the mixture to fully cool, test, and reheat if the consistency is not where you want it to be yet, but infusing more oil to reverse the chapstick nightmare is not always a fun task.
- To start, place the oil back into crockpot or double boiler.
- Place a candy thermometer to keep a close eye on the temperature. Caution: beeswax has a low melting point of 63C – 64C (145F – 147F), so be sure to not let the beeswax exceed these temperatures or discoloration will occur.
- Now start adding in your beeswax 2 tablespoons at a time (4 tablespoons = 1/4 cup).
- If at 1/4 cup of beeswax, you are not satisfied with the consistency, continue adding in a tablespoon of beeswax at a time until you find the right consistency.
Add Essential Oils
Once the mixture has cooled down to 37C/100F, you can add in the essential oil blend that you would like to use.
For this recipe, we added in:
- 2 tsp peppermint
- 1 tsp orange
- 1 tsp lavender
Remember a little goes a long way when it comes to essential oils! And, if you think you shorted yourself, you can always add more in later!
After the essential oils are mixed in, you can store your new salve in a variety of containers (like these ones!). Typically, you will want the container to be glass, metal, or BPA-free plastic that has a lid and can be sealed properly.
That’s it! I sure hope you enjoy your new creation!
Have questions? Ask in the comments below!
Looking to start making healing salves right at home? Use this guide to help you better understand the many options available to you in salve making.