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Cannabutter vs Infused Oil: Understanding The Differences

Cannabutter is a weed chef’s biggest weapon. But there are many other ways to infuse your meals with cannabis, such as trading in high-fat butter for coconut oil, olive oil, and more.

Edibles offer an exciting way to enjoy the effects of cannabis. And while people usually think of cookies or brownies when they hear mention of edibles, there are many different ways to infuse your meals with cannabis. Keep reading for an overview of cannabutter and various types of cannabis oil—the foundation of most edibles—to see which one is right for you!

WHY USE CANNABUTTER?

Ahhh, butter. Nothing really compares to the sweet, rich flavour of quality butter made from full-fat milk. Couple it with some top-shelf Kush and you’ve got yourself a delicious way to infuse your favourite meals with cannabis.

Cannabutter is the backbone of brownies, space cakes, and cookies. It is made by cooking cannabis flowers in butter and water for anywhere between 3 and 24 hours, depending on the recipe. This process extracts cannabinoids and other compounds from the flower into the butter, which then makes them accessible to the body when we eat our edibles. Just remember to keep temperatures low as you simmer your butter to avoid burning it and destroying the precious compounds in your weed.

For really active butter, it’s always important to decarboxylate your weed first, which involves grinding and baking it for 30–40 minutes at low temperatures (roughly 110°C). Doing this helps convert cannabinoid acids, like THCA and CBDA, into their non-acidic counterparts (THC and CBD), ensuring more potent edibles.

ADVANTAGES OF CANNABUTTER

Cannabutter is easy to make and complements both sweet and savoury dishes with its rich, buttery goodness. You can use cannabutter as a last-minute addition to creamy curries, as the base for scrumptious cookie dough, or even just smear it on the insides of a simple grilled cheese sandwich. Cannabutter is usually where most beginner weed chefs start their long, psychoactive journey with homemade edibles.

• Easy to make
• Flavourful
• Works in sweet and savoury dishes
• Relatively inexpensive
• High fat content supports potent edibles

DISADVANTAGES OF CANNABUTTER

The main downside to cannabutter is, obviously, its fat and dairy content. If you’re watching your fat intake, are vegan, or are intolerant to dairy, using cannabutter simply isn’t an option for you when it comes to making edibles. Luckily, that’s where cannabis coconut oil can save the day! Keep in mind that butter also has a low smoke point; high heat can spoil the flavour and effect of your edibles.

• Not the healthiest option
• Non-vegan
• Low smoke point

WHY USE CANNABIS-INFUSED COCONUT OIL?

Coconut oil is a source of many medium-chain triglycerides that are easy for your body to digest and use as energy. Studies also suggest that coconut oil may help promote heart health, help your body burn fat, and much more, making it a great alternative to regular cooking fats like butter and other oils.

Infusing coconut oil is simple: Just cook some cannabis flowers and/or trim in oil and water for anywhere between 8 and 24 hours, depending on the recipe and the potency you’re looking for. Like when making cannabutter, it’s important you keep your temperatures low (to avoid destroying cannabinoids and burning your fat) and decarboxylate your flowers beforehand for a more potent finished product.

ADVANTAGES OF CANNABIS-INFUSED COCONUT OIL

As we mentioned earlier, coconut oil has a ton of benefits as a cooking oil, making it a super healthy way to infuse all your favourite dishes. The fact that some coconut oils don’t have a strong flavour makes them ideal for cooking everything from sweet treats to savoury delights. And if you’re looking to spice things up in the bedroom, you can also use infused coconut oil as a natural lubricant! Remember, THC is a natural vasodilator, and applying it to your skin can help direct blood flow to all the right places.

• Highly nutritious
• Vegan
• Versatile fat source (works in sweet and savoury dishes)
• Can also be used as a lubricant

DISADVANTAGES OF CANNABIS-INFUSED COCONUT OIL

There aren’t many serious disadvantages to using coconut oil, especially given its health benefits. Obviously, coconut oil doesn’t provide the same creamy texture and rich flavour to your meals as butter does. But whether that’s an issue or not really comes down to your eating habits, dietary requirements, and preferences. If you’re looking to infuse a batch of brownies, you might want to opt for cannabutter. On the other hand, if you want to infuse a healthy stir fry, coconut oil is likely the way to go.

• Less flavourful than butter
• Sometimes harder to access
• More expensive than butter

WHY USE CANNABIS-INFUSED OLIVE OIL?

If you’re looking for a cheaper, but still healthy, alternative to coconut oil, olive oil is your best bet. It has a delicious flavour that goes great in Mediterranean meals, sprinkled over salads, dips, or even just some freshly baked sourdough (are you drooling yet?).

The process of making infused olive oil is exactly the same as infusing coconut oil.

ADVANTAGES OF CANNABIS-INFUSED OLIVE OIL

First and foremost, olive oil is delicious. It’s also notably more accessible, both in terms of availability and price, than some of the other oils mentioned on this list. Plus, olive oil has a ton of health benefits: It’s rich in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants and hasn’t been associated with weight gain or obesity (unlike other cooking fats).

• Mild, pleasant flavour
• Nutritious
• Great for savoury dishes
• Easy to access
• More price/quality options

DISADVANTAGES OF CANNABIS-INFUSED OLIVE OIL

There are two main disadvantages to using olive oil as the base of your cannabis oil. First and foremost, olive oil burns at a lower temperature than other cooking oils, meaning it shouldn’t be used for anything cooked on high heat (like steaks or stir fry). Secondly, the strong flavour of olive doesn’t pair well with some dishes, such as sweets or desserts.

• Low smoke point
• Not ideal for sweet edibles
• “Nicer” olive oil is pricey

WHAT OTHER OILS CAN YOU USE TO MAKE CANNABIS EDIBLES?

Coconut oil, olive oil, and butter are far from your only options when it comes to making edibles. If you have the time, money, and weed supply, consider infusing some of the following oils to boost the variety in your kitchen.

AVOCADO OIL

• Almost 70% of avocado oil consists of oleic acid, a super healthy omega-9 fatty acid.
• Avocado oil has been shown to effectively increase HDL [1] (“good cholesterol”) in animals.
• Avocado oil is rich in antioxidants.
• Avocado oil may help the body absorb nutrients [2] like carotenoids from food.

WALNUT OIL

• Walnut oil has a deliciously rich and nutty flavour that goes great in salads, pestos, and dips.
• Walnut oil is rich in antioxidants.
• Substituting walnut oil for other cooking oils may help decrease LDL cholesterol levels.
• Walnut oil is good for the hair and skin.

RAPESEED OIL

• Rapeseed oil is rich in antioxidants and vitamin E.
• Thanks to its high smoke point, rapeseed oil is great for cooking dishes on high heat.
• Rapeseed oil is low in saturated fats and contains no trans fat.
• Unlike some other cooking fats, most rapeseed oil is non-GMO.

WHICH IS STRONGER, CANNABUTTER OR CANNA-OIL?

A major concern when picking an oil to use for cannabis cooking is how effective it is at absorbing THC and other cannabinoids from your weed. To deal with this dilemma, High Times author Elise McDonough [3] made different cannabis infusions and sent them off for lab testing to see which yielded the most THC.

Based on testing by SC Labs and C4 Laboratories, clarified butter, coconut oil, and olive oil yielded the best results. Still, McDonough mentions that more study is needed to expound upon and confirm these findings.

HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT FAT FOR CANNABIS EDIBLES

About to hit the kitchen and not sure which oil you should be infusing? Here are three factors to keep in mind to help you narrow down the choices.

POTENCY

If your top concern is cooking up the most mind-bogglingly potent edibles possible, you’ll want to choose a cooking fat with the highest absorption rate of THC and other cannabinoids. In that case, follow the findings by McDonough mentioned above and opt for clarified butter.

FLAVOUR

Besides getting you baked, you obviously want your edibles to taste great. Keep that in mind when choosing an oil to infuse, and consider infusing two or three different oils to give you some variety. That way, if you decide to host a multiple-course dinner party for your friends, you can use certain oils for the savoury dishes and butter for the desserts (with a vegan coconut oil option, of course).

TEXTURE

Like flavour, texture is a huge part of how we experience food. Whatever dish you’re cooking, make sure to think about how your oil will influence texture and “mouthfeel”. Most oils have a similar texture; butter and ghee, on the other hand, have very unique textures that’ll go great in some dishes and completely change others.

Stepping into the kitchen to make edibles? Click here for an overview of cannabutter and infused oil to understand the different ways they influence your meals.

How to Make Homemade Cannabis Oil (or CBD Oil)

Are you interested in making your own cannabis-infused oil? I don’t blame you! Making homemade cannabis oil is a great way to create a highly healing, concentrated, and versatile cannabis product. It is ready to use in edible recipes, topical salves, or even enjoy straight on its own. Especially if you use organic homegrown cannabis like we do, this is an excellent way to use up any extra or “fluffy” stuff too. It also happens to be very easy to make cannabis oil at home!

Follow along with these step-by-step instructions to learn how to make homemade cannabis oil. We’ll also briefly discuss the science behind cannabis oil, and what types of cannabis to use to make oil. Finally, we’ll go over various ways to use homemade cannabis oil, including some notes about caution and dosing with edibles.

What is Cannabis-Infused Oil

Cannabis oil is made by lightly heating (and thus infusing) cannabis in a “carrier oil”. Cannabinoids like CBD and THC, the most active components in cannabis, are both hydrophobic. That means they don’t like water, and are actually repelled by water molecules. On the flip side, CBD and THC are both fat-soluble. They like to bind with fatty acid molecules – such as those found in oil. When cannabis is steeped in oil, the THC and CBD molecules leave the buds or plant material and become one with the oil instead.

A wide variety of oils can be used to make cannabis oil. However, coconut oil and olive oil are the most popular and common. Coconut oil and olive oil are both pleasant-tasting and very nourishing for skin, making them versatile options for either medicated edibles or topical applications. Plus, they both have strong natural antifungal and antimicrobial properties. This helps prevent mold and extends the shelf life of your cannabis oil. Coconut oil is higher in saturated fat, which may bind fat-loving cannabinoids even more readily than olive oil.

Hemp Oil, CBD Oil, THC, or…

Your choice! You can make cannabis-infused oil with hemp or marijuana, depending on what is legal and available in your area. Or, what you’re desired end-results are. Hemp oil will only contain CBD (or a very minuscule amount of THC), while marijuana-infused oil will likely contain both THC and CBD. The ratio and concentration of THC and/or CBD depends on the strain of marijuana and particular plant it came from.

Generally speaking, THC is psychoactive and CBD is not. But THC does a lot more than change your state of mind! Studies show that THC has even stronger pain and stress-relieving properties than CBD, which is known to help with insomnia, seizures and inflammation. While they each have notable and distinct stand-alone benefits, an oil or salve containing both CBD and THC has the highest potential for a wide array of health benefits (albeit illegal in some places). Known as the “entourage effect”, the synergistic combination of both THC and CBD through whole-plant cannabis consumption and extracts is more powerful than either one on its own.

I personally like to use strains that are high in both THC and CBD to make oil and salves. To learn more about the differences between strains, CBD and THC, see this article: “Sativa, Indica & Autoflowers, the Differences Explained”.

Why Make Cannabis Oil

Cannabis oil is the foundation ingredient for ultra-healing homemade topical lotions, ointments, and salves – my favorite way to use it! Both THC and CBD have excellent anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties. Studies have shown that cannabinoids have the ability to reduce acne, fine lines and wrinkles, soothe redness and irritation, and balance natural skin oils. Also, cannabinoids (THC especially) are analgesic – meaning they reduce pain. I regularly use our homemade cannabis salve on my knees, ankles, and other aching or inflamed joints and muscles.

Furthermore, making cannabis oil is one of the most reliable ways to create medicated edible cannabis products. Even so, it is extremely difficult to determine the exact potency of homemade edibles or cannabis oil. Because of this, it is suggested to consume with caution in very small doses at first. Cannabis oil can be consumed on its own, or added to other edible cannabis recipes.

On the other hand, simply chopping up weed to add to your brownie mix is not a good idea, for many reasons. As we already explored, cannabinoids are fat-soluble. That means that they not only bind with oils during the infusion process, but also that cannabinoids are more readily absorbed and digested in our bodies when they’re consumed with fat – such as oil. If you add raw cannabis to baked goods, it is less likely that the cannabinoids will bind to fats for a consistent and effective edible experience. Using decarboxylated cannabis to make cannabis oil further increases precision and consistency.

Using Decarboxylated Cannabis for Oil

The cannabinoid compounds found in raw cannabis (THCA and CBDA) are not the same as those found in cannabis that has been heated – such as those inhaled (THC and CBD) when you ignite or vaporize cannabis, or when cooking with cannabis. The process of heating and “activating” cannabis is called decarboxylation. It is what makes cannabis psychoactive, and also more potent for medicinal applications.

Yet when it comes to heating cannabis, it is best to do so low, slow, and methodically. There are time and temperature “sweet spots” where raw THCA and CBDA are converted into active THC and CBD. But without a precise process, over-heating or under-heating cannabis can lead to uneven activation of THC and CBD. Even worse, it may even destroy the THC or CBD altogether!

Most cannabis oil recipes call for cannabis that has already been properly decarboxylated first. The most common and fuss-free way is to decarb cannabis in the oven, and then add it to oil over a very low heat afterwards – avoiding further decarboxylation. Some folks choose to decarb their raw cannabis on the stovetop simultaneously with the oil infusion process. However, that requires significantly more careful monitoring to hit that time-temperature sweet spot (and not ruin it).

Therefore, our cannabis oil recipe calls for decarboxylated cannabis as well. I provide very brief instructions on how to decarb raw cannabis below, but you can read further information about exactly how and why to decarb cannabis in the oven in this article.

    1 cup of loosely ground decarboxylated cannabis. To be more precise, I suggest to use a kitchen scale to weigh out approximately 7 to 10 grams (a quarter ounce or just over), depending on your tolerance.

1 cup coconut oil or other oil of choice, such as olive oil. We like to use organic coconut oil because it is solid at room temperature (and tastes good), which makes it perfect to eat a tiny spoonful of, spread on bread like butter, or use in a salve. (Note that our salve recipe calls for 1.5 cups coconut oil, so scale up if you intend to make that)

Optional: A few grams of raw cannabis. In addition to decarboxylated cannabis, we like to add a little handful of raw homegrown bud to our oil as well. While the most significant and well-documented health benefits from cannabis are attributed to active THC and CBD (found in decarbed cannabis), there are also emerging studies showing some promising health benefits from their raw forms – THCA and CBDA. Therefore, we like to use a little of each to create a full-spectrum and well-rounded finished product.

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) OR a crock pot/slow cooker

Fine mesh strainer

Storage container, such as a mason jar with lid

  • Note: This process will create a fairly strong cannabis odor in your home
  • HOW TO MAKE HOMEMADE CANNABIS OIL

    The most important aspect of making cannabis oil is to not overheat it. In fact, some folks choose to add decarbed cannabis to oil and allow it to infuse at room temperature (in the dark) for several weeks, rather than heating it at all.

    The heat applied in this recipe simply helps expedite the cannabinoid extraction process to bind with oil. However, because we are starting with already decarboxylated cannabis, the goal is to avoid heating it over 200 degrees. 120 to 180°F is even better. Maintaining a lower temperature will preserve the already-active THC and CBD content as well as the terpenes. That is, unless you intentionally want to convert THC to CBN to create a very sleepy and sedate final product.

    That is where the double-boiler or slow cooker (with a low temperature setting) come in handy! Even over the lowest flame, heating oil in a pot directly on the stove is much more difficult to prevent overheating, and also creates “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.

      If your cannabis is not yet decarboxylated, grind or tear it up into fairly small pieces. Spread evenly on a baking sheet, and heat it in the oven on 250°F for 25 to 30 minutes.

    Add water to the bottom pan of your double-boiler. Now add 1 cup of coconut oil to the top section of the double-boiler. Heat until it melts. (OR, on the low/warm setting in a crock pot)

    Stir in 7-10 grams of decarboxylated cannabis into the melted oil. Feel free to also include 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. You can continue this process for several hours if desired, though many recipes call for only 20 to 30 minutes. If available, use a probe thermometer to check the temperature. 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.

  • Transfer the strained cannabis-infused oil into a storage container. It is best to use a glass storage container with a tight-fitting lid. Store the finished oil in a cool dark location. We keep ours in the refrigerator.
  • Ideally, use your cannabis oil within 6 months to 1 year. As long as it doesn’t mold, the oil doesn’t “go bad” over time – though the potency can decrease as some THC will naturally convert to a more sleepy cannabinoid called CBN.

    How to Use Cannabis Oil

    When it is finished, you can use you cannabis oil any way you’d like!

      Add homemade cannabis oil in any body care recipe that calls for cannabis-infused oil, such as this topical salve recipe. It can help heal sore muscles, joints, inflammation, eczema, psoriasis, and even slow or prevent skin cancer cell growth!

    Use cannabis oil in meals or medicated edible recipes. Try to use as low of heat and cooking time as possible to preserve cannabinoids and terpenes. Look for “no bake” recipes, or ones that you can only lightly heat the oil again in a double-boiler. For example, you could make these chocolates, some no-bake cookies, or add medicated coconut oil to a frosting recipe. Another option is to use the coconut oil like butter on toast, or mix it into already-cooked pasta or sauce. (See the dosing information and caution below!)

    Enjoy a small dose in a cup of hot tea or other warm beverage, perhaps with a dab of honey.

    Consume a small dose of the oil straight on its own. Try holding a small amount of oil in your mouth or below your tongue (sublingually). According to Leafly, “sublingual dosing offers a fast onset, shorter duration, and lower intensity than traditional oral cannabis edibles”.

  • Use the cannabis-infused oil directly on skin
  • Homemade Cannabis Oil Potency: Proceed with Caution

    Homemade cannabis edibles are tricky because it is very difficult to determine their exact potency. Without laboratory testing (which is expensive and not readily available to most people) it is virtually impossible to calculate the THC and CBD content of the finished cannabis oil or medicated edibles that you prepared.

    First of all, if you are using homegrown cannabis like we do, then you likely don’t know the strength of the bud you started the process with. Even if a strain is marketed to have a particular THC and CBD content or ratio, homegrown plants can vary wildly depending on how they were grown, harvested, dried, cured, and stored. Furthermore, there are variations within plants (expressed as phenotypes) that leads them to have differences even among plants of the same strain.

    Say you make oil or edibles with cannabis purchased from a dispensary, and thus has a tested and known THC and CBD content. Even then, the potency of the end product depends on several variables that make it difficult to calculate: How old the pot is, and how you stored it. The time and temperature it was decarboxylated. The process you used to make your oil or edible. Did you cook the the edible further? How old is the edible, and how has it been stored? All of those factors can either increase active THC and CBD content, or decrease it with further heat and time.

    Dosing Homemade Cannabis Oil & Edibles

    Always start out with very small amounts of cannabis edibles or oil (particularly those containing THC) – also known as “micro-dosing”. I don’t consume edibles often, though we regularly vaporize cannabis and make salve. When we do make cannabis coconut oil, I always start out with only 1/4 to 1/2 a teaspoon of straight oil and then scale up next time if needed – but not right away!

    Once you do figure out the perfect personal dose for your homemade oil, you can work your math magic with an edible recipe to determine how much of it to eat. For example, say my perfect dose is 1/2 teaspoon. I want to make this chocolate recipe, which calls for 1/2 a cup of coconut oil. With a quick Google search, I see that there are 24 teaspoons in half a cup. That means there are 48 Deanna-size doses worth of cannabis oil in that batch of chocolate!

    In a perfect world, that recipe yields me 48 individual chocolates, ready to pop in my mouth in the “just right” dose. However, the final yield will depend on the type of chocolate mold I use. Perhaps I will end up with only 24 chocolates. Then, I would need to only eat half a chocolate at a time. Get it? You can apply the same math magic to a cookie recipe, tub of frosting, or whatever else you dream up – assuming you portion them out evenly.

    The Effects of Cannabis In Edibles Versus Smoking or Vaporizing

    Remember, it takes far longer to feel the effects when you consume cannabis as an edible than when you smoke or vaporize it! Rather than instantly crossing the blood-brain barrier via the lungs, ingested cannabis needs to go through your digestive system before you’ll feel anything. That process can take between one to three hours, depending on your metabolism and what else is in your system.

    The most common mistake that people make when consuming cannabis products (aside from eating too much) is getting impatient. They think it isn’t working, and take another dose shortly after the first one. Then when it all hits, that mellow ride can quickly turn into an “oh shit” moment.

    In addition to taking longer to “kick in”, edibles linger in your system. Meaning, you feel the effects for significantly longer. A high from ingested cannabis can last up to 12 hours.

    Furthermore, the effects of edibles are different than those felt when smoking or vaporizing cannabis. The edible experience is often much more intense, potentially disorienting, and provides a stronger “body high”. It can also cause a racing heartbeat and/or nausea if you overdo it, which can be very alarming and uncomfortable.

    Ready to get infusing?

    In closing, take it easy when it comes to edibles, especially if it this is all new to you. The last thing I want is for people to feel sick or have a bad experience. But if you do it right, oils and edibles can be powerful and wonderful healing tools to have at your disposal.

    Finally, please remember that kiddos are especially curious about edible goodies, so keep your stash hidden securely away!

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    Come learn how to easily make your own cannabis-infused oil, ready to use in medicated edible recipes, topical salves, or even enjoy straight on its own.