What Is the Difference Between Weed Oil and Cannabutter?
And where does CBD oil fit in?
With 4/20 around the corner and more legalized recreational marijuana than ever before, both heavy stoners and first-time tokers are asking the same question when it comes to weed in the kitchen: What is the difference between weed oil or cannabis oil and cannabutter (aka marijuana butter, cannabis butter, or weed butter)? While they do have a lot of similarities, confusing the two can have serious consequences—getting uncomfortably stoned, ruining a pan, or even wasting your weed. To truly understand their unique and similar qualities, we need to look at how they’re made, how they’re used, and where you can get them.
How They’re Made
While historians have found recipes involving weed dating back to 15th century Europe and even 10th century India, pot brownies were introduced to pop (or should we say “pot”?) culture in the 1968 movie “I Love You Alice B. Toklas.” Objectively, the most common way to make weed-laced snacks is marijuana butter, but baking with cannabis oil can be even more effective. While these two products have many similar uses and come from the same cannabis plant, they’re produced and used in very different ways.
Cannabutter/Marijuana Butter (and Cannabis-Infused Oil)
Beyond Pot Brownies The History and Evolution of Cannabis Cookbooks Part of weed culture since the 1960s, weed butter (or whichever other name you want to call it) can be made in a variety of ways. The process begins with some version of decarboxylation—or activating the THC. (Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the psychoactive chemical compound of cannabis—what gets you stoned and what separates marijuana from hemp.) Decarboxylation can be done a multitude of ways, but typically involves cooking the weed at a low temperature for a prolonged period of time in butter or oil. Keep in mind, however, like any other dish you’re making, too much time in the oven or too much heat will torch the ingredients—rendering the THC ineffective.
While weed butter is best for baking in my experience, vegans and the health-conscious can rest easy knowing that using olive, vegetable, canola, or coconut oil for the process will produce a very similar product (which is cannabis-infused oil). One thing to consider in choosing your oil or butter is fat content—the higher the fat content, the more THC it’s capable of absorbing.
Finally, strain the weed from the oil or butter using a cheesecloth. The finished product is a potent and effective weed-infused ingredient, perfect for nearly any cooking application—minding any food preparation processes that could burn the THC.
Ivan Stajkovic / EyeEm / Getty Images
Now that we’ve gone over cannabis-infused oils, let’s dive into their similarly monikered cousin: cannabis oil. Similar to olive, vegetable, or coconut oil, cannabis oil is made through a chemical extraction process. There are a variety of methods that the marijuana industry uses to extract oil, resulting in similar but unique products. Most cannabis extraction methods involve a solvent, like butane or CO2—or extreme heat and pressure—to extract the cannabinoids. These processes can be time-consuming and usually involve expensive laboratory equipment. Without proper training and the right tools, extracting THC from weed using certain methods is downright dangerous. Unless you’re using a solventless method, the excess yield—or product that isn’t cannabis oil—needs to be removed in order for a clean, non-toxic final result. For those of us who aren’t chemistry experts, most methods of this process should be left to the professionals.
Another potential point of confusion: CBD oil, which is not the same as cannabis oil. CBD-only products, which have skyrocketed in mainstream popularity, do not contain any THC—meaning they won’t have any of the psychoactive effects of THC/marijuana, but are widely touted for the health benefits of CBD (or cannibidiol), such as treating chronic pain, and helping to reduce stress and anxiety.
And then there’s hemp oil, which contains neither THC nor CBD, but is widely used for all sorts of products from soap to supplements. For the purposes of this article, that’s all we’ll say about CBD oil and hemp oil—so back to cannabutter and cannabis oil.
How They Can Be Ingested
Marijuana Butter (and Cannabis-Infused Oil)
Marijuana butter and cannabis-infused oil can be ingested in a variety of ways. Once you’ve created the product, it can be used as a cooking ingredient for any recipe—minding that most baked goods work best with butter. However, one thing to consider is the temperature of the dish you’re preparing—heating the marijuana butter or oil to temperatures exceeding 245 degrees Fahrenheit will burn the THC. For a more simple application, the butter can be used as a spread on toast or even just dosed orally by itself. Some choose cannabis-infused oil as a medicinal ingredient in topical salves, lotions, and ointment, as it can be absorbed through the skin once it has gone through the decarboxylation process.
Cannabis oil extracted via heat and pressure can be used in topicals or ingested by itself orally, but the taste and consistency leave a lot to be desired. The most common way to consume cannabis oil, also known as “concentrate” or “dab,” is by vaporizing or smoking it, but it can also act as an ingredient for an easier method of making weed butter. By simply melting the dab with some butter or oil at a low temperature, mixing them into one substance, you’ve made marijuana butter! Keep in mind, however, that cannabis oil needs to adhere to the same temperature cap of 245 degrees Fahrenheit to minimize the destruction of the THC. One downside to cooking with butter derived from cannabis oil versus marijuana is the stickiness of the product—certain types of oil can leave behind a difficult residue on cookware. (For those reading this tip too late, try rescuing your pan with 99 percent isopropyl alcohol! It’s super effective.)
However, making marijuana butter with concentrate is not the same as using traditional bud. Firstly, depending on how the oil is extracted, the THC can be already activated. This means you can skip the process of heating it up—it’s already ready to be used or ingested. Usually dispensaries can direct you to types of dab that have and haven’t undergone the THC activation process. Second, and perhaps more importantly, cannabis oil is an extremely concentrated (hence the nickname!) form of marijuana and can be much more effective than using regular Mary Jane. A good way to measure a comfortable dose is by simply doing the math. If a gram of cannabis oil is 70 percent THC (dispensaries usually disclose this information on the package), that means it contains 700mg of THC. With 48 teaspoons in one cup of butter, each teaspoon serving would boast 14.5mg of THC if you melted the cannabis oil gram with the butter. Most dispensaries have edibles in individual 10mg THC pieces, which is a great starting point for seeing what is comfortable. Another major difference is flavor: Some types of cannabis oil have intense flavors which carry over to whatever you’re cooking. Pick your concentrate carefully, as it can really affect the taste of the dish.
Differences in Accessibility
One major difference between marijuana butter and cannabis oil is their accessibility. In states where marijuana is legal, cannabis oil can be readily found at nearly any dispensary. In one-gram packages, cannabis oil comes in a plethora of consistencies, including shatter, wax, crumble, cake batter, sauce, diamonds, and more. While dispensaries in legal states aren’t hard to find, marijuana butter can be. While many shops carry a mass-produced industrial edible marijuana oil or butter product, other shops only carry smokable cannabis oil and traditional bud. It can be a niche product, and I’d suggest calling ahead to check availability. As someone with the privilege to access legal weed, I’ve still found the most consistent way to have marijuana butter is to make it myself. For those in less marijuana-friendly states, cannabis oil can be impossible to find and using the traditional method of making a personal batch of weed butter is their best bet for experiencing edibles this 4/20.
All in all, they’re not so different—but they’re definitely not the same. Cannabis oil can be used to make marijuana butter, but not all marijuana butter is made from cannabis oil. While nearly anyone with cooking experience can make marijuana-infused oil or butter, making cannabis oil should be left to the chemists, and while weed and cannabis oil are mostly readily available in legal states, pre-made marijuana butter can be hard to find—leaving both legal residents and those getting their bud on the black market in the same boat: making it at home.
Or Leave It to the Pros
How Cannabis-Infused Edibles Evolved Into High Art & Exacting Science
Disclaimer: This article is about cooking with cannabis, which may or may not be legal in your area. Neither Chowhound nor its parent company encourage or endorse any irresponsible behavior or illegal activity. If you choose to use cannabis , please do so responsibly and only where permitted by law.
Header image by Chowhound, using photos from Getty Images and Shutterstock.
What is the difference between THC weed oil and cannabutter? And how do you use them?
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
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.
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”.
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.