Cannabis, also known as marijuana or weed, is a mind-altering drug that comes from either the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant. These plants have been widely used for centuries for both medicinal and recreational use.
While many people choose to smoke or vape cannabis, edibles have grown in popularity. These edibles often contain cannabutter — a cannabis-infused butter that can be purchased at a local cannabis dispensary or made at home.
But cannabis is illegal in many states and countries, so always check with your local government before using it or related products.
What is cannabutter?
As the name implies, cannabutter is a combination of cannabis and butter. It can contain only CBD, which isn't psychoactive, or both CBD and THC, which gives it mind-altering properties.
It's most commonly used to make edible cannabis products, particularly baked goods like cookies and brownies, and candies.
Cannabis contains two main compounds known as cannabinoids — tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is a psychoactive compound that leads to a high, while CBD is not mind-altering.
Depending on its intended use, cannabutter may contain only CBD or both CBD and THC.
Cannabis offers many health benefits and is becoming more accepted as a natural treatment for various diseases and ailments.
Cannabutter is a versatile, smoke-free cannabis product that can be used in different edible cannabis products, to improve sleep quality and help manage nausea, vomiting, and pain, making it a popular choice.
May alleviate cancer-related symptoms
Cannabis is widely prescribed to help treat cancer-related pain.
Many cancer treatments lead to undesired symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and pain, and a lot of research focuses on natural remedies to relieve them.
Cannabis has been used as a natural treatment for nausea and vomiting throughout history. In fact, its anti-nausea properties were one of its first discovered medical benefits.
Cannabis contains compounds called cannabinoids. They affect your body's endocannabinoid system, which regulates various bodily processes, including mood, memory, and appetite.
While THC has been most extensively studied, it appears that other cannabinoids, such as CBD, may also help treat nausea and vomiting. But excessive cannabis use can lead to the same symptoms.
Cannabutter can be incorporated into foods, making it a useful, smoke-free, edible option for people with cancer.
Cannabis is commonly cited as an effective sleep aid. One review noted that THC alone or combined with CBD improved sleep.
While the underlying mechanism needs more research, it appears that these two cannabinoids affect your body's natural sleep-wake cycle and decrease pain-associated insomnia.
These may help relieve cancer-related symptoms and improve sleep. However, cannabutter may contain inconsistent concentrations of THC, making it easy to overconsume.
How to make it
Though you can purchase cannabutter from a local dispensary in countries and states where cannabis is legal, many people choose to make their own.
To ensure you make cannabutter properly, follow these steps exactly as outlined and be sure to use THC-free cannabis.
Step 1: Decarboxylation
It's important to bake cannabis before making cannabutter.
In its raw form, it contains tetrahydrocannabinol acid (THCA) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), which are the inactive versions of THC and CBD.
By heating these compounds, they undergo decarboxylation — also known as decarbing — and become the active compounds THC and CBD.
To activate THC and CBD, preheat your oven to 240°F (115°C) and place 1/2-ounce (14 grams) of cannabis onto a baking sheet. Allow it to cook for approximately 30–40 minutes.
If you're using fresh cannabis, you may need to let it cook for up to 1 hour. Conversely, if you're using older, drier cannabis, shorten the cooking time to around 20 minutes.
Be sure to stir and rotate the cannabis every 10 minutes to prevent burning. You will know it's decarboxylated when its color changes from a bright green to a dark brown-green.
Finally, make sure your oven does not exceed 240°F (115°C), as this can destroy important oil compounds called terpenes. These compounds are responsible for the smell, flavor, and medicinal effects of the plant.
Step 2: Stovetop cooking
Once the cannabis has been activated, you need the following:
- 1/2 ounce (14 grams) decarboxylated cannabis
- 2 cups (500 ml) of water
- 2 sticks of butter (approximately 8 ounces or 225 grams)
- 1 medium-sized saucepan with a lid
- 1 wooden spoon
- 2 cheese cloths
- 1 medium-sized glass bowl or container
On very low heat, bring the water to a boil and then add the butter. Once the butter has completely melted, stir it well and add the cannabis to the mixture. Put the lid on and allow it to simmer for 3–4 hours.
Be sure to stir the mixture every 20–30 minutes to prevent burning. The mixture is done when it's thick and glossy on the top.
Once it's finished cooking, place two layers of cheesecloth over a glass bowl or container, pour the mixture onto the cheesecloth, and allow the liquid to drain through.
Let the remaining liquid cool at room temperature for 30–60 minutes, then place the bowl in the refrigerator until the butter has completely separated from the water and appears as a thick top layer.
Carefully scrape the butter from the bowl and place it in a separate container. Store it in the refrigerator for immediate or short-term use. Moreover, it can be kept in an air-tight container in the freezer for up to 6 months.
When making edible cannabis products at home, it's best to use half cannabutter and half regular butter in most recipes. However, you may want to test smaller doses of cannabutter to prevent overconsumption.
Safety and side effects
Using cannabutter doesn't come without risks. It's difficult to know the exact concentration of THC in your product, making it easier to overconsume.
Unlike smoking or vaping, finding an appropriate dosage for edible cannabis products can be difficult due to varying THC concentrations.
This variation is largely due to the quality of the cannabis used, preparation methods, or where the product was purchased.
Furthermore, edible cannabis products like cannabutter have longer latency periods, as they're metabolized differently than inhalable cannabis products.
With edibles, it can take 30–90 minutes to notice effects, with reactions peaking around 2–4 hours. However, this depends on how much was consumed, as well as your gender, body weight, and metabolism.
In contrast, smoking or vaping cannabis takes effect within 20–30 minutes and usually wears off in 2–3 hours.
Since cannabutter is added to many baked goods and candy, it can be easy to unintentionally overconsume it due to the enjoyable flavor and unknown THC concentration.
Common side effects of edible cannabis include dry mouth, sleepiness, paranoia, impaired motor control, and altered senses. If overconsumed, you may experience hallucinations, delusions, or even psychosis.
It's important to securely store your cannabutter and other edible cannabis products since they often resemble candy, cookies, or other baked products.
This can pose a great risk to people who mistake these products for regular food. In fact, children under the age of 5 are at the highest risk of accidental exposure to edible cannabis products.
Depending on the country or state you live in, medicinal or recreational use of cannabis may be legal, so be sure to familiarize yourself with applicable laws. To ensure pure and potent cannabis, be sure to only purchase from licensed and legal dispensaries.