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An Intro To Cooking With Cannabis

Cooking with cannabis can be very rewarding. You can make edibles like brownies, medicinal oil-based tinctures, and everything in between. An added bonus is that cooking with marijuana can be surprisingly good for you. After all, cannabis contains over 140 different kinds of cannabinoids, many of which have promising health benefits.  

Below, you’ll find everything you need to know about making your own edibles, how to dose them, and even a few recipes to check out.

Getting Started

To ensure the greatest therapeutic effect, always try and use the highest quality cannabis flower possible whenever making edibles. High-quality flower, incidentally, doesn’t always mean “flower with the most THC.”

A high-quality cannabis flower will ideally contain a generous amount of terpenes, the aromatic compounds found within cannabis that give it its unique therapeutic effects. The presence of terpenes is one of the best indicators of how a cannabis variety will affect you. 

Another great way to determine the quality of your cannabis is to look for products that have a certificate of analysis, which means it is lab-tested. In Europe and Canada, you can look for cannabis cultivated in a GMP-certified facility.

A certificate of analysis will also let you be sure the flowers are free of contaminants, including pesticides. This is especially crucial for purchasing hemp. Hemp is a bioaccumulator, and as such, may absorb heavy metals and other runoff from soil.

What Strain to Choose?

One of the most common edible questions is “what strain should I use?” This often winds up being translated into the Indica vs. Sativa problem.

Indica and Sativa are two different phenotypes of the marijuana plant — that much is objective biology. The experiences you’re likely to have with each, however, are largely subjective and depend on a wide variety of factors. These include your age, weight, and metabolism.

That said, subjective experiences from other users tell us that Indica varieties are often thought of as a “body high,” and sometimes used to help treat conditions like pain and insomnia — thus thought of for nighttime use. A Sativa generally has more of a cerebral high to it, can be fairly energetic, and are generally used during the daytime. 

Hybrids are a mix of the two types, and as such, are the most common types of flowers available. 

You can use THC- or CBD-rich cannabis flower to make your edibles. You can also add CBD-rich flower to a THC-based recipe if you’re worried about getting too high. There is some evidence that CBD can reduce the negative effects of too much THC.

Decarboxylation

The next step is decarboxylating your cannabis. This process converts the raw acid forms of the cannabinoids into more bioavailable forms. For instance, THCA, when heated, converts into the psychotropic THC. 

To decarboxylate your cannabis you’ll begin by breaking up any large buds with your hands. Spread your flower on a baking sheet and bake at 240°F (115°C) for 40 minutes. Remove and let cool. 

Choose Your Fat

Cannabis and fat work better together. The most common types of cannabis fats are cannabutter and canna-oil. Canna oil tends to be made with canola, olive, or coconut oil. Coconut oil is conventionally viewed as the best carrier fat option thanks to its additional health benefits.

How to Make Cannabutter

One great way to make cannabutter is through a process that combines the butter with water. The water prevents the cannabis from burning and evaporates as it cooks.

To make cannabutter, combine one pound (four sticks) of unsalted butter with two cups of water in a saucepan. Add dried, ground decarboxylated cannabis flower once the butter has melted. The amount of flower you use — anywhere from half an ounce to a full ounce — will vary depending on your desired potency, but an ounce is most common. Combine and simmer on low for four hours. 

Let cool and strain through a cheesecloth. Refrigerate until the butter is solid. You can then pop the butter out and scrape away any remaining bits of solidified water. Store in the fridge with a clear warning label and be sure to keep away from children. 

Making Canna-oil 

Select your carrier fat (olive, canola, grapeseed, or coconut oils, generally). You’ll need two cups for a standard recipe though you can always modify the amount. A standard amount of flower to use with 2 cups is one ounce (28 grams), though again this depends on the desired potency.

Heat oil over medium-low and add dried, ground, decarboxylated cannabis flower. Simmer on low for three to four hours. Let cool and strain through a cheesecloth. Store in a jar in the fridge.

Dosing considerations

Edibles can take anywhere from 30 minutes to a full two hours to kick in. This delayed onset time increases the likelihood of taking too much, as some people may not wait two hours before eating more. 

Edibles also stay in the body longer than other consumption methods — up to eight hours. They’re also subject to something called the first pass effect, which states that edibles become less potent as they’re digested. 

You can potentially fight the first pass effect by using the right kinds of fats. A recent study, for instance, suggested that taking CBD with long-chain triglyceride fats can help protect it from the first pass effect. MCT oil is a popular choice. 

Leafly also has a useful chart that lets you know what effects to expect at each dose. 

How to dose

A good starting dose for beginners is 5 mg of THC or 10 mg of CBD per edible. Those who are especially sensitive to THC may want to opt for a starting dose of 2.5 mg THC instead.

To calculate the THC yield, take your flower’s potency (expressed as a percentage) and multiply that by 1,000 (1,000 mg in 1 gram). 

In this case, let’s say the flower you’re using is 15% THC. This means one gram of that flower will contain 150 mg of THC (potency of 15% = 0.15  x 1,000 mg). An ounce of that flower will then contain 4,200 mg of THC (150 mg of THC x 28 grams). One ounce is typically the amount of flower you’ll use in a cannabutter/oil recipe.

You can expect to lose between 20-30% of potency when making edibles. A 20% loss for our sample ounce of flower here would mean our cannabutter contained 3,360 mg THC (4,200 mg THC – [4,200 mg THC x 0.2]).

Say your edible recipe calls for a half-cup of cannabutter. That’s one-fourth of your cannabutter/oil total (2 cups). This means a half a cup will contain 840 mg THC. 

(3,360 x 0.25). Divide that by the recipe yield. If the yield is, say, 20 cookies that means each cookie will contain ~42 mg THC (840 mg THC / 20 cookies).

What to do if you’re too high

If you find yourself feeling a little too high there are a few things you can do. The first, and best, would be to smoke or vaporize CBD/hemp flower.

Assuming you don’t have CBD lying around you can also take Ibuprofen as this can lessen the THC’s effects, chew on black peppercorns, consume citrus, take a shower, take a nap, or exercise. If none of those help, try calling a friend and ask them to help you assess the situation.

Recipe recommendations

Contrary to what you might think, it’s actually best to use cannabis in a raw (uncooked) form whenever possible. Using raw cannabis preserves the majority of terpenes and cannabinoids in the plant, allowing for the greatest therapeutic effect. 

One great way to utilize uncooked cannabis is to use canna-oil to make a salad vinaigrette or dressing. You can also drizzle canna oil over pasta, use it to dip bread in, or even make condiments like an aioli (mayonnaise) with it; it’s also especially wonderful when used to make a bright chimichurri sauce. And if you want to cook with it you can always utilize canna-oil in everything from eggs for breakfast to soups and beyond.

Cannabutter tends to be the more popular choice for dessert-based edibles. A brownie is the classic choice, but you can also make cookies, cakes and even truffles with it.

Making your own cannabis edibles is not only fun but can be healthy as you can choose the strain, cannabinoid or terpene profile that’s best suited for your condition. All you need is to make an edible is to infuse the fat of your choice with dried cannabis flower. You can then use this fat to create the infused treat of your choice. 

Patients seeking to maximize the therapeutic potential of cannabis should use it in a raw application (i.e. salad dressing) as heat may burn away compounds like terpenes.

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