Botanical Base Infusions
Making your own Cannabis Medicine is super simple
If you've gathered all of the supplies suggested in the Gadget Guide you're well over halfway to the goal of a fully functional cannabis kitchen. The next step is to get the hang of your botanical base infusions. Unlike an extraction, whose goal is to break down and pull out (extract) beneficial compounds from a given material, an infusion is meant to absorb or soak up beneficial qualities like a sponge. Today I'm going to show you a very simple method for infusing fat and sugar based liquid solvents like honey, glycerin, fractionated coconut, and massage oils. Without farther adieu'
Here are the easiest infusions in the cannabis kitchen
First things first
You're going to want to gather a few really basic supplies:
You can use your herbal-infused oils to create massage oils, salves, lip balms, facial serums, hair treatments, body creams, soaps, and more though you will want to select your carrier oil accordingly. The possibilities are many, you can infuse just about anything from canola to an unscented massage oil base. Jojoba oil and olive oil are particularly wise choices because they have a long shelf life and are suitable for many different applications. Avocado oil is another excellent choice that is known to soak up higher concentrations of cannabis compounds.
You can also use just about any herb but there is a method to the madness. Infusions are a little different from making a tea. You're not dissolving water soluble constituents into a liquid. Instead, you're causing fatty cells within the liquid to assimilate as many of the beneficial compounds from the plant as possible. There are only so many places for those compounds to go so space is limited. In order to get the highest quality concentration you will want to infuse your base oils separately using only one variety of herb per infusion jar.
there are two popular methods of infusing herbal oil.
The 'cold method' is done at room temperature. It can take several weeks but is relatively easy and requires little attention. Alternatively, the 'hot method' requires a direct heat source and close attention, but can be prepared relatively quickly. Each has it's benefits. If I'm making an infused oil using delicate flower tops I prefer to use the cold method. It feels more natural and, in my opinion, it seems to absorb and hold more of the flowers aroma. On the other hand, if I'm making an infusion using tuff material like bark, roots, resinous blossoms, or fresh waxy leaves I might opt for the hot method which will soften up the marc making it more malleable.
today I'm going to show you how to infuse oils using the hot method
The nuts and bolts of infusion
1) Prep your infusion
Cannabis takes a little more convincing than most other herbs. If you haven't mastered decarboxylation by now you will want to revisit my blog Perfecting Preparation. Once you've got your packages wrapped in cheesecloth and ready to go we can get down to business. If I'm making medicine to use at home use I generally observe the 'simpler's method' wherein there is no hard and fast rule regarding ratio. I like to use 1/2 oz of prepared cannabis material per 16 oz mason jar full of solvent. But you can play with combinations until you find what fits for you. Once you've settled on your ratios you can place your cheesecloth wrapped cannabis material (marc) into separate mason jars. I like to make a little bit of everything at the same time so I can always craft special formulations on the fly. Today I'm making cannabis infused glycerin, massage oil, and honey. Once you've placed your parcel into their respective jars you can cover them with your solvent of choice, making sure that it fills all of the nooks and cranny's of your cannabis bundle by giving the jar a little shake.
2) Prep your equipment
This is also up for interpretation. The only stipulation here is that you have a heat source capable of bringing your infusion oil to a temperature of about 100 degrees F. (38 degrees C.) A crock pot lined with a damp towel and set to low could do the trick. So could a yogurt-maker, a heating pad, a hot-spring, or an electric blanket. Whatever low heat source you have on hand that will slowly warm the oil without frying the herbs.
Once your infusion is snugly secured in its heat source you will need a way to monitor its progress. You can use a heat sensor, a candy thermometer, or your sensitive skin. The oil should come just slightly above body temperature causing a warming sensation when dabbed onto the inside of the wrist.
3) Be patient
Allow your infusions to sit in the the closely monitored heat source of your choosing for a minimum of 3 hours. When it is ready you will notice that the oil takes on a hint of color, scent, or flavor. To be extra sure that you get the most out of your infusion pop on an oven mitt from time to time and give each jar a good to shake.
4) Cool and Press
When you are satisfied with the strength of your infusion you can carefully remove the jar and take off the lid to cool. Depending on the formulation I might even leave the jar in a cool dark room for a few days before straining. When you're ready, you can remove the cannabis pouch quite easily and press it by hand. Unless, of course, you want to go full hog in which case the same press used for tincture should do the trick.
Depending on the antibacterial properties of the plant and base oil you can keep these infusions for 6-12 months. If you would like to prolong the shelf life of topical use oils you can always add 2-3 drops of Vitamin E oil per fluid ounce of oil as a preservative. It may last even longer if you avoid making direct contact with the oil in its storage container. This is because the microbes from your skin can contaminate the infusion causing it to turn sour or mold. I find that a tincture bottle with a glass dropper is an ideal way to keep your every day body oils safe from impurities. Sugar based edible infusions like honey and glycerin have a slightly different composition. If you sterilize your jars in boiling water before infusing to keep them free of impurities and store them in a cool dark room they could last significantly longer.
I've certainly never kept it around long enough to find out.
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I'm Mary J Poppins, herbalist, cannabis connoisseur and founder of the Sativa Science Club. Keep an eye on my blog Cannabis for Curious Creatures for nifty new products reviews, DIY tutorials, and scientific insights.