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Preparing Cannabis Tinctures


In the late nineteenth century, cannabis tinctures were widely prescribed for analgesic, sedative, and narcotic purposes: “It was used as the primary pain reliever until the invention of aspirin”[i]. Sativex is a sublingual cannabis tincture spray produced in England by Bayer Pharmaceuticals. It’s now available by prescription in Canada for MS, neuropathic pain, and as an adjunctive treatment for cancer patients. A nearly identical product produced by the VICS (Vancouver Island Compassion Society) called “Cannamist” has been available to their members for over ten years. The simple procedure of soaking cannabis in alcohol is no secret.

In simple terms, a non-polar solvent (ex. butane, water, olive oil) is what is widely used to extract oils in the food and health industry. Alcohol is a polar solvent meaning it will extract some of the carbon-based molecules and other ionic compounds from the plant, resulting in a wider spectrum of extractives from the material (including chlorophyll, cellulose, and waxes). It is preferable to separate the trichome heads from the plant bulk first to eliminate the number of non-medicinal compounds and sometimes the potentially harmful contaminants, that will be infused into the alcohol.


A standard ratio for dried plant tinctures is 1 gram for every 5 milliliters of alcohol. Higher percentage alcohol will extract more compounds, creating a stronger tincture. This along with the length of time the solution is left to macerate, in a cool dark place, will vary the potency of the tincture. 4-6 weeks is recommended but 2 weeks may suffice in an emergency. Shake the jar once a day. When your satisfied with the potency, any plant material can be filtered out and the solution stirred before being pouring into bottles for administration.

Due to many the conditions or medications for which alcohol is contra-indicated, the V-CBC (where I learned to prepare cannabis), avoid using alcohol altogether. Instead they are using a similar process over a longer time-period, with Glycerin, that is a sweet tasting substitute.

A spray or drop of tincture under the tongue will absorb quickly into the bloodstream through the mucosal membrane of the mouth.  Although some will probably be swallowed, most will avoid the gastro-intestinal tract where the medicinal compounds are broken down by the liver.  Administered using a dropper, one can monitor very closely their adequate dose.


In American states where dispensaries are licensed, Cannabis Based Medicinal Extracts (CBMEs) are screened for safety by certified third party inspectors like Steephill Lab, in Mendocino County. These private laboratories have assisted dispensaries in raising the standard of medicinal cannabis products. CBDscience LLC has developed three distinct cannabis tinctures: one “High CBD and low THC (4:1 ratio),” one “THC and CBD (1:1 ratio),” and one “high THC and low CBD (20:1 ratio).”

Tinctures are one of the many extracted cannabis products that were made available as a result of the Supreme Court of Canada ruling earlier this year.

(previously appeared at Lift)

[i] “History of Cannabis”. BBC News. 2 November 2001.

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Hand Rubbed Hash


(Man gathering resin from cannabis plants in Nepal)

Although not as productive as dry sifting or making water hash, hand rubbing is the most basic method of separating the medicinal trichome heads from the body of the plant. This important step is at the center of the constitutional challenge that I took to the Supreme Court of Canada in March of 2015. By separating the medicinal ingredients from the inert bulk of the plant, it is easy to produce a variety of edible and topical cannabis products for the wide-range of conditions that patients who use medical cannabis suffer from.

When one approaches a mature cannabis plant, it appears to be covered by a fine layer of whitish fuzz; when you get closer you see the fuzz looks more like a dense mat of small mushrooms. The mushroom caps (trichome heads) are sticky resin glands designed to catch pollen from male cannabis plants in order to reproduce. While the female plant matures, she produces more and more resin in an attempt to increase her chances of reproduction. The skilled gardener will ensure that the males and females remain apart so that no seeds are produced.


(close up view of the resinous trichome heads)

The thickening layer of medicinal resin will stick to anything that touches it and easily separate with a little friction. As you further fondle the flower clusters and resin covered foliage, the trichome heads will burst, releasing the encapsulated resin. The sticky resin will accumulate on your fingers until it becomes a dark malleable tar. This is an incidental form of extraction that occurs while the plant is being manicured. Often called “finger hash”, the collected resin will soon coat a pair of scissor blades, gloves and or a table top with the soft black tar, requiring a sharp edge to scrape it into shapes (commonly a ball or brick).

This method has persisted in cannabis fields across mountainsides in India, or under the African sun in Morocco or Malawi from ancient times up to the present day. This is the main method of resin collection in Nepal, where the cannabis plant has long been revered. Hand rubbing can draw the resins from a living plant without damaging it several times throughout the growing season, allowing the resin to regenerate. Interestingly, this gentle practice fits the concept of respecting all living beings that is inherent in Tibetan Buddhism.


(a Nepalese Temple Ball)

The resin provides the plant with protection from wind, low humidity and Ultra Violet radiation. At higher altitudes, where cannabis produces more of this protective layer, hand rubbed hash is known to offer a notable aroma and potency and is referred to as “cream”. Photo-Journalist Laurence Cherniak in his “Great Books of Hashish” documents the production of Nepalese Temple Balls which often include other medicinal plant resins such as opium.

If you would like to support the constitutional challenge to allow patients to access medicinal cannabis extracts please visit the Fundraising page; share it with your peers and donate if you are able.

By Owen Smith

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Making Water Hash


(image: MedicalJane)

Water hash is another simple way to extract the trichome heads from the bulk of the cannabis plant. This important step in obtaining the desired medicinal compounds without ingesting the bulk of the plant is at the center of the constitutional challenge that I took to Ottawa in the spring of 2015. Using simple and ancient techniques, similar to making dry sift hash, water or bubble hash is made using water to carry the medicinal trichome heads through the sieve or screen.

Before the dried cannabis is used it should be thoroughly inspected for debris: stalk and fan leaves should be removed leaving only flowers and the small resinous leaves that surround them. Bags with incrementally finer mesh sizes are placed one inside the other over a bucket. The water serves to carry the resin heads downwards in a cascade through the various mesh-sized “bubble bags”. Using very cold water or adding ice increases the brittleness of the trichomes, allowing them to separate more easily from the plant fibre. The ice also serves the mechanical function of knocking the heads off upon contact with the immersed plant material.  Once the material is submerged it must be stirred to encourage the further mechanical separation of the resin.


(image: www.bubblebag.com)

In ancient China and Afghanistan, water washes were performed once the resin had been dry sifted to in order to purify it further. One of the drawbacks to using water to clean or aid extraction is that some of the terpenes (aromatic oils) produced in the trichome are water soluble and will be washed away. Terpenes don’t only offer unique scents and flavours but work together to compliment the effects of the cannabinoids. There is also the fact that once you get your resin wet, it must be dried properly or risk moulding.

One technique for drying is to freeze the hash before finely grating or “micro-planing” the hash evenly on the drying surface. It is important that the resin is spread thinly to facilitate drying. While keeping the maximum amount of surface area exposed is helpful for drying, it can cause your resin glands to degenerate. The THC in the resin will begin transforming into CBN while exposed to air, heat, or sunlight, offering fewer medical properties. The more it is exposed, the faster it will degrade. Using a cool dark dry room and employing a desiccant, such as thick cardboard, to absorb the moisture will prevent rapid degradation.

There are groups dedicated to discovering the best methods of drying water hash. For more detailed  instructions check out this step-by-step guide and/or watch this Video series from bubbleman.


(Bubble Hash drying on thick cardboard)

With the plant material and moisture out of the way, you are left with only the cannabinoids (hopefully some terpenes) and the plant wax shell that encapsulates them. By homogenizing the remaining medicine for laboratory testing it is easier to standardize precise doses for particular medical conditions. Please help me to recover some of the costs of  my Canadian Supreme Court challenge for patient access to products derived from cannabis extracts.


By Owen Smith

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Gayle Quin: Cannabis Medicine Woman

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I owe my introduction to preparing cannabis medicines to one woman, Gayle Quin.  Years before I began my work as a cannabis baker at the local dispensary, I met Gayle at a series of Hempology101 student club meetings at my college. Gayle is the life partner of Ted Smith, founder of the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club. Over the course of a decade, Gayle assisted the V-CBC in expanding their edible and topical cannabis product line. Most of the recipes that I have previously shared with the Lift readers originate with Gayle Quin.

I am currently visiting Gayle at her home where she is bedridden from bone cancer.  She has access to the most up to date, in my opinion, forms of cannabis extract including high CBD varieties processed through a CO2 extractor into tiny capsules. Gayle has a long history of medical conditions for which the use of cannabis and other herbs have played an essential role. She was one of four women who testified before the BC Supreme Court judge in 2012.

At a young age she suffered from dysmenorrhea, a little understood condition at the time, that causes severe menstrual cramps. She used medical cannabis to successfully treat this condition and bore two healthy sons.  She was then diagnosed with hepatitis C which destroyed her appetite and made it difficult to sleep. After several surgeries were unsuccessful and her doctors had exhausted their options, she sought help from a local naturopath. She changed her diet and began eating lots of cannabis, 11 years later the Hepatitis C had disappeared.

Due to mercury poisoning, Gayle suffers from an intolerance to chemical products including many traditional medications. After the Hepatitis C treatments she became so chemically sensitive that she had to remove all of the plastic from her home and found it difficult to go out where someone’s deodorant or perfume would make it hard for her to breath. While confined to her home she developed her knowledge of herbs, kinestheology, acupressure, reflexology, and massage.

By using a combination of alternative treatments, she was eventually able to return to a normal life and soon began to protest the cannabis laws. Ted Smith and Gayle Quin united to fight prohibition but were destined to become much closer. When she began working at the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club, not only did she improve the baking and expand the product line but Gayle provided valuable health tips to members who she spent a lot of her time speaking with.

Gayle insisted that all of the ingredients used in the club’s medicinal products be sourced organically and locally where possible. She replaced the white flour with a healthier whole wheat blend. She taught me how to make Ghee, which involves clarifying butter of moisture and non-fat milk solids. She introduced Lecithin to the infused oils to aid the body’s use of the oil-soluble cannabinoids by emulsifying them into a form we can use.

Gayle defeated breast cancer soon after she testified in the BC Supreme Court in 2012. However the cancer returned and spread to her bones. Recently her condition deteriorated, finding her in hospital; but today she is dancing in her bed: the cheerful, loving woman who began my journey to help people access medicinal cannabis extracts.

By Owen Smith


previously appeared at Lift

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Juicing Raw Cannabis

by Owen Smith Among the types of extraction that Health Canada continues to prohibit is juicing. When the leaves are processed through a fruit and vegetable juicer, a thick, dark green liquid is separated from the plant pulp. If the leaves are picked before the plant matures, the majority of THC will still be in acid form (see decarboxylation), producing no psychoactive ‘high’.

Dr. William Courtney is the co-founder of Cannabis International Foundation, who are helping pioneer a movement toward ingesting fresh, raw, non-psychoactive cannabis juice. When fresh, the plant contains a lot of the precursor Cannabinoids such as THC acid, which has recently been shown to have anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects. Dr. Courtney argues that by nourishing our endocannabinoid system, the juiced leaves and buds help the body function more efficiently, effecting all 210 human cell types. juicing

(Image from Cannadad’s Blog)

In their short film “Leaf, ” Dr. Courtney and his wife suggest juicing 10 to 20 fresh leaves daily. Proposing a mix of one part cannabis juice with 10 parts carrot juice to counteract the bitterness, he suggests selecting leaves around 70-90 days after sowing, and drinking the juice three times a day. With this Cannabinoid-rich liquid, free of the psychoactive effects of THC, it is possible to increase the dose of Cannabinoids such as Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) and Cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) 100 times. In an average baked cookie, the tolerated dose of THC limits ingestion of other Cannabinoids to about 10 mg. In the raw juice, one can comfortably approach 1000 mg.

Courtney claims that the medical benefits in the higher dose range (500-1000 mg) include anti-diabetic, anxiolytic, and anti-eschemic properties for heart disease. He is on a mission to obtain a United Nations consensus for cannabis as an essential dietary requirement for humankind. He refers to this cannabis-specific collection of therapeutic compounds as Conditionally Essential Cannabinoid Acids. On his Cannabis International website, he outlines his goals “to consolidate the science regarding the essential nature of the phyto-cannabinoid contributions to health maintenance and restoration. That akin to Essential Fatty Acids and Essential Amino Acids, there needs to be Minimum Daily Requirements established to guide worldwide adoption of raw cannabis as the single most important dietary element.”

IMG_2808 (Image from Cannadad’s Blog)

To prevent somebody accessing a medicine that is free of any ‘high’ seems to lack any rationale, yet Health Canada continues to prevent medical cannabis producers and users from creating these THC free products. Oregon’s Brave McKayla is a 9 year old from Oregon who uses Raw Cannabis juice alongside a CBD rich cannabis extract to treat her Lymphoblastic Leukemia, you may never have seen a smile so wide (VIDEO). Liam McKnight is a 6 year old from Ontario who suffers from Dravet syndrome, a rare and severe form of epilepsy. Under the current rules, he cannot legally access raw cannabis juice or a CBD rich concentrated extract, essentially limiting access to higher concentrations of these cannabinoid compounds. My constitutional challenge to legalize these extracts for patients will be judged by the Supreme Court of Canada in the near future.

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Preparing Cannabis Salve

1. Salve Tutorial

(Watch the Video Tutorial)

Making a basic salve is just one step beyond preparing a topical massage oil. By stirring melted beeswax into an infused vegetable oil you can produce a semi-solid medicinal salve to rub into your skin. Combining the active ingredients in the infused oil with bees wax allows the preparation to remain on the surface of the skin longer, reducing the mess sometimes associated with massage oils. Salves are often used to localize medicinal effects to the area of need, such as skin lesions or joint pain.

As i discussed in the article on topical cannabis oil, Cannabinoids bind to CB1 and CB2 receptor sites in the nerve fibres, sweat glands and a number of cells present in our skin. Topical application provides a way for the cannabinoids to activate these receptors without entering the bloodstream and travelling to the brain, important if you don’t want to feel ‘high’. Topical application may provide sufficient relief in itself, or act in addition to eating or inhaling cannabis.

Dispensaries often offer cannabis massage oils and salves extolling their anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and localized health benefits. They are most commonly used by patients with arthritis who find that applying topical cannabis to their joints allows them to loosen up enough to perform daily tasks. Other members have found cannabis salve helps other skin conditions including eczema, psoriasis, and atopic dermatitis.

Elaborations on the basic recipe can be made by adding essential oils or using vegetable oils infused with other herbs. The V-CBC have created several different salves to combine the effects of cannabis with other herbs suited for specific conditions. A combination with arnica infusion is commonly used for circulation and stiff joints; aloe is added for skin conditions and burns; and essential oils are combined to create a ‘tiger balm’ style preparation for deep muscle pain. Using a very similar technique, the V-CBC make a Lip Balm using regular massage oil, organic shea butter, organic beeswax, and crystalized vitamin C.

Different herbs come with their own warnings such as Arnica, which should not be used on open skin or by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding (more). Some dispensaries have started using DMSO in their topical medications. DMSO is predominantly used as a vehicle for anti-fungal medications, enabling them to penetrate, not just skin, but also toe and fingernails. Extra caution is required when using DMSO, infections may occur where special care isn’t paid to ensure sanitary conditions.

Regular-Salve-e1413756011874 copy

(Image: V-CBC)

Regular Salve


  • Cannabis leaf infused olive oil
  • Vitamin E (to help with absorption)
  • Organic beeswax

Watch the Video Tutorial

If possible use a double boiler to keep a low heat, if not, you can use a spare 1L. glass Peanut Butter jar in a pot of water.

Melt 1 1/3 Cups of organic beeswax (shaved if possible)
Warm 2 Cups of infused Massage Oil
Add 25 ml. Vitamin E. Oil to the massage Oil
Stir well
Add Melted Beeswax
Stir very Well
allow to cool slightly
carefully pour into jars
We make approx. 16 4 oz. Jars

Label and Refrigerate out of reach of children and pets.

(previously appeared at LiftCannabis)

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Preparing Cannabis Suppositories

A little known method of application, but one with a number of benefits, is the suppository. I recently interviewed V-CBC dispensary staff member Nicholas Fraleigh on Time4Hemp radio to talk about the introduction of the cannabis suppository to their medicinal product line. I have written previously about Pulmonary, Oral and Topical routes of administration: considering the many medical conditions that medicinal cannabis users are seeking to treat, a particular route, (or combination) may be more appropriate.

Suppositories are particularly helpful for people with gastro-intestinal difficulties, an impaired jaw or throat or whose nausea and vomiting prevent effective oral application. This route may also be suitable where restrictions on oral ingestion before and after surgery apply. But it needn’t be an option of last resort. Due to the large surface area available for absorption, rectal administration provides the most effective way for your body to take in the medicinal compounds.


(image: Cannabis Digest)

Inhalation is the least efficient method offering 10 – 25% bioavailability; Oral around 20%; Rectal application can deliver around 50% – 70% efficiency with more predictable effects between different individuals. Suppositories avoid the gastro-intestinal system where metabolites separate and break down the constituent compounds. One of these metabolites is 11-Hydroxy-Δ9-THC, which is a psychoactive compound similar to Δ9-THC.

Oral doses can take up to 2 hours before their medicinal effects are noticed by the patient. There is the potential that your previous meal will effect the rate at which the medicine will take effect.  Most people begin to notice initial effects of a suppository within the first 10 – 15 minutes after insertion. Impedances to absorption could include dehydration; the presence of fecal matter and cysts or tumours inside the rectal wall. While this may slow or prevent the compounds entering the bloodstream, the application of cannabinoids directly to those sites of concern may help to activate local endocannabinoid receptors.

Similarly to edible cannabis, the effects of a suppository are long lasting, often ranging between 4-8 hours depending on the individual’s physiology and tolerance to cannabis.  The V-CBC provides three different strengths to suit their many members needs: a low strength dose for general maintenance; a high strength dose for breakthrough pain and a low psycho-activity dose made with 1:1 CBD cultivars. Nick has written an article outlining in detailed instructions how to insert a cannabis suppository, which is not as scary as you may think.


(image: WikiHow)

Suppositories are quick and easy to make. Utilizing the techniques outlined in previous articles, one can perform an infusion of cannabis in Coconut butter before mixing in Cocoa butter and portioning it into small rounded shapes (see above image). These can be individually weighed to help ensure consistent doses; then wrapped in wax paper, bagged, labelled appropriately and refrigerated out of the reach of children and pets.

Organic cocoa butter
Organic coconut butter infused with the inflorescences (flowers) of different  cultivars of cannabis including CBD+.

previously appeared at (LiftCannabis)