By Spencer Brooks
Cannabis-infused oil is a popular choice among medical cannabis patients, and for good reason. A lot of patients find cannabis-infused oil is great for symptom relief. It’s easy to take, it comes in a variety of extracts, potencies, and terpene profiles to suit your needs (THC, CBD, terpenes, and so on), and because it’s so easy to dose, it can be as mild or as potent as you want it to be.
But while cannabis-infused oil works well for some patients, it may not be for everyone. Read on to find out what cannabis-infused oil is, the positives and potential negatives to cannabis-infused oil, and whether or not you might benefit from using this popular cannabis product.
What is cannabis-infused oil?
Cannabis-infused oil is an edible oil that contains cannabinoids (THC and CBD), terpenes, and/or other compounds in cannabis.
Cannabis-infused oils contain potent cannabis extract made from raw cannabis leaves. First, the leaves are processed with CO2 or ethanol (alcohol) to create a crude cannabis oil. Then, the crude oil is “winterized”, pulling out unwanted fats and waxes to ensure a pure, clean end product. Finally, the winterized oil is diluted in a carrier oil until it reaches the right potency. Most cannabis-infused oil producers use either MCT (medium-chain triglyceride), coconut, or olive oil as a carrier oil.
The result is concentrated, cannabis-infused oil that’s rich in the compounds you want as a medical cannabis patient. Producers make cannabis-infused oil with THC, CBD, THC+CBD, and whole-plant cannabis-infused oil that’s rich in terpenes as well as your cannabinoid of choice.
The benefits of cannabis-infused oil
Good absorption. Many oral cannabis products don’t absorb well, especially when it comes to CBD. However, oil-based cannabis products are fairly absorbable, likely because of their fat content[*]. Taking cannabis with a fat source seems to significantly increase the amount you absorb[*], and in the case of cannabis-infused oil, the fat source is built right in. You can increase absorption even more by taking the oil sublingually -- hold it under your tongue for a minute before swallowing it.
Precise dosing. Most cannabis-infused oils come with a dropper, which allows you to take the exact same dose (and get the exact same effects) every time. It’s harder to control dosing with other methods, like smoking or vaping. With cannabis-infused oil, you can also change the dose to match your needs -- for example, taking 0.5 mL if your symptoms are mild one day, and taking 1.0 mL if you need a stronger effect the next day. In that way, cannabis-infused oil offers you flexibility that candies, mints, and similar edibles do not. While we’re talking about dose, it’s worth noting that everyone reacts differently to cannabinoids, and to different strains. Always start with smaller doses and work your way up until you find the right dose for you.
Potency. Because cannabis-infused oil is made with extracts, it’s possible to get a much stronger effect from it than you’d get from smoking fresh cannabis. If you need large doses THC, CBD, etc. for symptom relief, cannabis-infused oil can be an easy, cost-effective option.
Long-lasting. Cannabis-infused oil’s effects last for at least eight hours[*]. It’s perfect if you want all-day relief without having to use cannabis several times throughout the day. Cannabis-infused oil is also excellent for sleep because its effects last throughout the night.
Convenience. Cannabis-infused oil is discreet, portable, nearly odorless, and easy to use almost anywhere. If you don’t want to draw attention to your medical cannabis use (stigmas still exist in many places, after all), cannabis-infused oil offers you more subtlety than smoking. It also won’t melt or crumble like some edibles, pills, chews, and other oral cannabis products do.
- Lung health. Some patients struggle with smoking or vaping cannabis because it irritates their lungs. Cannabis-infused oil is an excellent alternative.
The downsides of cannabis-infused oil
There are also a few potential downsides to cannabis-infused oil, depending on what you want from a cannabis product.
- Slow onset. It takes at least 30 minutes (and usually about an hour) before you feel the effects of cannabis-infused oil[*]. If you want instant relief within minutes of taking cannabis, you’re better off smoking or vaping.
- Variable effects between brands. When you take cannabis orally, its duration and intensity can be unpredictable. Patients who take cannabis-infused oil report that effects last anywhere from 8-20 hours, depending on the brand of oil taken[*]. They also report that it takes anywhere from 30-120 minutes for them to feel the effects. Those are pretty wide ranges. Fortunately, there’s an easy fix. To make sure your experience is consistent every time you take cannabis-infused oil, your best bet is to find a brand that works well for you and stick to it.
- Long-lasting. This is a benefit for some patients, but it may be a downside for others. As you read above, you’ll feel cannabis-infused oil’s effects for at least eight hours. That’s great if you want all-day relief, but if you use cannabis for more short-term symptoms, and you want the effects to wear off within a couple hours, cannabis-infused oil may not be ideal for you. Consider smoking or vaping instead.
Who should use cannabis-infused oil?
Cannabis-infused oil works well for a lot of patients. It’s great if you want consistent, all-day symptom relief without having to take cannabis every couple hours.
However, if your symptoms are more acute and you don’t want to feel the effects of cannabis all day, or you want something that you’ll feel within minutes instead of within an hour, you may be better off choosing another delivery method for your cannabis.