by Old Hippie BeyondChronic.com
What do you do when you need cannabis medicine and you can’t or don’t want to smoke or vaporize?
The usual answers are edibles or tinctures, but even these don’t work for everyone.
Most tinctures are made from alcohol, which is a problem for alcoholics.
Glycerin tinctures are sometimes available at compassion clubs, but many people have reported that they often don’t work in reasonable doses.
Edibles — assuming you’re not allergic to something in them — often work a bit too well, leaving you couch-locked or too high to function. So wouldn’t it be great if there was a simple pill you could take that could give you the relief you need at the dose you want?
Some medical marijuana dispensaries sell Canna-Caps, which has quickly become almost a generic name for any capsule filled with cannabis since its association with the groundbreaking work of Dr. Paul Hornby. Dr. Hornby’s original idea was for standardized doses of THC, and to have all ingredients tested for pesticides, heavy metals, and other contaminants.
Most of the Canna-Caps made and sold at dispensaries vary a great deal in potency, although products from the same supplier are often consistent. I obtained and tested some that seemed quite strong to me, but it turns out they were actually discontinued by the dispensary because most people complained they didn’t do anything!
So the ultimate answer is to make your own, to what-ever dose helps you best. My philosophy on desired strength is that with ingredients (such as cannabutter or canna oil), you want to make them very strong, because then you have the option to use just a little, or even dilute it for taste, if you like. But with capsules, you can’t take any less than a single dose, so if it’s too strong, you’re kind of stuck.
When you ingest cannabis, it’s generally recommended to do two things to it, so that the body can process it most efficiently. The first is to decarboxylate the cannabis, which converts the THC-COOH found in the plant to psychoactive and pain-relieving THC.
This is done automatically when you smoke or vaporize it, which is why many people have never heard of it. The other is to bind the cannabinoids to fat or oil so it will be absorbed easily through the digestive system.
You can use the first process to easily make “dry” cap-sules (also known as TruCannaCaps), or both process-es together to make “wet” capsules, using vegetable oil. These oil-based capsules can be made with smaller capsules (#0) and are easier for some people to take; and finely ground plant matter (as used in dry cap-sules) may cause stomach upset or nausea in some patients. Just grinding up cannabis buds and stuffing them into capsules is a waste of time and money, though…. it won’t work at all.
I calculated that a manageable dose for myself would be 0.1 gram, which corresponds to about a bowl’s worth. I knew I wanted to extract to coconut oil: it works well for this purpose, being almost 100% fat; and it’s very stable, not subject to going rancid. What you’re looking for is organic virgin coconut oil, which is non-hydrogenated. You can actually use almost any vegetable oil (ironically, not hemp oil: it doesn’t like heat), if you like. Then I did some research on fillable capsules and did some math:
#00 capsule = 0.95 ml capacity (I figured this to be 0.75 ml for calculation convenience and because you can’t fill it up all the way.)
1 tsp = 5 ml
1 TBSP = 15 ml
1 fl oz = 30 ml
2 TBSP of oil = 30 ml = 40 capsules
So if each dose is 0.1 gram, we need 4 grams of cannabis for 40 capsules.
I guesstimated that 2 tablespoons of coconut oil was the minimum I could reasonably deal with in my mini 16 ounce Crock-Pot (a.k.a. Little Dipper), and I had previ-ously bought 50 empty #00 gelatin capsules (do not use the vegetarian starch kind, as they will disintegrate), so it all seemed good. If you have a full-size Crock-Pot, you will not even be able to see this tiny quantity of oil on the bottom, so use it as a water bath as detailed below.
The procedure went as follows:
1 Weigh the cannabis. If you don’t have access to an
accurate scale, 1/3 cup of ground cannabis powder
weighs about 7 grams. It’s actually easier to grind the
cannabis after Step 3, though.
2 Make a little bowl or basket out of aluminum foil,
and put the cannabis in it. This will help keep it from burn-
ing or sticking to the baking sheet. Put the foil basket on
the baking sheet and put it in your oven.
3 Decarboxylate the cannabis by baking it. I used 250°F
for 22 minutes because it’s worked for me in the past, but
more recent information suggests that 250°F for a full
hour is even better. This step will make your kitchen smell
quite weedy, by the way.
4 Now is a good time to grind the cannabis; it’s more brit-
tle after decarboxylation, and the more surface area
exposed, the more efficiently it will bind to the fat in the
coconut oil. I grind to “small particle” size for this step;
some people like to go to fine powder.
5 Measure out the oil. Coconut oil is solid at less than
76°F, but a tablespoon is still a tablespoon.
6 Now put the oil and ground cannabis into an uncovered mason jar (which can withstand heat) in the top of a double boiler; in water inside a full-size Crock-Pot set on warm (it’s lower heat than low); or in a water bath (jar in about 2 inches of boiling water in a cooking pot). The idea is to safely heat the mixture to between 180°F and 220°F so that the cannabinoids will chemically bind to the oil. The longer you heat the mixture, the better, which is why a Crock-Pot is ideal for this. Two to six hours is recommended; I happened to use three hours. Be sure to check the water regularly so that it doesn’t boil out, breaking your jar and ruining all your work and material. Stir the mixture around every 15 minutes, if you can.
7 When you’re done, or otherwise bored with this, you’ll have some lovely green fluid. Let it cool down to 100°F or so (the idea is not to burn yourself!), and then you can filter out the plant material (using a paper coffee filter and a garlic press or potato ricer to squeeze out every last drop), or not, as you prefer.
8 Now you fill the “large end” of the capsules by using an oral syringe. I’ll assume you have access to something like a Cap-M-Quik filler to hold the capsule halves up (you won’t need the optional tamper unless you want to experiment with putting powder into capsules too). Don’t try to fill the capsules all the way or too fast; let the oil settle so any bubbles go out while you work on the next capsule. Then, when you’ve got them all, go back if necessary. I ended up with about 44 capsules, so it all worked pretty well. Be sure to push hard enough to feel the “click” when putting the small end of the capsule on, so you know it’s sealed properly. Dry your hands and gently wipe off the capsules
9 as you take them out and put them away (ideally into a standard pill bottle in the refrigerator, where the oil is less likely to go bad even after months). Oh, and rinse everything you used off with hot water now, before the oil re-solidifies!
10 The last step is from Space Oddity, by David Bowie “Now it’s time to try the capsule if you dare…” 🙂 I found them to be just right for me; a bit of a sur-prisingly sharp peak for about 15 minutes, but after that, quite easy to handle. Don’t test more than one at a time the first time, and be sure to wait at least two hours before deciding that a capsule “didn’t work at all.”
Discreet and Repeat
It turned out that the 2 tablespoons of oil were exactly enough to saturate the 4 grams of ground cannabis I was using, so with those quantities, it would have been impossible to make it any stronger (and #00 capsules are about the largest most people can comfortably swallow in the first place). When I filtered my oil, I put it into a calibrated shot glass to measure it, and it’s a good thing I did, because I found I had lost 15 ml of oil to the filter paper and absorption by the plant particles. I added another tablespoon of oil to get back to the proper dosage. Otherwise, I would have ended up with 20 very strong capsules! Next time I made capsules, I used three tablespoons of oil at the beginning to compensate, and everything came out perfectly.
If you’re as sensitive as I am, the quantities I used will probably be good for you, but lots of people have high-er tolerance and need stronger capsules. Using the three tablespoons of oil and extra cannabis will make it stronger; grinding the cannabis to powder will let you get even more of it in; and after that, you could always grind up hash, which is more concentrated to start with.
How Dry I Am
Making “dry” capsules, on the other hand, is simplicity itself. Just decarboxylate the cannabis (following Steps 1 through 4 above), grind to powder size, and use your Cap-M-Quik to fill up the capsules. You’re all done!
You might want to try filling up a few different-size cap-sules first, though, before you commit to buying one particular size in quantity. And if you happen to use a vaporizer, your AVB (Already-Vaped Bud) or “duff” that some people actually throw away can be ground up and put straight into capsules, where they’ll help you one last time. Capsules are neat, discreet, stealthy, and green.
They work pretty much the same every time. And because they’re all the same dose, you can take two or more if you need them, and still have a pretty good idea how they’ll affect you.