Healing Cannabis Salve

I would like you to imagine for a moment the feeling of intense physical pain somewhere in your body. Pain that has no relief, stabbing and throbbing constantly, leaving you exhausted from the sheer sustained force against your body. Some of you may not even have to imagine this, you may be feeling it at this very moment.

Now imagine relief.

For many, cannabis has become a pain reliever like no other. A plant whose active properties actually match up to receptors in our brains, can provide relief where the artificial and sometimes dangerous chemical concoctions created by pharmaceutical corporations cannot.  In my post, Why I Use Cannabis, I talk about my personal journey to finding relief through medicinal cannabis. One of my cannabis related tools I most treasure and value is my Healing Cannabis Salve.

Every region has their own version and number of healing plants available, provided abundantly by Mother Earth for the diseases and afflictions once most common to each region. Over time we have globalized, with massive and long migrations made more and more frequently, our world population becoming larger while at the same time becoming less diverse. Our bodies cannot keep up with a modern diet filled with processed and prepared foods, where it’s common for even whole foods such as produce and meat to lack vital nutrients due to commercial farming practices. Top all of this off with our constant exposure to chemicals in everything from our cars to our toothpaste, and I believe that is why we are beginning to see an overabundance of diseases such as cancer and diabetes, and disabilities such as autism and microencephaly.

There are no long-term studies for useage of medications such as oxycontin, vicodin or others. We are only now realizing that our long-term exposure to chemicals are causing problems in generations of families, not just individuals. I may be a bit paranoid, but I wonder sometimes how much pharmaceuticals might be able to do the same.

Not to mention the addiction rates for opiates.

Nowadays the most potent medication I’ve been on is the occasional aspirin when I have not had all of my usual alternative options available. This usually is when I’m at work and I don’t have complete access to my home apothecary. However, I can honestly say that keeping a small jar of the Healing Cannabis Salve at my disposal at all times, even makes the taking of aspirin a rare event. What I’m talking about is a topical salve that makes it ideal for localized pain and inflammation relief; as in, you can rub it on exactly where it hurts. THC, the active ingredient of cannabis, moves across the skin barrier but is thought to not be able to get across into the blood stream. On a side note: Studies in the industry are supporting this idea, but unfortunately widespread testing and research is stymied due to ongoing federal restrictions.

Salves are a very ancient and time-honored part of apothecary’s all over the world. A salve is a medicinal ointment that is rubbed onto the skin. It usually offers healing and soothing relief to things such as topical wounds and irritations, as well as problems with internal pain and inflammation.

My Healing Cannabis Salve came about after my worst bout with back pain yet. My back had been out for almost a month, the longest yet, and I had not had any relief since it began. It didn’t matter what position I was in, what I was doing (or not doing), or what I was taking, I was in constant and intense pain. I had begun to hear about topical products being available at the time in dispensaries, but my county is so restrictive of medicinal cannabis and dispensaries that I was unable to try any. Pain has a funny way of encouraging you to try something different though…

I had begun making an alcohol based tincture to ingest after learning more about different methods of using cannabis to treat pain. It was difficult to smoke enough cannabis to get any kind of pain relief, and even then it was usually fleeting. Smoking is one of the most inefficient methods of using cannabis, but it is probably how many of us are introduced to it as it is cheap and easy. The inefficiency can also be a positive at times as the dosage is so small and easily controlled, and the shorter length of effect can actually be beneficial for some. Smoking cannabis for my depression works just fine. Smoking cannabis for my pain does not.

One particular evening I had had enough when even the tincture didn’t do the job completely. I decided to try mixing my tincture with some olive oil and applying it topically. I rubbed it in and waited and within minutes, I began to have actual relief. No joke. 

From there I began to do research on making topical medicinal cannabis preparations. There wasn’t a ton of information on the internet at the time as all of us old stoners were still convinced the government was watching us all with eagle eyes. I think it took the next generation to make cannabis lose many of it’s taboo qualities, allowing it become a much bigger talking point in mainstream society than ever before. I mean it must have worked. I’m writing this post for a homesteading blog that includes medicinal cannabis as a part of a natural and organic lifestyle for pete’s sake.

Through experimentation and trial and error this is now my go-to recipe. It is infinitely adaptable in terms of additions. I have made a variety of versions, some focused on cuts and scrapes by including plantain, lavender and garlic oils, while others focus on more internal pain and soreness by including wintergreen, cinnamon and habañero oils, an icy-hot of sorts. This recipe is for the basic Healing Cannabis Salve that works for nearly everything, from cuts and scrapes to pain and swelling, and from your cramped feet to your chapped lips.

Ingredients

Cannabis. I am not always picky about what type of cannabis I use. I’ve made this with excellent quality flowers and hash, and I’ve made it with bottom of the barrel trim. There is an element of overall quality tied into using better quality cannabis, but not as much as you might think. The other non-cannabis ingredients are so reasonably priced that I wouldn’t want to discourage you from making a batch of salve with that not-so-great bag of stash from 3 years ago. It won’t be as strong, but you could consider adding additional healing herbs and essential oils to supplement whatever healing qualities of the cannabis are left.

Coconut oil. I am a coconut oil fan, but I am not absolutely obsessed. I know it has limitations, however I also know it has many healthful uses. The fact is coconut oil has antibacterial, healing and soothing qualities. Plus it smells nice, am I right?? You do have to be careful on what coconut oil you choose however! Some have been so processed you might as well use petroleum jelly. However, if you use a completely virgin and unprocessed coconut oil for your Healing Cannabis Salve, be prepared for a slight grittiness that eventually disappears as you rub it in. It took me several batches to realize this was the problem! I like to use an organic virgin cold-processed coconut oil. It has been minimally processed, but leaves a very smooth and pleasing salve with a mild coconut scent.

Avocado oil. I am obsessed with avocado oil, I can’t lie. I use it on my food, I use it in my salad dressings, I use it in my topical products. If I’m pouring it into something and it drips, I rub it into my hands. Avocado oil is the latest overnight sensation that’s been around forever. I’ll save the internal health benefits for later. For now, I’ll extol it’s external virtues! Avo oil is a wonderful moisturizer that is very beneficial for healthy skin, as it increases collagen production and provides healing qualities.

Vitamin E oil. Vitamin E is a wonderful moisturizer with healing and anti-aging properties. It also acts as a natural preservative to the salve.

Beeswax. Beeswax is an all natural stiffener for the salve, allowing it to be solid at room temperature. Plus it smells lovely!

Optional ingredients. Consider adding some of these optional ingredients to your salve for additional benefits. These should only be added AFTER removing the salve from heat. You may have to add extra beeswax to compensate for the extra liquid of the oils.

Antiseptic: plantain oil; tea tree, lavender and eucalyptus essential oils

Icy-hot: habañero and ginger oils; peppermint, wintergreen, spearmint, cinnamon, clove, black pepper, frankincense, camphor, eucalyptus essential oils

Skin conditions: dandelion and plantain oils; lavender and tea tree essential oils

Process

The basic process is relatively simple, but a bit time consuming. Expect the entire process to take around 5-6 hours, although you won’t be chained to the kitchen during that entire time. Much of that time is spent allowing things to simmer, freeing you up to do other things. In these kinds of situations a timer is my best friend. I would get so involved with other projects that I would forget I had something simmering at all, so I keep a timer set to check on it every hour.

Why I DON’T decarboxilate the cannabis. As a cannabis plant grows and matures, the plant produces THC-A, or tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, the non-active form of the chemical compound of THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol. THC of course, is what most people associate with cannabis, but it only appears once THC-A has been heated enough for the extra molecule of acid to fall off, leaving THC. For this salve we are trying to extract as many different cannabinoids as possible, which includes THC-A. The beneficial properties of raw or live cannabis have gone unnoticed, which is quite unfortunate! THC-A is known for its ability to treat inflammation, neurodegenerative diseases, and cancer for a start. As cooking cannabis in oils tends to leave some of the THC-A unconverted to THC it is, in my opinion, an ideal method for getting the benefits of both compounds. As cannabinoids are fat soluble, we’re further able to extract as many cannabinoids as possible using coconut and avocado oils, along with gentle heat.

Extraction. To start off we need to extract the cannabinoids from the plant material. I break up the cannabis into small chunks. Some suggest using a grinder, but I don’t bother unless the material has a lot of moisture. I will often leave the bag open overnight the day prior to dry it out and thus make it easier to break up. The flower is added to the melted coconut oil and avocado oil in a double-boiler, and allowed to simmer with occasional stirring. I use color and smell to determine doneness, with fresher cannabis taking less time in the 2-3 hour range, and older cannabis taking more time in the 4-5 hours range. Once the oils are a lovely dark green color and the fragrance of cannabis begins to get strong, it’s finished. To continue cooking means you are risking converting all of the THC-A to THC and again, for me, this is not the goal. This will be applied topically, so it is not necessary!

Straining. The solid material will now need to be strained out of the oils to create a smoother and easier to use product. I use a cheesecloth tripled over and set inside a colander, over a glass bowl. Using a wooden spoon, push the oil out of the plant matter as much as possible before twisting the whole bundle up and squeezing out the last remaining drops.

Thickening. Once the oil has been strained, it is added back to the double-boiler and reheated. Grated beeswax or pellets are then added in to thicken the final product. The amount may vary depending on the season and your average household temperature. We live in an area where 105 is not unusual in the summer, but we also have snow in the winter. I tend to use more beeswax in summer, and a little less in winter.

Optional ingredients. As I mentioned before, there are a variety of optional oils you can add at the end of the heating process to enhance your salve. If it’s your first time making it or if you’re on a budget however, don’t worry about it! The basic salve is still wonderful and very healing in and of itself.

Containers. Glass is an ideal container as many plastics can leach harmful chemicals into your salve, and that kind of defeats the purpose of all natural and organic… I’ve used everything from baby food to pimento jars, but generally use the all-purpose and wonderful in it’s simplicity mason jar.

Healing Cannabis Salve
This is the recipe for a basic, all-natural ingredient cannabis salve. Use it on bumps, bruises, sprains, strains, random pains, inflammation, headaches, scrapes, scratches, chapped lips and more!
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Cook Time
4 hr
Cook Time
4 hr
Ingredients
  1. 2 cups cannabis flowers, leaves and stems, chopped or ground
  2. 3 cups cold-pressed organic coconut oil
  3. 1 cup avocado oil
  4. 3-4 ounces grated beeswax
  5. 2 teaspoons vitamin E oil
Tools needed
  1. Double-boiler or pot with a glass bowl that can sit firmly on top
  2. Grinder or food processor (optional)
  3. Cheesecloth
  4. Metal colander
  5. Large glass bowl
  6. Rubber or silicone spatula
  7. Kitchen towel
  8. Jars with lids
In a double-boiler
  1. Bring about an inch of water to a boil in the pan portion of the double-boiler. If you don't have a double-boiler, a glass bowl over a pot of boiling water does just fine.
  2. Once the water is boiling, reduce heat to low.
  3. Add the coconut oil to the pot and allow it to melt.
  4. Add avocado oil and cannabis.
  5. Continue to cook over low-heat, stirring every once in a while, for approximately 3-4 hours. The oil should turn a dark-green and your house should be fragrant! **IMPORTANT** Double-boilers WILL lose water over time. Be sure to check it every hour and add BOILING water if necessary to keep the water level at about 1 inch.
  6. Remove from heat. Allow oils and cannabis to cool for 15-20 minutes.
  7. Fold the cheesecloth into thirds, allowing enough material to drape over the sides of your colander. Place the colander over your glass bowl.
  8. Slowly pour the cannabis and oils into the cheesecloth covered colander. Use a spoon to push gently on the flowers to extract more oil.
  9. Carefully gather the corners of the cheesecloth up before squeezing as much oil left as possible. The remaining oil should have very little if not any solid matter left in in.
  10. Ensure the bowl of the double-boiler is free of any solid matter. Wipe it out with a paper towel if needed... and then wipe that on any achy parts of your body! I don't like to waste any of it 🙂
  11. Bring the water in the double-boiler back up to a boil before reducing the heat to low.
  12. Pour your green oil back in and add the grated beeswax, stirring to incorporate it.
  13. Use a spoon to gather up a sample of the salve. Place the spoon on a plate in the freezer for 2-3 minutes. Bring it out and check the consistency- it should require a little pressure to get through it. If it's still runny, add more beeswax 1/2 ounce at a time until you reach a desired consistency.
  14. Turn off the stove and place a folded up kitchen towel on the counter. Remove the bowl of the double-boiler carefully and place it on the towel to avoid any moisture burning you or getting in the salve. Add Vitamin-E oil and gently stir to incorporate. If you are adding any other essential oils, now is the time.
  15. As you stir, close your eyes and focus your energy and intentions on the salve. I like to focus on imagery that conveys healing. You may laugh, but I find this step important!
  16. Pour the finished salve in your clean jars and place the lid on. This will make approximately 28 ounces, depending on how much oil the dried cannabis soaked up.
  17. Call everyone in your family over to where you are working. Use the spatula to scrape up every last bit of salve and rub it all over your bodies! As I said before, don't waste any of this precious healing salve!
Notes
  1. Always wait until the oil has cooled a bit before adding any essential oils. Heat can break them down to a point where they can lose their effectiveness!
Seven Points Farm http://sevenpointsfarm.com/

25 thoughts on “Healing Cannabis Salve

    1. Great question! Crock pots are ridiculously convenient, but unfortunately they are usually too hot, even on warm. Temperatures over 240 degrees will start breaking down the cannabinoids. Would it still work? Probably. As well? Probably not. I would suggest checking how warm the contents of your crock pot get before committing to using it for an entire batch. Thanks for reading and commenting!

      -Becca

  1. I’m new to this… Are you saying any part of the plant can be used for this? Is it ok if it is dried?

    1. Yes, any part of the plant can be used! In fact the stems and roots are where a lot of CBD is stored, regardless of the THC/CBD ratio of the flowers. As to your other question, drying everything first is in fact a good thing as the moisture won’t transfer to the oil. Please come back and let us know how your salve turned out!

      -Becca

    1. Cannabis has definitely been used successfully for lupus! The salve may help while being used topically, however I would *highly* recommend seeking out tincture or cannacaps that are high in CBD’s to use internally as well. The CBD taken internally will help with any inflammation, while the salve applied topically will work from the outside in for inflammation and pain. As for making the salve, I would strongly recommend adding some high-quality essential oils that help with inflammation and pain such as wintergreen (especially wintergreen!), lavender and eucalyptus. The directions for when to add essential oils are included in this post. Good luck and I hope this helps!!

      -Becca

  2. Love this! Been working on and using a salve that starts with cannabis oil and adds other things. (Long story short-I have constant severe back pain from a birth defect in my tail bone and was on a high opiate prescription dose for years, was negatively impacting my life, wanted a more natural answer, am now 3 weeks free of opiates!!!) I’ve struggled with the ratio of oils and beeswax (made one that was too much oil, next was like trying to run a crayon in your back!) and whatever else to add. This is the perfect answer, I think, in the research I’ve done. Thank you!

    1. I genuinely hope the salve works well for you! It’s been instrumental in helping with my own back pain 🙂

  3. 2 cups seems like a lot can you cut it down? Can you substitute olive for the avocado? Lastly Could I buy concentrated oil instead of making it and I want to use a beginners dose. What is a good ratio or strain so confused!

    1. Just like in baking you CAN reduce the amounts, but keep the same ratios in your recipe! Olive oil is just fine as an alternative to avocado oil. I started using avocado oil because my skin likes it better and it has a more neutral scent. You can use a concentrated oil, but I have not experimented with it yet so I don’t have a suggested amount for you at this time. It would depend entirely on the concentration of the oil. I will say however, that with topicals you don’t need as high a concentration as you would with edibles or smoking to get effects. As for strain, with topicals I haven’t found a need to use a particular strain. I use whatever I’ve had on hand for years, which is sometimes a mystery or at least a hodgepodge! I think you’ll find you have a LOT more leeway when it comes to using topicals 🙂

  4. Hi… i have 1 gram of Phoenix tears cannabis oil. Could I use this for this recipe? And if so, how much would I use for this specific recipe? Thanks

    1. Yes, you can use Phoenix tears to make a salve. However, as I haven’t had the chance to experiment with concentrates in my salve yet, I can’t recommend specific amounts at this time. I am hoping to do so in the near future however, so keep an eye out or subscribe to my blog! If you decide to go for it, please let us know how it went!

  5. Can I use a commercially bought cannabis essential oil? I can’t find a recipe that doesn’t involve me going out and buying weed which is not legal in my state.

    1. Cannabis essential oil is not quite the same thing as using the flower itself for several reasons. First off, an essential oil is a distillation of all plant material, meaning you will get the turpenes and any impurities from the plant if they are present. Also, cannabis essential oil is made from industrial hemp which means it will not have any THC in it and probably minimal CBD. The heat needed to make an essential oil would most likely destroy any cannabinoids. As an alternative, you could use a CBD tincture made from hemp and that should work just fine. You won’t get the benefits of topically applied THC, but CBD obviously has it’s own wonderful benefits! Let me know how it works for you 🙂

  6. How long will this stay good for and how do you store it?
    I made it today. Turned out perfect!

    1. Wonderful to hear! As this is a natural product without any commercial preservatives, it will only last a few months after opening the jar. However, the addition of Vitamin E oil is a natural preservative that will help. I’ve also found using the freshest oil possible helps as inevitably they will go rancid! I use my salve quite quickly, but if you don’t expect to I would suggest storing it in several smaller mason jars. Keep all unopened jars in a cool, dark location for optimal storage. I hope this helps!

  7. Would the magical butter machine work on a 4 hour setting at 165 degrees ? If so then after I strain it through its 190 micro filter, I could place in a sauce pot and add the beeswax and essential oils too?

    1. I’ve never actually used the Magical Butter Machine myself, but I do know it infuses oils in addition to butter with no problem. Follow the manufacturer instructions for infusing the oils, then continue on with my instructions! The only suggestion I would have is to be sure to use indirect heat when you melt in the beeswax 🙂 Let us know how it goes!

  8. Love your post … I’m very interested in the salve you use for your back pain that you talked about. I’ve tried several differnt salve recipes and have yet to find one that helps me, I’m hoping yours is the one. How do you make it?

    1. This *IS* the salve I make, however I add in essential oils such wintergreen, peppermint, ginger, habanero and lavender. The added oils make a HUGE difference… Use your favorite essential oils that work well for pain and inflammation, adding them in towards the end as instructed. Good luck and let us know how it works!

    1. Whatever oil you prefer to use on your skin is just fine 🙂 Avocado oil works well on mine which is why I use it. I have used grapeseed oil when I didn’t have avocado though!

  9. Have you used sunflower oil. I just made the oil in the magic butter machine. I used coconut and sunflower. I’ll be flowing your steps to finish it up. Just ordered the vitamin e oil and some really nice essential oils. Can’t wait to finish!

    1. Wonderful to hear! I’m sure the Magical Butter Machine will work great. Any oil that works well for your skin is a-okay to use! My only recommendation on oil choice is to go for organic and non-GMO whenever possible.

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