Cooking with cannabis is an art. One must take into consideration a lot of variables. So many things, from heating temperature to solvent can affect the way cannabis will cook, and how it will affect the body. However, to understand the science behind the process of cooking with marijuana, here we will cover the basics of the chemical compounds that make up the marijuana plant, as well as the ways in which these (and other) compounds are metabolized and digested by the human body when combined with foods.
As we all know, THC is the main psychoactive chemical compound in cannabis. However, when ingested orally, THC is not well digested by our body. It must be extracted into complementary compounds that the body can metabolize.
Cannabinoids are a group of compounds present in the cannabis plant, which also occur naturally in our nervous and immune systems. In our body, these naturally occurring chemicals help control mental and physical processes. In the cannabis plant, they are the compounds responsible for extracting and dispersing THC’s unique physiological properties.
The natural cannabinoids produced in our bodies bind with specifically designed nervous-system receptors which are responsible for regulating our nervous-system responses such as: mood, appetite, pain sensation, inflammation response and memory. Because of the way THC affects the nervous system, there are many health benefits to cooking with cannabis – it can be used to reduce pain, stimulate appetite and reduce anxiety.
In other words, the cannabinoid receptors found naturally in our bodies are recognized and targeted by the cannabinoids in cooked marijuana. When properly extracted, the cannabinoids bind, and THC’s psychoactive effects are brought out.
How to Properly Extract THC
THC is a hydrophobic oil and, as such, is insoluble in water. In order to be properly converted, it must be extracted into fats, oils, or alcohol, all of which can bind with the cannabinoids to properly deliver the compound to the body.
To better understand the science of cannabis effects, I recommend this book: Understanding Marijuana: A New Look at the Scientific Evidence.
Cook Cannabis Slowly! Since THC is such a delicate compound it must be gradually combined with butter or oil over low heat (210 degrees Celsius, 401 degrees Fahrenheit) so that it does not break down and vaporize. This is why cannaoils and cannabutters must be cooked for a long period of time. The solvent must slowly absorb the cannabinoids into the fat molecules which will then act as a medium for the THC. These fats also increase absorption in the gut. When digested, the cannabinoid-infused fat molecules concoct with human cannabinoid receptors to distribute the infused THC.
Infused oil and butter are the most common ways to cook with cannabis. Once you’ve mastered the art of making a great marijuana butter or oil, you can cook marijuana into anything. You simply use them instead of regular oil or butter. And remember, it is an urban myth that low quality marijuana is good for cooking. If you want your meals to be delicious, you will want to use good stuff. Cannabis, even after strained from the extraction, can leave a taste. The quality and flavor of the marijuana will be felt in the food.
Make sure you know where the plant came from, and most importantly, that it is organic. Marijuana can carry pathogens and dangerous chemicals. If you are cooking with the cannabis most pathogens will be destroyed, but the extraction will likely still contain pesticides and other nasty chemicals. For medical use especially, you should use pure, organic cannabis.
Finally, don’t eat too much too fast! Some people can tolerate more cannabis food than others. Depending on your tolerance level and your metabolism, digested marijuana could take anywhere between 20 minutes and 2 hours to fully kick in. Digesting marijuana also makes the high last much longer then if you were smoking, so take this into consideration when making plans. Make sure you experiment a bit and get to know your tolerance level before doing anything important!
A good online source for marijuana recipes is Green Grandma’s Cooking website.
For those who prefer to smoke marijuana, here’s a goodbye pic.