For some conditions, such as chronic pain syndromes like arthritis and multiple sclerosis, orally ingested Cannabis is an important part of the treatment plan. This is often done to provide baseline control over the patient’s symptoms with long-lasting relief, so that daily activities can be accomplished more comfortably and with greater ease. Inhaled marijuana use can then be limited to an “as-needed” basis, which is often none at all. If you’re living with a medical condition that causes chronic pain, oral medication might be the best method of using Cannabis for you. Best of all, you can make the capsules yourself with some common household items and ingredients.
Before You Get Started: Preparing the Ingredients
Currently, oral preparations are typically available in “edible” form, meaning food products like brownies, candies, or chocolates. While an occasional treat (medicated or not) is certainly OK, it concerns me when people get into a habit of mixing food and Cannabis on a routine basis. Frankly, most Americans just don’t need an extra brownie in their daily diet, and certainly not several per day! Moreover, many patients have diabetes among their chronic medical problems and cannot safely tolerate an extra load of sugar. To avoid these pitfalls, we can turn to the alternative of orally ingested pills – more specifically, capsules. Not only do capsules allow us to avoid the sugar problem, they also enable greater dosing precision, and are frankly easier to use. While some dispensaries can provide pre-made capsules, many do not; and even when they do, the capsules can be quite expensive. However, it’s easy to make these at home from medicine you can get easily from a dispensary, and save money too! Here’s how to get started.
Items You Will Need
- Highly concentrated Cannabis extract, preferably solid, like “shatter” with a known percentage of THC. (Here’s an article on shatter with pictures.)
- Liquid oil. Any cooking oil will do, Canola or Coconut is fine. If you use Coconut oil make sure to use the kind that’s liquid at room temperature, like this kind. Do not get the type that’s solid at room temperature, like this!
- A scale capable of measuring in milligrams.
- Wax or parchment paper.
- A metal 1/4c measuring cup.
- US teaspoon measure
- A 10cc syringe with blunt-tip needle (like this one)
- Size 0 empty capsules. Cellulose (i.e. vegan) last better than gelatin – see this example.
- Now, an important word of caution before you start cooking: the key to this whole process is making sure the math is correct, so do not neglect to double-check your measurements. Fortunately, it’s pretty simple. Just remember two things:
- Your end goal is to have the correct number of milligrams (mg) of Cannabis in each 0.5ml capsule. (Remember that cc is the same as ml).
- The “shatter” you’re using is not pure, 100% THC.
Let’s apply some hard numbers by way of example. Suppose that your desired dose would be 10mg, and that you’re using shatter with an 80% THC content. In order to get 10mg of THC out of 80% pure extract, you must use 12.5mg of shatter. Here’s what the equation would look like:
10/0.8=X or D/P= X
D indicates your intended dose. P indicates the percentage of THC in your shatter. The slash mark (/) simply means “divided by.” That’s all you need to remember when you substitute your own numbers.
Simple Recipe for Homemade Marijuana Capsules
Measuring 12.5mg of shatter will be difficult, because it’s such a small amount that most tools won’t be sensitive enough to handle it effectively, including your scale. But that doesn’t have to be an obstacle: we’ll simply make 10 ml of oil, since that’s the size of our storage syringe anyway. Not only will your measurements be more accurate, you’ll also have 20 doses – kind of like cooking on Sunday for the whole rest of the work week. Just follow along with me on these seven steps:
- First, you’ll need to measure out 10ml of oil, or two teaspoons. Place that into your metal 1/4c measuring cup.
- Next, place a small bit of parchment or wax paper on the scale. Press the “tare” button. This subtracts the weight of the parchment paper – yes, you really do need to measure that finely – so that the scale will start at zero. Only the weight of the ingredient you put on next will be counted.
- Carefully measure out 250mg of shatter (12.5mg times 20 capsules).
- Place your 250mg of shatter into the metal measuring cup, along with the oil.
- Using an oven mitt or sturdy pot-holder, place the measuring cup over a burner on your stove. Heat it slowly, using the lowest heat setting, while stirring with a small spoon, until you get the shatter to fully dissolve into the oil. Be sure none is stuck to the walls of the measuring cup or spoon.
- Let the mixture cool fully. Using the syringe with the blunt needle, suck up all of the oil. You can store the oil in a cool, dark place in the syringe until you need it.
- Using the syringe, you can fill each size 0 capsule with 0.5ml (cc) of oil. Don’t forget to cap the capsule when you’re finished.
I recommend that you store the oil in the syringe and fill the capsule(s) just before you take them. Gelatin capsules will dissolve from the oil, as, eventually, will vegan capsules (cellulose), though the latter are thought to be more stable for containing oil. Before you get cooking, there’s one last thing to remember: any orally ingested Cannabis product, including capsules, will take significantly longer to act than inhaled Cannabis.
The time to onset is variable from one to four hours, so do not get impatient and take more! Otherwise, you could get too intoxicated by Cannabis and spend a few hours feeling uncomfortable. If you need any clarification on how to make your own medical marijuana capsules, please don’t hesitate to call me at (617) 477-8886. If you’re not a current patient, I’m happy to answer any questions you might have about the Massachusetts medical marijuana program or the health benefits of Cannabis in a confidential consultation.
MA specifically qualified conditions:
- Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) or HIV positive status
- Hepatitis C
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Crohn’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
And other debilitating conditions as determined in writing by a qualifying patient’s physician, which may include:
- Chronic back pain
- Rheumatoid Arthritis