I grow many different things on our farm, but one of my favorites is cannabis. A little under two years ago, I purchased my first plants and haven’t looked back. Since my first harvest, I have not used any NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as Tylenol or Ibuprofen for any reason. I much prefer skipping all of the possible side effects of pharmaceuticals and rely on the medicinal uses of cannabis instead. My favorite way to harness the healing powers of the cannabis plant is in tincture or salve form. Topical applications will not cause a psychoactive response.
So let’s talk basics and why cannabis might be for you. Cannabis actually decreases inflammation in the body to reduce pain, where medications such as NSAIDs or narcotics/opioids only mask the pain and inflammation temporarily. Cannabinoids, like THC or CBD, are the chemical compounds that provide relief from pain, inflammation or nausea by communicating with our endocannabinoid system.
Our endocannabinoid system affects our homeostasis, appetite, mood, memory and pain. Our bodies naturally produce endocannabinoids, and supplementing with a cannabis tincture or salve can bring immense relief. Terpenes, which give cannabis its characteristic smell, also have a medicinal effect when used in conjunction with cannabinoids. Which is why I prefer using the whole plant, both flowers and trim, to get the full range of compounds rather than using a one note product that singles out just THC or just CBD. Whole plant products hit more receptors within the body and in turn are more effective.
Luckily, society is starting to change their opinion of cannabis users from “always altered, unproductive members of society” to accepting the idea that people from all walks of life are reaping the benefits of cannabis in many different forms.
So let’s talk salve. There are many different recipes online for making your own salve. Most are some combination of oils like coconut and olive, beeswax and finely chopped cannabis. They can be infused on the stove in a double boiler, or my favorite way, in my slow cooker. You want to keep the oils warm so that the compounds from the plant matter infuse into the oil, creating a potent topical medication. After infusing the oils until they are dark in color and fragrant, you strain out the plant matter, mix the infusion with beeswax to give you a solid product and store in a jar for future use. This salve can be used to rub into sore muscles, cramps, localized swelling and pain, bruises, massaged into the neck for tension, rashes, bug bites, acne…and the list goes on. Sometimes I even use it as a facial moisturizer!
A tincture is an extract of plant matter typically using alcohol as the solvent, which dissolves the medicinal compounds from the plant into the alcohol. As with salve, there are many different recipes online for making tinctures. All you need to make a cannabis tincture is finely chopped cannabis and high proof alcohol such as vodka or Everclear. You can do this two ways: 1. with decarboxylated cannabis, decarboxylating (or heating) converts THCA into THC and can provide a psychoactive effect, if that is what you are after or 2. with un-decarboxylated cannabis which retains the THCA compound and will not give you a psychoactive effect, but will still be medically beneficial.
You then combine your cannabis with your alcohol into a glass jar, shake and place in the freezer for five days up to a couple of weeks. Daily shaking of the jar will aid in the dissolving of the compounds into the tincture. The longer it infuses, the stronger your tincture will be. Once it becomes dark green in color and has infused for the appointed time you will then strain the plant matter out and bottle your finished tincture. You will want to choose a dark dropper bottle and store your tincture in a dark cool place such as the refrigerator or a cabinet. When you need relief, place a few drops (start with small doses and adjust as needed) under your tongue for conditions like headache, nausea and anxiety. There are other tincture methods such as the ‘Traditional Warm Method’ and ‘Hot Method/Green Dragon’, but the cold method mentioned above is what I use and have had success with. Pick whichever method works for you.
So get out there and grow some of your own medicine! It’s fun, easy and I bet you’ll be glad you did.
As always, please check your state laws and requirements when you begin your cannabis journey. I do hope you are lucky enough to have access to cannabis either through a medicinal use card or recreational dispensaries.