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Cooking with Cannabis: Basic Facts You Should Know

Smoke inhalation is often depicted in popular media as the most common way of consuming cannabis. However, this method often has unwanted short- and long-term effects on a person’s health. Blunts, joints, and even water bongs produce smoke and irritants that can immediately trigger asthma and allergic reactions. More than that, long-term smoking makes a person more likely to experience emphysema and other respiratory ailments.

Eating cannabis edibles, on the other hand, does not have these unwanted side effects. Dishes laced with cannabis oil, for example, allow even those with respiratory disorders to enjoy the medicinal benefits of marijuana without risking their health.

In terms of psychoactive effects, infused edibles also provide a different experience compared to blunts or joints. Smoked marijuana is absorbed by the lungs and immediately affects the user within 10 to 30 minutes. In comparison, ingested cannabis products are processed by the liver -- an indirect method with a peak effect that can last for 30 minutes to 3 hours. This means that it takes a longer time for cannabis to take effect and for the effect to subside.

In addition to maximizing the medicinal benefits of the plant, edibles also provide people with a greater variety of options when it comes to marijuana consumption. This is because food-grade cannabis extracts are quite versatile: they can be used for desserts, full recipes, as additives to beverages, or even taken sublingually by itself. 

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Common Cannabis Products for Kitchen Use

There are various cannabis products that can be readily used as an ingredient in both desserts and regular dishes. Among the most common are cannabis oil and cannabis butter.  Canna butter, as its name suggest, has a thick consistency that makes it a perfect spread for jams, toasts, and other breads.

Cannabis oil, on the other hand, has a liquid form. As such, it can be easily mixed with various types of oil, like olive or coconut, and used as salad dressing or to prepare other recipes and sweets. Tinctures and tonics are also popular cannabis products that can often be found in kitchens. These can be applied directly under your tongue, or you can put a drop of it in your tea or coffee. Alternatively, tonics and tinctures can be applied topically to provide relief for muscle spasms, seizures, and cramping, among many other conditions.

Practical Tips for Cooking with Cannabis Extracts

Cannabis-infused oil and butter may be used in the same way as regular oil and butter. But in order to maximize the medicinal and culinary effects of these cannabis extracts, it’s important to take note of these tips:

  1. Take note of the CBD:THC ratio of the product you are using. If you’re primarily after the medicinal benefits of cannabis, then CBD oil will suit your needs well. But if you’re after the plant’s psychoactive effects, then it is best that you go with high THC oil or butter.
  2. If you’re getting your cannabis ingredients straight from the plant, decarboxylate the cannabis first. Also known as decarbing, this process uses heat to transform THC-A, a non-psychoactive substance naturally found in raw cannabis plant, to THC, the plant’s most well-known psychoactive cannabinoid. Raw marijuana may not activate even after you cook it if you don’t decarb it first.
  3. When decarbing, it is better to subject the plant to low heat for long periods of time. This is because the use of lower temperature lessens the loss of terpenes -- the substance that gives each cannabis strain a different scent. Heat beyond 310 to 400°F (154 to 204.4°C) can burn the terpenes of the plant and alter its scent and taste.
  4. In relation to the point above, avoid excessive heat when cooking. THC completely breaks down if exposed to temperatures beyond 390°F (198°C). Subjecting cannabis oil or butter to high temperatures lessens the potency of the substance, which prevents you from experiencing the full benefits of the plant. Avoid exposing infused oil or fat to direct heat, like using it for frying.  If you’re infusing drinks, make sure that the beverage is close to drinking temperature before adding the tincture or cannabis oil.
  5. Practice moderation when adding cannabis extracts to your dishes or eating infused food. Remember that it takes time before you feel the effects of ingested cannabis, so be patient and limit your edibles even if you can’t feel the cannabinoids kicking in right away. ‘Overdosing’ on marijuana is a generally safe experience, but it may trigger feelings of anxiety, paranoia, or disorientation. To be safe, choose to use lab-tested concentrates so that you can effectively measure or approximate the potency of the dishes or brownies you made.

Interested In Trying Culinary Cannabis Oil? This 2-minute Quiz Will Tell You Which One’s Right For You.