In these past couple of weeks that I've been back and working at Wake + Bake full time, I've been diving into the thousands (yes thousands!) of questions that came in over the past 3 years.
I've gone down more rabbit holes than Alice and am constantly amazed by how curious and passionate the W+B community is. Keep those questions coming!
Today's post comes from a Cannabis Q+A enrollee (if you haven't already, you can sign up for the FREE monthly Cannabis Q+A here to get your questions answered LIVE).
Like many of you, he wanted a recipe for a High THC Salve.
He also had some follow up questions:
- Do you decarboxylate THC when making salve?
- Should you mix the THC with CBD, and what % of each should you use?
- How do I calculate the dosage of THC Salve?
As I went down the THC Salve rabbit hole, I couldn't wait to share this THC Salve recipe with you. If you try it, let me know how it went in the comments below.
When we think about cannabis topicals, we usually think about the widely available ones, like CBD salves and lotions.
But in legalized states and nations, we also have access to THC topicals that are becoming wildly popular with people who have chronic pain, arthritis, and skin conditions.
Unfortunately, we have very scientific evidence about using THC as a topical. Let's dive into what we know and what we don't know so you can figure out if making THC Salve is for you.
Benefits of THC Salve
THC Salve won't get you high
One of the main benefits of THC Salve is that you can apply a lot of cannabinoids to your skin without ever getting high. I have heard anecdotal evidence that some very sensitive people have gotten high from using THC Salve. I don't ever discount anyone's experience with cannabis, but the science shows that it's not likely.
THC has to have a unique delivery system to pass through the skin. Products like transdermal patches can be psychoactive, but THC Salve doesn't have the same properties.
THC Salve for Pain and Inflammation
Again, we're going off of zero research here. While topical CBD has been studied for pain and inflammation, at the time of this post, I couldn't find anything for topical THC use that isn't transdermal.
Still, anecdotally, the most popular reason people reach for THC Salve is to reduce pain and inflammation from conditions like arthritis, fibromyalgia, MS, and menstruation cramps.
THC Salve could help you look younger
Confessions: I live in the desert. I spend a ton of time in the high mountain sun. I was a sunscreen avoidant lifeguard for most of my teenage life. I overwintered in tanning beds for 5 years to ward off seasonal depression in North Dakota.
For the past four years, I've been using topicals and cannabis raffinate sugar scrub regularly. Since then, I've gotten so many compliments on my skin. THC salve is just one part of a self-care equation, whether you're using it for skincare or pain.
Cannabis doesn't stop the aging process. I'm still slowly morphing into the 67-year old I am on the inside. Still, it's much better than the direction I was heading in after all of those years of hitting the tanning bed to survive winters in Fargo.
I've done a lot to get and stay healthy on the inside since then. Still, I believe that using cannabis (like THC and CBD salve) on the outside was what kept me looking healthy, even through periods when I found myself overworked, poorly rested, and grieving in the past several years.
While I realize those results are entirely anecdotal, I'm not the only one who feels like using cannabis salve consistently keeps them looking good.
Keep in mind that we have no studies about the topical use of THC (that is not transdermal). But science doesn't completely rule out the idea that cannabis compounds, including THC, can be beneficial to keep your skin healthy and bright.
Cannabis is known for its antioxidant power, which could contribute to the effects of cannabis salves and lotions. There's still so much to learn, but with such a high safety profile, especially when used externally, it's a great way to experiment with cannabinoids to see what works for you.
I won't say it's the only reason I use THC salve and other cannabis-derived topicals. Still, if it turns out that it really can help you reduce the external signs of aging, then I guess it may be a lot longer until I look like the 67-year-old of my fantasies.
How to make THC Salve
While we don't have a ton of scientific evidence to back up the use of THC topicals if you have some THC on hand. You want to experiment with doing things other than smoking it, transforming it into this THC Salve recipe is a great place to start.
If you're growing your own cannabis THC Salve is a great way to use trim, shake, and smalls because flavor and curing don't seem to be an issue for topicals.
Do you decarb THC Salve?
This question always comes up, and it's a very personalized answer. Whether or not you decarb or use certain cannabinoids/focus on specific terpenes is entirely dependent on what types of effects you're looking for. Since salve is not very likely to produce any intoxicating effects, this could be a great place to experiment.
I typically decarb my high THC plant material in an Ardent FX because it gets over 95% decarb every time and I can infuse my oil directly in it afterward.
If I want some THCa in the mix, I add a percentage of non-decarboxylated cannabis into the infusion. These days, I always incorporate CBD and CBG flower into the mix (see below on the note about adding CBD to your THC salve).
One of my early mentors to this work said that unless it had all of the acidic and decarboxylated forms of all of the cannabinoids, he didn't consider it medicine.
It seems that science is beginning to back up that theory with our understanding of the entourage effect. We've heard from many readers who are skipping or partially decarbing those molecules to test out the acidic variations as well.
Should you add CBG or CBD to THC Salve?
This is a question we've been seeing a lot of lately. Since the THC salve isn't going to get you high, is there any reason to add CBD to the mix?
When I'm in my own kitchen, the answer is always yes. After studying cannabis for years, I've come to embrace the entourage effect as much as possible. I personally use as many cannabinoids as possible when making cannabis products for myself and my family members.
Depending on where you live, making topicals with CBD and CBG can be much more affordable.
An ounce of high THC cannabis can range anywhere from $110-$280, and high CBD plant material is much less expensive.
I get my CBD and CBG from Sacred Smoke, where – as of this moment – you can grab an ounce of 17% CBD for just $60. You can take an extra 15% off using the code WAKEANDBAKE, bringing the cost down to a little over $50 per ounce. That's a savings of anywhere from $60-$220 when compared to high THC plant material.
If you have access to high THC trim and small buds because you grow your own or scored some on sale, that can cut down costs as well. Otherwise, adding some of these other cannabinoids can help create an entourage effect and save some cash.
Some research backs up the transdermal and topical use of CBD for pain and skin conditions (like this and this). CBD may prove to be even more effective at pain relief and reducing inflammation than THC. Since it can save you money and could potentially work better than THC alone, it's worth a try.
Dosing THC Salve
If you haven't already, sign up for lifetime access to the free edibles dosage calculator to calculate the approximate amount of THC in your THC salve. I like to aim for 50-100mg of THC per tablespoon, so I can use one tablespoon at a time. To keep it affordable, look for third-party tested organically grown trim, or grow your own (if it's possible in your area).
I bought a small bottle of “Extra Strength” cannabis lotion at the dispensary a few months ago for about $25. When I got it home, I realized that lotion only contained 50mg of THC and 50mg of CBD in the entire bottle.
In my experience, 50-100mg per serving is ideal, so make sure you sign up for the free edibles dosage calculator and calculate your dosage before you infuse. That way, if you want to make it stronger, you can cut the amount of oil in your infusion or add more plant material until you hit your desired strength.
How to use THC Salve
I typically start out with 50-100mg and really work it in. It takes a while for the salve to absorb into the skin, so just like with CBD massage oil, give yourself the time to self-massage before you have to put clothes on.
I use a topical like this THC salve almost every evening and some mornings if I feel achy. Since it's not intoxicating, it's a great everyday tool if it works for you.
THC salve recipe
I've adapted my CBD Pain Salve Recipe into this THC recipe. The only real difference is the type of plant material you use and how long you decarboxylate it. Feel free to incorporate CBD and CBG into your salve recipe and see if it works better than THC alone.
The optional essential oils make this THC salve penetrate deeply, relaxing tight and achy muscles and helping reduce pain. Our testers and readers swear by this formula. It's heavy on essential oils (see note), but testers say they provide deep relief that they come back to again and again.
- Decarboxylate 7g high THC flower* in an Ardent FX or using your preferred method for decarbing THC. If using the Ardent, simply run the A1 cycle.
- Once your plant material is decarbed, infuse the following using an Ardent FX (the FX is my go-to method), the crockpot method, or the mason jar method:
- 1/2 cup of coconut oil
- ½ cup olive oil (can sub for another ½ cup of coconut oil)
3. Strain the plant material from the oil.
4. In a double boiler over medium heat, combine:
- the cup of THC Infused Coconut and Olive Oil blend you made in step 2.
- 4 Tablespoons Beeswax
5. Once the beeswax is melted and combined with oil, add 80 drops* each of:
- Eucalyptus Essential Oil (this one)
- Clove Essential Oil (this one)
- Peppermint Essential Oil (this one)
- Black Pepper Essential Oil (this one)
- Ginger Essential Oil (optional… this one can be a bit pricy, so you could add more of the other oils to keep costs down)
5. Stir thoroughly to combine and pour into 4-2 oz containers.
6. Cool. Cover. Label.
*7 grams at 20% THC in 1 cup of oil will yield a total of 1400mg of THC for the entire recipe. This makes each tablespoon of Salve come out to about 87mg of THC. Sign up for the free edibles dosage calculator to calculate the cannabinoids in your salve.
**I know what you're thinking… 80 drops each is a LOT of essential oil. We tested these specific oils because Aura Casia was the only thing available locally. We started out at ¼ of the amount and sampled our way up from here, and 80 drops was the most effective for our testers. You can use fewer drops of these essential oils as desired, but this was the sweet spot when we tested using this particular brand. If you have more or less potent essential oils, you can adjust the recipe by starting with 10-20 drops each and testing a small amount on your wrist to see if it gives you the desired effect. Increase the number of drops until you feel deep relief.
Questions? Feedback? New research or info that could make this post better for the community? Drop it in the comments below! I love hearing from you!