But while the data may be lacking, anecdotal evidence from cannabis consumers is rife. It should be noted though that because most cannabis salves contain other natural ingredients or essential oils, some of this effect may not be entirely from the cannabis.
Decarboxylation simply requires heating up some cannabis in the oven for 30-45 minutes at around 220-245°F (105-120°C), making sure to check every five or 10 minutes to make sure the marijuana isn’t scorched.
Cannabis salves and balms don’t enter the bloodstream and cannot get you high. In fact, that’s one of the reasons some people are more likely to try topicals — they want certain therapeutic benefits of cannabis but don’t want to get high.
Tips and common mistakes with cannabis salves
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, here are some useful tips: When making cannabis salves — or purchasing them at a store — make sure to pay close attention to what goes into them. Don’t use anything that you may be allergic to, and make sure to only use the salve externally, especially if it contains potential irritants like menthol, lavender, or eucalyptus.
There is little data about the actual efficacy of cannabis topicals, and because cannabinoids are hydrophobic, they have trouble penetrating and being absorbed by the skin.
Cannabis topicals can provide some relief from skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema, and even joint pain like arthritis, due to the anti-inflammatory properties of cannabinoids like CBD and THC. The health benefits of CBD are well-known these days, and CBD topical solutions are far more common than those containing THC.
Even though you aren’t going to be smoking or eating the cannabis in your salve, you still want to decarboxylate it in order to “activate” the THC in the herb.
In either a pot or double-boiler, add ⅓ cup of beeswax. Heat until it is completely melted. Now turn down the heat to low.
Store the finished cannabis salve in a cool dark location because light degrades cannabinoids (amber/colbalt glass jars or salve tins will block UV). Keep out of reach from children.
Keep the strained cannabis oil aside for now. It will be added to the salve mixture soon.
Next, stir in 1.5 cups of strained cannabis coconut oil and ⅓ cup olive oil, along with optional vitamin E plus a few drops of optional essential oils as well.
If you're using solidified cannabis-infused coconut oil that you previously made, I highly suggest mixing everything in a double-boiler once again (since you’ll need to heat it longer and hotter to re-melt your oil). OR, if you just made your cannabis oil and it is still liquified, you can do this step straight in a pot on the stove – keeping the heat as low as possible once the cannabis coconut oil is added.
When the time is up, line a strainer with cheesecloth and position it over a glass bowl. Pour the cannabis and oil mixture through the strainer. Gather the cheesecloth and gently squeeze out the excess oil from the cannabis. Warning: the oil will be hot, and your hands will get greasy! You may want to wear food-grade gloves.
The cannabis salve will harden as it cools, and then it is ready to use!