Belonging to the family of cannabis extracts, ingestible oils are made of concentrated cannabis compounds and can be consumed in many ways: mixed into food, stirred into drinks or ingested on their own. While some of these oils have a mild flavour and aroma, others are nearly tasteless and odourless; interestingly, this is one of the few cannabis formats where pungency isn’t always celebrated.
Curious about these versatile products and how they’re made? We asked some of the Licensed Producers making ingestible oils — Verse Originals, Blissed and Good Supply — for the ins and outs.
Choosing the right cannabis
Just like making a perfume, the characteristics of an oil’s base ingredients will create certain qualities in the finished product.
The blend of flower used to make Good Supply’s THC 30:0 oil is grown in-house, while Blissed buys its cannabis — or “biomass,” in industry speak — from a third party, choosing a single strain rather than a blend. “When sourcing biomass to be used in CBD or THC products, the key is finding a cultivar with high cannabinoid content, or potency. The higher the cannabinoid content, the more efficient the CO2 extraction process will be,” says Trina Lee, senior marketing manager at TREC Brands, maker of Blissed.
Did you know?
TREC partnered with award-winning Canadian author and nutritional consultant Rose Reisman on Be Blissed, a cookbook featuring THC- and CBD-infused recipes that make use of Blissed oil.
Verse sources its cannabis — a single strain — from The Valens Company, another Producer with whom Verse has partnered on production. Like other Producers, Verse has a long list of product specifications that it reviews when sourcing, including:
- Biomass type (whole flower, B grade or trim?)
- Cultivar (indica, sativa or hybrid?)
- Cannabinoid profile and concentrations
- Terpene profile
- Moisture content
- Age (when was it harvested?)
- Processing and storage conditions (how was it harvested, was it flash-frozen or dried and cured, and how was it packaged and stored?)
Isolating the cannabinoids
As with the creation of any type of cannabis extract, the dried flower must be processed to isolate the desired plant compounds — in the case of ingestible oils, that’s the cannabinoids THC and/or CBD. But not every product is created the same way.
Blissed uses a CO2 extraction process, in which pressurized carbon dioxide is used to pull the elements out of the dried cannabis. The result is a full-spectrum oil that contains a large array of compounds, including cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids.
Distillate is another type of cannabis extract used to make ingestible oils, but it’s more refined than full-spectrum oil, devoid of nearly all its terpenes, unwanted cannabinoids and other compounds. Good Supply and Verse use a cold or cryogenic ethanol method to first produce an extract: Simply put, the plants are soaked in alcohol, which absorbs all the desired compounds, and then the ethanol is removed. “The ethanol extraction solvent is kept extremely cold in order to selectively extract cannabinoids, while leaving behind unwanted [compounds], such as chlorophyll and sugars,” says Richard Augimeri, director of research and development at The Valens Company.
Did you know?
At 900 mg of THC per bottle and 30 mg of THC per gram of oil, Good Supply’s THC 30:0 oil is the highest potency oil allowed under Health Canada regulations.
The extract is further refined through distillation to remove any remaining aromas and to increase the purity of THC or CBD. For its CBD product, Verse uses distillation to refine the extract into ultra-pure crystals instead of an oil.
Mastering the blend
The cannabis distillate (oil or crystals) undergoes one final step to create a user-friendly product with good viscosity (the ability to flow smoothly).
Good Supply and Blissed extracts are simply diluted with medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil, which is the fat found in foods like coconut. No extra ingredients are added to mask the natural taste and aroma of cannabis. “As our THC distillate has been refined to removed virtually all other cannabinoids and compounds found in the plant, it inherently has minimal cannabis flavour and scent,” says Stefan Grigorakis, product development manager at Good Supply. Because Blissed uses a CO2 extraction process to create a full-spectrum extract, its Blissed Breathe drops do contain a few tasty, aromatic terpenes, such as caryophyllene, guaiol and bisabolol.
Because both ingredients in these products — the cannabis extract and the MCT oil — are oils, they remain mixed. But Verse uses SōRSE, a patent-pending emulsion technology, to suspend its oil in water. The process involves an emulsifier — a compound that has lipophilic (oil-loving) and hydrophilic (water-loving) sections that act as the interface between the oil and water layers. “Mechanical shear is applied to the mixture to force the oil and water phases together to allow the emulsifier to stabilize the mixture,” says Augimeri. This coarse emulsion is then subjected to high-pressure homogenization to further reduce the size of the cannabinoid-rich oil droplets and create a homogenous formulation.
The emulsification process used to make Verse Originals drops can reach pressures of up to 30,000 psi (for comparison, your water tap is at about 50 psi).
All the ingestible oil Producers we spoke with conduct multiple in-house and/or third-party tests to ensure their formulations are properly blended and have the desired cannabinoid potency, at both the extract and the finished product stages.
Before it’s sold through OCS.ca and at Authorized Retailers, ingestible oil is also tested for the presence of contaminants (such as pesticides, heavy metals, residual solvents, microbials and toxins). Verse tests its drops’ pH level, which can affect the efficacy of the preservation system, and its oil droplet size, which is important to predict the shelf life of the emulsion.
Droppers and stoppers
Consistency is a key benefit of legal cannabis. So how do ingestible oil Producers guarantee the same amount of THC and/or CBD each and every time? A completely homogenous formulation is key, followed by packaging designed for precise dispensing.
“Our oils use a syringe for precision dosing,” says Lee at Blissed. Good Supply’s THC 30:0 packaging also includes an integrated syringe and stopper system that allows consumers to dispense 10 mg of THC per gram of oil at a time, which is the maximum allowed for extract products under Health Canada regulations. Verse Originals Drops use a bottle (like those that essential oils come in) that dispenses a drop with a consistent concentration of CBD or THC when turned upside down and gently tapped.
Fat loves fat: Using the oils
Your body may absorb THC and CBD more effectively when these cannabinoids are consumed alongside another fat, which is why Good Supply recommends that its THC 30:0 Oil be used in foods or in recipes that would normally include oil, such as baked goods. The Blissed team adds its Breathe High CBD Oil to smoothies and salad dressings. “We do not recommend drizzling the CBD oil over your dish if you forget to add it when cooking,” says Lee. “It can be bitter and won’t taste as good! Also, be wary when cooking at high heat, as THC and CBD can degrade at high temperatures.”
Verse Originals THC and CBD Drops are water soluble, so they can infuse hot and cold beverages, raw, cooked and frozen foods, and water-based personal care products. And like all ingestible oils, they can be consumed directly. “The consumer is able to customize the amount of THC and/or CBD they consume by varying the number of drops they add, and can control the ratio of THC to CBD by adding both drops in the desired proportions,” says Quinn Shiskin, director of products and innovation at The Valens Company. “Imagination is the only thing limiting the number of possible applications.”
Ingestible oils can be potent; start low, go slow and be extra mindful of your dosage when adding oils to food.