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How to Make Homemade Cannabis Salve (CBD or THC)

To grow and make your own medicine… that is the stuff that dreams are made of, am I right?! We like to use our organic homegrown cannabis in a variety of ways, but making topical cannabis salve is on the top of the list. Cannabis salve can help to reduce inflammation, soothe skin irritation, joint pain, and more! It also happens to be quite simple to make your own cannabis salve, and easy to customize it to suit your needs.

Read along to learn how to make cannabis salve in 4 simple steps. With this recipe, you can use marijuana, hemp, high CBD, high THC, raw cannabis, decarbed cannabis, or any combination thereof! (Depending on what is legal and available in your area of course.) Let’s talk about benefits of each of those, how cannabis salve works, and what awesome healing potential it has.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links to products for your convenience, such as items on Amazon. Homestead and Chill gains a small commission from purchases made through those links, but at no additional cost to you.

What is Cannabis Salve

Maybe we need to step back a moment. How about, “what is a salve?”. A salve is simply the term for a healing solution that you put on your skin, including creams, ointments, or balms. Generally, salves are fairly thick, shelf-stable, and include nourishing oils such as coconut oil, olive oil, sweet almond oil, or others.

In our cannabis salve recipe, we prefer to use mostly coconut oil, because it is full of saturated fat that binds well with cannabinoids. It is also ultra-moisturizing. We also add a dash of olive oil to increase absorption and smoothness. To learn more about various carrier oils, check out our homemade calendula oil article – where I discuss the pros and cons of a dozen different oil options!

Salves also typically contain waxes or butters to bind the ingredients and make them semi-solid at room temperature. Beeswax is a popular option because it is readily available, easy to work with (especially when purchased in pastilles), and creates perfectly smooth results. See the ingredient list below for recommended vegan substitutions.

When cannabis is added to salve as an ingredient… voila! You’ve got yourself a cannabis salve. The most common way to add cannabis to a salve recipe is to create a cannabis-infused oil first, and then combine the oil with the other salve ingredients.

Therefore, that is exactly what we’re going to do in this recipe: make cannabis oil, and then the salve. But first: “what kind of cannabis should I use in my oil or salve?”

Using Decarboxylated or Raw Cannabis in Salve

How about a little bit of both?

If you aren’t familiar with the term, decarboxylation is the process of heating cannabis at an ideal time and temperature to transform raw cannabinoid compounds from their “acid” form to more active and potent versions. For example, CBDA and THCA are changed into CBD and THC respectively. Decarboxylation naturally occurs when cannabis is smoked or vaporized, but it needs to be accomplished by other means when using cannabis in oil or salves – such as by heating it in the oven. (Read more about decarboxylation here)

The medicinal benefits of decarboxylated THC and CBD are well-documented. Both are anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, high in antioxidants, relieve pain, relax muscles, and suppress tumor growth. This is especially true when they’re used and work together, known as the “entourage effect“. THC is a particularly powerful analgesic (pain-reliever). CBD has even more expansive healing applications, and can help relieve seizures, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriasis. That said, we definitely want to reap those benefits and use decarbed cannabis in this salve recipe!

On the other hand, emerging studies are revealing that raw THCA and CBDA have some pretty groovy perks too. THCA is showing a promising ability to reduce inflammation, muscle spasms, arthritis, and cancer. CBDA also fights inflammation and tumor growth.

Beyond CBD and THC, there are dozens of other compounds found in cannabis that may produce individual, interactive, or synergistic benefits, including phytocannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes. It should be noted that THC is psychoactive and CBD is not, though that doesn’t matter all that much when making a cannabis salve intended for topical use only.

Considering all of this, we like to use both decarbed and raw organic cannabis (containing both THC and CBD) to create a full-spectrum, well-rounded, ultra-healing finished product.

What Can Cannabis Salve Be Used For?

Cannabis salve is stellar at relieving many ailments! First of all, coconut oil and olive oil are extremely nourishing on their own – so you’re going to get plenty of moisture from your salve to heal dry, cracked, or otherwise irritated skin. If you add a few drops of essential oils to your salve, you’ll also get the benefit of aromatherapy.

The healing properties of your homemade cannabis salve may vary slightly depending on what type of cannabis you use. In general, cannabis salve can be used to treat or relieve the following :

  • Psoriasis
  • Eczema
  • Rashes, itching, or other skin irritation
  • General inflammation
  • Sore joints
  • Arthritis
  • Muscle aches
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Irregular cell growth (e.g. skin cancer cells)

Personally, I like to rub a little cannabis salve on my tight and sore neck muscles, shoulders, wrists, knees, elbows, ankles, bottom of my feet, and behind my ears. Hey, all this gardening (and sitting to blog) does a number on my body!

The beneficial effects of various cannabinoids. Chart courtesy of PotGuide

How Does It Work?

Did you know we all have an Endocannabinoid System? Yep. Just like we have an endocrine system, immune system, digestive system, and so on. Our bodies have natural receptors, literally made to interact with cannabinoid compounds. This includes both internal, naturally-synthesized cannabinoids and those from external sources – like those from marijuana or hemp. Neat, huh?

When cannabis salve or medicated topicals are applied to our skin, the THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids present in the solution penetrate the skin to bind and activate our localized endocannabinoid receptors. They won’t enter the bloodstream however, so topically-applied salve will not get you “high”.

HOW TO MAKE HOMEMADE CANNABIS SALVE

Supplies Needed

  • 7-10 grams of decarboxylated cannabis (ground or torn to fairy small pieces). If your cannabis is not yet decarbed, see Step 1 in the instructions below.
  • 1 ½ cups of coconut oil OR, 1 ½ cups of already-infused cannabis coconut oil (*see notes about using different types of oil below)
  • Optional: 5 grams raw cannabis, dried and cured.
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup beeswax pastilles (vegan option: replace with the same amount of organic soy wax, candelilla wax, or carnauba wax)
  • Optional: Essential oils of choice. I like using this certified organic lavender oil. Tea tree, peppermint, rosemary, lemon, or eucalyptus are also great choices!
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon of shea butter or 1 teaspoon of vitamin E oil for additional antioxidants and moisture
  • A double-boiler, or make-shift double boiler – such as a glass pyrex bowl or stainless steel bowl perched on top of a saucepan with water below
  • Cheesecloth (if your cannabis oil is not already made)
  • Mixing bowl
  • Glass jars or salve tins, for storage
  • Recommended: probe thermometer

Makes: Approximately 2 cups (16 ounces) of finished salve

*Notes: If you want to scale this recipe up or down: the general rule of thumb for salve is to use about 1 part of beeswax to 4 or 5 parts oil, including both coconut and olive oil. Since we use virgin coconut oil that is solid at room temperature, we can get away with lesser beeswax and the salve will still set up well. If you use a different carrier oil that is liquid at room temperature, either omit the extra 1/3 cup olive oil mentioned above, or increase the amount of beeswax pastilles to 1/2 cup.

INSTRUCTIONS

Step 1) Decarboxylate Your Cannabis

If you haven’t done so already, the first step is to decarboxylate the cannabis you intend to use in this salve recipe. Or at least some of it, if you want to also use some raw material.

Grind or tear up the cannabis into fairly small pieces. Spread it evenly on a baking sheet, and heat it in the oven on 250°F for 25-30 minutes. Easy, right?

Step 2) Create & Strain Cannabis-Infused Oil

If you tuned into our “How to Make Cannabis Oil” tutorial, you will recognize these steps. The process is virtually the same, except we are going to use slightly more coconut oil here. If you’re interested in making medicated edibles, check out that article!

When making cannabis oil, it is important to not overheat it. Because we are starting with already-decarboxylated cannabis, maintaining a lower temperature will preserve the already-active THC and CBD content as well as the terpenes. Avoid heating it over 200 degrees F. 120 to 180°F is even better.

That is where a double-boiler comes in handy! Even over the lowest flame, heating oil in a pot directly on the stove is much more difficult to prevent overheating, and can create “hot spots” – destroying our precious cannabinoids.

I suggest monitoring the oil temperature with a probe thermometer if possible. Because oils have a higher boiling point (or “smoke point”) than water, the oil will not appear to be as hot as it really is! For example, the oil may be well over 212 degrees but not visibly bubble and boil like water would at the same temperature.

Steps to Make Cannabis-Infused Oil:

  • Add water to the bottom pan of your double-boiler. Now add 1.5 cups of coconut oil to the top section of the double-boiler. Heat until it melts.

Stir in 710 grams of decarboxylated cannabis to the melted oil. Add an optional few grams of raw ground cannabis if you desire.

Continue to heat the cannabis and oil over a low heat for 30 to 60 minutes, stirring occasionally. Use a probe thermometer to check the temperature, and adjust the heat as needed to maintain the oil below 200°F. We aim for a target temperature range of around 130 to 150°F and infuse for one hour.

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.

Keep the strained cannabis oil aside for now. It will be added to the salve mixture soon.

Step 3) Mix the Salve Ingredients

Just like the last step, we want to avoid excessively heating the cannabis oil in order to preserve cannabinoids. If you happen to be 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).

On the other hand, 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.

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. Next, stir in 1.5 cups of strained cannabis coconut oil and ⅓ cup olive oil. Now is the time to add the optional vitamin E plus a few drops of optional essential oils as well. Stir until everything looks completely combined. Once it is, quickly remove the liquid salve from the heat and transfer it into your storage containers of choice.

Step 4) Cool & Store

When it is ready, I pour the liquid salve straight into these 2 ounce glass jars, or these 4 ounce glass jars. You can also use these shallow wide aluminum salve tins. The cannabis salve will harden as it cools, and then it is ready to use!

It is best to store your finished cannabis salve in a cool dark location because light degrades cannabinoids. The amber and cobalt jars we use block UV light, which protects the salve if I leave it out.

Note: Sometimes, the surface of the salve may crack just a little bit as it cools. See the photos below. I have found that salve in our 2-ounce glass containers don’t crack, but larger volumes may. This is really only an aesthetic “issue” if you care. Personally, I don’t mind. It disappears as soon as you begin to dig in and use it!

However, some folks may not like the appearance of the cracks – particularly if the cannabis salve is going to be sold or given as a gift. To avoid settling cracks, put the cannabis salve in a mixing bowl before transferring it into a storage container. Allow it to only partially cool and solidify, whip and mix it up, and then pack into your containers.

Step 5) Feel Good

Lather up! Apply a thin, even layer to the affected area. You should start to feel the results within 5 to 20 minutes, depending on the severity of your issue and strength of your salve. Repeat several times per day as needed.

Will this make me smell like weed?

Just slightly! I find our salve to have a mild cannabis odor, but nothing overpowering. The coconut aroma also stands out. If you add essential oils to your recipe, that can also help to mask the smell. I often apply salve after showering (including before going to work) and don’t think there is much of a noticeable odor after a half an hour or so. No one has ever said anything to me at least!

How long does cannabis salve last?

When stored in ideal cool and dark conditions, homemade cannabis salve should last up to a year. The potency will only slightly decrease during this time. I try to use clean hands when I dig into my salve jars, to avoid introducing any contamination that could make it potentially mold or spoil faster. You could also use a salve spoon.

Ready to make your own medicine?

I hope you found this tutorial to be useful, interesting, and informative! I also hope that it helps you soothe your trouble spots, whatever those may be. Finally, please remember to heed caution depending on your local laws, and always be careful with your cannabis products around curious kiddos or pets.

If you enjoy this article, be sure to check out:

Please feel free to ask questions, or spread the love by sharing or pinning this post! Thank you for tuning in.

Learn how to make your own healing cannabis salve, using marijuana or hemp. It helps reduce inflammation, skin irritation, joint pain, psoriasis, & more!

Top 10 CBD Topicals: Lotions, Creams, and Salves

There are lots of ways to use cannabidiol (CBD), but if you’re looking for relief from aches and pains or help with skin conditions, a topical might be your best bet.

A CBD topical is any cream, lotion, or salve that’s infused with CBD and can be applied directly to the skin.

While research on CBD is still in its early stages, the little we do know about CBD topicals is promising.

A 2016 study done on rats discovered that topical applications of CBD could help manage pain and inflammation associated with arthritis.

The American Academy of Dermatology even suggested using topical CBD products as an adjunct measure for acne, eczema, and psoriasis at their annual meeting in 2018.

CBD’s effectiveness, however, varies depending on a variety of factors, like the:

  • source
  • quality
  • dosage

So, how can you discern the CBD products that are the real deal from the fakes? We’ve gone ahead and done all the heavy lifting for you, listing 10 great options below.

We chose these products based on criteria we think are good indicators of safety, quality, and transparency. Each product in this article:

  • is made by a company that provides proof of third-party testing by an ISO 17025-compliant lab
  • is made with U.S.-grown hemp
  • contains no more than 0.3 percent THC, according to the certificate of analysis (COA)
  • passes tests for pesticides, heavy metals, and molds, according to the COA

As a part of our selection process, we also considered:

  • the company’s certifications and manufacturing processes
  • product potency
  • overall ingredients
  • indicators of user trust and brand reputation, such as:
    • customer reviews
    • whether the company has been subject to a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warning letter
    • whether the company makes any unsupported health claims

Where available, we’ve included special discount codes for our readers.

Pricing

  • $ = under $50
  • $$ = $50–$75
  • $$$ = over $75

To get a full picture of the price of a product, it’s important to read labels for:

  • serving sizes
  • amounts
  • strengths
  • other ingredients

You’ll see the following terms mentioned in the products below. Here’s what they mean:

  • CBD isolate: pure CBD, with no other cannabinoids or THC
  • Broad-spectrum CBD: contains most cannabinoids, but it generally doesn’t include THC
  • Full-spectrum CBD: contains all of the plant’s cannabinoids, including THC

CBD topical brands selected:

  • Joy Organics
  • CBDistillery
  • Lazarus Naturals
  • Vertly
  • Envy
  • Imbue Botanicals
  • Saint Jane
  • GoGreen
  • Lord Jones

Best for pain

Joy Organics CBD Salve

Use code “healthcbd” for 15% off.

Price point: $$-$$$

This broad-spectrum CBD salve is formulated specifically to address muscle and joint pain without THC. It’s made without water so it’s a thicker consistency than a lotion or cream.

It contains organic MCT oil, beeswax, and lavender and eucalyptus essential oils for added skin-soothing and relaxation benefits.

This salve comes in 1-ounce (500 mg of CBD) or 2-ounce (1,000 mg of CBD) packages depending on how much you want on hand.

The COA is available on each product page.

CBDistillery CBDol CBD Balm

Use code “healthline” for 15% off sitewide.

Price point: $$

Full-spectrum and full of calming and moisturizing ingredients like coconut oil, almond oil, and aloe, this balm can help aid your aches.

You’ll get 500 mg of CBD in each 1-ounce jar. Their products are made using U.S. Hemp Authority-certified non-GMO hemp grown in the USA.

To find the COA, Scan the QR code on their website or contact them.

Use code “BESTFORPAIN” for 20% off (one time use per user)

Lazarus Naturals Full Spectrum CBD Balm, Soothing Mint

Price point: $

This full-spectrum balm contains 400 mg of CBD in 0.67 ounces or 1,200 mg of CBD in 2 ounces of product.

Other ingredients like organic mango butter and organic beeswax add to the soothe factor. It comes in mint, cedar citrus, lavender, Portland rose, and unscented varieties.

The COA is available on each product page.

Vertly Hemp CBD-Infused Relief Lotion

Price point: $

Vertly’s CBD lotion contains 150 mg of full-spectrum CBD in each 2.9-ounce jar.

Other ingredients include anti-inflammatory lavender oil, magnesium for muscle recovery, and arnica flower for muscle tightness. The end result is a nongreasy lotion that keeps skin nourished all day long.

Because of the potent ingredients, this is another product that shouldn’t be used on broken skin.

The COA is available on each product page.

Best for facial skin

Vertly Soothing Florals Hydrating Face Mist

Price point: $

This facial mist is a refreshing way to snag CBD along with calendula flower, aloe, lavender, and jasmine oil.

Each 2-ounce package contains 100 mg of full-spectrum CBD.

Be aware that it also contains witch hazel and rose water which could be drying or irritating for sensitive skin.

The COA is available on each product page.

Envy CBD Face Mask

Price point: $$$

If you love the self-care of a face mask, this may be your preferred way to get the effects of CBD.

Each mask contains 10 mg of full-spectrum CBD per sheet along with licorice root extract, rosemary flower extract, and green tea leaf extract for their antioxidant and hydrating properties.

Apply it to a clean face for about 30 minutes for maximum benefit. Note that since you only get three sheets per container, it may be slightly pricier than other topicals.

The COA is available on each product page.

Imbue Botanicals em.body premium CBD Lip Balm

Price point: $

If you’re already slathering on lip balm, this will make applying CBD super easy.

With 25 mg of full-spectrum CBD and grape seed oil, beeswax, and natural flavorings, this lip balm is the most portable way to go.

im-bue lip balms come in peppermint and strawberry flavors.

COA test results by batch are available online.

Saint Jane Luxury Beauty Serum

Price point: $$$

Another Sephora favorite, this serum contains 500 mg of full-spectrum CBD in each 1-ounce bottle, making it one of the most potent on this list.

Designed to treat dull, uneven skin, it contains a mixture of 20 different botanicals to reduce redness and even skin tone.

It’s also made with cold-pressed grapeseed oil, a powerful antioxidant that’s rich in healthy omega fats and vitamin E.

It’s cruelty-free, and fans rave about its light, nongreasy feel and ability to combat blemishes.

The COA is available on each product page.

Best all-purpose

Lord Jones High CBD Formula Body Oil

Price point: $$

Sleek, stylish, and available online or at Sephora stores nationwide, each 1-ounce bottle contains 100 mg of broad-spectrum CBD.

Skin-friendly ingredients include organic safflower oil, avocado oil, and jojoba oil.

The roller ball applicator is designed to help target pressure points and allows easy application on the go. Store at room temperature for best results.

COA test results by batch are available online.

GoGreen Hemp CBD Relief Stick

Price point: $$

GoGreen limits their ingredient lists to just the essentials to avoid any allergens or skin interactions. It’s just beeswax, MCT oil, and a broad-spectrum CBD oil.

It has 1,000 mg of CBD in each 2.2-ounce stick. The stick design allows for easy application to specific areas that need relief.

The COA is available on each product page.

There’s a whole lot of information to keep in mind when shopping for a CBD topical. Let’s go over the basics.

Potency

The No. 1 thing to look for is potency. CBD doesn’t pass through skin easily, so it’s important to use a potent product for best results.

When it comes to CBD topicals like lotions and creams, average potency products contain between 3 and 8 mg per recommended application. High potency products contain at least 8 mg per recommended application.

CBD source

Chances are, you may have seen the terms isolate, full-spectrum, and broad-spectrum before. These terms refer to the ways in which CBD is extracted.

While isolates are ideal for consumers who want to be sure there’s no THC in their product, this extraction method strips away other cannabinoids and volatile organic compounds like terpenes, reducing the overall therapeutic benefits of the CBD.

Broad-spectrum products contain most cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, but they don’t contain THC.

Full-spectrum products preserve all cannabinoids and terpenes in the final product, including THC. This is important because CBD and THC may work better together than they do alone, thanks to the entourage effect.

Note that any full-spectrum products made from hemp will still only contain 0.3 percent THC or less, so it’s still a relatively small amount.

Has it been third-party tested?

Currently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t guarantee the safety, effectiveness, or quality of over-the-counter (OTC) CBD products. However, in order to protect public health, they can take action against CBD companies that make unfounded health claims.

Since the FDA doesn’t regulate CBD products in the same way they regulate drugs or dietary supplements, companies sometimes mislabel or misrepresent their products.

That means it’s especially important to do your own research and find a quality product. The product’s COA should confirm that it’s free of contaminants and that the product contains the amount of CBD and THC it claims.

If a product doesn’t work for you, you may consider trying another with different ingredients or a different amount of CBD.

Ingredients

Opt for all-natural, organic, U.S.-grown ingredients whenever available — you’ll get all the benefits of the ingredients without the chemicals and pesticides.

When looking at facial products, look out for ingredients that could irritate sensitive skin.

Price

Most CBD topicals fall in the $30–$60 range.

Pay close attention to products priced at over $100. You may decide they’re worth it, but do a little digging to be sure before you shell out the extra cash.

  • Do they contain full-spectrum CBD?
  • How potent are they?
  • Do they contain other healing herbs or oils?

Looking for the best CBD creams, lotions, and topicals? Whether you want a product for pain, facial skin, or something all-purpose, here are 10 great recommendations.