Cannabis 101 // September 25, 2020 // UrbanAroma Staff

What Is RSO?

What Is RSO?
In the world of cannabis concentrates, there's one you may have heard a lot about: RSO. Developed in the late 1990s by Rick Simpson after he was diagnosed with a type of skin cancer known as basal cell carcinoma, Rick Simpson Oil became known as “RSO.” Today, it is a sought-after form of cannabis medicine and is used to treat a variety of ailments, from cancer to Parkinson's disease and more.

Who Is Rick Simpson?

Rick Simpson lives in Canada, and continues to make his oil to this day, nearly 17 years after his initial creation. Back in 1997, Simpson worked at a hospital and as he was insulating pipes in the boiler room, fumes from the aerosol glue that he was using to adhere the insulation to the pipes caused him to fall off his ladder. He hit his head, and although he was knocked unconscious, was eventually able to call for help. The fall didn't cause him any serious injury, but he would often become dizzy and had suddenly developed a severe ringing in his ear as a result. The medications that he was prescribed didn't help with either condition. Soon thereafter, he watched a documentary that discussed the potential healing properties of cannabis. Simpson approached his doctor with the idea of using cannabis to help treat his dizzy spells and tinnitus (ringing in the ears), but his doctor rejected the proposal. Frustrated, Simpson decided to find cannabis on his own and experiment with using it to alleviate his symptoms. What he found was amazing; his dizzy spells and tinnitus, while not completely gone, were markedly improved. Years later, in 2003, Simpson was diagnosed with skin cancer after finding bumps on his arm. He read about a study from the National Cancer Institute which found that THC could possibly kill cancer cells in mice, and decided to try another experiment on his own: make a full-spectrum extract of cannabis and apply it directly to the spots on his arm. He covered the oil on his arm with a bandage. After a few days, he removed the bandage, and saw that the spots had healed. His doctor wouldn't give credence to what he had done, but Simpson continued producing the oil anyway. He exclusively gave the oil away and assisted thousands of patients with cancer, but still faced criminal charges in Canada. His home was raided multiple times, and thousands of plants have been seized from him by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. He continues to produce RSO in 2020 to help those in need.

What Is RSO Good For?

Most people associate RSO with the treatment of cancer and symptoms often associated with cancer treatment, but that's far from all it's said to be good for. RSO has been taken by people to alleviate some symptoms of the following conditions:
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Leukemia
  • Chronic pain
  • Arthritis
  • Insomnia
  • High blood pressure
  • Asthma
That being said, you can theoretically use RSO recreationally, but you shouldn't do it as a beginner and you definitely shouldn't do it before going out in public, driving, operating heavy machinery or power tools of any type, etc. This is some strong stuff, even if you're used to smoking cannabis regularly. It's not for the faint of heart, especially considering the dosage size, which we'll get to in the next section.

How Much RSO Should I Take?

The traditional dosing method for RSO for medical usage was developed by Rick Simpson himself and involves the goal of consuming 60 grams of RSO over 90 days. The following regimen is what he suggests. Take a dose half the size of a dry grain of rice three times a day. The first dose is so small because like other types of cannabis edibles, it may take over an hour for you to start to feel the effects. Remember what we mentioned in the last section about taking RSO recreationally and the dosage? Get a grain of rice and hold it in your hand. Consider how much that is and then consider that a beginner dose is half of that. RSO is a lot more potent than it appears. For the first five weeks of the 90 day period, the dosage should be doubled every 4 days until you reach a full gram of oil per dose. One of the reasons for the gradual increase in dosage is to slowly reduce the “high” that you will get from consumption. Daytime drowsiness will likely be an issue for the first couple of weeks, but should begin to fade away by the end of the first month.

What Are The Side Effects of RSO?

RSO isn't without its drawbacks. The side effects of RSO can include:
  • Irritability
  • Dry mouth
  • Dry eyes
  • Impaired memory
  • Paranoia
  • Anxiety
  • Slowed reflexes
  • Sleepiness
The fatigue is a part of your body's healing process, so it's nothing to be alarmed about.

How To Make RSO

Making RSO requires a considerable amount of cannabis material and if you're not in a recreationally legal state, that amount is very likely to be considered felony possession and intent to distribute. Even if you're in a state where those amounts are legal for you to possess, you should still make RSO at your own risk. As with making any cannabis concentrate, doing it on your own can be dangerous because of the flammability of the alcohol involved. Notes before starting to make your own: Other guides will tell you that you can use water to make RSO. This is not true. THC is not water-soluble. There are reasons to soak cannabis in water, but making RSO isn't one of them. Avoid having anything hot or any open flame anywhere near where you're going to be making this. The process is going to release alcohol fumes in significant quantity and it will be extremely flammable. You want to set up a fan to blow the fumes away from your pot, and you want a lot of ventilation. It's preferable to do this outdoors if possible, but if you can't, opening windows or doors is an absolute must. Use a rice cooker for this, not a slow cooker or a crock pot. An Instant Pot is also acceptable because of its temperature control ability. You don't want to use a normal slow cooker or a crock pot because there's a high possibility that you'll end up overheating your material and burning off all of the cannabinoids. Who wants to waste a pound of weed? To make RSO via the original method, you will need the following:
  • 1 lb of dried indica strain cannabis material
  • 2 gallons of your preferred solvent (the original recipe calls for 99% isopropyl alcohol)
  • 5 gallon bucket
  • A deep, 12 qt mixing bowl
  • Wooden spoon
  • Cheesecloth
  • Rice cooker
  • Plastic catheter tipped syringe (60mL)
  • A fan
1. Place your material into the 5 gallon bucket and cover it with the alcohol. You don't have to use the entire 2 gallons here, just do enough to cover the plant matter. You'll add more solvent later. 2. Use your wooden spoon to crush the material and stir the material. You're going to stir and crush for at least three minutes to give the solvent time to dissolve the trichomes and the rest of the plant's THC. This is going to get around 80% of the THC out of the plant material and into the alcohol. 3. Drain the solvent into the 12qt bowl with the cheesecloth and place the plant material back into the bucket. Cover it with alcohol again and stir it for at least another 3 minutes. 4. Drain the rest of the solvent into the bowl with the same method as before. This time, you can throw away the leftover plant material, because it is now spent. 5. Place the alcohol into your rice cooker, but don't fill it more than ¾ of the way full. You'll likely have some solvent left, but this will be added after some of the initial solvent is evaporated away. Turn on your rice cooker. 5. You don't have to have a rice cooker for this process, but it's the safest method to use for various reasons. Rice cookers will maintain a stable temperature that is low enough to evaporate the alcohol, but not the beneficial cannabinoids contained within it. Your rice cooker should keep a temperature of between 210° and 230°F (110-110°C). This is where you want the temperature to be for the decarboxylation process that's required to occur to produce RSO. 6. As the solvent evaporates off, add more of your solvent to the rice cooker. Repeat this process as the solvent evaporates until you have none left to add. 7. Once all of your solvent has evaporated away, use the catheter syringe to gather it out of the pot. You're all done here. Store your RSO in a cool, dark place, preferably in a locked container or cabinet if you have children around.

How Much RSO Do I Get From A Pound?

In general, an ounce of cannabis will make around 3-4 grams of RSO, so you can pretty much count on an entire pound producing as much as 48 grams. That works out to approximately 1.69 ounces of material. It doesn't sound like a lot, but when you're talking about dosages of less than a grain of rice, it's definitely a lot. To produce enough RSO for a 90 day long treatment cycle, you're going to need at least a pound of quality bud.

Can You Cook With RSO?

Absolutely! But because this is extremely potent, you want to be careful and not overdo the amount that you put in your edibles. When you're cooking with RSO, it's better to make something that has more liquid content to it such as brownies. Cookies will likely be too dry to distribute the RSO evenly. For one standard size box of brownies, a starting dosage of 1 gram will be enough for an entire pan. The RSO should be added to melted butter and mixed together thoroughly before you add it to the dry ingredients.