What if I told you that there was a cannabis extract that could cure cancer, diabetes, pain, or any medical condition you could imagine?
According to Rick Simpson, such a miracle extract exists. It’s called Rick Simpson Oil (RSO), and it’s a THC oil so easy to extract, you can make it yourself.
But there’s a caveat.
There is no clinical evidence supporting Simpson’s assertion that RSO cures cancer. Or diabetes. Or pain. Or anything.
There are just a lot of people who believe in it enough to share the good news.
Here’s what you should know before deciding how you want to incorporate RSO into your health regimen.
Who is Rick Simpson?
If prescription drugs have caused more harm than healing in your life, you and Rick Simpson have a lot in common.
The Canadian power-engineer suffered a head injury in 1997. Like most patients, he was prescribed pharmaceuticals to treat his symptoms. Also like most patients, that medicine created a new set of problems: side effects.
Simpson began using cannabis extracts and enjoyed immediate relief. He made it his mission to share his experiences with the public and lobby for legal access to medical marijuana.
Simpson grew cannabis in his backyard and gave THC oil away for free.
In 2003, Simpson discovered that he had basal cell carcinoma, a common form of skin cancer. He used highly concentrated cannabis oil, now known as RSO, topically to treat his cancer. He claims by using RSO his cancer was healed in four days.
He is so dedicated to the cause he published the instructions to making RSO along with dosing guidance for patients. He does not sell RSO (he hasn’t even tried to patent his method) but encourages patients to make it themselves.
Does RSO Cure Cancer?
There is not enough evidence to conclude that cannabis can treat cancer according to a 2017 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report. That means that existing evidence is very limited.
The authors of the report examined all of the current systematic reviews on cannabis’ effect on cancer cells. There was only one review that met the researchers’ quality standards. That review found that cannabis does seem to have an anti-tumor effect. The research is promising but not enough to draw conclusions.
More recent evidence continues to point the anti-tumor effects of cannabis. CBD may be able to limit the expression of a cancer-proliferating protein, authors of a 2018 Oncogene study found. Tumors in CBD-treated mice decreased in size according to a 2019 Journal of Surgical Research study. Still, in both cases, the authors called for more research.
There is conclusive evidence about one role cannabis can play in treating cancer: palliative care.
Chemotherapy causes nausea and vomiting. Oral cannabis is an effective treatment of those side effects according to the National Academies report.
Despite the lack of evidence, Rick Simpson promotes RSO as a cure for cancer, citing his anecdotal experiences and those of patients he’s helped as proof.
Simpson calls the oil a "cure-all" medicine that can treat the following:
There is some peer-reviewed evidence to back his theory up. Cannabinoids have been identified as potential treatments or preventative medicine for most of those conditions. However, there is evidence that cannabis can worsen asthma, blood pressure, and depression.
Additionally, none of the existing, high-quality research examines the effects of RSO specifically.
Simpson concedes that there are limits to what RSO can do. He warns that RSO does not provide immunity from viruses. Ingesting RSO may bolster your overall health, but it won’t make you immune to Covid-19 or any other infectious disease.
Can You Smoke RSO?
RSO looks a lot like oils used for vaping or dabbing, but this is not the recommended way to use it.
RSO is intended for ingestion. You can drink small doses of it. It has a strong, bitter taste, so you may want to incorporate it with an edible. Most recommend dosing by droplets that are the size of a grain of rice, as RSO is incredibly strong and not for the faint of heart.
Ingested RSO will metabolize like an edible. This means that it can take up to 2 hours for you to feel its peak effects. However, the effects will likely be stronger and longer lasting than those experienced from smoking.
Because RSO is already decarbed, it is not recommended that you cook RSO during the edible creation process. The best RSO edibles are those that do not require the application of heat.
You can add RSO to a beverage or sauce, for example. While you can make pastries like RSO brownies, the heat during the cooking process may degrade the cannabinoids.
The main ingredient in RSO is THC. THC can cause the following effects:
- Increased appetite
- An altered state of consciousness
- Dry mouth
- Difficulty concentrating
- Impaired motor skills
Though Rick Simpson strongly believes that RSO can cure many conditions including cancer, it is recommended that you consult with your doctor about how to incorporate RSO into your health regimen.
How to Make Rick Simpson Oil
Rick Simpson outlines the exact process for making RSO on his website. Here’s how to do it according to his instructions. Materials:
- 450 to 500 grams of high quality, completely dried flower
- 8 to 9 liters of solvent (pure light aliphatic naphtha or 99% isopropyl alcohol)
- Wooden pestle about a meter in length (you can use a slab of wood)
- Two 20-liter buckets
- 4 large empty, clean bottles. Using gallon water jugs works.
- Large funnel
- Coffee filters
- Electric rice cooker (not a crockpot—crockpots can overheat and ruin the oil)
- Large fan
- Stainless steel measuring cup
- Coffee warmer
- Several plastic syringes
- Put the flower in a 20-liter bucket.
- Pour in just enough solvent to dampen the flower.
- Crush the dampened flower with the pestle for 3 to 4 minutes.
- Pour solvent over the crushed flower until the flower is completely covered by solvent.
- Continue to crush the bud for another 3 to 4 minutes with the pestle.
- Pour the solvent from the bucket into the second 20-liter bucket without letting the flower spill out. The flower will need to be washed a second time.
- Add fresh solvent to the flower until it covers the flower completely.
- Crush the bud for another 3 to 4 minutes with the pestle.
- Pour the solvent into the second bucket. The second bucket should now contain solvent from the first wash and second washes. The solvent should be a yellowish color. This color means that there are cannabinoids present.
- Place a coffee filter into the funnel opening. Then place the narrow end of the funnel into the opening of a large bottle. Pour the solvent from the bucket into the coffee filter located in the funnel. The coffee filter will catch remaining plant material as the solvent trickles into the bottle. Keep doing this until all of the solvent has been filtered into bottles.
- Set up your rice cooker in a well-ventilated area. Place the fan nearby. Aim the fan so that it blows at the center of the rice cooker. The fan will blow away fumes from the solvent as the rice cooker boils off the residual solvent. Aiming the fan toward the center of the rice cooker will also prevent flammable fumes from accumulating near the rice cooker’s heating element.
- Fill the rice cooker with solvent and turn the rice cooker and fan on. As the solvent reduces, add more solvent to the rice cooker until there is none left in the bottles.
- When there is about 2 inches of solvent/oil mix left in the rice cooker, add 10 to 12 drops of water into the rice cooker. This will help boil off any remaining solvent from the oil.
- Once the contents of the rice cooker begin to boil and make a crackling sound, you can pour the contents into the stainless-steel measuring cup. Place the measuring cup onto the coffee warmer to boil off any remaining water. Once the oil stops bubbling, it is ready to be removed from the coffee warmer.
- Use the syringes to draw the oil out of the measuring cups. The oil can remain stored in the syringes.
- Place the syringes in a cool dry place and use medicine as needed.
Editor's note: This article was originally posted in 2017 and has since been completely rewritten with more up-to-date information.