GUIDE: What is Rick Simpson Oil (RSO) and How Do You Use It?

With so many cannabis products geared towards medical cannabis patients specifically, what about Rick Simpson Oil (RSO)?

You’ve got topical creams; you’ve got microdose THC capsules; you’ve got sublinguals and tinctures; and you’ve got a wide range of different flowers and oils for people treating both mental and physical ailments.

RSO, however, is one product that’s been around for decades, and is still quite popular in the medical cannabis community.

Let's explore.

What is Rick Simpson Oil (RSO)? 

Called RSO for short, Rick Simpson Oil is a type of cannabis extract that has been around since the early 2000s. It was invented by a Canadian engineer named – you guessed it – Rick Simpson. 

Rick Simpson Oil has a thick and syrupy consistency, an unpleasantly bitter taste, and can be used as a topical on the skin, or ingested orally as an edible of sorts. 

Normally, RSO is a high-THC cannabis extract, oftentimes with percentages ranging as low as 20% THC and as high as 90% THC (50-70% THC on average). 

Because of its high potency, RSO has been heralded for its relief for physical pain and insomnia, amongst other issues. There is also high CBD RSO and balanced 1:1 THC:CBD RSO, but for the most part, you’ll be seeing THC-dominant Rick Simpson oil on dispensary menus. 

Who is Rick Simpson?

Rick Simpson is a Canadian engineer famous for inventing Rick Simpson Oil. He created the cannabis extract in order to treat his skin cancer, at a time when his doctor was completely against using cannabis as medicine.

As the story goes, in 1997, Rick Simpson was working as an engineer at a Canadian hospital full of asbestos and poor ventilation. One day, while on a ladder, the fumes in a room caused him to pass out and fall to the ground. As he fell, he hit his head on the ground, which resulted in years of dizzy spells and headaches that the medication prescribed to him never helped fix. 

After seeing a documentary on cannabis, he asked his doctor about medical cannabis, but was quickly shut down. In response, he sourced cannabis on his own, tried it, and found that the plant helped improve his symptoms. 

In 2003, Rick developed a skin cancer called basal cell carcinoma. After reading a study about cannabis treating cancer in mice, he once again turned to the plant for treatment, only this time it was in the form of a homemade topical: Rick Simpson Oil. 

After four days of using RSO, the mysterious skin cancer disappeared, convincing Simpson of cannabis’s healing powers once and for all. For the next several years, Rick Simpson traveled the world to spread the gospel of his oil, working out of homebase in Europe due to criminal charges awaiting him in Canada. 

Now RSO is one of the most popular ways to administer medical cannabis.

What does Rick Simpson Oil (RSO) do?

While some medical cannabis patients swear by Rick Simpson Oil, it’s important to know that at this point, there has not been sufficient scientific research on RSO’s efficiency as a medicine. Evidence has been purely anecdotal. This will continue to be the case until the government legalizes cannabis, allowing scientists to really delve into the healing powers of cannabis and why they exist.

That said, the medical ailments that Rick Simpson Oil is believed to help with includes pain reliefs, cancer symptoms. Though no research proves this, there are several studies about the healing properties of cannabis compounds. 

The National Cancer Institute’s website says “A number of small studies of smoked marijuana found that it can be helpful in treating nausea and vomiting from cancer chemotherapy.” 

Additionally, they say “Studies have long shown that people who took marijuana extracts in clinical trials tended to need less pain medicine.” Still, much more research will need to be done on its specifics before people can make any concrete claims about the oil.

How do you use Rick Simpson Oil (RSO)?

Rick Simpson Oil is most commonly distributed via syringe. Though technically possible, RSO is not meant to be dabbed or used in vape pens. Instead, RSO is to be applied to the body as a topical, or taken orally. With its extremely bitter taste, many people mix RSO into their food and beverages. 

A dose of RSO is a very small drop, about the size of a grain of rice. According to Leafly, when looking for medical benefits, for one patient, the goal is to gradually consume 60 grams of Rick Simpson Oil over the course of a 90-day period. Leafly suggests dosing yourself with RSO three times per day for a week; then doubling that dosage for the next three weeks; and then upping your dose to a gram of RSO per day until your syringe is completely empty.

How do you make Rick Simpson Oil (RSO)?

RSO is a solvent-based extract. You can make it at home, but it’s advised that you never do so, considering the highly flammable materials that are used in making it. 

Phoenix Tears, a website associated directly with Rick Simpson, lists the ingredients needed and steps to make RSO as follows. 

RSO ingredients needed, according to Rick Simpson himself:

  • A pound of of dried cannabis material
  • 8-9 liters of a solvent
  • A 2x2 piece of wood
  • Two 20-liter buckets
  • A few small containers
  • Funnels
  • Coffee filters
  • An electric rice cooker
  • A large fan
  • A stainless steel measuring cup
  • a coffee warmer
  • Plastic syringes

Step 1: Buy a pound of weed

Get a pound of cannabis, preferably a high THC-indica strain that is known for producing sedative/sleepy effects. A good example would be Northern Lights #5 or anything of Blackberry Kush lineage.

Step 2: Place the bud into a bucket, wash it with solvent

Pour your solvent over the dried cannabis bud, then use the wood you’ve got to crush it up. Spend 3-4 minutes washing the bud around the bucket, to separate the trichomes from the flower. Once this process is done, pour the solvent used into a different bucket to separate it from the cannabis flower. THEN, do this process again for a second wash.

Step 3: Transfer the oily mixture to clean containers

Once done washing, place coffee filters into your funnels, then use the funnels to pour your concoction into clean water containers. This will separate your dried cannabis from the oil that you’re trying to get. Trash the plant material once complete.

Step 4: Pour your almost-RSO mixture into a rice cooker

Any solvent that you used to make your Rick Simpson Oil should be properly burned off so that you can use RSO safely. To do this, pour your oily cannabis mixture into a rice cooker, and turn it to a temperature between 210 and 230 degrees Fahrenheit. As the rice cooker heats, the solvent will burn off, leaving only cannabis oil behind.

Note: Make sure to keep the temperature well under 300 degrees Fahrenheit, as that temperature will burn off the cannabinoids in your RSO.

Step 5: Draw your RSO into syringes

Once the solvent has completely evaporated, siphon the oil into syringes, where it hardens into a thick syrupy cannabinoid-and-terpene-rich medicine. Congratulations, you’ve made your first batch of Rick Simpson oil.

You can read about the complete, fully-detailed process of making RSO on Rick’s website here. You can watch a video of Rick Simpson making his famous oil on Facebook here. You can find a similar recipe for making RSO on Leafly here. Choose your own adventure.

Can you overdose on Rick Simpson Oil (RSO)?

It is possible to use too much cannabis at one time, but it is not possible to die from it. To this day, there has never been a single confirmed case of death from cannabis overdose. 

So with RSO, yes, you can use too much of the THC-rich oil for your body’s liking; but no, you will not die from it (although you may feel like you’re going to die). 

Always pay attention to your RSO dosage, and how your body responds to certain amounts of it at certain times to ensure proper cannabis consumption.

Different Ways to Dose with RSO

Due to the potency of RSO, it is important to properly dose this oil to avoid unwanted side effects or potentially harmful interactions with other medications.

Start Low and Go Slow

When it comes to dosing RSO, the old adage “start low and go slow” is particularly applicable. Because RSO is so potent, it is important to start with a very small amount and gradually increase your dosage over time. This will allow you to find the optimal dosage for your individual needs and tolerance level.

A good starting point for most people is to take a dose the size of a grain of rice. This can be placed under the tongue or mixed with a small amount of food or drink. After taking this initial dose, it is important to wait several hours before taking another dose to assess its effects.

Gradually Increase Dosage

If you find that the initial dose does not produce the desired effect, you can gradually increase your dosage over time. A general guideline is to increase the dosage by about the same amount as the initial dose until you find the optimal dose for your needs.

It is important to keep track of your dosage and any side effects you may experience. This can be done by keeping a cannabis journal or notes on your phone to ensure you are dosing safely and effectively.

Consult with a Medical Professional

It is always a good idea to consult with a medical professional before beginning to use RSO, particularly if you are already taking other medications or have a pre-existing medical condition. A medical professional can help you determine the optimal dosage for your individual needs and can monitor any potential side effects or interactions with other medications.

In addition to consulting with a medical professional, it is also important to purchase RSO from a reputable source such as a dispensary. This can help ensure that the oil is of high quality and free from harmful contaminants.

In conclusion, dosing RSO requires caution and careful attention to individual needs and tolerance levels. By starting with a small dose, gradually increasing dosage over time, and consulting with a medical professional, you can safely and effectively use RSO to potentially improve your health and well-being.

Where is Rick Simpson today?

In 2018, Rick Simpson disappeared from his prolific public life after suffering a stroke. While Simpson continues to recover from the stroke today, his only source of income is from his books.

He and his wife have launched a Go Fund Me campaign, calling on the cannabis community to help support Simpson as he regains his health.

This article has been updated from its original on March 7, 2023.

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