Extracts are a great way to increase the potency of legal herbs. Not only to they provide more pain relief, a bigger rush, or increased relaxation, they also last longer and decrease nausea. By extracting only the active ingredients in herbs, you can leave behind the parts of the plant that create tar and soot when they’re smoked for a cleaner, more intense, experience.
Making your own extracts at home can be time consuming, but it has clear benefits. For one, you’ll always know exactly what you’re using. You can use food-safe ingredients like ethanol instead of harsh, dangerous chemical solvents. When you make your own extracts you also have control over just how strong they are, ensuring that you get a safe, reliable dose. With only a few simple tricks and some off-the-shelf ingredients, you can be making your own smokable herbal extracts in no time!
What Do I Need To Get Started?
Aside from the herbs you’ll be extracting, there are a few things that you should have. Although with a little bit of inventiveness you can make do with common household items, it’s nice to have the right equipment to make sure that everything goes smoothly.
- Scale: A scale that accurately measures by the gram is necessary to control the strength of your extract, as well as measure doses when you’re finished. This digital scale from Ozeri is easy to read, durable, and accurate.
- Solvent: While any alcohol will work, ethanol is food-safe, so you can be sure that your final product is healthy. While vodka will work, in order to get the purest, cleanest extract possible reagent grade alcohol is best.
- Extraction Bottle: Your extract will need to sit for a week or two, so it’s best to use a bottle that won’t let any light in. This lab-grade, BPA-free plastic bottle is perfect. It’s more durable than glass, completely opaque to light, and won’t release any harmful toxins during the extraction process.
- Funnel: Although you can make do without a funnel, it’s cheap insurance to keep from spilling your herbs all over the counter top.
- Strainer: A stainless steel mesh strainer will keep clumps of extracted herbs out of your final product.
- Evaporation Dish: Made of Pyrex glass, this 8″ square dish is perfect for evaporating alcohol in. It’s easy to scrape clean, reusable, and is big enough to provide the surface area you need to speed along the evaporation step.
- Scraper: This glass scraper by Hyde Tools is the perfect way to get every last bit of extract out of your dish and into your pipe.
- Storage Container: A small amber jar is a great way to store your extract until you need it. This wide-mouth jar makes it easy to get at even small amounts of extract, and with a stainless steel spoon you won’t waste a bit.
- Spoon: A stainless steel laboratory spoon will let you scoop up small amounts of extract to be weighed and smoked.
How Do I Extract My Herbs?
The extraction process is actually really straightforward and simple. The general idea is to let a measured amount of herbs sit in alcohol for a week or two, letting the active ingredients seep out of the leaves and dissolve in alcohol. The extracted leaves are then filtered out into a dish, and the alcohol is evaporated. By putting a measured quantity of fresh herbs into the evaporation dish you can create standardized extracts ranging from 5x to 50x and beyond. Once the solvent has mostly evaporated, the fresh herbs are mixed into the paste and allowed to fully dry. This extraction is then smoked or eaten, giving much more powerful results then just the fresh herbs alone would.
Just to be clear, let’s break down the process step by step with short explanations. For the purposes of explanation, we’ll use wild dagga as an example, and make a 15x standardized extract. Plenty of other herbs make wonderful extracts, including wild lettuce, kava kava, passion flower, and especially blue lotus and kratom:
In order to know how strong our extraction is, first we need to measure the amount of plant material we’re extracting in grams and write it down. Keep this number safe, or write it on a piece of tape and put it right on the bottle. Don’t lose it, or there won’t be any way to standardize the strength of the extract.
For the purposes of demonstration, we’ll use 300 grams of dagga.
Add the plant material to your bottle and pour in enough alcohol, or a mixture of alcohol and water, to cover the wild dagga. A funnel is useful to get the dagga into the bottle without making a mess. An inch or two of extra solvent is perfect, and more is usually better than less. This mixture should sit somewhere cool for a week, minimum, and up to three weeks at the most.
Using a mesh strainer to catch the dagga leaves, pour the extraction carefully into the evaporation dish. You’ll notice that the alcohol has darkened and taken on the color of the plant material. At this stage, if you taste a bit, it will be bitter which indicates the presence of alkaloids.
Cover the dish very loosely with foil to keep out dust, and leave it somewhere warm overnight. The top of a refrigerator is perfect, as the warmth from the motor will encourage a quicker evaporation. If that’s not available then anywhere is fine, but leaving the dish to sit in a cooler place will prolong the amount of time it takes for the extraction to evaporate.
This step is important for safety and reliability. Using the weight that you recorded in the first step, we’re now going to add a small amount of fresh herbs. Since we want a 15x extract and we started with 300g of wild dagga, we’ll add 20g of fresh dagga to our extraction. In order to find the proper amount, divide the amount of material that you started with by the desired strength. For instance, in our extraction, 300g of dagga divided by 15x is equal to 20g of fresh material. This fresh dagga soaks up the extraction and makes it easier to smoke.
When everything is completely dry, scrape up your extraction and, using a funnel, put it in a container for storage. It’s a good idea to mark the bottle so that you know how strong your extraction is, and what exactly is in it. We would mark ours “15x wild dagga””
Congratulations! Now that you’ve finished one extraction, you’ll have all the equipment and knowledge you need to do it again. It’s not very hard to begin with, and it gets easier every time.
You won’t believe how much stronger and more effective herbs can be when you extract them. If you learn to do your own extractions you can take advantage of websites like this one to order smokable herbs cheaply and in bulk, not to mention that it puts you in control of the strength and ingredients. Try it today, and you’ll never go back to paying the premium prices that some vendors charge for a mystery extract, when you can do yourself in your own kitchen.
Nicolas ‘Axel’ Duval is the founder and content editor of this website. He launched Smokable Herbs in 2011. He later created the Smokably herb online store, which sells herbs and blends worldwide.
As an herbalist and marketing enthusiast, he used Smokable Herbs as a sandbox to test ideas and deploy content.