Marijuana and Lecithin: When, Why and How to Use Lecithin in Cannabis Cooking

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Lecithin in Cannabis Cooking

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I get a lot of confused questions from my audience about using lecithin in cannabis cooking. Some people seem to be under the misconception that lecithin is somehow an integral part of the process of making marijuana butter or oil. Not so. In fact, I can’t see that adding lecithin to your fat based cannabis infusions will do a darn thing. But there are times it could potentially be helpful. Let’s explore.

What is Lecithin?

Lecithin is a phospholipid, a type of fat that serves an essential role within the body and makes up parts of cell membranes.

Medicinally lecithin is used to treat a variety of conditions including high cholesterol, anxiety, eczema, liver and gallbladder disease, and memory disorders such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. It is also frequently used in the manufacturing of medicines.

What Does Lecithin Do?

Lecithin is also commonly used as a food additive because it helps stabilize foods and works as an emulsifier that helps bind ingredients that normally don’t stick together, such as oil and water. When you look at lecithin in these terms, it’s easy to see how this might be useful for some applications.

Do you Need Lecithin in Cannabis Cooking?

Need it? No. And in many cases you won’t even want it.  But there are some applications where it’s helpful.

I get emails from people all the time who add lecithin to the mix when making marijuana butter or oil. I am not a scientist, but this to me seems nonsensical. We know that the cannabinoids we are extracting, like THC, bind to fats. Lecithin helps bind waters to fats. Likewise, I see no need to introduce lecithin into the mix when making marijuana butter or oil. In fact, if you add water when making your infusions, as many people do for better flavor and yields, it could actually be counterproductive as you do not want the cannabis to bind to the water which will eventually be thrown out.

So when might lecithin come in handy when cooking with cannabis? Whenever you need to emulsify or bind a fat to a liquid. I don’t worry about this when making baked goods like cakes and cookies as natural lecithin exists in many of the ingredients used to make these. Nonetheless, some people like to add lecithin to their batters to help the process even more. It is an option but certainly not necessary.

I do think lecithin might help when making fat free foods however, because in those cases you are trying to bind a fat (cannabis trichomes) to a liquid. I plan to do some experiments with gummies for instance, something I, and judging from my emails many others, have trouble keeping stabilized for very long. Stay tuned.

It could also help with things like salad dressings, which have trouble staying emulsified even without cannabis in the mix.

What Kind of Lecithin to Use for Cannabis Cooking and for Health

lecithin in cannabis cooking

Unfortunately, not all lecithin is created equal. The most common type, soy lecithin, should be avoided as it has almost always been genetically modified, is highly processed, and is extracted with potentially cancer-causing solvents like hexane or acetone.  In addition, soy itself comes with some questionable side effects

While more expensive, sunflower lecithin, which is cold pressed from the seeds and minimally processed, is far superior. If you are going to add lecithin to your foods, be sure it is sunflower lecithin. As it comes in a fine powdered form, it is easy to stir into most recipes.

Many people take lecithin as a dietary supplement although it is also found in many foods we commonly consume such as egg yolks, soybeans, milk, legumes, avocados, sunflowers, and more.  Learn more about the health benefits of Sunflower lecithin here, along with info on the rare cases of when it should not be used.

Purchase Sunflower lecithin at Amazon.com.

Can Adding Lecithin to Marijuana Edibles Increase Their Potency?

Some people claim that adding lecithin to cannabis infused foods increases their “bioavailability” and likewise makes them feel more potent.  Some people also claim that eating mangoes before ingesting cannabis makes you feel more high too. Some people are more sensitive to cannabis than others and some are far more sensitive to suggestion. Personally I have tried it and felt no difference from the lecithin “enhanced” edibles and likewise I don’t put a lot of stock in it. But try it for yourself and see what you think.  Some folks swear it’s true.

Science and lab tests do not seem to support the enhanced high theory. No increase in potency shows up on lab tests, people just say they feel more high.  In fact, when then High Time’s edibles editor Elise McDonough conducted the Great Cannabutter Experiment that tested various methods for making marijuana butter, the batch made with lecithin yielded the least amount of THC!

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14 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Cheryl Caughey on

    I just recently ventured into making candy edibles, and knowing that there’s no fat in specifically candy, such as gummies and suckers, I researched and found sunflower lecithin to be something to check out.
    Well I made my first batch of edible gummies with nothing more than Indica Oil mixed with equal parts lecithin, and it appears to be the magic Ingradient to have good tasting and stable gummies!

    • Cheri Sicard

      Thanks for writing and good to know. I am still doing various gummy experiments, but it only makes sense that lecithin would help in this application. When you say you used oil, do you mean an infused edible oil (like coconut or vegetable) or do you mean on concentrate oil like FECO or BHO?

      • Avatar
        Cheryl Caughey on

        I used BHO and although a stable shelf life was acquired, the taste was something else. Some more trial and error resulted in my most recent comment on this thread.

  2. Avatar

    I appreciate your skepticism about the effect of lecithin, which I share. But I did want to comment that your last sentence was a bit misleading. Bioavailability and amount of THC aren’t really connected. I believe that recipe had the least amount of THC converted from THCa mainly because the decarb step was only 20 minutes at a temperature too low for that timeframe.

    If only we could collectively measure bioavailability, we’d have science to base these claims on – but for now, it’s the stuff of anecdote, forum lore, and non-cannabis studies being applied to cannabis. Good intentions for sure, but science it is not.

    • Cheri Sicard

      Still working on it and still experimenting (we are in the middle of production for my new online Topicals course, so time is tight right now, but once that wraps, this will move up the list).

  3. Avatar
    Cheryl Caughey on

    I have used lecithin to make gummies and find that it does work well if adding straight BHO. I did not find that it made it taste any better, in fact found the complete opposite. Personally I have found no use for lecithin in the production of gummies or hard candies and have been able to use tincture or infused sugar to be the best way to get THC into a product. So far my gummies have a stable shelf life of 4 months and counting with no signs of deterioration in texture or flavour.

    • Cheri Sicard

      Thank you so much for sharing your experiments Cheryl. I need to get back to my gummy experiments. Are you gummies stable at room temperature? This is what I have been having trouble with.

    • Avatar

      Would you be willing to share your recipe? I have been trying to make jello gummies with sunflower lecithin and I have a very hard time getting it to emulsify it just balls ups and I end up straining it out. Using liquid, not granules.

    • Avatar

      How do you get a shelf life that long for your gummies? I’m trying my first batch right now and one recipe I followed says it’s good for about two weeks for optimal results. I’m trying two ways with a tincture I made with the magical butter machine.. one with gelatin and fruit juice and the other with jello packet and gelatin. How much tincure do you typically use?

      • Cheri Sicard

        I don’t typically use anything as I have yet to come with a gummy recipe I am happy with for just this reason. It is impossible for home cooks to get the same shelf life as say Haribo, which are made in cornstarch molds and sprayed with a thin wax coating. Gummies are something I am working on, but ONLY because people keep asking for it. Personally I am NOT a fan, as cannabis foods simply work better with fat and gummies are generally fat free or ulta low fat.

        Also as to how much tincture, there is NO ONE ANSWER to that (as I keep harping on over and over and over again). That depends on you and the quality of the tincture. Please see this article and video for more information.
        https://www.cannabischeri.com/food/cooking-basics/how-much-marijuana-for-a-stick-of-butter/

  4. Avatar
    Mark-Coleman on

    Cheri!*,

    I hope this finds you well and happy in your experimental Magical World 🙂 no long story here but quit smoking cigarettes after 20 years about 20 years ago. I never stopped smoking marijuana only for increment periods.
    In the last good while, the lobe of my left lung would have an aching type of feeling to it and if I cut down or cut off for a few weeks, then I could smoke again for a while. While this has not been going on forever, I have done just about everything to try to get tar out of my life. LOL I’m 53 now so I guess that makes me a slow learner but I’m doing my damnedest to catch up when it comes to edibles. The last machine I bought was called an air Arizer made by Vapor Nation and I told him what was wrong with me and the first purchase did not do the trick or have a bag but I soon noticed that even a bag the herb not combusting that even with those wonderful positives … still Tarr tartar was all on the the inside of it. So I went out and threw them in the trash can and I contacted the guy who had sold me the Arizer and he referred me to a Salesman who is very helpful and told me about the Magic Butter machine. So, needless to say within 24 hours of our conversation LOL I now have one on the way! So, I go on after he gives me this advice of checking the YouTube and all of the instructions and one of the guys if you look it up just Magic Butter machine… He used the water and for the life of me I couldn’t understand it in one take why he would have done that just to make it to the fill line? My husband thinks he probably did it because butter comes in packs of 5 there! LOL I don’t even understand why water would be used and I’ll see where you could just cut your nose off to spite your face by throwing the baby out with the bathwater so to speak as you said. There were also a couple of other things that he did and he did not use the lecithin but then I looked in another and he’s talking about how important soy is while spooning it out in big measure. I would just love not to smoke anything at all and not be tempted to and because there are people like you out there, and even when I doctors write us prescriptions because they’ve been legalized now… They want to charge you about $185 for 60/5 mg pills. I would just love to know what you would buy if you had magic butter coming to you oh you might ask or what you might read because my lungs have had it. The magic of it is that it really helps anxiety, aids in sleep, in many ways it offers peace. I just want to save my lungs I’m kind of at that point. It will grieve me to have to give it up if I have to but I will. I’m hoping that the magic but it will be a turning point. Also own Lipitor 80s and Zetia 20s and ratio of cholesterol good to bad is not good LOL but there are no blockages now and I’m worried about if I don’t make cannabutter and it should be done with real butter from what I hear??? Good coconut oil be used in the place of butter or does it have the same terrible cholesterol? I guess I can just look all this up but I just want you to know I appreciate your investigations. You’ve already debunked a couple of them main players LOL I’m an Englishman so we prefer a woman in charge and have no problems lol good luck to you and thank you for allowing me on to your page

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