What is Rick Simpson Oil (RSO)?

Joe Evans
Joe Evans - Content Writer

Apr 18 2021 - 4 min read

There are a few OG’s of the medical cannabis game. One of those names is Rick Simpson. A pioneer of the medical cannabis game, Simpson is likely best known for the THC-packed oil that bears his namesake, Rick Simpson Oil or RSO for short!

Whether it’s the oil you’re buying from the dispensary or the stuff you’re making for yourself at home, RSO is renowned for its many medicinal uses. This article is going to break down the origins of RSO, its healing effects when it comes to serious medical conditions, and how it can help medical patients everywhere.

Let’s get right into it, shall we?

cannabis oil, wax, concentrate
Rick Simpson Oil (RSO) – cannabis oil extract.

The Origins of Rick Simpson Oil

Believe it or not, Rick Simpson Oil was actually created and used by accident. Years before medical cannabis was as popular as it is today and before Simpson was an icon for medical patients everywhere, Simpson was an engineer working in a Canadian hospital.

Like many other patients, Simpson suffered a major health scare that made him think a bit more about the role cannabis played in his overall health. While working in a hospital boiler room covering asbestos on pipes with a potent aerosol glue, toxic fumes built up in the poorly ventilated room and caused a temporary nervous system shock. Simpson fell off a ladder and hit his head, knocking him unconscious. When he woke up, his colleagues took him to an emergency room to get checked out.

Simpson suffered dizzy spells and a ringing in his ears for years following the accident, but the standard, pharmaceutical industry meds just made his symptoms worse. After doing some research on the positive benefits of cannabis, Simpson turned to medical cannabis for help. Simpson ended up sourcing cannabis on his own and saw a significant improvement in his tinnitus and other symptoms. His journey didn’t end there, however.

When Simpson was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma, a skin cancer, he turned to medical cannabis again. After doing some research and finding a study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute about the impact of THC on cancer cells, he created a cannabis oil that he applied to the skin topically. After only four days, the cancerous cells were completely gone.

From then on out, Simpson was convinced about the healing effects of medical cannabis. He started cultivating his own cannabis, harvesting his own plants, and creating more of that cannabis-infused oil, known today as RSO.

Full extract of cannabis oil (Rick Simpson Oil, RSO) in a syringe. Medication contains CBC, CBD and THC.
Full extract cannabis oil (RSO). Often used for cancer. Author: Stephen Charles Thompson (anon_lynx). From Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 3.0.

So What Exactly is RSO (and the Closely Related Butane Hash Oil (BHO)?

RSO is essentially a highly potent, viscous, dark-brown/black oil that is the result of stripping the plant’s trichomes (which contain most of the cannabis plant’s cannabinoids and terpenes). This means that cannabinoids and terpenes are stripped from the plant material, resulting in a THC-packed oil. In a sense, RSO or BHO is very much like a highly purified form of hashish, where a plant’s resin and trichomes are separated from the plant itself to create a cannabinoid-concentrated product.

The process of making RSO involves:

  • Mixing together highly purified alcohol with cannabis. This will create a solvent.
  • Straining the solvent to get rid of extra plant material.
  • Heating the solvent (avoiding any naked flames) in order to get rid of all the alcohol and any other nasties present in the solvent.
  • Once you are done, you are left with a thick, sticky, brown-black oil that can be used as you wish. The process decarboxylates the cannabis, so you can eat it and feel its effects.

Please note that making RSO or BHO at home is not the safest thing to do, so we recommend leaving it to those who have the appropriate equipment to do so safely.

RSO vs. Canna Oil – What’s the Difference?

Canna oil usually refers to the infusing of cannabis into an oil, usually olive, coconut or MCT oil. RSO is an oily concentrate made from separating the plant’s cannabinoids from the plant material. Tinctures are not the same as RSO.

RSO Today and How to Use It

As medical cannabis has grown and evolved, we’ve learned much more about RSO and how it can benefit patients dealing with a wide range of illnesses aside from cancer. Today you should be able to buy some RSO at your local dispensary. While modern research has shown RSO is effective in fighting cancer when used along with radiation therapies and cannabinoids are safe to use in cancer patients, RSO can be used to treat a laundry list of other conditions as well!

Some of the ailments RSO has also been shown to be effective with include, but are not limited to, the following:

Generally, while dosing may be different for everyone depending on age, sex, and other factors of physical health, the rule of thumb when it comes to RSO is 60 grams over 90 days. Patients should start with three doses a day of only a small drop applied either topically or ingested in some way every 8 or so hours. From there, the patient should double their dose every four or so days. Then, after about five weeks, the patient should up their dose to a gram of oil per day until all 60 grams have been used. This is, of course, the treatment usually recommended for those suffering from cancer. Whilst there is some anecdotal evidence that this dosing regime works (and it may well do for some people), others may benefit from different dosages and ingestion methods.

If you’re going to smoke or vape RSO instead of ingesting or using it topically, you just need to make sure that particular oil is right for it. Always check with your budtender at the dispensary you’re buying from and, of course, if you’re making it yourself make sure to burn off the alcohol completely before smoking it.

If you’re cooking with RSO, your best bet is making a lovely cannabutter or cannabis cooking oil. From there, you can just swap your cannabis-infused product with the normal one in recipes to create RSO-infused edibles. You can even just mix the oil into sauces and dips for something quick and easy!

The Bottom Line

While more research needs to be done on the impacts of medical cannabis on a variety of illnesses, there’s no question about whether or not it’s effective. As medical cannabis has become more and more accepted both domestically and internationally, more federally-funded research is allowed to happen on the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and the overall impact of medical cannabis, we’ll get a fuller understanding of how RSO can help and what conditions it can help with.

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Written by
Joe Evans
Joe Evans

Joe Evans is a journalist, writer, editor and contributor for Leafwell. He has, to date, more than 5,000 articles published online under his byline on topics like cannabis, local and National news, politics, automotive news, sports, pop culture and even a cult.

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