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

By  Cheri Sicard

 April 11, 2018

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!

lecithin being used in marijuana cooking

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  • 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!

    • 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?

      • 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.

      • So if I wanted to infuse cannabis to water and sugar I could use lecithin so when making a cannabis drink I wouldn’t need vegetables glycerin

        • No, cannabis does NOT infuse into water, it infuses into fat. Yes lecithin can help bind fats and water but you are not going to infuse water, no. If you want a drink you could add glycerin (or alcohol) tincture, or you could make infused sugar (directions are in my online cooking course at http://www.Cannademy.com or in my Easy Cannabis Cookbook – https://amzn.to/2I6w95x ). That said, because cannabis binds to fats, a fat free drink in my mind is not the best vehicle to carry cannabis. Yes people make them and they also like gummies, but for the same reason, neither would be my recommended edible as you will get better results medicating a food that does contain fat.

  • 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.

    • if you use bho shatter in a recipe for suppositories do you have to decarb the shatter first or just add it to the coconut oil and melt it

        • So THC binds to fat. Lecithin makes fat bind to water. Couldn’t that be said as “Lecitin WILL cause the THC to bind to water? I mean that’s how the THC gets into your bloodstream, no? I am no pro, so this is a legit question.

          • THC does not get into your bloodstream via binding with water. THC binds to fat. The only time I see a need for lecithin is when you are trying to bind a fat to water, which you are not when making butter. But water with lecithin would not be a good way to extract, if that is what you are asking.

          • I am using sun flower L. when making my own full spectrim concentrate oil into suppositories,. For 8 months now working well. but would always like more facts and data with regards to how to get best absorbtion. thank you.

    • 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).

  • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

      • I want to know what ingredients will make gummies stiff like real retail gummies?? I have made alcohol tinctures and mixed it with several packs of jello and extra gelatin but to no avail. Sticky, loose and one must keep in the freezer. Any suggestions??

        • I have yet to find any gummy recipe, and I have tried TONS, I do not think it is possible to get it like commercial gummies. For instance Haro gummies are made in cornstarch molds and sprayed with a think coating of wax, something impossible to do at home.

          • I make gummies using tincture, flavoured jello, gelatin and lecithin. They are awesome. Shelf life, stored in a dark cool place in a plastic bag. Very easy to make. The lecithin makes a big difference in that you do get your tincture coating the outside of the gummies and actually stays in the jello. I have made it without first and will never make without lecithin again

        • Hey
          Go to YouTube and search for no melt gummies
          Njchef I think the guys name is
          I’ve use this recipe with great results
          No melt gummies!!!

          • I appreciate the suggestion. I have tried this method. I even made it with MORE gelatin than he uses. They melted, more gelatin did not cut it for me. Still not shelf-stable.

          • So I came here regarding lecithin. I am a complete amateur, who came into some RSO (Rick Simpson Oil/Hash oil). Pretty gross to take without some sort of carrier, so I started making gummies. I found this recipe, first one I tried, and I have had really good results. I won’t say the taste is stellar, since it is made with RSO, but now that I am used to it, I can suck on them to provide buccul absorption, which is ideal, bypassing metabolism. I swallow half, suck on half.

            I have experimented with this a little and I have found these to be shelf stable for a few weeks so far (as long as they are never refrigerated and more experimentation is needed yet). In the beginning I was putting them in the fridge to harden, then I was sugaring to keep them from sticking to each other (I hate using the non-stick spray). If I then put them in the fridge for storage they seemed to sweat and the sugar would melt, which made them look and feel gross. So my on my last experiment I let them set at room temp, then kept them covered losoely at room temp to ‘cure’. I had noticed that any extra gummi mixture I had not put into molds (and kept for sampling) would dry out a bit more and seem to more closely emulate the chewiness of a store bought gummi and it did not sweat. Definitely not quite the same as Haribo for eg, but pretty freaking close. They stay reasonably sticky so I can still sugar them to keep from sticking to each other if transporting or giving away. Also this recipe uses flavor extract which may be a negative for some who may be sensitive to the dye. I will eventually try this without the extract, but have included it since RSO tastes pretty crappy. If I was making it with a clearer extraction I would likely omit the flavor extract.

            Just sharing FYI as I see these are older posts, but what the hell: https://www.growweedeasy.com/cannabis-gummies-weed-gummy-bears

            The only change I’ve really made that I feel has helped is adding the RSO with only 4 minutes left to cook. I cook total for about 10 minutes on low (in a double boiler).

            I am going to try a recipe with the sunflower lecithin in the batch I am about to make, but I am a bit hesitant after reading this blog and comments since I’ve had such good outcome and effect from my current model. I figure one batch is worth a try though just for ‘science’ sake.

          • Thanks for sharing. I am glad you got close. However, regardless of that, I am NOT a fan of gummies. Cannabis simply metabolizes better with fat. Cannabinoids bind to FAT molecules. I have said it before and will say it again, why people insist that a fat free food needs to be the carrier for cannabis makes no sense to me whatsoever.

          • I am experimenting making gummies using cannabis infused coconut oil (unrefined cold pressed)made in crockpot- cooked on low for 6 hours. Ive done it like 10x using myltiple recipes but this one is FAV!!!!
            1/2 cup water
            1/2 cup Cannabutter
            1 teaspoon Sunflower Lechitin
            Merry ingredients cooking on super low 5-7 min avoid boiling, WHISKING CONSTANTLY!!!
            Add:
            20 grams unflavored gelatin SLOWLY AND WHISK!!!
            6oz flavored Jello AND WHISK!!!
            Cook on low total of 15 minutes.
            I think the Lechitin IS necessary in the gummy mix AND WHEN BAKING but not necessary in the cannabutter recipe. I have tried both. Hope this helps!
            *i put gelatin mixture in a round cakepan to form, freeze 1 hour and use a pizza cutter to cut them into squares transfer to fridge in air tight jar.
            Perfect texture!
            Just made strawberry lemon ones last nite!!!!!❤❤❤

    • 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?

      • 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/

      • I don’t. I don’t think it is possible at home to get it the same as a comercially made gummy like Haribo. I am going to do a post soon that is a rant against gummies. WHY and HOW a fat free food became what the public thinks is an ideal edible is BEYOND me. Forgive my frustration but there is so much more to cannabis cooking than gummies! Cannabinoids bind to FAT! Gummies are FAT FREE. They are NOT the best vehicle to carry cannabis, despite their widespread popularity. I assume that is because they are portable. But please people, rethink that choice. Over the years I have tested more gummies than I can count. I have yet to find an effective one, if I get any buzz at all it is short-lived and accompanied by a headache. A food containing fat, butter, oil, cream, etc. will always makes a far better choice.

        • Some medical patients cannot eat high fat foods and get sick from them. This is why people are looking to gummies as their go to edible. My mother cannot eat butter or coconut oil as it is too high in fat. Now maybe you’ll know WHY people are looking to gummies to medicate and please STOP being so negative about it….

          • I appreciate that, however, low fat is far different than NO FAT (which gummies are NO FAT unless people mix oils into them, which is problematic in itself from a cooking/culinary perspective).

            You cannot change the FACT that cannabis metabolizes better with fat. That is a FACT.

            Now if your mother can have ZERO fat, that is a different story. However, for the vast majority of people, you will get far better results with a food with some fat in it.

            It is not negativity, it is the frustration over people, and no offense to you, who have trouble grasping this FACT. If you must medicate a fat-free food, to get the best results, consume something along with it that contains fat (for instance a coffee with whole milk).

            I am sorry. Gummies are simply NOT the best delivery system. If you prefer I lie about that, you have come to the wrong place.

            I am not saying you need to eat cookies, brownies or other high fat and/or unhealthy foods, but a NON-FAT food is simply not the best way to eat cannabis. It just isn’t.

  • 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

  • A great thing to add this stuff to is Bulletproof coffee. I’m not always hungry, but sometimes I want to get the butter into my system. Using butter instead of creamer, add some lecithin, and it makes a great drink. The Lecithin helps keep the butter in the coffee instead of on top of it.

  • Just wanted to give you a way to make your gummies. First a cup or less of water to one pack jello and add 3 packets Unflavored gelatin. Use a teaspoon of sunflower lecithin to help the gram or 3 of concentrate. In order to make them last longer you need a mold inhibitor I use LorAnn Oils mold inhibitor as well as LorAnn Oils Preserve it antioxidant just a tsp of each is more than enough. You will then have gummies that last for months and months that are room stable. After gummies come out of mold shake in a baggie of cornstarch if you want. I usually leave mine out for a day or 2 to get them to dry out further before I cornstarch mine and put them in baggies. You can hurry up the process using a food dehydrator as well. I also use 710 ready mix as well instead of lecithin as it is a liquid emulsifier and easy to add your concentrate with to add to food plus it is used to turn your concentrate into vape mix for vaping THC. So I sometimes use either or just whatever I have on hand at the moment.

  • I’ve been making gummies using lecithin for almost a year using http://www.mmjdoctoronline.com recipe for fruit punch gummies.
    I haven’t used the Lorann antioxidant. I have used the Lorann mold inhibitor. Mold still appears on the gummies if left in the fridge for more than a month.
    I increased the lecithin by 3 times and leave it “cure” in the fridge for at least an hour in apple juice to get the lecithin to dissolve in the juice .
    I increased the weed oil by 1 tablespoon.
    A 15% THC average is used to give me approximately 50-60ml of THC per gummy. I grow my own small batch ( 1-4 plants} marijuana and use 15% as my THC average regardless of the strain grown.
    The gummies are closely comparable to store bought.
    Depending on the flavour I sometimes dust my gummies with citric acid. It gives them a sweet sour flavour.
    I store them in a container in the fridge layered using wax paper as a separator between layers.
    A half oz. of decarbed weed infused in 1 cup of coconut oil {best for oil for infusing} gives me about 140-160 marijuana leaf gummies. My numbers vary because I sometimes add extra weed oil :}.
    I decarb and infuse the marijuana using an Ardent Nova 2.

  • Been doing research and keep seeing that emulsification is important when extracting . And to emulsify .. use lecithin. Wanting to make lemonade tincture .. yes I’ve read the article.. any personal experiences when making lemonade tincture or any tincture beverage ?

  • You all missed the huge part in store bought gummy making where they add corn syrup to stabilize the sugars. I use honey, but it is also a relatively stable sugar. The size of the sugar molecules in corn syrup/honey are small enough to not recombine which holds the rest of the sugar in suspension. Have some sitting on the shelf from 3 months ago that have only gotten slightly stiffer as they dry out. Super shelf stable and such a simple step that everyone forgets. It does for sugar what lecithin does for fats lol, kinda ironic. Cheers!

    • I didn’t miss that, corn syrup is way better than sugar in gummies. That said, mine have never been nearly as shelf stable as commercial ones, and I am again back to the FACT that even if they were as good as the commercial ones, a fat-free food is simply NOT the best carrier for cannabis. It just isn’t.

  • I melt chocolate and add distillate and put in candy molds and after turning out, store in freezer till use.
    Do you think lecithin should be added to hot chocolate before I add distillate?

    • I suppose you could but I don’t really see a reason to as chocolate and cannabis are both fats, you want lecithin when you are trying to bind water to fats, so I don’t see a reason to add lecithin here.

    • You can use flower or concentrates it works well with both, you could use it in honey yes. But again, unless there is a solid reason to use lecithin, I don’t. But as honey is not a fat, this is an instance where it could be helpful.

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