Cannabis Science

What is Rick Simpson oil?

cannabis oil

You may have heard about CBD oil but have you ever heard of Rick Simpson Oil? Rick Simpson Oil was developed by Rick Simpson and was posited to be able to cure cancer. Before we examined whether or not the claim is true, let’s look at what Rick Simpson Oil is.

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What is Rick Simpson Oil?

Rick Simpson Oil is an oil made from the flowers of the cannabis plant. The oil was developed by Canadian medical marijuana activist Rick Simpson. Rick Simpson Oil is very rich in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the cannabinoid responsible for your ‘high’ and low in cannabidiol (CBD). According to Web MD, the oil is made by “washing cannabis buds with a solvent, such as pure light naphtha, and then boiling off the solvent leaving behind the oil”.

Rick Simpson oil gained popularity because it’s believed it can cure cancer but is it even safe to use?

Is Rick Simpson Oil Safe?

According to Healthline, the side effects of Rick Simpson Oil would come from the THC. The side effects not only should disappear in a couple of hours, but also shouldn’t be detrimental to your health. The article listed the following side effects:

  • paranoia
  • anxiety
  • hallucinations
  • disorientation
  • depression
  • irritability
  • low blood pressure
  • bloodshot eyes
  • dizziness
  • slow digestion
  • sleeping issues
  • impaired motor control and reaction time
  • impaired memory

One risk associated with Rick Simpson Oil is cancer patients abandoning their regular treatment because of faith in the oil. Healthline expressed that failure to follow sound medical advice may result in the cancer growing and becoming increasingly harder to treat if the oil doesn’t work. This begs the question, can Rick Simpson Oil cure cancer?

Can Rick Simpson Oil Cure Cancer?

Cannabis is being researched right now to find out about any anti-cancer properties. However, according to Healthline and Web MD, there is still no evidence that Rick Simpson Oil works.

According to Web Md, Rick Simpson got rid of cancerous cells using the oil he made. The article said, “[H]e developed basal cell skin cancers on his arm, Simpson used cannabis oil as a treatment. As the reports go, his skin cancer went away.” Healthline mentioned that Simpson got the idea from a 1975 study done on mice with lung cancer. The study concluded that THC and cannabinol (CBN), another cannabinoid, slowed down the growth of lung cancer. 

Healthline did also mention a case study of a 14-year-old girl with leukemia. The girl’s parents partnered with Rick Simpson and made an oil, a cannabis resin oil called hemp oil to be more exact. She used other oils as well and got mixed results. Unfortunately, she died two months after she began treatment with the cannabis oils, from an unrelated gastrointestinal condition. This particular case needs a lot more research to properly conclude the role of cannabis in treatment. One area of concern that needs more research, according to the authors of the study is the profile and ratios of cannabinoids within the strains that exhibit antileukemic properties.

The glimmer of hope from this study is that the researchers believed that the cannabinoid resin extract seemed to produce positive effects. According to the study, after the patient was given hemp oil, in increasing doses, her blast cell counts, which were increasing before treatment, had begun to decrease. Some extracts saw an increase in blast cells while a couple of others saw decreases. The study stated “Three factors, namely frequency of dosing, amount given (therapeutic dosing) and the potency of the cannabis strains, were critical in determining response and disease control.”

Unfortunately, the study couldn’t conclude any long-term effectiveness of cannabis for cancer treatment. 

Marijuana and Other Cancer Studies 

Scientists have been researching cannabis as a treatment for cancer. However, according to Healthline, while studies show cannabis is relatively safe for cancer patients to use, they don’t definitively say marijuana can control or treat cancer. Those studies are in their early clinical trial stage and use human participants.

According to an article from National Cancer Institute, “At present, there is insufficient evidence to recommend inhaling Cannabis as a treatment for cancer-related symptoms or cancer treatment-related symptoms or cancer treatment-related side effects; however, additional research is needed.”

The good news is that the research looks promising. One study conducted on mice in 2014, demonstrated that THC and CBD helped to improve the effectiveness of radiation on agressive brain cancer. 

On the other hand, one study showed that THC and CBD accelerated the growth of certain lung and brain cancers. The study says, “The risk in the medical use of THC or cannabis for the treatment of patients with established tumors is the further acceleration of tumor growth due to the proliferative potential of cannabinoids.”

Regardless of that, cannabis can have other roles in cancer treatment. Web MD stated that cannabis may help to quell the nausea, appetite loss and vomiting that usually affects people going through chemotherapy.

How To Make Rick Simpson Oil

Rick Simpson Oil is not sold commercially by Rick Simpson but Web MD says that you may be able to find it at cannabis dispensaries in places where marijuana is legal. Simpson encourages people to make the oil for themselves. For a detailed version of how to make oil, you can check the instructions here from his website. However, we’ll provide a summary of some things you’ll need to know.

In order to produce the oil, according to Phoneix Tears, you will need marijuana, a solvent, a length of wood, large buckets, smaller containers, coffee filters, an electric rice cooker, a large fan, a stainless steel measuring cup, a coffee warmer or oven and plastic syringes. The whole process should take three to four hours.

The website went on to say you’ll need to get the right strain and suggests an Indica strain. According to the website, Indica “gives the oils they produce the sleepy sedative effects that aid in healing the patient’s body and causes the patient to relax while this is taking place”. Make sure the buds used are dried. In terms of solvent, Simpson’s website suggests that there are many solvents that can be used but he only has experience with naphtha and 99% isopropyl alcohol. 

What you’ll basically be doing is washing the cannabis buds off with a solvent, boiling off the solvent and keeping the resulting oil. 

How Do I Use Rick Simpson Oil?

According to Remedy Columbia, Rick Simpson Oil may be rubbed on the skin, used under the tongue, between the gums and the cheek, or swallowed. The article said that the dosage for beginners is half a grain of rice up to three times a day. The dosage, according to them, may be increased you gain tolerance. In addition to that, Remedy Columbia suggests slowly weaning yourself off the oil instead of stopping abruptly to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Is It Safe to Make Rick Simpson Oil?

There are a number of risks associated with making Rick Simpson Oil yourself, Healthline outlines a couple of them:

  • You’ll need tons of marijuana to make it and that may be illegal where you live.
  • The solvents can leave behind carcinogenic (cancer-causing) material.
  • The solvents may cause an explosion if they interact with flames.


Rick Simpson Oil is an oil derived from washing marijuana buds with solvent and removal of the solvent. Even though research on cancer and marijuana is looking positive, science has not confirmed conclusively that marijuana is an effective treatment for cancer just yet. With that said, Rick Simpson Oil should not be used solely as a treatment for cancer. Cancer treatment should be discussed with a health care professional. Finally, making the oil does have dangers if you choose to make it yourself. Fortunately, you can get cannabis oil at dispensaries where cannabis use is legal.


About Trevann

Trevann is Stoner Rotation’s Jamaica-based lead writer for the Science section of our cannabis blog. She graduated with honors receiving her Bachelor of Science degree in Molecular Biology from the University of West Indies, Mona. For the last three years, she has covered some of the biggest questions around cannabis and health underpinned with research from supporting studies, medical journals and scholarly articles. Got something on your mind? You can reach her at [email protected].