The Legend of Rick Simpson
Byline: Cody Funderburk
If you spend enough time at your local dispensary, you may encounter a curious looking product in a syringe with the acronym “R.S.O.” written somewhere on the packaging. Is it injectable cannabis? Nope, try again! RSO is an acronym for Rick Simpson Oil- it’s a concentrated cannabis oil with high levels of THC and other compounds from the cannabis plant. In fact, the only thing distinguishing RSO from “dabs” or other types of extracts is that RSO is intended to be eaten or used topically. A small drop of RSO can deliver over 50mg of THC, which is five times more than the Washington State limit for a single serving edible. It’s a powerful, sticky medicine that’s purportedly cured hundreds of people of cancer, and treated a variety of other conditions as well.
Rick Simpson, the creator of RSO, was born in Nova Scotia, Canada, and became an avid medical cannabis advocate after using his homemade cannabis concentrate on a bandage to cure several cancerous bumps on his arm. He was originally inspired to try cannabis as a remedy based on a study published by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, in which THC was found to kill cancer cells in mice. His doctors and physicians refused to accept that cannabis was a probable cure for his condition, and he was later arrested by the Canadian government after spreading his oil, and the recipe, to others in his community free of charge. He later built the website www.phoenixtears.ca, which provides information on how to make RSO at home. After hundreds of people testified for his oil as a miracle cure, Simpson eventually had to flee the country to escape imprisonment by the Canadian government.
His original recipe is quite complex, and can be dangerous since it involves the use of ethanol alcohol, a quickly evaporating solvent that is highly flammable. The alcohol is a solvent that strips cannabinoids like THC, CBD, and other compounds from the plant. RSO is what remains after the alcohol has evaporated, leaving only the concentrated resin from the starting material. RSO is typically a dark colored, extremely thick oil (similar to molasses or honey). The ideal RSO is high not only in THC and CBD, but also has trace amounts of other cannabinoids, fats and lipids, and chlorophyll, the green pigmented phytochemical responsible for photosynthesis. These compounds are believed to work best together, supported by evidence for the “entourage effect,” which theorizes that cannabinoids like THC and CBD are more effective when combined. Terpenoids are scent and flavor compounds in cannabis that influence the taste of the oil, and sometimes subtly influence its effects. For example, an oil abundant in alpha or beta pinene will taste more like pine trees, and is understood to be more clear-headed and focused, while an oil high in linalool will taste slightly more floral, and offer a relaxing effect similar to smelling lavender flowers.
Fortunately for those of us in the great state of Washington, we don’t have to risk blowing ourselves apart with gaseous ethanol in a garage because RSO can be purchased at nearly every cannabis retailer with plenty of options to choose from! Some RSO oil, like activated distillate, is lighter in color, higher in THC, but it doesn’t have the full array of compounds believed to make RSO a healing supplement.
Most users squeeze the smallest drop of RSO oil possible onto something sweet or tangy with a strong flavor to mask the grassy taste of the oil. A small drop of RSO oil offers at least enough THC equal to Washington State’s maximum single-serving size (10mg of THC), making RSO a favored and inexpensive edible product among those with a high tolerance to THC. Necessary precautions should be taken to avoid excessive dosing of THC, as edible cannabis is easier to overindulge than smoked cannabis.
Lastly, as with any cannabis-based medicine, there’s virtually no statistics to validate any claims of its usefulness. However, there are testimonials and anecdotes from thousands of people, many of whom were on their deathbeds before supplementing cannabis extracts. Furthermore, there are no recorded deaths from anyone who has chosen to consume RSO. Testimonials of people who’ve cured cancer with RSO can be found at https://www.cureyourowncancer.org/testimonials, where hundreds of people document their battle with cancer and their successful use of RSO as a remedy. Therefore, although whether or not RSO oil is as powerful of a compound for wellness as some believe has yet to be proven through scientific research, it is at least a cost-efficient THC edible that has garnered a considerable amount of testimonial and anecdotal support.