Is cannabis honey really a thing?
Chicken soup is made by dragging a dead chicken through a pot of boiling water. At least, that’s what my father concluded after eating a particularly watered-down version. From what I understand, cannabis honey results from a similar process. After flying over a cannabis plant, honey bees make cannabis honey, right? Close encounters of the THC kind.
Cannabis honey seems to be a hot topic these days. But seriously, does such a thing even exist? In fact, cannabis is a wind-pollinated plant. Most wind-pollinated species do not produce nectar simply because they don’t need to. Nectar production is an energy-expensive adaptation that lures pollinators, but if you don’t need pollinators, nectar production is pointless.
Like orange blossom, clove and other flowers that beekeepers use for persuading bees to make honey, the cannabis plant can also be a main source of nectar or pollen for bees, though further beesearch shows that they view the plant as more of a last resort. Still, there are companies popping up with hemp and marijuana honey, claiming to be made from bee nectar collected off cannabis plants. While these CBD- and THC-infused honeys usually have cannabinoids added to the honey before they’re packaged and sold to consumers, legit beekeepers say the straight-from-the-hive stuff is still very much infused.
The power of a trade name
However, honey bees can collect pollen from cannabis, and some of that pollen can easily find its way into a batch of honey. I suppose someone could conclude that honey containing cannabis pollen is cannabis honey. Following that philosophy, honey containing corn pollen could be called corn honey.
Many people call their marijuana products cannahoney, but CannaHoney is a US registered trademark. Much to the company’s credit, they describe their product like this, “CannaHoney is all-natural, unprocessed wildflower honey made by honey bees who have collected nectar from various “wild” flowers.” How can you argue with that?
The resin collectors
Claims by others are a little more difficult to swallow. The most famous proponent lives in France and claims to have trained his bees to “collect the psychoactive resin from pot plants” and he shows a video of honey bees madly collecting something from a cannabis flower. (Sorry, the article “Marijuana Laced-Honey: The Bees Don’t Catch a Buzz, but Can You?” is not linked here.)
My questions are twofold. First, why does he think the bees are collecting resin and not pollen? And second, even if they are collecting resin, why does he think they will put it in honey? Bees use resin to make propolis, not honey. In any case, the FDA defines honey as being made from the nectar of flowers, not the resin.
What does “all natural” really mean?
Every now and again someone writes to me wanting to know the proper pheromone to use for attracting honey bees to pot plants. Now, if this is how they get all those frantic workers to poke at a pot flower, no wonder the videos are so compelling. Worse, the proponents of cannabis honey call it an “all natural” product. I fail to see which part of training bees or luring them with pheromone is all natural.
In truth, I have nothing against marijuana. In fact, I don’t believe the government has any business regulating the ownership of plants. On the other hand, I don’t believe in forcing unnatural processes. If honey bees are not interested in your stupid pot plants, then leave them alone. Enough already.
How to make cannabis-infused honey
Cannabis-infused honey couldn’t be any easier to make. This recipe comes courtesy of The Wellness Soldier Cody Lindsay and requires just two ingredients, indirect heat, and time.
- 1 cup of honey
- 3.5 grams of decarboxylated cannabis
The essential (and often missed) first step: Decarboxylating the cannabis
Before making your infusion, you’ll need to decarboxylate, or “decarb”, the cannabis flower you’re working with. Skipping this step will result in a weak or inactive finished product. Here’s why: Cannabis buds produce a non-intoxicating acidic cannabinoid called THCA. When we smoke or vaporize cannabis, the heat converts THCA into THC, the molecule that delivers euphoric effects. If preparing CBD edibles, this same process should be applied.RelatedWhat is decarboxylation, and why does your cannabis need it?
Directions for making a cannabis infusion with honey
- Decarb the cannabis. Preheat your oven to 245ºF. Place cannabis buds on a non-stick, oven-safe tray. Cover the tray with parchment paper to prevent sticking. Insert the tray into the oven and set a timer for 30-40 minutes. Older, drier cannabis may require less time. (Tip: you can also set your oven to 300ºF and heat for 10 to 18 minutes, although low-and-slow is the recommended approach when decarbing to better preserve the cannabinoids.) Every 10 minutes, gently mix the buds with a light shake of the tray to expose the surface area of the buds equally.
- Combine the cannabis and honey in a double boiler to apply gentle heat on the stove top.
- Simmer. Maintain low heat and let the mixture simmer for at least 40 minutes. The mixture should never come to a full boil.
- Strain the honey. Set a funnel on top of a jar and line it with cheesecloth. Once the honey has cooled off, pour it over the cheesecloth funnel and allow it to strain freely. (Tip: Squeezing the cheesecloth may push more bad-tasting plant material through).
- Storing: Honey can be stored in a cool dark area for 1-2 months.
- Dose carefully. Refer to dosing information below before adding your honey to any snacks, dishes, or desserts.
Tips for dosing cannabis infusions
The potency of your infusions depends on many factors, from how long and hot it was cooked to the potency of your starting material. To test the potency of your finished product, try spreading ¼ or ½ teaspoon on a snack and see how that dose affects you after an hour.
A product that provides numerous benefits
The result of the process is this unmistakable reddish honey that is notable for its fast onset of action – just ten minutes. This can be of great help to patients who use cannabinoids as treatment, as other forms of administration take at least half an hour to take effect. Accordingly, cannabis honey is particularly suitable for patients who need fast-acting pain relief, such as chronic pain sufferers.
Another major feature of cannabis honey is its proven efficiency. According to PhytoPharma International, just two grams of the product are enough to significantly reduce pain in fibromyalgia sufferers. CBD honey is non-psychoactive and contains 0.5 milligrams of active substance per gram, while psychoactive THC honey contains 0.7 milligrams per gram.
What is cannabis honey – and what is not
In recent years, the cannabis market has seen a proliferation of honey products. These, however, can be produced using two different methods that it is worth distinguishing clearly in order to avoid misleading consumers.
So, while products like Pure Bee are obtained naturally by training bees to feed off cannabis pollen, other manufacturers take ready-made honey and infuse it with the plant, altering the natural process of honey-making with the addition of complementary ingredients by artificial means.
Both methods produce a nectar that is beneficial to health, but it is important to know the latter cannot be considered honey. To better understand the concept, it is worth checking the definition of honey and honey products contained in current legislation.
Under the EU directive 74/409/EEC of 22 July 1974, honey is “the foodstuff which is produced by the honey-bee from the nectar of blossoms or secretions of or on living parts of plants, and which the bees collect, transform, combine with specific substances of their own and store and leave to mature in honey combs.”
Accordingly, honey-based products to which enriching substances such as cannabis are added at a later stage do not qualify as honey under EU legislation.
Bees love hemp – and science backs it up
The question of whether bees can use hemp pollen to produce honey has been long debated, and now the development of Ilan Ben and PhytoPharma International, as well as a number of studies, seem to point in that direction.
A study by researchers at the Colorado State Universe, published recently in the journal Biomass and Bioenergy, found that bees can be attracted to cannabis pollen and feed on it under certain circumstances. The researchers of the study deployed ten bee traps in industrial hemp fields in Northern Colorado in order to collect bees during five days, coinciding with peak flowering. The area was chosen because very few crops share pollination time with hemp in Colorado, and results showed an impressive nearly 2,000 bees belonging to 23 different genera had been attracted by this food source. While common bees accounted for 38 per cent of the total, less common species including Melissodes bimaculata and Peponapis pruinosa were found in surprisingly large amounts too.
Helpful in protecting the environment
In addition to showing that bees can produce honey with hemp pollen, the results of the study show promise for biodiversity conservation and environmental sustainability.
One of the major problems facing bees is the reduction of habitats where they can survive. This is taking a toll on bee populations, and if the rate of habitat destruction continues at the present rate, bees could become extinct in a matter of decades, creating serious problems in various areas, including the food sector – the pollinating role of bees is instrumental in agriculture.
Against this, the promising results of the study suggest hemp could be an ecologically valuable crop with the potential to attract honeybees as well as a wide range of wild bees, contributing to the creation of new ecosystems for bee survival and thus reverting the process of extinction.
With the current trend to regulate cannabis production and use, cannabis will predictably be grown in increasingly larger areas in order to meet the expected growth in demand, which can have a very positive impact both on bee survival and on the environment as a whole.