An unrefined, potent cannabis oil extracted using ethanol and named after the man who created it and first benefited from it. Canadian Rick Simpson claims he cured his own skin cancer with a custom blend of cannabis oil, which has come to be known as Rick Simpson Oil (RSO), or Phoenix Tears (the name of Rick's website). Since then, he has touted the benefits of medical marijuana and used to give away his eponymous oil for free.
Can't wait to try RSO to see if it'll help me feel better
Who is Rick Simpson and why did he create RSO?
In 2003, Canadian Rick Simpson was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma, a skin cancer. Soon after his cancer diagnosis, he read a study from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute that showed THC could kill cancer cells in mice. Simpson was already a fan of medical cannabis — he'd been using it to treat tinnitus and dizzy spells caused after falling and hitting his head several years earlier — so he decided to try to treat his skin cancer with cannabis oil.
According to Simpson's account, he whipped up a homemade extract, applied it directly to the cancerous moles, and covered them with a bandage. Four days later, he removed the bandages and claimed the growths were gone.
Simpson then began growing and cultivating his own cannabis to perfect a custom oil blend, and, after health and government groups like the Canadian Cancer Society ignored his discovery, he set out to promote the medicinal effects of cannabis to others. He created a YouTube documentary, “Run From the Cure,” and wrote a book, “The Rick Simpson Story.”
Until 2009, when he was ordered to stop for legal reasons, he gave away his oil — dubbed Rick Simpson Oil, or RSO — for free. Since 2013, Simpson has lived in Europe, and, according to his website, he cannot legally enter the U.S. due to the criminal background he received from the Canadian government.
Controversy and copycats
While one of the most well-known personalities within the medical cannabis community, Simpson has also drawn some controversy and skepticism in his career. He has drawn some ire from physicians and medical professionals for his lack of scientific research or clinical trials to back up his claims.
Simpson still has his share of defenders who have claimed to have successfully used his blend of oil to cure cancer.
On his website, Simpson states that he no longer produces or supplies his oil due to its illegality in many countries. He makes note to disassociate himself with any online vendors who claim to supply “Rick Simpson Oil.”
Simpson claims that the only way to ensure patients have his blend of oil is for patients to produce it themselves. Simpson's site has instructions and an FAQ. In addition to solvent, which is highly flammable, the recipe for RSO includes a number of random household items, including small containers, coffee filters, an electric rice cooker, a large fan, a stainless steel measuring cup, as well as a coffee warmer or oven. The recipe available on his website demonstrates how to produce the full 60 grams of RSO oil for a 90-day treatment period.
However, in the US be aware it's often illegal at the federal level and in most local jurisdictions, even if cannabis is legal in that state. In addition, making RSO can be dangerous — work areas need to be well-ventilated with no agents (sparks, open flames, etc.) that could ignite the solvent fumes.
Despite Simpson's claims, if you have the option, you may want to search for where to buy RSO locally.
How to use RSO
Simpson has dosage instructions on his site, but keep in mind they have not been vetted by medical researchers. Dosages vary from person to person depending on many factors, including the potency of the RSO.
The creator suggests that people start by taking a dose that is half the size of short-grain dry rice three times daily. He then recommends doubling the dosage after every four days for five weeks, slowly building up a tolerance to muddle the effects of the THC. For the remainder of the 12-week treatment period, keep the dosage at a full gram. Simpson also notes that the effects of the oil may not be felt until an hour after ingestion.
RSO is typically not smoked. It is applied in the following ways:
- As a topical rubbed onto the surface of the skin
- As a sublingual with drops under the tongue; this has the fastest absorption rate
- As a capsule taken orally; this has the slowest-acting effects, but the effects would last longer
The difference between RSO and CBD Oil
CBD oil derived from industrial hemp plants only contain CBD, while Rick Simpson Oil has a high concentration of THC — at least 20% — and the full range of cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. It's also important to distinguish RSO from other products labeled as hemp oil and hempseed oil, as these products often don't contain any CBD or THC.
In 2011, physician and researcher Dr. Ethan Russo found that the medicinal effects of CBD increase when they're combined with other cannabinoids. This phenomenon is commonly referred to as the entourage effect, which describes the enhanced effect of diffuse cannabis compounds when combined. Simpson claims that his oils produced 2%-6% CBD, but emphasizes that THC content needs to be high in order to treat cancer.
Although it is popularly believed that CBD oil is only for epileptic patients and RSO oil is only for cancer patients, early research, including information reported by the U.S. National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society, has indicated that CBD possesses cancer-inhibiting properties in some types of tumors. Research is still preliminary, because of the prohibition of cannabis in many countries, so the full effectiveness and side effects of cannabinoids to treat cancer are not well established yet.
That said, keep in mind that RSO is highly intoxicating because of the THC content. In other words, it'll get you high while CBD won't.
Rick Simpson Oil benefits
There remains a need for more research to support the purported effectiveness of RSO and other cannabinoid-based concoctions for cancer treatment – let alone other medical conditions. But there are already indicators that cannabis could be a powerful tool in combating cancer and the detrimental side effects of its treatment. In a 2014 study that examined the effects of THC and CBD extracts alongside radiation therapy in lab mice induced with brain cancer, researchers found that cannabis increased the effectiveness of radiation treatment.
A 2014 study on mice examined the effects of THC and CBD extracts alongside radiation therapy. The cannabis extracts appeared to increase the effectiveness of radiation against an aggressive type of brain cancer. According to the study's authors, these results suggest that THC and CBD may help to prepare cancer cells to respond better to radiation therapy.
A 2013 case report on a 14-year-old girl with an aggressive form of leukemia examined the effectiveness of various cannabinoid resin extracts, one of which was prepared with the help of Simpson and his organization, Phoenix Tears. While various concentrations of THC and CBD appeared to be effective in treating her cancer, the patient died from an unrelated gastrointestinal condition after two months of treatment, ultimately making the long-term effectiveness of cannabis for cancer treatment inconclusive.
The antitumor properties of cannabinoids in cell lines and in animal models induced with cancer have been well-documented in peer-reviewed research over the years, but more research is needed to prove the efficacy and safety for clinical trials involving human patients.
As for research on the joint effects of THC and CBD, existing evidence also demonstrates how the combination of THC and CBD creates a synergy that leads to several therapeutic benefits. For instance, research has shown that CBD acts as an antipsychotic agent, reducing the adverse side effects of THC when taken together.
Is RSO considered a full spectrum cannabis oil?
Full Spectrum Cannabis Oil (FSCO), sometimes referred to as Full Extract Cannabis Oil (FECO), is a term used for cannabis oil products that capture the full range of bioactive compounds created within the plant's glandular trichomes without altering their composition in the process.
This includes flavonoids, phenols, fatty acids, and, most importantly, a variety of terpenes and cannabinoids in their natural acid form.
While the RSO extraction process is capable of extracting the full range of compounds, the process of removing the solvent from the solution requires heat. Heat changes the cannabinoids from their acid form into their neutral, or activated, form in a process called decarboxylation (i.e. THCA decarboxylates into THC and CBDA into CBD). The heat also volatilizes most of the terpenes that were initially extracted, leaving an oil that may not have all the bioactive compounds that were available in the plant's trichome glands.
DISCLAIMER: Production of cannabis oils such as Rick Simpson Oil (RSO) is illegal in many jurisdictions. Additionally, producing the oil also involves volatile compounds that are dangerous to work with in the hands of inexperienced technicians with improper equipment and ill-equipped facilities. The methods described may prove dangerous or illegal. Any action you take upon the information provided here is strictly at your own risk.