The Ultimate Guide to Rick Simpson Oil (RSO)

rick simpson oil (RSO) next to marijuana leaf
The article provides a comprehensive overview of Rick Simpson Oil (RSO), a celebrated cannabis extract known for its full-spectrum composition and potential therapeutic benefits. Developed by Rick Simpson after his personal health struggles, RSO has attracted both acclaim and skepticism. The piece delves into the oil's history, uses, benefits, and the need for more scientific research, emphasizing informed decision-making for potential users.
Table of Contents

What is Rick Simpson Oil (RSO)?

Rick Simpson Oil, often abbreviated as RSO, stands out as one of the most celebrated innovations in the cannabis world. It’s not merely a cannabis-derived oil. Unlike many extracts that remove trichomes from buds through solvents, RSO encompasses the full spectrum of the cannabis plant. This means it holds all the cannabinoids, terpenes, and additional beneficial compounds found in cannabis.

Who is Rick Simpson?

Rick Simpson is a former Canadian engineer who inadvertently became a significant figure in the medical cannabis industry. In 1997, a workplace accident involving exposure to toxic fumes and poor ventilation at a hospital led to a series of health issues, including persistent tinnitus and dizziness. Traditional medications failed to alleviate his symptoms, prompting him to explore medical marijuana as an alternative treatment, despite its illegal status and opposition from his doctor at the time.

In 2003, Simpson faced a more severe health concern: a diagnosis of basal cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer. Even with Canada’s legalization of medical cannabis, securing physician support for its use was challenging. A study from 1975 in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute propelled him to develop Rick Simpson Oil (RSO), influenced by evidence suggesting cannabis could inhibit tumor growth.

Simpson staunchly believes that RSO cured his skin cancer, although no independent scientific validations support this claim. He dedicated himself to producing and distributing RSO freely to thousands of patients, but his efforts were halted by a police raid in 2009, and thousands of his cannabis plants were confiscated.

To continue his advocacy without legal hindrance, Simpson moved to Croatia, maintaining a website with resources on RSO, including recipes, dosing guides, and books. After suffering a stroke in 2018, Simpson has kept a low profile but remains a fervent advocate for medical cannabis and RSO.

What is RSO used for?

The tales of RSO’s benefits span a spectrum. Some suggest it assists in managing conditions like epilepsy, asthma, cancer, insomnia, and chronic pain. There are also reports that highlight its potential benefits in severe conditions. For instance, a 2013 article documented a case where RSO dramatically reduced leukemic blast cell count in a terminally ill 14-year-old.

While anecdotal evidence strongly backs RSO’s effectiveness, scientific research is still catching up, mainly due to the legal constraints around cannabis. A study from 2021 revealed that many primary care teams weren’t fully informed about integrating cannabis, including RSO, into their patient’s treatment plans. This gap suggests the urgency for more robust research on RSO’s applications.

Is RSO Good for Cancer?

While Rick Simpson himself fervently asserts the oil’s potency in combating cancers, the wider medical community has yet to establish a consensus. There have been preliminary studies, especially on animals, indicating that certain cannabinoids may possess anti-cancer properties. For instance, some research suggests that cannabinoids can induce cell death in tumor cells, inhibit tumor growth, and even reduce the spread of certain cancers.

Moreover, while RSO contains a high concentration of THC, the psychoactive compound found in cannabis, it’s still unclear how THC and other cannabinoids in RSO interact and what potential synergistic effects they might have against cancer cells.

Given the gravity of a cancer diagnosis and the complexities surrounding its treatment, it’s imperative that patients and caregivers remain informed and critical. Anyone considering RSO or any alternative treatments should engage in open dialogue with their healthcare provider. It’s crucial to weigh the potential benefits against the risks and understand that while RSO might offer relief for some symptoms or conditions, it should not replace conventional treatments without a thorough discussion with a medical professional.

Read more about marijuana and cancer.

Is RSO good for Pain Management?

Yes. RSO, known for its high THC content, can potentially alleviate pain, given THC’s interaction with CB1 receptors in the brain and nerve cells.

Read more about marijuana and pain management.

Is RSO Safe to use?

Despite its potent THC levels, RSO doesn’t pose a threat of overdose or lasting side effects. However, precautions are necessary. Those looking to craft their RSO must remember that its preparation can involve the use of flammable solvents. Therefore, sourcing RSO from reputable, licensed dispensaries is often the safest route.

How to use RSO

Because RSO contains THC, its availability is restricted to states with legalized adult-use or medicinal cannabis, like Florida. The methods of consuming RSO are diverse. Some apply it topically, while others ingest it. The latter approach necessitates a higher quantity and a phased dosing system to allow the body to acclimate to the potent oil.

How Expensive is RSO?

RSO’s cost typically ranges between $35-70 per gram, which might seem steep considering patients might need up to 60 grams for the recommended regimen.

What Kind of High Does RSO Give?

The “high” experienced from RSO is multifaceted and can vary based on the individual, the strain of cannabis used, and the dosage. Users often describe the RSO high as intense and long-lasting. Since it’s taken orally and metabolized by the liver, the effects can be more prolonged and profound compared to inhaled cannabis. This can translate into a deep, introspective, and meditative experience for some, while others might find it overwhelming.

How Potent is RSO?

RSO is renowned for its potency. The primary psychoactive component in cannabis, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), is present in high concentrations in RSO, especially if made from high-THC strains. Given this potency, even small amounts can induce significant psychoactive effects.

How Do You Dose RSO?

It’s imperative to start with a low dose and gradually increase until the desired effects are reached, especially for those new to RSO or cannabis in general. Too much RSO can lead to an uncomfortably potent high, marked by confusion, dizziness, or even greening out — a term used to describe feeling sick from consuming too much cannabis.

What’s the Best Way to Take RSO?

RSO offers a concentrated dose of cannabis’s beneficial compounds, making its administration slightly different from other cannabis products. When contemplating the best way to take RSO, several factors come into play, including the desired effects, individual preferences, and specific health conditions being addressed. Let’s delve into the recommended methods for RSO consumption.

    1. Sublingual Administration:
      One of the most popular ways to take RSO is sublingually, which means placing it under the tongue. The mucous membranes in the mouth allow for quick absorption of cannabinoids directly into the bloodstream. This method can offer effects more rapidly than ingestion and can be felt within 15 to 45 minutes. It’s a straightforward approach: simply use a syringe or dropper to place a small amount of RSO under the tongue, hold for 60-90 seconds, and then swallow.
    2. Ingesting with Food:
      Another common method is mixing RSO with food. When ingested, RSO goes through the digestive system and is metabolized by the liver. This can lead to more prolonged and intense effects compared to other methods. Common choices include mixing RSO with fats like butter or coconut oil, which can enhance cannabinoid absorption. It can also be incorporated into various recipes, from baked goods to smoothies. However, it’s worth noting that effects from ingestion can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours to manifest, so patience and caution with dosing are vital.
    3. Capsule Form:
      For those who prefer a standardized dose or wish to avoid the distinct taste of RSO, encapsulating the oil is a viable option. Gelatin or vegetarian capsules can be filled with the desired amount of RSO, providing a convenient and portable means of ingestion.
    4. Topical Application:
      RSO isn’t just for internal use. It can also be applied topically to address localized pain, skin conditions, or inflammation. By blending RSO with a carrier oil or cream, users can apply it directly to the skin. While this method won’t induce a psychoactive “high”, it can offer targeted relief.


  1. Start Low and Go Slow:
    Regardless of the method chosen, the fundamental principle when starting with RSO is to begin with a low dose and gradually increase. This ensures the individual can gauge their reaction and find a dosage that provides the desired therapeutic effects without being overwhelming. Rick Simpson himself recommends starting with a dose about half the size of a grain of rice, gradually increasing over several weeks.
  2. Consideration of Tolerance:
    It’s important to remember that everyone’s endocannabinoid system is unique. Factors such as body weight, metabolism, tolerance, and the condition being treated all play a role in how RSO is experienced. Regular cannabis users might require a higher starting dose than those new to cannabis.


How Do You Store RSO?

Storing RSO correctly is crucial to its efficacy. Keep it in a cool, dark place, ideally in an airtight container. This ensures the oil maintains its potency and doesn’t degrade over time.

Read more about storing marijuana.

Is RSO the Same as CBD?

Rick Simpson Oil (RSO) and cannabidiol (CBD) often arise in discussions related to therapeutic benefits. But are RSO and CBD the same thing? The short answer is no. However, understanding their differences is vital for anyone looking to harness the healing properties of the cannabis plant.

  1. Definitions:
    RSO (Rick Simpson Oil): Named after its creator, Rick Simpson, RSO is a full-spectrum extract of the cannabis plant. This means it contains all the cannabinoids, terpenes, and other beneficial compounds present in the plant. While its specific cannabinoid content can vary depending on the strain used, RSO typically has a high concentration of THC, the psychoactive compound responsible for the “high” associated with marijuana.CBD (Cannabidiol): CBD is one of over a hundred cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. Unlike THC, CBD is non-psychoactive, meaning it doesn’t produce a “high.” CBD can be derived from both marijuana and hemp plants, but most commercially available CBD products are hemp-derived due to the plant’s naturally low THC content.
  2. Extraction and Production:
    RSO is usually made using a solvent extraction method, often employing isopropyl alcohol or ethanol to pull the cannabinoids and other compounds from the plant material. The solvent is then evaporated, leaving behind the concentrated cannabis oil.On the other hand, CBD can be extracted using various methods, including CO2 extraction, solvent extraction, and olive oil extraction. The resulting product can range from full-spectrum CBD, which contains all the plant’s compounds, to CBD isolate, which is 99% pure CBD.
  3. Primary Uses:
    While both RSO and CBD are sought after for their potential therapeutic benefits, their uses can differ:RSO: Given its high THC content, RSO is primarily known for its potent effects and is often used by patients looking for relief from conditions like chronic pain, cancer-related symptoms, and insomnia. The full-spectrum nature of RSO means that users benefit from the entourage effect, where the combined action of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds amplify the therapeutic benefits.CBD is celebrated for its wide range of potential health benefits without the intoxicating effects of THC. Common uses include managing anxiety, inflammation, pain, and sleep disorders. Moreover, CBD’s non-psychoactive nature makes it more accessible and often preferable for those who want the benefits of cannabis without the “high.”
  4. Legality:
    RSO, due to its THC content, falls under the legal guidelines applicable to cannabis. This means its legality varies by state and country, often dependent on whether medical or recreational cannabis use is permitted.CBD’s legal status is a bit more complex. In many places, hemp-derived CBD with 0.3% THC or less is legal, while marijuana-derived CBD might be treated the same as products with higher THC content.
  5. Psychoactive Effects:
    One of the most distinguishing differences is the psychoactive properties. RSO, with its THC content, will typically produce a high, whereas CBD products, especially isolates, will not.

While RSO and CBD both offer a spectrum of potential health benefits, they are distinct products derived from the cannabis plant. Before opting for either, it’s essential to understand their differences, and individual needs. Consulting with healthcare professionals can further guide individuals in making informed choices.

Read more about CBD.

The Potential and Promise of RSO

Rick Simpson Oil stands as a beacon in the vast realm of cannabis-based products, shining light on the therapeutic potentials and the inspiring tales of recovery attributed to its usage. Simpson’s journey, from a personal quest for relief to a global advocacy for the medicinal properties of cannabis, underscores the profound impact individuals can have on the broader discourse of health and wellness.

However, it’s paramount to approach RSO with a blend of optimism and caution. While countless testimonials vouch for its life-altering benefits, scientific validation remains a significant frontier yet to be fully explored. As with any medicinal product, particularly those derived from plants with as complex a profile as cannabis, individual responses can vary.

In a rapidly evolving landscape, where alternative and natural remedies are being revisited, RSO stands out as a potent emblem of what might be possible. As research catches up, regulations evolve, and societal acceptance broadens, we might soon unlock the full spectrum of benefits that RSO and similar products have to offer. Until then, always seek the advice of a medical marijuana physician before embarking on any new treatment journey and remain informed about the latest findings and research in the area.

Find a Medical Marijuana Doctor near you.

Updated: April 1, 2024

Article Written By:

McKenzie Lewis

McKenzie Lewis has been a member of the CannaMD marketing team since 2018. Prior to joining CannaMD, she attended the University of Central Florida where she received a Bachelor’s of Science degree in psychology. When it comes to cannabis research, she is especially interested in the application of marijuana as a treatment method for insomnia.


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