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Guide To Cannabis Tinctures: Differences & Uses


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In the 1800s, an Irish doctor named William Brooke O’Shaughnessy re-introduced cannabis into Western medicine, mainly from India. It was primarily used in the form of an ethanolic (alcohol-based) tincture and was a significant part of Western pharmacopeias until the 1930s [1].

O'Shaughnessy observed the use of Indian hemp as both a narcotic and medicine in India. He created his own cannabis extracts extracts in pill form or dissolved in alcohol as a tincture. The conditions he targeted for treatment with these cannabis tinctures included cholera, infantile convulsions, and even tetanus​ [2].

Despite the cannabis sativa plant's struggles with the law, cannabis tinctures have been a mainstay in natural medicine for their potency and ease of use for centuries.

More recently, the term "tincture" has broadened to include CBD oil and THC oil, which is a blend of cannabis extract with carrier oils or glycerin. This is only possible thanks to advancements in extraction techniques, making cannabis tinctures a category that's much more diverse and accessible than ever.

In this guide, we'll demystify various tincture-making processes, their uses, and how to store your cannabis tincture to last.

What Is Cannabis Tincture?

Woman holding a tincture bottle with a dropper

A cannabis tincture is a concentrated liquid extract made by soaking cannabis flowers, leaves, or stems in a solvent such as alcohol, glycerin, or oil, effectively extracting the plant's cannabinoids and other beneficial compounds.

Cannabis tinctures traditionally favored alcohol (ethanol) as a solvent due to its efficiency in extracting the full range of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other beneficial compounds from the cannabis plant.

Alcohol's effectiveness is mainly due to its dual solubility: it can dissolve both water-soluble and fat-soluble components, ensuring a comprehensive extraction. On top of this, alcohol's preservative qualities allow tinctures to have a longer shelf life than the raw plant material.

While alcohol herbal tinctures are still around, alternative methods using glycerin or carrier oils like olive, hemp seed, or coconut oil have gained traction. And now, these oil-based cannabis tinctures are the most common type of tincture you'll find on the market.

The process for producing the oil tinctures is different now.

This shift is mainly due to advanced extraction techniques, such as supercritical CO2 extraction, which allow for more efficient and concentrated extraction of cannabinoids and other plant components [3].

These extracted compounds can then be effectively combined with carrier oils, resulting in potent, versatile tinctures that appeal to a broader range of users who prefer oil-based products.

How To Make A Cannabis Tincture (At Home) With Cannabis Flower

Hemp flower on a table

Creating a cannabis tincture at home is a straightforward process. Still, it'll never be as potent or precise in cannabinoid profile as a CBD or THC tincture purchased from a reputable manufacturer.

Ingredients and Tools For CBD or THC Tinctures: 

  • Cannabis: Choose a quality cannabis flower strain based on your desired THC or CBD content.
  • High-Proof Alcohol, Glycerin, or Carrier Oil: Use a food-grade, high-proof spirit like Everclear for efficient extraction. You can also use a carrier oil or glycerin, but these are typically less efficient at extraction.
  • Strainer and Cheesecloth/Coffee Filter: For filtering the plant material from the liquid.
  • Jar with Lid: Airtight for steeping the mixture.
  • Amber Dropper Bottles: For storing and dosing the tincture.

Steps for DIY Cannabis Tincture

  1. Decarboxylation: Begin by decarboxylating your cannabis to activate the THC and CBD. This triggers the cannabinoids from their acidic forms, THCa and CBDa, into THC and CBD. To do this, grind the cannabis and spread it on a baking sheet. Bake it in an oven to about 240°F (115°C) for 30-40 minutes. You want the flower to be golden — not burnt.
  2. Mixing with Alcohol: Place the decarboxylated ground cannabis in the jar and pour enough alcohol over it to submerge it completely. Seal the jar tightly.
  3. Steeping: Let the mixture steep. Store the jar in a cool, dark place for a few weeks, shaking it every few days to help the extraction process.
  4. Straining: After the steeping period, strain the mixture using cheesecloth and a filter to remove all plant material, ensuring a clear liquid.
  5. Storage: Transfer the strained tincture into amber dropper bottles. The dark color of the bottles helps protect the tincture from light, preserving its potency.

One of the downsides of DIY cannabis tinctures is that you won't know the exact amount of THC, CBD, or other cannabinoids in your product, making dosing a bit of a guessing game.

When you purchase CBD or THC tinctures from a reputable brand, they will provide you with a certificate of analysis documenting the cannabinoid profile, informing you of the cannabinoid content in milligrams (mg) for more accurate dosing.

Why You Should Use Store-Bought Cannabis Tinctures

CBD Brands can create more accurate tinctures because of sophisticated cannabis flower extraction methods.

Supercritical CO2 extraction is the most popular method, which involves using carbon dioxide under high pressure and extremely low temperatures to isolate, preserve, and maintain the purity of the cannabis extract.

A benefit of this is that supercritical CO2 extraction leaves no toxic residues. It produces potent, clean cannabis concentrates that can be precisely formulated into tinctures by combining it with a carrier oil in varying concentrations. Unlike your DIY tincture, it's possible to produce a potent tincture with this method.

This level of control and accuracy is a significant advantage for both medicinal and recreational users, who rely on consistent quality and effect when they consume cannabis.

What Are The Benefits of Cannabis Tinctures?

Woman putting CBD Oil in her mouth with a dropper

Cannabis tinctures, or cannabis oil, offer a unique combination of benefits, making them a preferred choice for cannabis users. Here are some key advantages:

1. Choice of Cannabinoids

  • THC Tinctures: These produce intoxicating effects commonly associated with marijuana, which can be practical for recreational enjoyment or targeted health goals from stress, sleep support, or discomfort management [4].
  • CBD Tinctures: With minimal or no THC content (0.3%), these tinctures are suited for those wanting the wellness benefits of cannabis without the psychoactive effects. They're widely used for sleep and stress management, discomfort, and to complement an overall healthy lifestyle [5].

2. Smoke-Free Cannabis Consumption

Out of all the cannabis consumption methods, smoking cannabis is the fastest and most potent way to experience its effects — it's not ideal for everyone.

Tinctures are designed to be taken sublingually (under the tongue). Here, they are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. This method bypasses the digestive system and liver metabolism, allowing the effects to be felt much more rapidly than edibles or capsules.

This makes it a healthier alternative to smoking, avoiding the potential respiratory issues associated with inhaling cannabis smoke.

3. Find your Ideal Dose with Precision

Tinctures come with a dropper that allows for precise cannabis intake.

This precision is crucial for medicinal users who need to manage their symptoms with specific cannabinoid levels. It also benefits recreational users who want to control the intensity of their experience.

4. Offers a Broad Range of Uses

Both THC and CBD tinctures can be used in a variety of ways. They can be taken sublingually for quick absorption, added to food or drinks, or even used topically in some cases. This versatility allows users to choose the method of consumption that best suits their needs and preferences.

Cannabis Tinctures vs CBD & THC Tinctures: Is There A Difference?

2 jars of CBD oil and tincure

Cannabis tinctures is an umbrella term for liquid extracts made with the cannabis sativa plant. Still, there's often confusion about the specific differences between general cannabis tinctures and those labeled specifically as CBD or THC tinctures.

Let's clear that up.

CBD Tinctures

Dropper on a table with spilled liquid

CBD tinctures or CBD oils specifically focus on cannabidiol, a non-psychotropic compound — it won't get you high. These are primarily derived from hemp, which is high in CBD and low in THC (up to 0.3% THC).

CBD oils are an ideal choice for users seeking the potential health benefits of cannabis without the intoxicating effects associated with THC.

Within this category, you can have three types of CBD extracts:

  1. Full Spectrum: contains all cannabinoids, including trace amounts of THC, along with terpenes and flavonoids from the hemp plant.
  2. Broad Spectrum: includes a similar range of cannabinoids and compounds as full spectrum but without THC.
  3. CBD Isolate: a pure form of CBD devoid of other cannabinoids or plant compounds.

THC Tinctures

Hemp tincture bottle and dropper

THC tinctures, or Pure THC drops, on the other hand, emphasize tetrahydrocannabinol, the compound known for its psychoactive properties. While they can be derived from marijuana, which naturally has a higher THC content, they can also be made from hemp, which is compliant with the Farm Bill.

Hemp must contain less than 0.3% THC by dry weight, making it federally legal, though state regulations may vary. THC tinctures from hemp provide a legal way to experience the psychoactive effects of THC, along with its potential therapeutic benefits.

Hemp vs. Marijuana Tinctures

The distinction between hemp and marijuana tinctures lies in the source plant and its cannabinoid content. Hemp-based tinctures are high in CBD and low in THC, aligning with the legal definition of hemp. In contrast, marijuana-derived tinctures can have a wide range of THC and CBD ratios and are subject to different legal regulations depending on the THC content and state laws.

How To Use Cannabis Tinctures:

Using cannabis tinctures is relatively straightforward:

  1. Sublingual Administration: For quick absorption, place your dose of the tincture under your tongue and hold it there for about 30 seconds before swallowing. This method allows the compounds to enter the bloodstream directly.
  2. Ingestion: You can also add tinctures to your food or beverages. While this method takes longer for the effects to manifest, as the tincture needs to pass through the digestive system, it typically results in a more prolonged experience.
  3. Dosing: Start with a small dose (5-10 mg), especially if you are new to cannabis tinctures. Gradually increase the dosage based on your response and the desired effect.
  4. Consistency: Maintaining a consistent schedule can be beneficial, as it allows your endocannabinoid system to adjust to the supplemented cannabinoids and helps you understand how the tincture interacts with your body.

When taken sublingually (under the tongue), the effects of a cannabis tincture can typically be felt within 15 to 30 minutes. This is because the active compounds are absorbed directly into the bloodstream through the mucous membranes in the mouth.

If the tincture is added to food or drinks and ingested, the effects may take longer to manifest, usually between 30 minutes to 2 hours. This is due to the tincture passing through the digestive system and being metabolized by the liver before entering the bloodstream.

What Does Cannabis Tincture Feel Like?

The effects of a cannabis tincture depend mainly on the type (THC or CBD dominant) and potency of the tincture, as well as the individual's sensitivity to cannabinoids.

For tinctures with higher THC content, the effects can range from euphoria and heightened sensory perception to relaxation and discomfort relief. Some may also experience altered time perception, increased appetite, and, in some cases, feelings of anxiety or discomfort if the dose is too high.

Tinctures high in CBD are unlikely to produce a high. Instead, users often report feelings of relaxation and calmness.

How To Store Your Cannabis Tinctures

4 Dropper bottle on a table

Store your tinctures in a cool, dark place. Excessive light and heat can degrade the cannabinoids and terpenes in the tincture, reducing its potency over time.

Most cannabis tinctures come in air-tight amber glass bottles, which helps to protect the cannabinoids from UV and oxidation. Storing your tincture bottle in a cupboard away from heat sources or a refrigerator can be ideal for maintaining a consistent temperature and keeping it away from sunlight.

More importantly, always store your cannabis tinctures in a secure location to ensure they are out of reach of children and pets.

Do Cannabis Tinctures Work For Pain?

Users of Cannabis strains for Pain often report significant relief from various types of discomfort, including chronic pain, neuropathic pain, and pain stemming from inflammation.

Some studies suggest that cannabinoids may interact with the body's endocannabinoid system, which may influence pain signaling and the inflammatory response, potentially offering pain relief [6].

As of now, the FDA has not approved cannabis tinctures for pain management. This means there is no official endorsement or guidance regarding any THC or CBD tincture use for this purpose.

How Much Do Cannabis Oils Cost?

The average cost for CBD oil typically ranges from $0.05 to $0.20 per milligram of CBD or THC. This variation depends on the quality of the ingredients, the manufacturing process, and the brand's positioning in the market.

While we've established the average cost for CBD or THC, understanding the pricing for a standard 1 oz (approximately 30 ml) bottle provides a clearer picture of the market.

A 1 oz bottle of CBD or THC oil typically contains about 500 to 1500 mg of CBD or THC. Using the average cost per milligram, a 1 oz bottle can range from $25 to $300. This wide range reflects the varying concentrations and quality of the products available.

For example, a 1 oz bottle with 500 mg of CBD, priced at an average of $0.10 per mg, would cost around $50. On the higher end, a 1 oz bottle with 1500 mg of CBD, at the same rate, would be around $150.

While more concentrated oils might be more expensive upfront, they often provide better value in terms of cost per milligram of the active ingredient.

The Takeaway: Understanding Cannabis Tinctures

Most of the "cannabis tinctures" you'll encounter on the market are either CBD or THC oil rather than an alcohol-based product. When choosing a cannabis tincture, consider the type of cannabinoids present (such as THC or CBD) and the carrier oil used.

These factors greatly influence the tincture's effects, potency, and suitability for your specific needs.

Understanding these key elements will guide you toward a product that meets your expectations and requirements. With this knowledge on hand, you can feel confident shopping for cannabis tinctures, ensuring a more informed and beneficial experience.

Resources:

  1. Peschel, W. (2016). Quality control of traditional cannabis tinctures: pattern, markers, and stability. Scientia pharmaceutica, 84(3), 567-584.
  2. Evans, F. J. (1997). The medicinal chemistry of cannabis: O'Shaughnessy's legacy. Pharmacy and Pharmacology Communications, 3(11), 533-537.
  3. Eller, F. J., & King, J. W. (2000). Supercritical carbon dioxide extraction of cedarwood oil: a study of extraction parameters and oil characteristics. Phytochemical Analysis: An International Journal of Plant Chemical and Biochemical Techniques, 11(4), 226-231.
  4. Peschel, W. (2016). Quality control of traditional cannabis tinctures: pattern, markers, and stability. Scientia pharmaceutica, 84(3), 567-584.
  5. Welty, T. E., Luebke, A., & Gidal, B. E. (2014). Cannabidiol: Promise and Pitfalls: Cannabidiol: Promise and Pitfalls. Epilepsy currents, 14(5), 250-252.
  6. Bains, S., & Mukhdomi, T. (2021). Medicinal cannabis for treatment of chronic pain.
BY
Katrina Lubiano

BA in English Katrina has always had a passion for health sciences and literature. She works as a content writer, editor, and strategist in the health and wellness space, primarily focusing on cannabis education. She’s written well over 400,000 words on the subject—including demystifying laws a...


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