There are plenty of ways to consume cannabis but some are more user-friendly than others. Whether you’re a new medical marijuana user or a new recreational user, tinctures are a great place to start your cannabis journey. What is a tincture without the cannabis? They are any medicine made by dissolving a drug in alcohol. We’ll go over everything you need to know about a cannabis tincture including how they’re made, used and stored.
What is a Tincture?
Tinctures are made with high percentage alcohol and they come in glass bottles with droppers. As a result, the cannabis tincture is one of the best methods of consumption for precise dosing.
Much like extracting cannabis oils, tinctures use a solvent to extract terpenes and cannabinoids like THC or CBD from the rest of the plant material. However, tinctures are different because alcohol is used as the solvent and it is also in the final product. On the other hand, cannabis oils have all solvents purged because the final product will be inhaled instead of consumed orally with a dropper like a tincture would.
Since tinctures are edibles, the cannabis used must be decarboxylated to ensure all the ingredients are active. Otherwise, the effects of the medicine won’t be as strong as they could be.
A tincture can vary in effect depending on if it is used sublingually, orally or used to infuse just about any dish you want. Sublingual is usually the fastest acting but all tinctures are faster acting than your typical edible. So you won’t have to wait two to three hours just to find out your medicine didn’t work. You should be able to tell shortly after a dose of tincture whether or not you’ll need more.
Despite their convenience, cannabis tinctures are rarely talked about. Prior to prohibition, it was the most common form of medical cannabis in the United States.
Today, most attention goes to other methods of consuming cannabis like smoking and the ever-growing cannabis concentrate market. However, interest in alternative forms of consumption has been growing over the past few years. As a result, you can find cannabis tinctures at just about any medical marijuana dispensary in the country.
THC vs. CBD Tinctures
Before you purchase your tincture, you should know what’s available to you and what will work best. The three most common forms of cannabis tincture contain THC, CBD or various combinations of the two in ratios like 1:1.
CBD is said to have many of the same health benefits as THC without any of the mind-altering effects. With research on CBD and hemp illustrating it’s merit, recent laws have made it easier to produce and sell CBD products with less than .3% THC in the United States. As a result, CBD doesn’t face the same legal obstacles as THC and can be sold nationwide.
On the other hand, any tinctures containing more than .3% THC can only be legally purchased in states with legalized cannabis.
How to Make a Cannabis Tincture
To make a cannabis tincture, you’ll want to have the highest percentage of alcohol possible. Not all tinctures are made the same. The potency of the final product will depend on the quality and quantity of the cannabis you use.
Ingredients & Equipment
At a minimum, you’ll want the following ingredients and equipment to make a cannabis tincture:
- A half ounce of cannabis flowers or trim.
- High alcohol by volume liquor.
- Mason jar
- Glass dropper bottles
- Oven-safe pan
- Aluminum Foil
- Glass measuring cup
Before you get started, you’ll need decarboxylated weed or concentrates. According to research from scientists in Holland, the optimal temperature for decarboxylation is 230 degrees Fahrenheit for 110 minutes.
So grind up your cannabis or break it down into smaller pieces and fill the oven-safe pan with them. Cover the pan with aluminum foil so the weed doesn’t get hot enough to burn or vaporize. Bake in an oven that has been preheated to 230 degrees Fahrenheit for 110 minutes.
Once you’ve gathered the necessary materials, making a cannabis tincture is easy.
Step 1: Put your decarboxylated cannabis in the mason jar and fill it with the highest a high percentage alcohol like Everclear until the cannabis is completely submerged.
Step 2: Several sources recommend freezing the jar full of alcohol and cannabis for several days to two weeks while taking it out to shake once a day. The cold helps to separate less wanted components of the cannabis plant like chlorophyll from the final product.
Step 3: The next step is to strain the materials through a cheesecloth into a glass measuring cup. Once the liquid is no longer passing through the cheesecloth, use gloves to squeeze the remaining liquid through the cheesecloth and into the measuring cup. You can use another cheesecloth the clean the material further before filling glass dropper bottles with it.
Step 4: The final step is to properly store your tincture. Transfer everything into a glass dropper bottle for easy dosing. For long-term storage, you can leave it in a mason jar. Either way, you’ll want the environment to be cool and dark. Air, light and heat decrease the quality and potency of tinctures.
A tincture is most often an alcoholic extract of plant material (although animal material can also be used) with an ethanol percentage of between 25 and 60%. This equates to a solution that is between 50 and 120 proof, although sometimes the alcohol concentration can get as high as 90% (180 proof) in some tinctures.
Alcohol (ethanol) is the most common solvent because it’s effective at breaking down both acidic and basic components of the plant matter. In the case of a cannabis tincture, that means that more of the good-for-your cannabinoids will wind up in your little dropper bottle.
Other solvents like vinegar and glycerin (a.k.a. glycerol) can be used to create a tincture for internal consumption, but they’re not as effective at extracting all the chemicals from the original plant matter.
The process of making a tincture is very much like dissolving sugar in water or making Kool-Aid. The solids (the sugar or the Kool-Aid mix) break down and liquefy in the water, transferring their chemical makeup (sweetness) into the resultant solution.
The same thing happens when making a tincture — only the ingredients change. The alcohol dissolves the plant matter and all the chemicals it contains (trichomes, cannabinoids, oils, terpenes, and others). Those chemicals are then suspended in a solution (much like Kool-Aid mix in water) that can be ingested or administered under the tongue.
The Benefits Of Marijuana Tincture
Marijuana tinctures offer a long list of benefits (many of which we’ll discuss throughout this article). To give you an idea just how great marijuana tincture is, here are a few of the benefits you can enjoy whether you take a THC tincture for pleasure or a CBD tincture to relieve pain:
- You feel the effects quickly
- You can easily control the amount of tincture you take
- Marijuana tinctures are discreet (meaning you don’t have to worry about standing out)
- Tinctures are safe
- Tinctures have a long shelf life when stored properly
Obviously, you would only use a THC tincture to achieve a psychoactive high (although THC does have some pain-fighting properties). But if you use a CBD tincture, the benefits multiply. That’s because a CBD tincture can be used to treat:
- Low appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar)
- Chronic pain
- Artery blockage
- Bacterial growth
- Cancer cell growth
- Bone degeneration
- Muscle spasms
Couple the above benefits with the safe, fast-acting, easy-to-dose nature of the tincture itself, and you’ve got a potent recipe for medical relief of the toughest symptoms.
Does Marijuana Tincture Cause Side Effects?
The short answer is: It depends. If you’re taking a THC tincture, then, yes, you’re going to get the same side effects you would get if you smoked a doobie (paranoia, munchies, etc.).
If you’re taking a CBD tincture, the side effects are less obvious. CBD does cause dry mouth, but many feel that it’s a small price to pay for all the medical benefits that the cannabinoid has to offer.
The only other side effect of note is that CBD decreases your liver’s ability to process other drugs. That’s not a problem if you replace one medication with a CBD medication.
But if you take a CBD medication and something like a heart medication, the CBD will interfere with the effectiveness of the heart medication. That’s bad. Because of the potential interactions, always consult a doctor adding CBD to your daily routine.
Taking Marijuana Tinctures
One of the main benefits of a tincture is that it’s very easy to take. Drops of tincture solution are squeezed out through an eyedropper syringe under your tongue. There, the solution is left to be absorbed (not swallowed) into your bloodstream through a process called osmosis.
Osmosis occurs when molecules of a solvent (the ethanol and all the cannabis chemical it contains) pass through a semipermeable membrane (the tissue under your tongue) from a less concentrated solution into a more concentrated one on the other side in order to equalize the concentrations on both sides of the membrane.