Cannabis tinctures have changed the way we perceive the medical benefits of the herb now.
Before the introduction of non-smokable forms, the cannabis plant was seen as a recreational substance that may have some benefits but with certain limitations.
Today, even people who have opposed the use of cannabis during Reefer Madness are now seeing the truth.
Cannabis is a natural medicine whose side effect is getting you high — not the other way round.
In this guide, we’ll show you everything you need to know about cannabis tinctures, their benefits, and how to use them, and how to make DIY tinctures at home.
What Are Cannabis Tinctures?
Cannabis tinctures are alcohol-based cannabis extracts.
They’re simply alcohol infused with decarboxylated cannabis flower. They’re made by dissolving the herb in high-proof alcohol (e.g. everclear) and then they’re bottled up and sealed with a dropper for easier dosing.
People often use the terms “cannabis tinctures” and “cannabis oil” interchangeably because both products are similar appearance-wise and you can buy them in small, dark bottles.
However, tinctures are made exclusively with alcohol. The cannabis oil can be extracted with CO2, alcohol, olive oil, or butane, so putting an equation mark between cannabis tinctures and oil is technically wrong.
A tincture can have anywhere between 10–30% THC or CBD (depending on the source plant) giving you higher levels of these cannabinoids per volume than you’d get from smoking an average cannabis strain.
The Origins of Cannabis Tinctures
Despite the foggy legal status of cannabinoids around the world, you might think that cannabis tinctures are novel products.
Well, are they?
The fact is, tinctures were used as painkillers in America for almost a hundred years.
They were even placed among other medicines in the United States Pharmacopeia until the cannabis prohibition stroke in the late 1930s and lawmakers led their crusade about cannabis, afraid that a plant can be the moral downfall of America.
From 1937 to the 1980s, cannabis was demonized in the media thanks to the initial anti-weed campaign (Reefer Madness) run by media baron William Randolp Hearst in collaboration with another prohibitionist Harry J. Anslinger, the then director of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics in the US.
Since then, the interest in cannabis as a potential medicine has begun to grow once again. Scientists and pharmaceutical companies started to dig into the mechanism of the endocannabinoid system, which allowed them to better understand the medical properties of cannabis.
Today, cannabis tinctures are one of the most popular ways to administer cannabinoids to one’s body. They’re available in different potencies, sizes, and a whole array of flavors to mask the unpleasant botanical aftertaste.
The Benefits of Cannabis Tinctures
Cannabis tinctures are now popular for a good reason. The most striking benefit is, of course, our health. However, the list of perks that come with using cannabis tinctures is longer than that.
Here’s everything you need to know about them:
1. Cannabis Tinctures Have Fast Absorption Rates
The most effective way to administer cannabis would be through intravenous use (injection). However, this isn’t practiced by cannabis users. Tinctures, on the other hand, are both effective and commonly used by people. Thanks to mini capillaries under the tongue, the cannabinoids from tinctures can bypass your digestive system and reach the bloodstream directly from there.
2. Cannabis Tinctures Are Discreet
Unlike joints and pipes, cannabis tinctures can be used openly in public space, as long as your local law allows the use of cannabis.
But even if you don’t want to boast around people with your tincture, you can add it to any beverage you like. Due to the lack of smell, you won’t have to deal with people throwing dark looks at you in public.
3. Cannabis Tinctures are Easy to Dose
Tinctures are bottled up with a dropper attached, which makes dosing easier and more precise than with edibles and smoked herb. Another benefit of cannabis tinctures is that they’re almost calorie-free. A tincture extracted with high-proof alcohol will have around 7 calories per mL.
Here’s how you take a cannabis tincture:
- Fill the dropper with your dose of cannabis and place a few drops under the tongue
- As you hold the tincture in your mouth for about a minute, breath in and out through your nose.
- Swallow the tincture.
The effects of the tincture will depend on its cannabinoid profile. Tinctures extracted from marijuana usually have higher levels of THC and can make the user high, whereas tinctures from hemp contain only trace amounts of the psychoactive cannabinoids and therefore have no psychoactive properties.
4. Cannabis Tinctures Have a Long Shelf-Life
Cannabis tinctures are usually good for years. If you have a marijuana-derived tincture, its potency may degrade over time because THC isn’t stable and will break down to CBN, making your product more sedating.
CBD tinctures from hemp don’t have this problem because CBD doesn’t break down with time. As long as you keep them in a cool and dry place away from light, they will stay fresh and potent for up to 2 years. Some people like to keep their tincture supply going indefinitely, slowly adding more flower to a mason jar with alcohol.
What Are the Health Benefits of Cannabis Tinctures?
Cannabis is a highly versatile medicine. It can help patients with many ailments, from anti-tumor effects to effective relief from inflammation and pain.
Below we list the symptoms and side effects of the conditions that are most commonly treated with cannabis tinctures:
- Autoimmune disorders
- Chronic pain
- Crohn’s disease
- Eating disorders
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Neurodegenerative disorders
How to Consume Cannabis Tinctures
You can easily measure cannabis tinctures, especially with a dropper.
We recommend starting off with a dose of 1 mL. If you haven’t used tinctures before, this dose will help you determine whether or not you feel much difference.
If the tincture makes you feel happy and relaxed, you can continue with the dose. If you don’t, double the amount of tincture ingested per day, slowly building up the dosage until you’re satisfied with the effects.
Here’s how people typically consume cannabis tinctures:
This is by far the fastest and easiest way to apply cannabis tinctures. By placing the tincture under the tongue, you’ll experience the effects faster than if you ate it. They will also be more potent thanks to the absorption route, which bypasses the digestive tract.
2. In a Drink
Some cannabis users tend to get impatient when it comes to waiting for the tinctures to absorb, so they choose to sacrifice some of the bioavailability in favor of taking the easier route.
You can either swallow the tincture as is or add it to your syrup, coffee, juice, soda, tea, or any other beverage you like. Adding the tincture to a drink will cause it to pass through the digestive tract.
3. With Food
Cannabis tinctures can be infused into food to create tincture-based edibles. Similar to drinking the tincture in a beverage, when you add cannabis tincture to a dish, it will be absorbed through your digestive system, so you’ll need to wait longer for the effects to take hold — between 30–120 minutes. You can infuse your tincture into sauces, dressings, baked edibles, and ice cream.
How to Make Cannabis Tinctures at Home
Making cannabis tinctures is very easy. It requires a certain degree of precision, as well as a couple of tools, but it’s by no means complicated science.
Here we explain the process step by step.
1. Bring Your Equipment
To make a cannabis tincture, you’ll need the following ingredients:
- 1 oz of ground cannabis flower
- Any kief or concentrate to increase the potency of your cannabis tincture
- 2 cups of everclear alcohol
- Tin foil
- 2 coffee filters
- 1 pack of cheesecloth
- Eye dropper
- Oven-safe glass pan
- Large glass mason jar
- 1 measuring cup (2-cup capacity)
- Latex gloves
- Rubber band
- Ziploc Bag
2. Grind and Decarboxylate the Weed
Decarboxylation will activate the cannabinoids in your herb.
Grind up the weed to a fine consistency and transfer the ground buds to an oven-safe pan lined with parchment paper. Spread the weed evenly, cover with tin foil, and preheat the oven to 230 Fahrenheit degrees. The foil will protect the cannabinoids and terpenes against burning.
Bake your cannabis for up to 40 minutes.
3. Extract Cannabinoids from the Plant Material
Now that you’ve decarbed your weed, let the pan cool but don’t get rid of the foil yet. The pan should be cool to the touch before you take it off.
Once done, transfer your weed into a large glass mason jar and pour in the alcohol. Remember to use just enough of the solvent to cover the top of the plant.
Seal the jar’s lid and place your cannabis tincture mixture for a minimum of one week up to six months. Two weeks should be enough to begin with, just remember to shake the jar every day for about a minute. Shaking will help distribute the cannabinoids in the alcohol solution by disturbing the plant matter.
4. Strain Your Cannabis Tincture
If you decide your tincture has already sat in the freezer for long enough, here’s what to do next:
- Strain the entire contents of the jar through a double layer of cheesecloth into a glass collecting dish
- Let the tincture drip through the cheesecloth until you achieve maximum yields. At this stage, we recommend putting on gloves to keep the soaked cheesecloth from passing the tincture into your pores.
- Evaporate the alcohol over very low heat to remove its flavor and thicken your extract a little bit.
Important note: alcohol is highly flammable and thus should be evaporated with caution and over minimum heat. If you want to make cannabis tinctures at home, make sure you take care of the necessary safety measures.
5. Bottle Up and Enjoy
Congrats, you’ve just made your first cannabis tincture. If you grow your own cannabis or buy it in bulk, you can prepare your tinctures in batches and let them sit for different lengths of time to test how different potencies work for you.
How to Store Cannabis Tinctures
In his book The Herbal Medicine Maker’s Handbook, respected herbalist James Green explains that cannabis tinctures can last for a few years if stored properly.
Proper storage means keeping your cannabis tincture in a cool and dark place, away from air and moisture. If you want to preserve the potency of THC tinctures, you can store them in the fridge. This will slow down the conversion of THC into CBN.
CBD Tinctures from Hemp: A Non-psychoactive Alternative to Marijuana Tinctures
Using cannabis is no longer associated solely with getting high. As CBD is gaining recognition among scientists, patients, and medical professionals, people can now choose whether or not they want to experience the psychoactive effects when using cannabis products.
CBD tinctures from hemp have less than 0.3% THC per volume, so there’s no chance this product will get you high. This makes them a decent alternative for people who either want to modulate the effects of THC with a CBD, or those who don’t want to get high at all.
Hemp-derived CBD tinctures are more available and thus less expensive than other cannabis-infused products.
Final Thoughts on Cannabis Tinctures
Cannabis tinctures are one of the oldest ways to use the herb for medical purposes. They have been listed among other medicines in different pharmacopeias around the world.
As global legalization gains momentum, tinctures are living their redemption story. You can find them both in local dispensaries and online.
Everything you need to know about cannabis tinctures has been covered in this guide. We hope you’ll find it useful for getting the most out of your herbal medicine or making your own tincture at home.
Do you make cannabis tinctures by yourself? Or do you prefer the store-bought ones? Share your thoughts in the comment section!