Cannabis Tinctures: A Look at a Centuries-Old Medicine

By Alex Halperin May 26, 2020
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Believe it or not, cannabis tinctures have been around for a very long time. Herbal tinctures have been used for thousands of years, dating back to the ancient Egyptians. Cannabis tinctures also have a rich history and were widely available in pharmacies leading up to marijuana prohibition in the early 20th century. 

And with marijuana quickly becoming more available, both at the medicinal and recreational levels, tinctures are making a comeback in a big way. While technically a cannabis edible, marijuana tinctures are discreet, efficient, and easy-to-use products that can quickly deliver the effects of cannabis. 

What is a Cannabis Tincture?

Cannabis tinctures are extracts from the cannabis plant that are dissolved in ethanol alcohol and used in drop form. The alcohol, or glycerine, extracts the chemicals from the submerged cannabis, creating a liquid that is rich in cannabinoids. Like other cannabis products, tinctures can deliver the desired effects to users but in a way that is both simple and discreet. Taking a tincture in public, however, doesn’t draw any attention. Not exactly the same if you were to try to smoke a joint at the mall. 

Even though it’s technically an edible, putting a tincture under the tongue can deliver the high or medicinal properties much faster than other edibles that need to be digested first. The blood vessels in your mouth quickly absorb the tincture, making it possible to feel the impact almost immediately. This can be especially handy for people consuming CBD tinctures seeking relief for whatever symptoms are bothering them. 

Also, tinctures are an appealing way to consume cannabis since it  has no negative impact on the lungs. Taking them is as easy as placing a few drops under one’s tongue. 

How Are Cannabis Tinctures Used?

The two most common forms of consuming cannabis tinctures are sublingual and ingestion. Both ways will deliver the desired results but the experiences can be quite different. 

Sublingual Consumption of Cannabis Tinctures

Taking cannabis tinctures under the tongue is the fastest way to deliver the effects. Whether you are consuming the tincture to get high or to help with a medical issue, the THC and CBD will be quickly absorbed through the blood vessels in your mouth. You’ll want to swish around the tincture in your mouth, essentially coating your inner cheeks, the roof of your mouth, and the area under your chin with the tincture before spitting out the liquid. 

This whole process takes about thirty seconds and the effects should kick in far more quickly than if the tincture is ingested. However, the effect may not last as long. When consumed under the tongue, the tincture’s effect will typically last between two to four hours. 

Ingesting Cannabis Tinctures

Cannabis tinctures can also be consumed as an edible. Tinctures can be mixed with foods and drinks and taken with the snack or beverage of your choice. 

If ingested, the tincture, will be processed in the liver, making this process slower and last longer. Like marijuana edibles, it can take upwards of two hours before the effects of the tincture kick in, far longer than how fast it starts to work when taken under the tongue. However, the ingestion process makes the effects last for a much longer period of time. 

How to Make Cannabis Tinctures

There are a few different ways to turn your cannabis into tinctures. Each is low cost and can easily be done at home. If you haven’t made tinctures before, fret not. There are countless video tutorials out there that show the step-by-step process, making an easy DIY project even easier. 

Using Alcohol Vs. Glycerin For Making Cannabis Tinctures

High proof alcohol is the preferred ingredient when it comes to soaking your cannabis flowers. The cannabinoids also have an easier time bonding to alcohol than to glycerine, a plant-based oil that can work as a solvent. It is a good choice for people who want to avoid using alcohol in the production of their tinctures.  

Choosing the Right Type of Alcohol for Cannabis Tinctures

In order to make the most high-quality tinctures, you’ll need to choose a high proof, food-quality ethanol alcohol. Do not use isopropyl or methyl alcohol as they are toxic and shouldn’t be consumed. Some people choose to use high-proof vodkas or rums. This is fine, however, they won’t be quite as effective at producing the most potent tinctures. 

THC vs. CBD Tinctures

One of the distinct differences between tinctures and cannabis oils is that the alcohol used in tinctures acts as a preservative, giving the tincture a much longer life. 

When taken sublingually, consuming tinctures high in THC, the effect is quite different from edibles in that you’re unlikely to stay high as long and the transition out of the high is typically smoother. When taking edibles, a lot of people report having a high that sticks around too long or that lingers beyond what’s desired. Like smoking weed, consuming tinctures recreationally may keep you high for a few hours and not take over your entire day. 

Cannabis Tincture Ingredients

There are two main ingredients when it comes to making cannabis tinctures: cannabis flowers and high proof alcohol. Some people prefer to add flavoring to the tinctures as the taste isn’t very appetizing. Some common natural flavors that can be added include peppermint, vanilla, and mint. Doing this will make the sublingual consumption of the tincture a bit more pleasurable. 

However, for people who plan on ingesting the tincture, simply adding the drops into food and drinks will do the trick without needing to add flavoring. 

Equipment

The traditional method of making tinctures, known as the Green Dragon, requires no actual equipment. To make the tincture, you will need your weed, high proof alcohol, and a Mason jar. That’s it. Making cannabis tinctures really doesn’t get easier than this tried and true method of letting the cannabis soak in a jar. A stove, however, is necessary to decarboxylate (or activate) the cannabis before adding it to the jar.

Decarboxylation

Just like with cooking edibles, the decarboxylation process is an essential step when making tinctures. Decarboxylation of cannabis allows the THCA to be converted into THC. THCA itself doesn’t provide the high as it’s a non-intoxicating cannabinoid. Decarboxylation converts the cannabinoid into THC, making the tincture potent. 

Simple Steps to Making Cannabis Tinctures

The process of making your tincture is fast and easy, especially if you choose the Green Dragon method.

Step 1: Grind your buds

This is an essential part of the process as it will get your weed ready for step 2. Make sure to grind up your buds into tiny pieces, just like if you were to roll a joint.

Step 2: Cook your weed

The decarboxylation process is key when it comes to ensuring your tincture will be potent and deliver the best effect possible.

Step 3: Shake and freeze

Add your decarboxylated weed into a Mason jar filled with alcohol. Shake it up and then put it in the freezer for five days. Go back to your jar a few times per day to give it a good shake. 

Step 4: Sieve the weed from the liquid

You don’t want your tincture to be full of tiny bits of bud. Sieve the liquid into another jar, making sure all of the bits of weed are caught in the screening process.

Step 5: Bottle and enjoy

Separate your strained tincture into bottles and you’re good to go. You’ll want to keep these small bottles or vials either in the freezer or the fridge to ensure they stay fresh and last the longest. 

Benefits Of Using Cannabis Tinctures

Just like consuming cannabis in other ways, there are many potential benefits to consuming tinctures. The specific benefits will depend on the kind of tincture and the reasons for taking it in the first place. 

For people using tinctures for medicinal purposes, the main benefit is that tincture is a healthier alternative to smoking cannabis. As more products become available, a lot of marijuana consumers are starting to shift away from smoking cannabis and consuming other products that don’t carry the dangers of smoking. 

Another benefit for medicinal users is that tinctures, when consumed under the tongue, deliver very fast relief for those who need help fast. Tinctures are also easier to take in public, especially for medicinal users who don’t want attention or for those close to them to know they are taking cannabis. Tincture use is quick and discreet. 

Cannabis Tincture FAQs

For people who are using tinctures or even cannabis, for the first time, it’s not uncommon that they have questions about best practices, what to avoid, and how best to consume cannabis. Here are some of the most common questions about tincture use. 

How Do I Take My Tincture?

This depends on each person and why they are taking the tincture in the first place. If someone is looking for fast pain relief or help with other symptoms of a medical condition, taking it under the tongue is likely to trigger the effects soonest. For someone who wants to get high and stay high all day, adding some drops that are high in THC to food is the right choice. 

Do Tinctures Burn Under Your Tongue?

Whether tincture burns or not will come down to the quality of the tincture. If it isn’t prepared well or if the wrong kind of alcohol is used, it’s possible that the user will have a slight burning sensation under their tongue. If burning persists, the tincture can be diluted a bit with a juice or water to help ease the burn, however, it shouldn’t be a problem if you’re using a high-quality tincture in the first place. 

How Long Does a Cannabis Tincture Take to Kick In?

If you take your tincture as an edible, it can take upwards of two hours to kick in. It’s the same as eating a pot brownie. The cannabis needs to be ingested and processed through the liver before the user starts to feel anything. 

Taking it under the tongue is a much different story. It can kick in in as little as 30 seconds. 

How Long Will I Feel the Effects of a Cannabis Tincture?

When consumed under the tongue, the tincture’s effect will typically last between two to four hours. The last effect will be similar to when smoking weed. 

Consuming the tincture as an edible with food or beverages is much different and lasts a lot longer. In fact, some people can feel the effects of cannabis tinctures for up to eight hours when ingested. 

Conclusion

Tinctures have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. They are easy to make, convenient to store, discreet to consume, and deliver fast and efficient relief to whatever problems they are meant to treat. 

Cannabis tinctures are no different. The one thing people who are new to tinctures should be careful about is dosing. Taking too many drops can ruin the experience, especially if by leaving someone “too high.” This happens more frequently when the tincture is consumed as an edible as people get impatient waiting for it to kick in and take more. 

The best thing you can do is start slow and figure out the best dose for you. It’s better to take too little the first few times and work your way up than to take too much and have tincture ruined for you altogether. 

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Alex Halperin