The world of cannabis often gets conflated with the world of smoke, and while many enjoy using the traditional methods, there’s a lot more to it than that.
Especially today, both the novice and the expert and everyone in between has countless options to choose from to enjoy everyone’s favorite herb.
One of the sadly most overlooked of these is the humble tincture. That’s despite it being one of the most effective and convenient means of benefiting from cannabis products.
And that’s why we decided to create this guide: to give a simple but thorough overview of the best way to take a cannabis tincture, what to expect, and how to transition from what you might be used to.
What is a cannabis tincture?
Let’s back up a bit first. What actually is a tincture, to be exact?
In plain English, a tincture is a liquid extract meant to be taken orally, unlike a lotion that is usually applied topically to the skin.
Normally, you use a cannabis tincture by infusing it into a food or beverage of your choice. Alternatively, you can apply it orally or allow it to dissolve on its own under your tongue.
Since it enters your system similar to an edible cannabis supplement or a CBD oil, the effects set in holistically and spread across the whole body.
On the other hand, edibles and tinctures also share a common disadvantage. Compared to smoking or vaping, tinctures taken orally only really kick in once they have been fully metabolized.
This might take upwards of an hour, depending on your sex, age, body weight, and other factors.
On the other hand, tinctures can also be applied sublingually, i.e. dissolved under the tongue. That acts more quickly, allowing you to see effects within 15 to 25 minutes.
What is a cannabis tincture used for?
Tinctures are among the most common forms of administering cannabis for medical purposes.
This is because tinctures with extremely high purity are relatively easy to make, whereas other forms of cannabis products often involve very complex, challenging extraction processes in order to preserve a high amount of the active ingredients of the original plant.
In recreational use, tinctures are still behind edibles and fresh or ground buds in terms of popularity. Still, trends are very positive and steadily improving, which suggests that more and more people are considering the advantages of tinctures and making a switch in their routines accordingly.
One kind of tincture in particular is getting increasingly popular: the CBD tincture.
Following the same basic principle, this tincture differs in retaining primarily the cannabinoid CBD, which exhibits its own completely unique set of therapeutic benefits.
Not all CBD tinctures contain exclusively CBD. Some also feature other related cannabinoids such as CBN, CBG, and others. However, what all CBD tinctures have in common is a lack of THC, the one and only psychoactive cannabinoid.
Hence, CBD tinctures provide physical and mental health benefits but without altering your state of consciousness. This makes them a generally non-intoxicating alternative to traditional cannabis products.
How to make a CBD tincture
Because tinctures are among the purest means of extracting the components of cannabis, they are rather easy to make yourself.
There are countless methods out there, and plenty of them are reasonably DIY-friendly, but today we’ll be looking at one of the most widespread and easiest of them all.
All you need is some fresh CBD flower, high-proof alcohol, and an oven!
There are two basic steps to making a tincture: prepping the cannabis by decarbing it and curing it to extract the ingredients.
Decarbing, short for decarboxylating, is how the compounds within cannabis get activated so that they have the proper effects when you consume them.
Fortunately, decarbing is a fairly straightforward process.
Though there are different approaches, it’s possible to decarb cannabis very effectively by just subjecting it to high heat for a prolonged period of time. Therefore, we suggest you use a tried and tested method and put your buds (preferably freshly ground) in the oven on a fresh baking sheet.
This works best at around 240 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 to 60 minutes.
After decarbing, your cannabis should come out looking golden or light brown in color. The next step is to cure it, which will extract all those essential and healthy ingredients from the plant into a liquid form.
For this, we need to use a strong solvent of some kind. Many are used in large-scale production of cannabis tinctures, but for the home, the safest by far is high-proof alcohol. Make sure it’s not denatured alcohol, i.e. it should be drinkable, yet highly concentrated.
Depending on the area you live in, the most convenient option that fits the bill could be vodka, absinthe, or a similarly strong drink available at your nearest liquor store.
After decarbing, all you need to do is to put your baked buds in a sealable container such as a glass jar filled to the brim with your choice of alcohol-based solvent and leave them in a cool, dark, and reasonably damp area for at least a few weeks.
Sometimes, it takes up to a month or so for cannabis to cure fully, so definitely feel free to be generous with the timing!
It’s also a good idea to agitate the jar or bottle you’re using by gently shaking it once per day. This helps prevent the cannabis ingredients from separating unevenly.
After enough time has passed, you’ll want to empty your container and separate the remaining pieces of solid flower from the now-finished liquid tincture. You can use something like a cheesecloth for this purpose; a regular strainer will work just as well.
If everything works out and depending on the volume of cannabis buds you choose, you should now have anywhere from a few weeks to a few months’ worths of fresh cannabis tincture, ready to use!
CBD tinctures types
We distinguished earlier between cannabis tinctures containing THC and CBD tinctures, but those aren’t the only two categories out there. Even among CBD tinctures themselves, plenty of varieties differ in their effects.
For simplicity’s sake, these different kinds of CBD tinctures can be grouped into three distinct types – let’s take a look at them below!
Broad spectrum CBD tinctures
So-called broad spectrum CBD tinctures are the current standard and are by far the most widely available kind that you might stumble across at your nearest dispensary, for instance.
Broad spectrum CBD tinctures are generally very refined in the sense that they are made using very potent solvents. Butane, propane, glycerin, and CO2 are among the ones most widely used in commercial-scale operations, but they’re not just harmful to our health.
They’re also so extremely strong that they end up stripping away some of the cannabis components that are usually not targeted as important when making a tincture.
On the one hand, this ensures that the tincture contains absolutely zero psychoactive THC while also making the CBD mix somewhat more potent and highly concentrated.
On the other hand, it might also get rid of plenty of minor cannabinoids and important terpenes, which are responsible for the taste, smell, and medicinal effects of many CBD strains.
For this reason, many have begun experimenting with alternative extraction methods to preserve more of the fine ingredients that make the effects of CBD flowers so special.
This is what eventually resulted in the creation of full spectrum CBD tinctures.
Full spectrum CBD Tinctures
A full spectrum CBD tincture improves upon the broad spectrum tincture by utilizing a gentler solvent for extraction – such as the alcohol we showed in our above DIY method – or by forgoing that approach for an entirely different extraction process altogether, such as the freeze-dry extraction that is becoming increasingly common these days.
Whatever the case, a full spectrum CBD tincture retains the whole gamut of all the hundreds of individual ingredients that make up the hemp plant in the wild.
This does include, of course, THC – though in the case of CBD tinctures, this is generally kept below a certain legal limit of a fraction of a percent. At these volumes, even a measurable amount of THC will not be psychoactive.
An obvious benefit of a full spectrum tincture is its more natural replication of the fine nuances that make cannabis flowers so potent and so enjoyable to consume.
Both the flavor, the aroma, as well as the unique medicinal effects of the plant will be much more readily present compared to a broad spectrum tincture.
This is particularly true when comparing multiple strains side-by-side – the differences tend to stand out much more with full spectrum tinctures.
CBD isolate tincture
Equally a newcomer in the current scene of things though in many ways the total opposite of the full spectrum tincture, the CBD isolate tincture strips away basically every single component of the hemp plant, leaving the CBD and sometimes a few other essential ingredients only.
The downsides are obvious and fairly self-explanatory. A CBD isolate tincture will not allow you to really feel and benefit from the various unique effects of individual cannabis strains, nor will it be able to display the differences in terpenes and miscellaneous cannabinoids such as CBN, CBG, or THCV.
Those eyeing a CBD isolate tincture for medical use should make absolutely sure that what they need is CBD and CBD only.
This is particularly difficult as the so-called entourage effect makes every cannabis component act differently when blended in with others than in isolation. You might need to thoroughly experiment first before you’ll be able to find out for sure what works best for you.
Still, for those that need or want it, CBD isolate tinctures offer one of the most convenient and simplest ways to enjoy the most highly concentrated, most potent CBD currently available on the market.
CBD tincture vs. THC tincture
While the distinction between CBD and THC tinctures as such is pretty easy to see, what exactly distinguishes them in practical, everyday use? Why would you go for one or the other as an average consumer?
Of course, the answer, more often than not, boils down to one thing, personal preference.
Still, some things are speaking in favor and against using a THC tincture instead of a CBD one. Most of these have to do with the innate differences between the two chemicals, as there is hardly any tincture out there that will give you an equal concentration of both at once.
For starters, THC tinctures give you access to a whole host of medicinal and other benefits you cannot have with any other cannabis product. THC is chemically unique in its effects, and no other cannabinoid can hope to replace it.
Besides its trademark psychoactive effects, including that ever-desirable “high,” THC is a highly effective analgesic and has a positive track record in fending off anxiety, mood disorders, and other ailments.
On the other hand, THC tinctures also come with some downsides. While high CBD will also help you with chronic pain while calming your nerves and loosening you up mentally, it will not likely lead to any complications associated with THC use.
For sure, many will be just fine using THC tinctures without any cause for complaint.
But others will quickly report feelings of dizziness, disorientation (which can even develop into paranoia), headaches, digestive issues, and other side effects ranging from minor nuisances to grave health risks.
This is one of the reasons why a growing number of people are dialing down their THC use or abandoning this cannabinoid entirely in favor of its milder yet friendlier cousin, CBD.
Why use CBD tinctures?
While the downsides to THC are pretty clear-cut, they mostly apply to those with a THC sensitivity or, in rarer cases, an allergy.
If your body processes moderate amounts of THC just fine, then you might be caught in a bit of a dilemma as you’ll find most of the commonly-cited effects of THC and CBD tinctures overlapping very strongly. How do you choose?
In this case, the devil is in the details. The biggest reason to go for a CBD tincture lies in the element of psychoactivity.
It’s true that a THC tincture can do just what a CBD tincture can – promote pain relief, a better mood, better sleep quality, and much more.
However, on top of those benefits, THC will also provide you with a psychoactive “high” that can do anything from sending you down a deep spiral of hyperactive euphoria to the total opposite, confining you to the couch in a foggy daze.
This unpredictability, and the sometimes radical changes in day-to-day functioning, drive many away from THC tinctures.
In the end, the physical and especially medicinal benefits of CBD tinctures are very similar.
But unlike THC, a CBD tincture won’t make you worry about staying presentable for important social events, for instance – or even just for keeping up with important domestic tasks.
Benefits of a cannabis tincture
There are countless ways of consuming cannabis-based products these days, and tinctures are only one of them. The question becomes, what makes them superior to other options?
Below are only some of the most important reasons why people choose to go for cannabis tinctures – but remember that nothing can replace the kind of knowledge you can gain from experimenting and trying out different options yourself!
By far, one of the biggest reasons to go with a cannabis tincture, especially as a beginner, is sheer convenience. By their very nature, tinctures are extremely highly concentrated, meaning a single drop or two is often enough for a full dose.
This makes those tiny dropper bottles easy to carry around, even in a back pocket and removes the fuss of enjoying cannabis. There’s a lot less of a learning curve compared to smoking or vaping.
Depending on where you live, your lifestyle, as well as other factors, how easy it is to get some CBD or THC into your day might not be the only factor worth considering.
You might find it equally important to know that you can do so without making much of a scene.
In many areas, not to mention within many social situations and circles, whipping out and lighting a bong might not get you into legal trouble – but it could still complicate life more than what most of us would like.
This is where tinctures really excel. Unlike pipes, joints, or vapes, they don’t scream “I am smoking weed” to everyone in the room. And unlike edibles, they are really unlikely to get confused with prescription medicine.
Instead, cannabis tinctures, at first glance, make much of the same impression as a bottle of eye drops or homeopathics. They also lack any kind of identifiable smell.
For those that would rather keep their consumption to themselves, this is a real advantage.
Because of the way they’re formulated and applied, tinctures make it much easier to set and commit to a precise daily dosage than many other means of consuming cannabis.
Again, this is great news for beginners. Getting accustomed to the “feel” and the effects of cannabis extracts at different doses is an important part of the journey of finding what works for you.
This is a hundred times harder when you can’t rely on your dosages to be accurate.
Compared to edibles, tinctures are usually faster-acting. This is not necessarily the case when you use a tincture to make an infusion, whether in solid foods or beverages.
However, when you apply a tincture sublingually, it does absorb into your system much faster – often within 15 minutes, though this differs from person to person.
Health benefits of cannabis tinctures
Cannabis tinctures are associated with countless health benefits, much like many other cannabis products.
Among the most sought-after benefits is pain relief. Cannabis tinctures are quickly becoming one of the most popular alternative solutions to pain.
Similarly, cannabis is being studied for its effectivess in treating chronic conditions such as anxiety, BPD, depression, as well as seizure disorders, and others.
Cannabis might also lift your mood, allow you to focus on important tasks more easily, and clear up your mind.
The list of benefits goes on and on from there – it’s really a whole world to explore for yourself!
Best way to take tinctures
If you’re new to the world of cannabis and decided to jump right in with a tincture, how do you start?
Tinctures offer you a lot of freedom and flexibility in how you enjoy them. For absolute beginners, though, the simplest is often the best.
Start with a low dose (how much exactly will usually be marked on the packaging on the back of the bottle) and put it under your tongue where the flesh feels soft to the touch.
Leave it for up to 30 seconds before swallowing. Expect effects to come up within 20 minutes.
Over time, gently experimenting with the size, timing, and application of your dose, you will find a way to take your cannabis tincture that best suits your needs and preferences.
Now, the only thing left is, of course, an actual cannabis tincture to start with!
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