What is a cannabis tincture?
Cannabis tinctures are alcohol-based cannabis extracts—essentially, cannabis-infused alcohol. In fact, tinctures were the main form of cannabis medicine until the United States enacted cannabis prohibition. They’re a great entry point for both recreational and medical consumers looking to ease into smokeless consumption methods.
Cannabis tinctures can be ingested on their own, usually by placing a few drops under the tongue in what is called sublingual ingestion. Tinctures can also be incorporated into many recipes. Ice cream, gravy, soups, salad dressings, and beverages.
Even though cannabis tinctures constitute an edible form of marijuana, they work much faster than traditional edibles like brownies or gummies. In fact, if taken correctly, the effects of cannabis tinctures can begin in a few seconds, as opposed to the typical hour or more of weed edibles. That’s because the sublingual tissue under the tongue allows the cannabinoids to pass directly into the bloodstream, instead of going through the digestive tract to reach the bloodstream.
To achieve the full effect, tinctures should be held under the tongue for 30 seconds, ideally while rubbing it into the tissue. While the effects of cannabis tinctures taken sublingually begin quicker, they do not last as long as those from edible baked goods. But they do tend to last longer than those of vaping or smoking.
ne more distinction of cannabis tinctures is that they are easy to dose. Rather than winging it with a few puffs of a joint or a nibble of a brownie, an eyedropper tells you exactly how much cannabis you are ingesting via tincture. This point is especially important for those who are new or sensitive to the psychoactive effects of THC. While some cannabis consumers report adverse effects from ingesting too much THC through edibles, this issue can be averted by placing a few drops of tincture under the tongue. If getting too high is a concern, cannabis consumers can spit out the tincture after letting it sit under the tongue for at least 30 seconds.
Be aware that you might experience a slight burning sensation in the mouth due to the alcohol content of the tincture. If the burning sensation is uncomfortable, apply the cannabis tincture topically for more subtle effects.
How to make cannabis tinctures
If you don’t have a full kitchen or just prefer simple, mess-free preparation techniques, cannabis tinctures are a great DIY project. You can make a tincture with a jar, alcohol, strainer, and cannabis. That’s all you need!
Using alcohol vs. glycerin for tinctures
When it comes to making tinctures, high-proof, food-grade alcohol is going to be your best friend. If you wish to avoid using alcohol, glycerin, a plant-based oil, is an acceptable replacement. However, glycerin is not as efficient at bonding to cannabis compounds and will produce a less potent tincture.
Some people try to make a more potent glycerin tincture by first using alcohol, carefully evaporating the (very flammable) alcohol off of the tincture, and then introducing glycerin afterward. You get the potency of the alcohol with the glycerin body. Considering the dangers associated with evaporating alcohol with a heat source, we at Leafly do not recommend this method. The goal is to find a high-proof alcohol that is safe for consumption. The higher the alcohol content, the better it will dissolve cannabis resin. Everclear is my alcohol of choice when making a tincture, as it is both safe to consume and highly potent.
Products like isopropyl alcohol are not intended to be consumed and should never be used when making a tincture—save that for cleaning your pipes!
Making the tincture
To keep it simple, I like to use this ratio when making a tincture: For every ounce of cannabis flower, use one 750 mL bottle of alcohol (for an eighth of weed, that’s about 3 fluid oz).
This produces a mild effect, great for microdosing. If you want a more potent tincture, reduce the amount of alcohol by a third until you hit your desired potency.
- Step 1: Decarboxylate your cannabis flower or concentrate (if you’re using flower, grind it to a fine consistency).
- Step 2: Mix your flower or concentrate in a mason jar with high-proof alcohol (preferably Everclear).
- Step 3: Close the jar and let it sit for a few weeks, shaking it once a day.
- Step 4: After a few weeks, strain it through a coffee filter.
And if you don’t feel like waiting several weeks, you can even get away with shaking it for 3 minutes, straining, and storing.
How to dose and consume cannabis tinctures
It’s important to be consistent when making tinctures. If you make two batches at different strengths, a dose from each won’t be the same. Write down how much alcohol and cannabis you use for each batch so it can be replicated again if it was to your liking.
Once you’ve made the tincture, dosages are easy to self-titrate, or measure. Start with 1 mL of your finished tincture and put it under your tongue. If you’re happy with the effects, you’re done. Otherwise, ramp up your dosage slowly to avoid getting uncomfortably high—try 2 mL the next day, and so on, until you find the dose you’re happy with. Cannabis tinctures will last for many years when stored in a cool, dark place. Their long shelf life means you can make large quantities of them in one sitting.
Compared to the traditional cannabis-infused brownie, tinctures are a low calorie alternative. If you make a tincture with 190 proof alcohol, you’re looking at about 7 calories per mL.RelatedPot Brownie Bracketology: The Search for the Best Cannabis Brownie Recipe Ever
Cannabis tinctures can be incorporated into all sorts of meals and drinks:
- Ice creams and sherbets
- Mashed potatoes and gravy
- Salad dressing
Benefits of using cannabis tinctures
Tinctures are especially great for first-time cannabis consumers. Here are some reasons why:
- They’re discrete. Has there ever been a moment in your life when you said to yourself, “I really wish I smelled more like weed smoke right now?” Me neither. Consuming a tincture allows you to avoid the smell while enjoying all the benefits of cannabis. It is also super easy to conceal in a small jar in your bag.
- Fast onset of effects. Effects from a cannabis tincture set in rather quickly. Whereas cannabis edibles can take an hour or more to kick in, tinctures can be felt in as little as 15 minutes. This allows you to quickly understand how the cannabis is affecting you before you move onto other activities.
- Easy to dose. Tinctures are the perfect product for finding your preferred dose! You can measure your dose with an eyedropper and increase, decrease, or let it ride.
How do take tincture?
Cannabis tinctures are usually taken by putting a few drops under your tongue (sublingually). When taken this way, the arterial blood supply under your tongue rapidly absorbs the THC. That being said, you can always swallow the tincture in a drink or food, but it will be absorbed slower by your liver. Some people have reported experiencing a burning sensation under their tongue after a few drops of tincture—the high-proof alcohol used to make a tincture is responsible for this. If the tincture burns under your tongue and you are looking for a different option, you can get a glycerin-based tincture or incorporate your tincture into a beverage.
How long does a cannabis tincture take to kick in?
When dosing a tincture sublingually, expect to feel the effects in 15-45 minutes and reach your peak high at about 90 minutes. If you simply drink the dose, expect a slower onset that more closely resembles traditional edibles. Expect to be high longer than when you smoke or vaporize, but shorter than when you eat a butter or oil-based edible.
Cannabis tincture guide summary
Tinctures are alcohol based cannabis extracts. They’re a great entry point for both medical and recreational consumers looking for a smokeless method of consumption. Tinctures are easy to measure for dosing. Start with one eye dropper full under your tongue. When taken under the tongue, also called sublingually, effects should come on within the hour. If you drink your tincture or add it to food, effects can take up to two hours to come on – more like edibles. If you’re happy with the effects, you’re done. If you’d like more, take it one eyedropper at a time. Always remember because it could take up to two hours to feel effects, the golden rule when ingesting cannabis is to start small and be patient. That way, you don’t end up uncomfortably high.
However you ingest a tincture, you can expect to feel the effects for longer than you smoked or vaporized cannabis. Tinctures will last for many years when stored in a cool, dark location. The long shelf life means you can make big batches of your own and have a convenient and accurate way to consume cannabis when you want to.