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If you’ve ever visited your local dispensary and wandered through the shelves wondering what exactly you should try this time before eventually leaving with your usual orders, it may be worth it to investigate other available options in preparation for your next trip. While you may know a fair amount about the typical products one may think of when it comes to cannabis (vapes, flower, soft chew gummies), there is one type that does not get as much attention as the rest despite its powerful benefits: tinctures.
Even if you have never taken a tincture before, you’ve still probably seen them. In any movie set in old England, glass vials containing potent medicines are a mainstay of historical set dressing. Though we would now think of pill bottles as symbols of medicine, tinctures are still very commonly used in the medical community (as well as the beauty and skincare world) to dispense exact amounts of an oil or liquid extracted from the small glass bottles with an eyedropper tool. The “sublingual” part comes in when those droplets are placed beneath the tongue.
When it comes to cannabis, tinctures are made from mixing flower with a liquid bonding agent with the right properties to pull out its THC and CBD content, as well as any aromatic compounds found in the plant that contribute to the scent and flavor profile of the tincture. The most common ingredient used to create cannabis tinctures is alcohol, but glycerin can work as a substitute. Tinctures made with glycerin, however, are less potent because the compounds adhere less efficiently. Once the buds are strained of the liquid add-ins, there is a high concentration of the cannabinoid extracts left behind that can be administered as a sublingual tincture.
Some cannabis users who enjoy the tactile experience of smoking or vaping may be wondering, “just what are the benefits of tincture?” The more subdued method of tincture-based delivery can provide a host of benefits for medical and recreational users alike, including:
The ability to dispense an exact amount of the cannabis being recommended by an expert is a huge benefit when it comes to medicinal marijuana use. There is no real way to take an exact hit while vaping or smoking flower. The common practice is to take a certain number of draws, but ensuring equal draws is nearly impossible. And, while edibles can be more of an “exact” science, they take time to set in and can often produce effects for a much longer period. Tinctures, on the other hand, can be dispensed one droplet at a time. Because oils from dispensaries have already been formulated to a specific strength, users can just check the label and rest assured they’re taking the right dose every time.
Tinctures are a particularly interesting form of cannabis because they are as flexible as you can imagine them to be. While taking them sublingually is a great way to obtain quick results, tinctures can also be dispensed into a drink or liquid food item, allowing the effects of the cannabis to set in slowly and continue to build throughout your meal. For patients who aren’t fond of the flavor of marijuana, dispensing your dosage into a beverage or liquid food can be an easy way to disguise the taste. However, please note that we would only recommend our encapsulated tincture for mixing into a drink as an oil based tincture will not blend into the liquid, but rather separate on top. Not a very enjoyable experience!
Tinctures are a far more discreet product to keep with you than a vape or anything using flower. Consuming the oil does not produce any sort of scent that may raise suspicion when in public or a group setting. As a glass bottle with an eyedropper, the packaging makes tinctures easy to disguise amongst other items — fitting in as well on a desk amongst other medical supplies as it would on your bathroom counter beside skincare serums.
There are few marijuana products with the shelf-life of tinctures. So long as you keep them in a cold, dark place, they can last for years. The best way to maximize your tincture’s life is to always keep their caps on tightly. If the seal allows any air in, the oil inside is subject to evaporation. Some separation is to be expected, so when you dust them off from where you’ve stored them, just give the bottle a shake to recombine the ingredients.
The choice between edibles and vapes can be a source for debate when comparing the health impacts of each option. With scientists at odds about the potential health risks of smoking and vaping, there are plenty of cannabis users who have turned to edibles as their cannabis delivery method of choice. But what happens when you introduce chocolates, chewy candies, and more into your diet regularly? Excess sugar can be just as detrimental to people with certain health issues as smoking is for others. Tinctures, made with a high alcohol content and simple ingredients besides the cannabis flower, are a great choice for more health-conscious patients.
Now that you know how a sublingual tincture is properly administered, you may still have some questions about the product. So, here’s a rundown of some of the most commonly asked questions. These answers can help you make an informed decision on whether this may be a type of cannabis that you’d like to try out for your own needs.
When tinctures are taken through droplets dispensed under the tongue, they can rapidly absorb into your sublingual artery and into your bloodstream. This way, they can avoid metabolizing in your digestive system, allowing the active ingredients to transmit through your body in a quicker onset period. Typically, you will begin feeling the effects anywhere between 15 and 30 minutes, peaking at around the hour-and-a-half-mark.
Though edibles are a well-known staple cannabis product for people who (for any number of reasons) can’t or don’t want to smoke or vape. Edibles can produce a more intense high and symptom relief for several hours. This comes with the trade-off of taking a much longer time to set in. For people who suffer chronic pain episodes or anxiety attacks, this factor is a huge draw in comparison to traditional options like edibles or flower. Dispensing the oil under the tongue helps shorten the onset time even further. How long should tinctures sit under the tongue? Experts recommend holding the oil under your tongue for at least 60 seconds to give it time to absorb enough for you to swallow the remainder.
We also think it’s worth noting that our tincture, because it’s encapsulated, does not go through the first-pass effect, meaning, it will not convert when swallowed as an edible. Because it’s encapsulated, the cannabinoids are instead absorbed throughout the GI tract on the way to the stomach. And, it is completely water soluble!
Most tinctures will come with dosing recommendations, but how much oil you take to manage your symptoms is up to your discretion based upon guidance from your doctor and the dispensary pharmacist. The starting dosage recommended across the board is between 2.5 to 5mg. Unlike many other forms of cannabis, Tinctures have a minimum effective dose — the smallest dosage of cannabis necessary to treat your specific symptoms. If you can learn this amount early on, you can save a lot of money in the long run by lowering your cannabis tolerance (and the amount of product you’ll need to buy along with it). Just be sure to remember that multiple doses taken consecutively with no period of sobriety in between are known to be cumulative. If you’re not looking to intensify your experience, space doses out by at least 60 minutes.
The strength of a tincture is ultimately decided by the ratio of THC or CBD in the weed to the alcohol or glycerin bonding agent. The more flower used in the creation of a tincture, the stronger it will be. Those who aren’t interested in getting an abrupt high and would prefer a tincture meant to be dispensed over a period of hours in multiple-drop doses will prefer a tincture made with less flower and more alcohol or glycerin.
The answer is sometimes. Traditional tinctures are made using alcohol, which cause some people a tingling sensation and, as such, will contain trace amounts of alcohol. Tinctures using carrier oils (most common in the cannabis industry) instead will not burn, but have an oily feeling.
That said, certain people are especially sensitive to alcohol, and all tinctures made with it will produce this feeling. In this case, patients should consider using a glycerin-based tincture or using other forms of cannabis that better fits their needs. And, to reiterate, those in recovery should avoid alcohol-based tinctures.
Ready to take the leap and try tinctures? There’s no risk in trying it out to see if it would suit your needs better than your current cannabis products. Zen Leaf carries various types of sublingual tinctures to suit all needs.
For example, Avexia brand tinctures combine calming essential oils and various cannabinoids and cannabinoid ratios in MCT oil, while the MÜV brand tinctures in Arizona are created with various THC, CBD, and 1:1 ratios and encapsulated using ethanol solutions. If you have any questions about tinctures or any other cannabis product, the experts at Zen Leaf are always happy to help you understand your options.