When you walk into your local dispensary, you’ll find hundreds of products in dozens of different formats — medicated lotions, baked goods, candies, concentrates, flower, cartridges, even bath salts! One type of product, however, is often overlooked: tinctures.
While your first instinct may not be to select the tiny bottle of cannabis solution over a delicious looking brownie, tinctures are an ancient form of medicine that have been used for centuries. In fact, before cannabis prohibition, tinctures were the most popular form of medicinal marijuana.
What is a Tincture?
Tinctures refer to a solution of medicine or botanicals dissolved in a liquid, usually alcohol or oil. They usually come in Tinctures are a solution of medicine or botanicals dissolved in a liquid. By definition, a true tincture uses alcohol as its solvent, though these are not recommended for those in recovery. Oils like MCT (coconut) oil are commonly used in the cannabis space. Tinctures typically come in small bottles with droppers and are taken orally. Cannabis tinctures can include cannabinoids like THC, CBD, or even THCA and CBDA (and combinations of the four!).
Here’s generally what you can expect from the three main types of tinctures:
- CBD Tinctures derived from hemp are chosen by users who want to avoid the intoxifying effects of THC. A CBD-only tincture may contain traces of THC, but by law the amount must be less than 0.3%. CBD tinctures can even be found in states that haven’t legalized medical or recreational marijuana yet. Because hemp-derived CBD is a largely unregulated industry (besides the monitoring of THC levels), always be sure to request a Certificate of Analysis (COA) to ensure there are no traces of pesticides or heavy metals.
- CBD Tinctures derived from cannabis, too, are chosen by those who want to avoid the psychoactivity of THC. When extracted from the cannabis plant, there is typically a higher level of THC traces, but the high levels of CBD mitigate any potential high feelings. Cannabis-derived CBD Tinctures have the added benefit of additional testing conducted due to state laws.
- THC Tinctures are derived from the marijuana plant, and are often chosen for their euphoric effects. THC tinctures will also likely contain concentrations of CBD, but much lower than the THC amounts.
- CBD:THC tinctures provide the best of both worlds by leveraging the benefits of both cannabinoids in varying ratios. THC targets the perception of pain, while CBD addresses the underlying cause of said pain.
How Does a Tincture Work?
Photo by CRYSTALWEED cannabis on Unsplash
The most common way to take a tincture is to do so sublingually. This means you’ll use the dropper to measure your solution, then drop the liquid under your tongue. It’s generally recommended to hold the solution under the tongue for 30 seconds before swallowing.
The tincture is then absorbed into the mucus membrane under your tongue, where it’s dispersed directly into your bloodstream. This is what differentiates a tincture from an edible: edibles must be digested and processed by the liver, which often takes several hours. When taken sublingually, tinctures bypass the liver, meaning users often feel the effects within 15 minutes to an hour after dosing and for 5-6 hours after consuming. Unlike smoking, the benefits from tinctures come gradually, rather than all at once.
We’ll provide more information on dosing and best practices, but know that you should approach tinctures with the same caution you do edibles. Ensure you allow ample time for your first dose to take effect before taking more.
What are the Benefits of Tinctures?
Because tinctures are a smokeless consumption method that doesn’t impact your lungs, they provide a happy medium between smoking or vaporizing and edibles, which take longer to set in than a dose of tincture. They’re generally considered odorless (the tincture itself may have a hemp-y smell, but it usually isn’t detectable from an open bottle) and thus discreet. And they’re mighty convenient — no rolling papers, lighter, or any accessories are needed.
Tinctures are also some of the lowest-calorie edible products carried in most dispensaries, making them an ideal product for users with diabetes or other dietary restrictions. They can be used to make your own edibles, too – just add your tincture to drinks (if encapsulated), baked goods, gelatin, or even to infuse butter or oils. Infusing with tinctures up the possibilities for less conventional edibles, such as salad dressing, pasta sauce, ice cream toppings, soup, whatever! Get creative — the possibilities are endless.
Just keep in mind that edibles made with tinctures take the same amount of time to set in as regular edibles. It’s also in your best interest to pay attention to the type of tincture you’re using for cooking — one made of coconut oil might work great in brownies, but stirring it into your drink may not be ideal.
What Kind of Tincture Should I Buy?
Luckily, there is a huge selection of tinctures available on the market. Not only can you find tinctures with a variety of doses, they also come in a variety of ratios. If a tincture has a ratio on the package, it usually refers to the amount of CBD:THC. For example, a 4:1 tincture has four parts of CBD for every one part THC.
This specificity makes tinctures an ideal product for medical use– rather than supplementing your THC regimen with CBD, you can get all your medication from one product. Here’s a general rundown of what the cannabinoids found in tinctures can help with:
- THC: calms the nervous system, stimulates appetite, provides pain relief
- CBD: balances the immune system, calms anxiety, regulates serotonin
- THCA: anti-inflammatory, pain relief
- CBDA: anti-inflammatory, calms anxiety, reduces nausea
It’s also worth considering what your solution is made of. Alcohol-based tinctures can sometimes have a harsher taste and cause tingling under the tongue, but some users report more potent effects with the carrier. Oil-based tinctures can be easier to swallow, but may not pack as much of a punch. As mentioned earlier, your base material is also important when you’re making edibles.
How Do I Dose a Tincture?
Dosing tinctures can be tricky, but luckily, all tinctures carried by Zen Leaf contain dosing instructions on the packaging! These instructions disclose how many milligrams are in each dropper, so you can easily calculate how many droppers to take. If you purchase a tincture elsewhere and need to determine the dosage, you can do the following math:
Divide the total number of milligrams in the product by the number of milliliters in the product. For example, a 250mg tincture containing 750ml of solution has 0.3mg per milliliter. Next, fill up a dropper and empty it into a graduated cup (they commonly come with liquid medications like cough syrup, and you can find them at most pharmacies) and observe how many milliliters are in the cup.
Finally, simply multiply the strength by the dropper content. If your dropper holds 10ml and there are 0.3mg per milliliter, your dropper contains a 3mg dose.
When consuming tinctures for the first time, we recommend starting with a smaller dose than what you normally take in an edible. If you’ve never taken an edible, we recommend starting with 2.5-5mg. Drop the dose of your tincture under your tongue, hold it for 30 seconds, and swallow. When taking multiple droppers, you can either drop all of them at once, or take each dropper individually.
If you aren’t feeling the desired effects within 30 minutes to an hour, consider taking another small dose. The effects of tinctures will typically last 5 to 6 hours.
Finding a Tincture
Keep in mind that tinctures, like all cannabis products, interact differently with every person. You may experience stronger or weaker effects based on the brand, the solution contents, the ratio, or a variety of other factors. Don’t be discouraged if the first product you try doesn’t get you where you want to go! Finding the right product for you may be a long process, but the end results are worth it. And be sure to track your results! Recording your experiences with products and dosing either in a journal or the notes app in your phone is a great way to help you identify your optimal dose.
At Zen Leaf, we carry a number of CBD and THC tinctures in varying ratios.
These are two of our favorites:
Avexia Black Raspberry Road Liquid THCa Tincture
Made by liquefying solventless THCa, and infusing it with a delicate essence of black raspberry, and MCT oil as a carrier. MCT contains fatty acids that can promote weight loss by reducing body fat and helps improve your gastric lining. This full spectrum oil contains 1000mg of THCa, which provides effective symptom relief without the psychoactive effects of THC.
Avexia Full Spectrum RSO
Rick Simpson Oil (RSO) is a whole plant extract, run through food grade ethanol, purified to remove chlorophyll, and then oven purged to activate the cannabinoids. RSO is effective for a multitude of ailments, but note that it is a patient-reported heavily sedating medical cannabis option. Accurately dosed and available in various strains, this oil can be taken sublingually or added to food or drink.
Shop Cannabis Tinctures At Zen Leaf
They may not be as flashy or “fun” as other products you’ll find at a dispensary, but tinctures open a realm of discretionary medicating options. As always, your care specialists at Zen Leaf are happy to answer your questions about our products and look forward to helping you on your journey with tinctures.