Cannabis Tinctures 101: Explore the Benefits of Tinctures

What are cannabis tinctures and infused oils and why does Dr. Dustin Sulak believe they are not only the most underutilized, underrated, and underappreciated method of consuming cannabis but the most important for preventing symptoms? Read on to find out.

What is a Tincture?

Historically, tinctures referred to extracts that used high-proof alcohol to steep plant material that was then strained and bottled along with additional ingredients, whereas oils are generally made with just two ingredients: cannabinoids such as THC or CBD and carrier oil. Today the word tincture is used to refer to both kinds of liquid extract products that are taken sublingually. These kinds of liquid extracts may also be mixed with food or drink or used on the skin as a topical treatment.

Regardless of their name and composition, using tinctures, THC oils, or CBD oils (alone or in combination with inhalation) is the best way to take cannabis to address health-related symptoms, because liquid extracts:

    • can be precisely measured, allowing you to find the smallest amount that is effective for managing your symptoms
    • begin working faster when taken sublingually because they’re absorbed directly into the bloodstream through the capillaries in the mouth
    • are convenient and discreet and can be added to foods, drinks or used as a topical
    • are the most cost-effective method for taking cannabinoids such as CBD and THC since you absorb the most of them as possible and none is wasted by consuming too much or lost going up in smoke
    • can deliver more of the plant’s therapeutic compounds, especially the raw, acidic cannabinoids such as CBDA, CBGA, and THCA
    • are low calorie and especially those that without added sugar or artificial flavorings work well for most people

CBD vs. THC Tinctures: How to Choose Which is Best for You

CBD and THC are the two best-known cannabinoids produced by the cannabis plant, Cannabis sativa, although they have distinctly different mechanisms of action in the body via the endocannabinoid system and the body’s biological systems. 

Despite their differences, CBD and THC, along with their raw precursors CBDA and THCA, can produce many similar effects addressing symptoms related to stress and tension, mood, nausea, arousal, and physical discomfort. CBD and THC also have some notable differences:

  • THC can be impairing, CBD and CBDA are non-impairing
  • THC can modestly reduce blood pressure and eye pressure, CBD and CBDA can modestly increase both
  •  THC can stimulate appetite; CBD and CBDA can reduce it
  • CBD can reduce THC’s intoxicating effects and CBDA does not.

One common question that people have when selecting a CBD tincture is whether to use one that contains CBD alone or to choose a tincture with a mix of cannabinoids including THC. 

Because most people do not know that THC can be used at very low amounts with no impairing effects, they mistakenly believe they should use a CBD isolate or other liquid extracts with no THC.  For most people though, complex spectrum products with THC, acidic and minor cannabinoids, and terpenes are likely best. Based on extensive research and Dr. Sulak’s vast clinical experience, appropriately combining CBD and THC often produces superior effects.  This is because CBD blocks many of the undesirable effects of THC, such as intoxication, sedation, increased appetite, and rapid heart rate. Additionally, CBD, acidic and minor cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids and other phytonutrients from the plant enhance many benefits of THC by adding helpful effects via distinct mechanisms of action, producing a synergistic effect in the body known as the entourage effect.

How to Use Tinctures – Dosing & Consuming

To use a liquid cannabis extract, a specific number of drops or milliliters (using an oral syringe) can be placed under the tongue or between the inner cheek and gums and held for 1-2 minutes before swallowing. Brushing one’s teeth first can increase blood flow in the mouth and speed the onset.

When using an alcohol-based tincture, add the liquid to a small amount of water first – this will evaporate some of the alcohol and dilute the rest, preventing burning or irritation to your mouth.

Do tinctures burn under your tongue?

Some people who use tinctures or cannabis-infused oils report experiencing a burning sensation under their tongue after a few drops. The reasons why this may occur depends on which type of extract is used.

When using a tincture extracted with high-proof alcohol, the alcohol is likely responsible for the sensation. This is not only unpleasant but potentially harmful as alcohol can create other undesirable health issues. 

The highest quality cannabis-infused oils may cause a burning sensation, too, however in this case, the sensation is actually a good thing, as it is likely due to the presence of CBDA, which in some ways is even more powerful than CBD. The sensation is likely CBDA being absorbed into the system, as one of CBDA’s mechanisms of action is similar to capsaicin, the active constituent of hot chili peppers. 

Either way, if the taste and/or sensation is too strong for you, drinking water will quickly remove it. Or, simply incorporate your tincture or oil into food or drink.

How long until tinctures start working?

When placed under the tongue (taken sublingually), you can expect a tincture or oil to begin working within 10 to 45 minutes. Taking with food or drink may slow down onset or require more drops to be effective.

How long do tincture effects last?

Once the effects of the tincture or oil are felt, you can expect it to last from 3 hours to 8 hours. This can be especially helpful for handling intense breakthrough pain.

The Benefits of Using Tinctures

There are many benefits of using liquid extracts like tinctures or infused oils. When using a high-quality product, this method of delivery provides beneficial compounds lost in smoking, consuming edibles or distillates; Tinctures have the quickest onset and better absorption than capsules or edibles; Tinctures are easy to measure and use; And, finally tinctures can be taken to prevent chronic symptoms.

How to make your own Tincture

If you’d like to try making your own tinctures, it’s not hard! Instructions for the two methods are below. 

INGREDIENTS:

    • 1 pint of hard liquor such as brandy, vodka, or Everclear (use the highest proof available).
    • 2 ounces of cannabis (buds make a stronger tincture, leaves or trim make a less potent but still very effective tincture). WARNING: Always use cannabis that is verified free of pesticides, heavy metals, solvents, and bio-contaminants including bacteria, yeast, mold, and the toxins they produce, as the tincture-making process can make these harmful substances even more dangerous. 

MATERIALS NEEDED:

    • Blender, Strainer, Cheesecloth, Paper bag, Coffee Filter
    • 1-pint glass mason jar with lid
    • Small colored brown or blue glass bottles with droppers (these can be found in many natural food stores). Avoid plastic containers as the ethanol in the tincture may solubilize some of the free types of vinyl in the plastic.
    • Funnel to fit into the small dropper bottles

ACTIVATING THE CANNABINOIDS: DECARBOXYLATION

The most potent medical benefits of cannabis are achieved by activating the cannabis with heat. This causes a change from the acidic to the alcohol form of the molecule, known as decarboxylation.

    • Grind the cannabis in a blender, coffee grinder, or food processor into small particles, but not powder.
    • Preheat oven to 325°F. Many consumer ovens’ thermostats are inaccurate, so please verify the temperature with an oven thermometer.
    • Spread the ground cannabis evenly on a baking sheet.
    • Bake at 325°F for five minutes or until the first signs of smoke or vapor can be seen.

Note: Some experts recommend decarboxylation at 240°F for 45-60 minutes. While this takes longer, it may do a better job of preserving essential oils and other therapeutic substances in cannabis

Method 1: COLD EXTRACTION

    • Place ground and activated cannabis in the 1-pint mason jar.
    • Fill the jar with high-proof alcohol, leaving a half-inch at the top. Apply lid.
    • Place the lidded mason jar with the alcohol and cannabis in it in a paper bag and place the paper bag in the freezer. Shake the jar once a day for three to four days.

METHOD 2: DARK PLACE EXTRACTION

    • Place ground and activated cannabis in the 1-pint mason jar.
    • Fill the jar with high-proof alcohol, leaving a half-inch at the top. Apply lid.
    • Place the jar in a brown paper bag in a cool, dark place. Shake for a few minutes every day for three to four weeks. (Some experts recommend up to six months for a stronger preparation.)

REMOVING THE LEAF MATERIAL

    • Line the strainer crosswise with cheesecloth.
    • Pour contents of the mason jar through the strainer into a large measuring cup or bowl. Tightly twist the cheesecloth at the end to squeeze out any remaining solution. Discard the plant matter and cheesecloth.
    • Using the small funnel, pour the resulting liquid into dropper bottles for storage. A small section of a coffee filter can line the funnel to remove the remaining debris before it goes into the dropper bottles.
    • Store the filled dropper bottles in a cool, dark location.

DOSAGE PROGRAMS FOR TINCTURES

Depending on the potency of the leaf used, 5-15 drops per dose can be taken directly or diluted with water or juice. If you are using very high-proof alcohol, then be sure to mix your tincture with water or another liquid to prevent burning or irritation to your mouth. This can be done after the tincture is complete or diluted with a liquid at each time of use.

DOSAGE PROGRAMSWITCHING FROM INHALATION TO TINCTURES

Don’t have the time or materials to make your own? Buy Dr. Sulak’s formulations here.

The key to achieving successful results with CBD and THC tinctures and oils is using an appropriate amount that’s tailored to your individual needs. This means in order to get the maximum benefit from CBD and THC, you must find your personal optimal dosage amount and the frequency with which you need to take it.

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