There’s no question that there is something very special about inhaling cannabis. When the flame meets the flower, it produces an experience that other methods simply cannot re-create.
So, why in the world would anybody choose to use oral forms of cannabis like a tincture, oil drops, and capsules or topicals like gels, balms, and lotions? There must be a reason since research shows over 70% of people who use cannabis to treat pain layer inhalation with oral and topical delivery get better results than smoking alone.
In my experience, tinctures and infused oil drops are cannabis’s most underutilized, underrated, and underappreciated form.
Technically, tinctures are cannabis preparations made from alcohol, and while most liquid cannabis products are infused oils, they are still often referred to as tinctures. Regardless of their name and composition, most people don’t understand just how important using drops can be. I am honored to help you learn more about their powerful benefits when taken alone or in combination with inhalation.
After treating thousands of patients with medical cannabis since 2009 and following their progress and results, I have been amazed by the versatility and effectiveness of cannabis in relieving symptoms and promoting healing. Over the years I’ve observed two important trends: most users who only inhale cannabis report profound improvements in health and quality of life after consistently adding an oral dosing regimen; the best relief is usually reported from cannabis products that retain the widest range of medicinal compounds, rather than isolated cannabinoids or highly-processed extracts.
Very early on I began recommending oral forms of cannabis to better manage dosage amounts. I also learned from my patients who added an oral form of cannabis to their inhalation routines that they felt they had gained significant benefits. Some even said the simple addition was life-changing within the first 30-60 days.Here are 8 ways that adding oral drops has improved their lives:
1) Benefiting from the plant’s medicinal compounds you can’t get from smoking
These days most Mainers know that cannabis contains a wide range of beneficial compounds, the most well-known of course is THC. Many don’t realize, however, that many of these important components, including the raw acidic cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other phytonutrients, are lost or significantly diminished when the cannabis is burned!
Among the hundreds of compounds in this incredible plant, I’ve found that the acidic cannabinoids like THCA and CBDA (the “A” stands for acid or raw) have powerful health-promoting and symptom-relieving effects, and are the least available from smoking. Compared to their neutral (i.e. decarboxylated) counterparts, THC and CBD, these acidic cannabinoids have distinct physiologic effects, and in some cases can be much more potent.
When my patients add acidic cannabinoids to their regimen, they typically see major changes in their symptoms within 2-3 weeks. These compounds are highly anti-inflammatory so they help address the root cause of so many conditions, including pain, and also powerfully reduce nausea, enhance metabolism, and more.
2) You can personalize your dosage by the drop
Most people are surprised to learn that the therapeutic effects of cannabis can be achieved at dosages lower than those required to produce euphoria or impairment. Taking smaller amounts for the purpose of improving health and productivity has been gaining in popularity as people report better mood, reduced anxiety, improved focus, enhanced resilience to stress, less pain (and/or less bothersome pain), and other benefits. (Some studies have even found that small doses can be better for patients with specific ailments and that large doses can exacerbate the very symptoms cannabis has been prescribed to treat.) Additionally, there is some emerging evidence suggesting that a practice like this could be protective against the damage of a heart attack or brain injury.
Because they can be precisely measured, oral drops are the best method for finding your optimal dose. Most people find that 1-5 mg (as little as 1-5 drops) works well for this purpose. If you’d like some guidance on finding the dose that works best for you, you’re welcome to check out my free dosage guide that walks you through the process:
Over time, most of my patients are able to fine-tune their cannabis dosing based on their needs and obligations. For example, a person might do well with 5 drops of a tincture before work but prefer 8 drops on the weekend when they’re able to experience mild euphoria and 10 drops before bed for restorative sleep.
I recommend that experienced cannabis users take a “cannabis fast” before trying this to reverse the tolerance that builds over time since overstimulated cannabinoid receptors are rendered ineffective. During this time, your body will produce more cannabinoid receptors, ensuring excellent therapeutic results. If you’d like to reset your sensitization to cannabis, my free Sensitization Protocol can guide you:
3) The therapeutic effects last longer
While smoking or using a vaporizer helps you feel the effects faster, they also wear off sooner. Smoking or using a vaporizer is extremely useful for people who need fast-acting treatment. But for longer, ongoing relief of chronic symptoms, cannabis drops taken sublingually (under the tongue) are superior. Tinctures and oils take a bit longer to kick in, usually 10-45 minutes, but the effects last 3-8 hours.
My first recommendation to all my patients is to increase restorative sleep because it leads to better health, lowers pain, and reduces daytime symptoms. Many of my patients who regularly inhale cannabis for sleep, which usually only lasts the first few hours of the night, report that the addition of drops before bed helped them stay asleep longer and wake to feel refreshed and healed.
4) You end up saving money, smoking less, and feeling greater benefits
My patients were delighted to discover that supplementing their inhaled cannabis with an oral method resulted in a decrease in the amount of flower needed to achieve their most desired effects, including euphoria. That’s because we tend to build a tolerance to cannabis most quickly when using inhalation-only, and the gradually escalating doses lead to less powerful effects. Once our endocannabinoid system becomes saturated and overstimulated, cannabis loses its efficacy.
Though it may seem counterintuitive, by reversing your cannabis tolerance (as described above) and using precise oral dosing to enhance your endocannabinoid system, your smoking experience will be much more satisfying overall, not to mention the benefit of saving money on your monthly flower expense!
5) Quicker onset than gummies or other edibles and better absorbed
Drops taken under your tongue are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream through the capillaries in the tissues of your mouth, cheeks, and gums, while other forms must pass through the digestive system first. Still, most people prefer gummies and other edibles for their taste, which is enhanced with sugar, artificial sweeteners, flavorings, and other unnecessary or harmful additives. Think about the high-quality, natural plant you love and prefer to smoke and demand that same purity and quality in the oral method you choose.
6) Most economical relief
No matter what form of cannabis you use, finding the amount that works best for you is the key to your success. Take too little and you won’t achieve your desired euphoria or medicinal effect. But, taking more than you need is an unnecessary and costly waste and can trigger undesired effects.
In addition to the cost savings I mentioned in #4, drops are the most economical form of cannabis because drops can be dosed precisely. It’s important to remember that brand formulations vary widely – most products range from 10mg – 50mg per ml, so one drop may contain 0.2 – 1 mg. When selecting a product, look closely at its certificate of analysis (lab report) to determine the cannabinoid potency, presence of at least low levels of acidic cannabinoid and terpenes, and freedom from contaminants like pesticides and toxic solvents. Since many products don’t clearly label the potency of 1 drop or 1 ml, you may have to calculate: divide the total milligrams of cannabinoids by the size of the bottle in ml (1 oz = 30ml).
Drops also have a long shelf life when stored properly.
7) Can also be used as a topical or edible
Sublingual administration is the primary use for drops, but they can also be used topically, making them an excellent option to relieve localized pain, itching, or inflammation. Over the years I’ve seen hundreds of patients who benefit from cannabis salves, balms, and lotions, but products are variable, and the more potent preparations tend to work the best. Cannabis oil drops, and even alcohol tinctures, which are often more potent than topical products, can be applied directly onto your body, or mixed into a lotion for wider coverage.
8) Drops are safer than smoking, especially for those with cardiovascular disease and challenges with problematic substance use.
Appropriately dosed cannabis drops cause little to no cardiovascular side effects like increased heart rate and decreased blood pressure, so they’re safer for people with unstable cardiovascular conditions (always discuss dosing with a knowledgeable health professional). Because drops also take effect more slowly and produce fewer “reward” signals in the brain, they’re safer for people with a history of substance misuse who wish to avoid experiences that might lead to more problematic forms of pleasure-seeking behavior.
Tinctures and oils are valuable forms of cannabis for both medical patients and recreational users. If you love cannabis but are only intimate with its use via inhalation, I think you’ll be impressed with the benefits of adding a layer of cannabis drops to your regular routine. So many people think of edibles for occasional strong psychoactive/spiritual/social effects but haven’t yet had the experience of feeling their best every day with a precise dose of drops. Learn more about the benefits of cannabis tinctures vs edibles.
If this article helps you see tincture and oil drops in a new light and decide to give them a try, drop me a line at Healer.com/MyResults to let me know what benefit YOU most appreciate. I’d love to hear it. About the Author
Dustin Sulak, DO, one of the first physicians in Maine to incorporate the legal use of cannabis as a medicine in 2009, is the founder of Integr8 Health, a medical practice in Maine that follows over 8,000 patients using medical cannabis. Today he is globally recognized by his peers as a pioneer of clinical applications, formulations, and usage protocols.
He is co-founder of Healer, a medical cannabis brand founded to address the challenges of helping patients and health providers get the best results with safe, reliably dosable products and education on how to best use them. Healer’s distinctive product formulations and educational material are based on his work.
Healer medical cannabis products are currently available in Maine and Maryland. Healer Whole Plant Hemp CBD products are available nationwide. For more information about Healer medical cannabis products, visit Healercannabis.com. Read our full guide on how to use cannabis tinctures.
For education on how to use cannabis as medicine or information about Healer Whole Plant Hemp CBD products – HealerCBD.com