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Cannabis Tinctures: Uses, Effects, and Recipes
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Cannabis tinctures are a simple way for patients to take their medicine and are easy to make at home.

Tinctures are one of the oldest methods of consuming marijuana. In fact, before prohibition began in 1937, tinctures were the most common type of cannabis medicine in the United States.

While less common today, cannabis tinctures are still popular among patients, especially those who need to take regular doses of marijuana throughout their day.

Like any other herbal tincture, a cannabis tincture is simply a concentrated liquid form of marijuana. Marijuana tinctures are sometimes called “green dragon” because of the deep green color that develops as the plant’s chlorophyll infuses with alcohol.

This guide will cover what cannabis tinctures are, their benefits and common uses, how they differ from other forms of marijuana and the best recipes for making them.

How Do Tinctures Work?

How Do Tinctures Work?
(Photo: BestStockFoto/Shutterstock)

Cannabis tinctures are made by soaking cannabis flowers in alcohol and letting the cannabis and alcohol infuse. Leaf trim, hash and kief can also be used instead of flowers.

Alcohol is used to extract the terpenes and cannabinoids from the cannabis, leaving behind a liquid that contains a high concentration of active compounds. Alcohol also preserves the compounds, which is important since it takes longer to consume tinctures as opposed to other forms of marijuana.

Cannabis tinctures are usually stored in a dark dropper bottle, which helps preserve the tincture for longer by blocking out sunlight.

One of the benefits of using tinctures is that the alcohol allows your body to absorb the medicine faster.

Most tinctures are taken by placing a few drops under the tongue, also known as sublingual administration. When you take a tincture sublingually, the cannabinoids are absorbed by the blood vessels lining the mouth, resulting in a quick onset of effects.

Tinctures can also be ingested orally, such as by swallowing or mixing it with food. If you consume a tincture orally, the cannabinoids must be absorbed by the stomach and gastrointestinal tract and take much longer to enter the bloodstream.

Depending on whether the cannabis is decarboxylated first, tinctures may contain THC in its active form or non-active form (THCA).

Medical Uses of Cannabis Tinctures

Most people choose to decarboxylate their cannabis before making a tincture, allowing them to take full advantage of the medical benefits of THC.

While the medical uses of THC are still being researched, there is evidence that it can be helpful in treating a wide range of conditions and disorders, including nausea, vomiting, poor appetite, pain, multiple sclerosis, cancer, Crohn’s disease, PTSD, anxiety, depression, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, sleep apnea, glaucoma, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and many others.

However, if you do not decarboxylate your cannabis, you will only receive the benefits of THCA, which are far more limited. According to some studies, THCA may be useful for treating nausea, pain, neurodegeneration and inflammation.

The effect of the tincture also depends on which strain is used to make it. For example, a sativa dominant strain will give you more of an energetic and uplifting head high. It can be used to stimulate appetite and combat pain.

On the other hand, an indica dominant strain will give you more of a body high and can aid in sleep. It can also reduce nausea, depression and pain. Tinctures made with a hybrid strain will share some qualities of both indica and sativa.

Other Benefits of Cannabis Tinctures

No Smoking Involved

The main benefit of cannabis tinctures is that you don’t need to smoke your medicine. People who smoke marijuana may develop a cough, increased phlegm production, and other respiratory problems.

Tinctures allow the user to obtain the same medical benefits while avoiding the respiratory issues associated with burning the plant.

Fewer Calories than Edibles

Tinctures also have some advantages over edibles. Firstly, tinctures contain fewer calories than marijuana-infused baked goods.

A common concern with edibles is that someone may accidentally eat the food without knowing it’s infused and get high. On the other hand, tinctures are easier to store because they are often kept in glass dropper bottles and look like a medicine at first glance, so accidental consumption is unlikely.

Tinctures can also be kept for longer without spoiling. Unlike edibles, if tinctures are kept in a dark and cool cupboard or fridge, they should last for years.

More Discreet and Easier to Consume

Tinctures can be a good option for patients who need to be discreet about their medication. Unlike smoking or vaporizing, which can emit a scent and draw unwanted attention in public, consuming a tincture is quick and odorless.

This means that tinctures can be taken in the same settings as any typical over-the-counter medication: at the office, in public places or anywhere else marijuana wouldn’t be considered socially acceptable.

Safe for Children

Tinctures are safe to use for patients who are prescribed medical marijuana. Tinctures may be especially helpful to ill children who shouldn’t smoke or vaporize cannabis.

Tinctures made with a high-CBD strain can help children who suffer from seizures from Dravet syndrome and other disorders. Since you can make a tincture that only contains THCA, a child doesn’t need to be high to experience the medicinal effects of cannabis.

Effects of Cannabis Tinctures

Effects of Cannabis Tinctures
(Photo: Elena Elisseeva/Shutterstock)

Unlike edibles, which can take up to an hour or longer to start working, tinctures can be felt as quickly as 15 minutes after dosing.

The effects of tinctures also last for a shorter period of time compared to edibles. Tincture highs usually peak about 90 minutes after consumption and can last 4 to 8 hours, depending on the dose.

Because the effects can be felt so quickly, dosing a tincture is easier than dosing an edible. A patient can consume a small amount, wait for the effects and take more if necessary.

As with any form of cannabis, you should start with a small dose to gauge your tolerance and to avoid the unwanted effects of over-consuming. If you’re taking a cannabis tincture for the first time, start off with about 1 mL and adjust as necessary.

How To Consume Tinctures

There are three ways to consume cannabis tinctures: sublingually, orally or mixed with food.

To take a tincture sublingually, drop the desired dosage under your tongue and hold it for 30 seconds before swallowing. This method will produce quicker and stronger effects because the medicine is absorbed into the bloodstream through the inner linings of the mouth.

You can take cannabis tinctures orally by adding a few drops to a beverage such as soda, juice or a mocktail. Alternatively, you can also swallow the tincture on its own like you would any liquid medicine.

When you take a tincture orally rather than sublingually, it must be absorbed through the digestive system, so it will take longer to feel the effects. Tinctures that are taken orally have a similar effect as edibles and can take up to an hour to start working.

Tinctures can also be combined with food to make a tincture edible. The difference between a tincture edible and a fat-based edible is that the latter is harder to dose and can produce a longer, more intense high. If you consume a tincture mixed with food, it will take the digestive system more time to absorb the medicine than if you took the tincture sublingually.

Cannabis tinctures may be added to a variety of foods such as puddings, ice creams, dressings and sauces.

The Best Cannabis Tincture Recipes

cannabis-tinctures
(Photo: Honest Marijuana)

There are many advantages to taking cannabis tinctures, with a major one being how easy they are to make at home. You can make your own cannabis tincture by following the recipes below.

While there are many different recipes out there, we’ve curated the most popular ones for you to try.

How To Decarboxylate Cannabis

When preparing a cannabis tincture, you must decarboxylate (or ‘decarb’) your plant material as a separate preparation step. Decarboxylation is the process of heating cannabis to activate the compounds in the plant.

Specifically, this will convert THCA into THC and allow you to experience the typical effects of cannabis. If you choose to skip this step, your tincture will mostly contain THCA, which is non-psychoactive and won’t get you high.

Ingredients
Ground cannabis bud, flower or trim

Equipment
Baking sheet
Parchment paper
Grinder
Oven

Directions
1. Grind cannabis thoroughly.
2. Preheat oven to 250°F.
3. Line baking sheet with parchment paper (optional).
4. Spread out cannabis in a thin, even layer on baking sheet.
5. Place baking sheet in oven for 20-30 minutes.
6. Remove from oven and let cool.

(Check out our step-by-step guide on how to decarboxylate cannabis)

Cannabis Tincture Recipe — Traditional Cold Method

The cold method of making a cannabis tincture is quick and requires the mixture to sit in the freezer for only two days. However, some people choose to leave the mixture for longer (up to 5 days) to increase the tincture’s potency.

See Also
Butane Hash Oil

Ingredients
1 oz. decarbed, ground cannabis bud
1 quart high-proof alcohol, such as Everclear or 151 proof rum

Equipment
Mason jar (1 quart)
Cheesecloth or mesh strainer
Bowl

Directions
1. Place decarbed cannabis into mason jar and fill with alcohol, leaving about 1 inch at the top.
2. Close the lid tightly and shake for a few minutes.
3. Place the jar in the freezer for 2-5 days. The longer the mixture is left, the stronger it will be.
4. Remove the jar from the freezer once or twice a day and shake vigorously before returning it to the freezer.
5. After desired amount of time, strain the mixture into a bowl.
6. Store the tincture in a dark dropper bottle and keep in a cool, dark place, such as the refrigerator.

(Recipe adapted from Eat Your Cannabis)

Cannabis Tincture Recipe — Traditional Warm Method

The warm method of making a cannabis tincture is similar to the cold method with the exception that it must sit for at least 30 days at room temperature.

Ingredients
1 oz. decarbed, ground cannabis bud
1 quart high-proof alcohol, such as Everclear or 151 proof rum

Equipment
Mason jar (1 quart)
Cheesecloth or mesh strainer
Bowl

Directions
1. Mix the decarbed cannabis and alcohol in a mason jar, leaving about 1 inch at the top. Close jar and shake well.
2. Store the mixture in a dry spot without any sunlight. Leave for 30-60 days and shake once a day. The longer the mixture is left, the stronger it will be.
3. After desired amount of time, strain the mixture into a bowl.
4. Store the tincture in a dark dropper bottle and keep in a cool, dark place, such as the refrigerator.

(Recipe adapted from AllBud.com)

Cannabis Tincture Recipe — Hot Method (Green Dragon)

The hot method is the quickest way to make a cannabis tincture because the cannabis doesn’t need to sit for days. Heating the mixture over a stove speeds up the extraction process, allowing you to make a tincture in less than an hour.

Ingredients
1/8 oz. decarbed, ground cannabis bud
2 oz. of high-proof alcohol, such as Everclear or 151 proof rum

Equipment
Small mason jar (1 pint)
Saucepan
Cooking thermometer
Cheesecloth or mesh strainer
Bowl

Directions
1. Mix the decarbed cannabis and alcohol in a mason jar. Do not cover jar.
2. Place the uncovered jar in a saucepan with about 1 inch of water. Bring water to a low boil.
3. Let the saucepan simmer for 20 minutes while keeping the contents of the jar at a temperature of 160-170°F. Use a cooking thermometer to check the temperature of the alcohol in the jar. Make sure the alcohol mixture does not surpass 170°F.
4. After 20 minutes, shut off heat and let cool.
5. Remove jar from saucepan and strain into a bowl.
6. Store the tincture in a dark dropper bottle and keep in a cool, dark place, such as the refrigerator.

(Recipe adapted from Patients for Medical Cannabis)

Cannabis Tincture Recipe — Vegetable Glycerin Method

Some people opt to make tinctures with glycerin rather than alcohol. Glycerin tinctures are a good option if you want to avoid the negative health effects of alcohol.

However, people have differing opinions about the safety of glycerin since it’s often made with genetically modified corn. If you choose to make a cannabis tincture using the glycerin method, consider using organic vegetable glycerin.

Note: Tinctures made with this method have a shorter shelf life of about a year.

Ingredients
1/2 oz. decarbed, ground cannabis bud
2 cups vegetable glycerin

Equipment
Mason jar
Slow cooker
Towel
Cheesecloth or mesh strainer
Bowl

Directions
1. Combine cannabis and glycerin in a mason jar. Close jar and shake vigorously until contents are mixed.
2. Line a slow cooker with a towel and fill halfway with water.
3. Place the jar in the slow cooker on low heat and let sit for 24 hours.
4. Using oven mitts, remove and shake the mixture several times during the 24 hours.
5. After 24 hours, carefully remove the jar and let cool.
6. Strain the mixture into a bowl.
7. Store the tincture in a dark dropper bottle and keep in a cool, dark place, such as the refrigerator.

(Recipe adapted from HelloMD.com)

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