For nearly 200 years, people have turned to cannabis tinctures for medicinal and recreational purposes. Today, weed tinctures offer an easy, flexible way to consume cannabis, and you can even make them at home.
Below, learn how to make cannabis tinctures, how to use them, and the potential benefits and drawbacks.
What is a cannabis tincture?
A cannabis tincture is a liquid extract made by soaking cannabis flowers in high-proof alcohol or glycerin which extracts the plant's active compounds. Weed tinctures contain cannabinoids like THC and CBD, as well as terpenes and other beneficial plant compounds.
You can consume cannabis tinctures sublingually by placing a few drops under your tongue or adding them to food or beverages. Medical cannabis patients often use weed tinctures to potentially alleviate a variety of medical conditions, including chronic pain, anxiety, insomnia, seizures, and nausea. Recreational consumers also reach for weed tinctures because they provide a precise and consistent dose that can be adjusted based on individual needs.
Tinctures offer a discreet and convenient way to consume cannabis without smoking or inhaling.
How do you use weed tinctures?
Explore the ways you can use weed tinctures, listed from most to least common:
- Sublingual administration: For the quickest onset of effects, administer the tincture sublingually, or under your tongue. Hold the tincture there for 30-60 seconds, allowing your tongue's capillaries to absorb the cannabinoids, before swallowing. By absorbing the cannabinoids directly into your bloodstream and bypassing your digestive system, you can feel the effects of the tincture in as little as 15 minutes.
- Oral administration: Oral administration of cannabis tinctures involves swallowing the tincture, where it is absorbed through your digestive system. You can swallow your preferred dose directly or mix it into smoothies, salad dressings, or soups. This method takes longer to take effect compared to sublingual administration.
- Topical administration: If your cannabis tincture is oil-based, you can apply it topically to your skin to potentially alleviate mild aches and pains.
THC tincture dosing chart
When using THC tinctures, it's recommended to start with the lowest possible dose and gradually increase as needed to find the optimal dosage for your needs. A one-ounce tincture bottle typically has a dropper that can dose up to one milliliter (mL) of tincture at a time.
If you're trying THC tinctures for the first time, opt for a 1-ounce bottle with 100 milligrams of THC total to make a mild dose easier to administer.
The following dosing chart provides an approximate guide based on the total amount of THC per 1-ounce bottle:
|Amount of THC per 1-ounce bottle||Mild dose||Moderate dose||Strong dose|
|100 mg THC per 1-ounce bottle||2.5 mg (0.75 ml)||5 mg (1.5 ml)||10 mg (3 ml)|
|250 mg THC per 1-ounce bottle||2.5 mg (0.3 ml)||5 mg (0.6 ml)||10 mg (1.2 ml)|
|500 mg THC per 1-ounce bottle||5 mg (0.3 ml)||10 mg (0.6 ml)||20 mg (1.2 ml)|
|750 mg THC per 1-ounce bottle||5 mg (0.2 ml)||10 mg (0.4 ml)||25 mg (1 ml)|
|1000 mg THC per 1-ounce bottle||10 mg (0.3 ml)||20 mg (0.6 ml)||40 mg (1.2 ml)|
A brief history of weed tinctures
Cannabis tinctures have provided an easy dosing mechanism and medicinal benefits for nearly 200 years.
- 1843: The first official account of cannabis tinctures being used in Western medicine was recorded in a medical journal which included a recipe.
- 1851: Cannabis tinctures appeared in the United States Pharmacopeia, an almanac with a list of medicinal drugs, their effects, and usage instructions, under the name Extractum Cannabis Purificatum.
- 19th century: Apothecaries and patent medicine producers began making and selling cannabis tinctures by following the recipe in the medical journal above.
- Late 19th century: Queen Victoria's personal physician prescribed a cannabis tincture to help relieve her menstrual cramps. The physician wrote, “When pure and administered carefully, [cannabis] is one of the most valuable medicines we possess."
- 1937: The Marihuana Tax Act in the US taxed the possession and transfer of cannabis so heavily that it essentially outlawed the plant and lead to its removal from the US Pharmacopeia four years later.
- 21st century: With the legalization of cannabis in many states, tinctures have become widely available again, and they are popular among people who prefer a smoke-free method of consuming cannabis. Today, tinctures are made using a variety of solvents, including alcohol, glycerin, and oil, and are available in a range of potencies and flavors.
Pros and cons of cannabis tinctures
There are several potential benefits and drawbacks to making cannabis tinctures at home.
- Customization: Making cannabis tinctures at home allows you to customize the dosage, potency, and strain used in the tincture to fit your individual needs and preferences.
- Cost-effective: Making tinctures at home can be more cost-effective than buying them from a dispensary or licensed producer, especially if you have access to cannabis flower or trim. If you grow weed at home and produce more flower than you can smoke or vape, tinctures can be an effective way to make the most of your harvest.
- Control over the extraction process: Making tinctures at home allows you to have greater control over the extraction process, ensuring that no harmful chemicals or solvents are used in the process.
- Smoke-free: Cannabis tinctures allow you to consume THC and CBD without having to expose your lungs to smoke.
- Safety concerns: Making tinctures at home can be dangerous if not done properly. It's important to follow safety protocols when working with high-proof alcohol or other solvents.
- Legal issues: The legality of making cannabis tinctures at home can vary depending on your location, so it's important to check local laws before attempting to make tinctures at home.
- Inconsistent potency: Homemade tinctures can result in inconsistent potency if not done correctly, which can make it difficult to determine the appropriate dosage.
- Time-consuming: Making THC and CBD tinctures at home can be a time-consuming process, as it can take several weeks to properly extract the cannabinoids from the plant material.
How to make a cannabis tincture
You don't need a lot of materials to make a weed tincture at home, but you do need time — at least a few weeks of steeping — before your tincture is ready for consumption.
Follow this basic cannabis tincture recipe to get started.
- An eighth of dried, ground cannabis flower
- Baking sheet
- Parchment paper or aluminum foil
- Food-grade, 190-proof alcohol (like Everclear)
- Mason jar
- Coffee filters or cheesecloth
- Measuring cup
- 2-ounce, amber tincture bottle with eyedropper
Step 1: Decarb cannabis
It's essential to do this process first if you want your weed tincture to have psychoactive or intoxicating effects. To decarboxylate or “decarb" your weed, preheat your oven to 240°F (115°C). Spread the ground cannabis evenly on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes.
Step 2: Combine weed and alcohol
Once your cannabis is decarboxylated, place it in a Mason jar. Pour high-proof ethyl alcohol over the cannabis, filling the jar until the cannabis is completely submerged—approximately 1 - 2 fluid ounces (30 - 60 milliliters). The potency of the tincture will be affected by the amount of alcohol used. Using less alcohol will result in a more concentrated tincture while using more alcohol will result in a less concentrated tincture.
Step 3: Shake
Close the mason jar tightly and shake it to mix the cannabis and alcohol.
Step 4: Store and shake again
Store the mason jar in a cool, dark place for a minimum of three weeks, shaking it once a day. This allows the alcohol to extract the cannabinoids and other beneficial compounds from the cannabis. Let the weed infuse for longer for a more potent tincture.
Step 5: Strain liquid
After a few weeks, strain the liquid through a coffee filter or cheesecloth into a measuring cup. Squeeze the filter or cheesecloth to extract all of the liquid. Transfer the liquid to your dropper bottle or tincture bottle.
Step 6: Store tincture
Store the tincture in a cool, dark place away from sunlight and heat. If stored properly, it should last for a year or more.
Alternative approaches to making cannabis tinctures
Alcohol-based weed tinctures, also known as green dragon tinctures, are the most common type of THC tincture to make at home. However, if you would prefer to make alcohol-free cannabis tinctures, you have a few different options for solvents.
- Vegetable glycerin: Glycerin is a sweet, thick liquid commonly used in food and cosmetics that you can use as a solvent for cannabis tinctures. Glycerin tinctures are usually less potent than alcohol tinctures, but they have a sweet flavor and are safe for people who don't want to consume alcohol.
- Vinegar: Vinegar can be used to extract cannabinoids from cannabis, but the resulting tincture will have a strong taste and smell. Apple cider vinegar is the most popular choice for making cannabis tinctures.
- Oil: Cannabis can be infused into a variety of oils, such as coconut, olive, or MCT oil, to make a cannabis tincture. You can use oil-based tinctures sublingually, orally, and topically.
- Water: You can infuse cannabis flower into hot water to make cannabis tea for a potentially calming and relaxing effect. However, the cannabinoids in cannabis are not very soluble in water, so cannabis tea is usually less potent than other forms of cannabis tinctures.
Tips for making weed tinctures
Consider these tips when making weed tinctures at home:
- Choose high-quality cannabis. The quality of your tincture will depend largely on the quality of the cannabis you use. Choose strains that are high in the cannabinoids and terpenes you're looking for and make sure your weed is free from mold, mildew, and other contaminants before starting the tincture-making process.
- Use high-proof alcohol. The higher the proof, the more cannabinoids it will extract from the cannabis. Using the same 80-proof vodka you use for cocktails simply won't work. Use high-proof alcohol, such as Everclear, to ensure a potent tincture.
- Decarboxylate your cannabis. Decarboxylation is an important step in making tinctures because it activates the cannabinoids and makes them more bioavailable. If you're looking to get intoxicating or psychoactive effects from your tincture, be sure to decarboxylate your cannabis before infusing it with alcohol.
- Start with a low dose. Tinctures can be potent and fast-acting, so start with a low dose and wait at least two hours before taking more. Gradually increase the dose until you find the right amount for your needs.
- Be patient. Tinctures can take several weeks to infuse properly, so be patient during the process. The longer the infusion period, the more potent the tincture will be.
Do tinctures get you higher?
When consuming tinctures, the effects can vary depending on a variety of factors, including the potency of the tincture, your tolerance, and whether you consume them sublingually or incorporate them into food and beverages.
However, in general, tinctures can produce stronger and longer-lasting effects compared to smoking or vaping cannabis since your liver converts delta-9-THC (the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis) into 11-hydroxy-THC, which is a more potent and longer-lasting psychoactive compound.
It's important for you to start with a low dose and gradually increase it until you find your desired level of effects. It's also important for you to be aware of the potency of the tincture you are using and to follow the instructions carefully to avoid taking too much.
Do tinctures work differently than edibles?
Tinctures and edibles are both forms of cannabis concentrates that work differently in terms of their onset time and duration of effects.
- Tinctures: When you consume tinctures, you typically take them sublingually (under the tongue) or add them to food or drinks. They get absorbed through the bloodstream in your mouth and digestive system, and you can feel their effects within 15 - 45 minutes, depending on the potency of the tincture and your metabolism. The effects of tinctures tend to wear off faster than edibles.
- Edibles: When you consume edibles, you eat or drink cannabis-infused food products, such as brownies, gummies, or drinks. They get absorbed through your digestive system and can take 30 minutes to 2 hours to take effect, depending on your metabolism and the potency of the edible. The effects of edibles can last for several hours and can be more intense than tinctures since they are metabolized by the liver into a more potent form of THC.
How long does it take for a tincture to take effect?
You can feel the effects of a tincture within 15 - 45 minutes, depending on the potency of the tincture and your metabolism.
For the quickest onset of effects, administer the tincture sublingually, or under your tongue. Hold the tincture there for 30 - 60 seconds, allowing your tongue's capillaries to absorb the cannabinoids, before swallowing. By absorbing the cannabinoids directly into your bloodstream and bypassing your digestive system, you can feel the effects of your tincture in as little as 15 minutes.
How long should I hold a tincture in my mouth?
When taking a tincture, it's generally recommended to hold it under your tongue for at least 30 - 60 seconds before swallowing. Some people prefer to hold the tincture in their mouth for longer, up to several minutes, to allow for greater absorption of cannabinoids.
After holding the tincture under your tongue, swallow it, and the remaining cannabinoids will be absorbed through your digestive system.
Can tinctures be sativa or indica?
Yes, tinctures are a product of the starting material, so they can be made from both sativa and indica strains of cannabis, as well as hybrid strains. However, it's important to note that labels like "sativa" and "indica" have more to do with plant structure rather than effects. The effects of a tincture will depend on the specific strain of cannabis used to make it, as well as the cannabinoid and terpene profiles of the plant material.
When making a weed tincture, select a strain of flower you know you like, or smoke or vape some of your home-grown flower first to know how it will affect you. When purchasing a weed tincture, look for information about the strain of cannabis used to make it, as well as the cannabinoid and terpene profile listed on the certificate of analysis (COA). This can help you to choose a tincture that will produce the effects you're looking for.
What's the difference between CBD tinctures and oils?
CBD tinctures and CBD oils are both popular methods of consuming CBD, but they have some differences in terms of formulation, ingredients, and taste.
- Alcohol content: One of the key differences between tinctures and CBD oils is the presence of alcohol. Tinctures usually contain alcohol, while CBD oils do not.
- Formulation: CBD tinctures are typically made by infusing CBD extract into a carrier liquid, such as alcohol, vegetable glycerin, or a mixture of both. The alcohol content in tinctures helps with preserving the CBD and aids in absorption. CBD oil is made by suspending CBD extract in a carrier oil, such as coconut oil, MCT oil, or hemp seed oil. The oil acts as both a preservative and a carrier for CBD.
- Ingredients: In addition to the CBD extract and carrier liquid, store-bought tinctures may also contain added flavorings, essential oils, or other herbal extracts to enhance the taste or provide additional benefits. CBD oil usually has fewer additional ingredients — it primarily consists of the CBD extract and carrier oil. Some CBD oils may have added flavorings or essential oils, but many are left unflavored.
- Taste: Tinctures often have a more pleasant taste compared to CBD oils, thanks to added flavors or other ingredients. CBD oils, on the other hand, can have a more natural, earthy taste that some people may find less palatable.