How to make a cannabis tincture

From CBD balms to cannabutter, the weed world is filled with DIY projects that you can create in your kitchen. In this step-by-step guide, you'll learn all about cannabis tinctures, including how tinctures work, the benefits of cannabis tinctures, and how to make a tincture at home.

What is a tincture and how does it work?

A cannabis tincture is a type of cannabis extract that is usually alcohol-based. Tinctures have gained popularity among cannabis consumers since they are a smokeless consumption method and can be easily prepared at home.

How to make a cannabis tincture
A cannabis tincture is a type of cannabis extract that is usually alcohol-based.
Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

Cannabis tinctures can be ingested on their own, usually by placing a few drops under the tongue in what is called sublingual ingestion. Tinctures can also be incorporated into many recipes. Ice cream, gravy, soups, salad dressings, and beverages all gain potential therapeutic benefits with a little cannabis tincture added.

Even though cannabis tinctures constitute an edible form of marijuana, they work much faster than traditional edibles like brownies or gummies. In fact, if taken correctly, the effects of cannabis tinctures can begin in a few seconds, as opposed to the typical hour or more of weed edibles. That's because the sublingual tissue under the tongue allows the cannabinoids to pass directly into the bloodstream, instead of going through the digestive tract to reach the bloodstream. 

To achieve the full effect, tinctures should be held under the tongue for 30 seconds, ideally while rubbing it into the tissue. While the effects of cannabis tinctures taken sublingually begin quicker, they do not last as long as those from edible baked goods. But they do tend to last longer than those of vaping or smoking.

cbd oil under tongue
To achieve the full effect, tinctures should be held under the tongue for 30 seconds, ideally while rubbing it into the tissue.
Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

One more distinction of cannabis tinctures is that they are easy to dose. Rather than winging it with a few puffs of a joint or a nibble of a brownie, an eyedropper tells you exactly how much cannabis you are ingesting via tincture. This point is especially important for those who are new or sensitive to the psychoactive effects of THC. While some cannabis consumers report adverse effects from ingesting too much THC through edibles, this issue can be averted by placing a few drops of tincture under the tongue. If getting too high is a concern, cannabis consumers can spit out the tincture after letting it sit under the tongue for at least 30 seconds. 

Be aware that you might experience a slight burning sensation in the mouth due to the alcohol content of the tincture. If the burning sensation is uncomfortable, apply the cannabis tincture topically for more subtle effects. 

What do you use to make a tincture?

The list of supplies and ingredients to make a cannabis tincture is very short. Here's what you'll need to make one in your kitchen: 

  • 1 baking sheet
  • 1 glass jar
  • 1 glass tincture bottle with eyedropper
  • 1 small funnel 
  • 1 strainer such as a coffee filter
  • Cannabis (an eighth of an ounce suggested)
  • Enough high-proof, food-grade alcohol to submerge the cannabis (190 proof grain alcohol suggested)

Tip: High-proof alcohol is recommended because a higher alcohol content, or proof, more easily dissolves the cannabinoids. Do not mistake isopropyl alcohol for something that can be used here. Stick with food-grade alcohol like Everclear or other grain alcohol.

Once you've gathered the supplies, follow these four simple steps to make your cannabis tincture:

  1. Decarb your cannabis by breaking it up and placing it in an oven heated to 230 degrees Fahrenheit (110 degrees Celsius) for 30 minutes. 
  2. Once cooled, put the decarbed cannabis in your glass jar and add just enough alcohol to submerge the cannabis. 
  3. Seal the jar and store in a cool, dark place for three weeks. Shake once daily. The cannabis and alcohol mixture needs to sit for 21 days so the cannabinoids completely dissolve into the alcohol. If you want the tincture right away, you can shake the jar vigorously for several minutes and go to the next step. But be aware you might be leaving valuable cannabinoids behind and you'll certainly have a less potent tincture.
  4. After 21 days, strain the cannabis and alcohol mixture through a coffee-filter-lined funnel into the tincture bottle, leaving enough room for the eyedropper. 
decarb weed in oven
Decarb your cannabis by breaking it up and placing it in an oven heated to 230 degrees Fahrenheit (110 degrees Celsius) for 30 minutes.
Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

Following the steps above will yield a bottle of basic cannabis tincture. There are other tincture recipes you can experiment with, such as Master Wu's Green Dragon.  

Do tinctures get you drunk?

Getting drunk on a tincture is possible but not likely, according to Dr. Adie Rae, a neuroscientist and scientific adviser to Weedmaps. “For alcohol-based tinctures, you'd have to drink a lot of it, and if it contained THC, you'd feel the 'overdose' of THC long before you felt an alcohol buzz. A typical shot glass is 40 milliliter, just over 1 fluid ounce. A typical tincture bottle is 30 milliliter, just under 1 fluid ounce. So a tincture bottle has one standard serving of alcohol, but at least 30 servings of cannabinoids,” she explained. 

Can you make tinctures without alcohol?

Yes, it is possible to make tinctures without alcohol though they are technically infusions, not tinctures. Virtually any food-grade oil will do since it's really all about dissolving the cannabinoids into the solution. Some even come with added benefits. “Hemp seed oil is an excellent choice from a nutrition standpoint. Lots of omega-6 fatty acids,” Rae said. 

If you do go the oil infusion route, you may want to introduce heat to speed up the infusion process.

Why are so many store-bought tinctures made with MCT oil?

There are several reasons why many commercial tinctures are made with medium chain triglyceride, or MCT, oil, according to Rae. “MCT oil is cheap. It's also abundant, virtually flavorless, colorless, and it has a high smoke point, which means you can heat it up quite high for cannabinoid extraction, without burning the oil or changing its flavor,” Rae says. 

If shopping for a cannabis tincture, ask your budtender to point out a high-quality product and walk you through the ingredient list. 

Bottom line on homemade cannabis tinctures

Cannabis tinctures are an excellent and discreet way to consume cannabis. For many cannabis consumers, tinctures are the happy medium between smoking and edibles in terms of the onset time and duration of effects. With a few basic ingredients and supplies, you can make a cannabis tincture at home. But it's a good idea to consult with a physician before beginning a weed tincture regimen or exploring other cannabis products. 

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The information contained in this site is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical or legal advice. This page was last updated on January 25, 2021.