The current understanding of whole-plant medicine suggests that having some THC around may be a positive thing. Learn everything there is to know about THC tinctures. Find out what they are, how you can make them, and how to dose and use them at Leafly.
Why You Should Add a Little THC to Your CBD Might Surprise You
High potency cannabis is a new phenomenon. Just a couple of decades ago, THC content was infinitesimal. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that samples sold illicitly in the 1990s featured about 3.7 percent THC.
Now, modern hybrid strains have been selectively bred to produce large amounts of THC.
Unfortunately, this means that many other cannabis compounds, like cannabidiol (CBD), have been phased out over time. In fact, an analysis of 600 cannabis samples reported in 2015 found that as percentages of THC increased over time, levels of CBD decreased.
CBD is a therapeutic cannabinoid that does not cause the psychoactive “high” often associated with the herb.
Cannabinoids are chemical compounds unique to the cannabis plant. These molecules, along with aromatic compounds called terpenes, are thought to have medicinal benefit.
While the health benefits of CBD have been researched since the 1970s, a recent wave of media attention, research, and anecdotal accounts have piqued mainstream interest in the cannabinoid.
For a lot of patients, one of the major challenges with cannabis is its mind-bending nature. CBD is often seen as a solution because the cannabinoid does not produce the euphoric qualities of THC.
For many patients and medical professionals, this makes CBD a preferable candidate as a potential cannabis medicine.
As a result, breeders are bringing back CBD. Hemp-derived CBD isolates are now sold online, providing residents in several different countries with access to at least this one cannabis compound.
Though high-THC strains still dominate the cannabis scene, breeders have also developed new cultivars that contain over 20 percent CBD and under 1 percent THC.
In a sense, with the growing emphasis on CBD isolates and ultra-high CBD strains, the pendulum has swung the other direction. These new high-CBD cultivars are, in many ways, the exact opposite of high-THC strains.
But, is leaving out THC really a good idea? The current understanding of whole-plant medicine suggests that having some THC around may be a positive thing.
Why you should add a little THC to your CBD
Decades of ignoring CBD came with some consequences. Cannabis cultivars without any CBD are missing one of the powerful healing properties of the plant.
CBD is currently under research for a host of different medical conditions. For example, the cannabinoid has demonstrated powerful antipsychotic properties in human trials of treatment-resistant schizophrenia.
A clinical trial published in May of 2017 tested the effects of CBD in the debilitating epileptic condition, Dravet’s Syndrome. The trial found that CBD reduced seizures by 50 percent in 43 percent of subjects who were given the medication.
In June of 2018, the FDA approved a CBD oral solution called Epidiolex, predominantly for seizure cases.
CBD is also being considered as a treatment and prevention for head trauma, as well as in diabetes, pain, cancer, neurodegenerative disease, depression, anxiety, and addiction research.
As a stand-alone molecule, CBD has an impressive resumé.
The cannabinoid is especially promising in pediatric medicine, where CBD shows potential as a safe anti-epileptic drug without psychotropic effects. The ability to access CBD-only supplements and high-CBD strains is a major breakthrough for patients, wellness consumers, and cannabis industry professionals alike.
However, with all the hype around CBD, it’s important not to forget about its close relative, THC. In fact, there is reason to believe that, for some conditions, CBD may be most beneficial when consumed with a little THC.
A growing body of research suggests that cannabis compounds work with each other to produce synergistic health effects.
This means that while the cannabinoids may be powerful on their own, mixing the two can produce different effects. Some of the therapeutic benefits of CBD may also be amplified by the presence of even a little THC.
And as cannabis physician Dr. Jordan Tishler confirms, the benefits of CBD seem to wear off after a few months unless a little THC is added.
In all, the sum of the two is greater than either part.
The benefits of whole plant medicine
CBD and THC are just two of at least 113 cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. In some instances, it may be best practice to use an isolated CBD over products that contain both THC and CBD.
However, the theory of whole-plant medicine suggests that opting for full-plant extracts and flowers containing a wide variety of cannabis compounds is preferable to using just one compound alone.
It’s now accepted that combining CBD and THC reduces the psychoactive side effects of the latter cannabinoid. CBD can also lessen the sedative and appetite-inducing effects of THC. This type of interaction between CBD and THC is known as the entourage effect.
The entourage effect is the idea that various compounds in cannabis work together in harmony to produce more sophisticated effects. While CBD can reduce some of the anxiety and paranoia caused by THC, THC is expected to have greater potential as a muscle relaxant and sedative.
Theoretically, combining the two would create a product with greater muscle relaxant capabilities yet reduced cognitive impairment. Indeed, one biopharmaceutical company has already created a successful multiple sclerosis drug, Sativex, that contains a one-to-one ratio of CBD and THC.
In cancer research, combining THC and CBD has produced more successful results in preclinical research than either cannabinoid alone in some forms of cancer. In glioblastoma, a type of brain cancer, adding CBD to a high-THC treatment enhanced the anti-proliferative effects of THC in cell cultures. In breast cancer, CBD was more effective in animal models.
Combining the two cannabinoids may also be useful in cancer symptom management. A 2013 study published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management compared the efficacy and safety profile of a THC/CBD spray and a THC-solo spray.
While THC alone can be habit forming, patients given the combination THC and CBD spray medication did not seek to increase the dose and it was well-tolerated over a two-week-long study.
Further evidence suggests that combining CBD and THC can improve the pain-fighting properties of the compounds.
Both CBD and THC have value.
Far more research is needed to identify when these cannabinoids are best to use in tandem and when it would be better to keep them separate.
However, it is clear that the two molecules are an excellent match. Those hoping to give their CBD supplements an extra boost may want to consider adding in a little THC.
Cannabis tinctures 101: How to make, consume, and dose them
In the landscape of cannabis innovations, including rosin vape pens, transdermal topicals, and nanotechnology beverages, tried-and-true classic products can get overlooked.
One of the first innovations in plant medicine, with documentation as far back as 1025 in The Al-Qanoon fi al Tibb, aka, The Canon of Medicine, was the tincture. In the millennium since, there have been innumerable innovations, but we’re here to say that good weed and a good product never go out of style.
What is a cannabis tincture?
A tincture in the most basic sense is a cannabis extract, in which a liquid is infused with cannabis, meant for sublingual consumption, not vaporization or smoking. The cannabis plant soaks in a base liquid, such as food-grade alcohol, glycerin, or even oil, and after days of steeping, the plant matter is strained out and—voilà! The cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds have melded with the base liquid, ready to dose and consume.
Technically, the term “tincture” specifically refers to an alcohol-based product and one made with oil or glycerin is an “infusion,” but we’re using it as an umbrella term here.
In the adult-use market, tinctures typically come in 1 fl oz (30mL) glass bottles with droppers to administer low and consistent doses. Because they are not considered a food item, they can exceed the 100 mg THC cap on edibles in many markets.
Tinctures may not seem as fun or innovative as a gummy or a dab, but they have a multitude of health benefits while still offering a comfortable, intoxicating experience.
Tincture vs. edibles
While both tinctures and edibles require ingestion to work, they enter the bloodstream via different bodily systems and will have distinct effects.
Edibles require digestion and are processed in the stomach and liver, and enzymes in the liver enhance the effects of ingested THC. Tinctures do not pass through the liver and are absorbed under the tongue, so while the high will be more immediate, it won’t be as strong.
How does a tincture compare to CBD oil?
CBD oils sold in wellness stores and online bear a strong resemblance to tinctures, but the two differ significantly in some areas.
Namely, a CBD oil not sold in a licensed adult-use or medical marijuana dispensary is typically produced by isolating and extracting CBD from hemp using a solvent, like butane or CO2, and then binding the extract to a carrier oil.
Tinctures are whole plant extracts and even when extracted from compliant hemp plants, they may contain trace amounts of THC.
Additionally, because tinctures are often alcohol-based, they cannot be used as a topical or skin-conditioning product the way CBD oil can. Both, however, can be taken orally to yield CBD’s therapeutic benefits.
Benefits of using cannabis tinctures
While they may not seem as edgy as other consumption methods, tinctures have endured in apothecaries and dispensaries for centuries because they are considered one of the healthiest ways to consume cannabis.
No food allergens or sensitive ingredients
Some brands flavor or enhance tinctures, but you only need the cannabis plant and the base to which it is bound. This means sugar, gluten, gelatin, food coloring, and any other ingredients that may aggravate intolerances or allergies can be avoided.
Tinctures at a glance resemble a skincare product or wellness supplement. If sealed, they don’t stink like buds, and they don’t produce smoke or vapor that as with inhalation methods.
Tinctures are not beholden to the 100mg edible cap in many markets, so one bottle will last you a lot longer than a tin of gummies or a brownie. You can also control your dose, down to the drop.
If taken sublingually, tinctures’ effects have a speedier onset than eating an edible, since they absorb through the tissue in the mouth (though it will take a little longer than smoking). This also means tinctures last longer than smoking a joint, but may metabolize faster than an edible made with fats, like baked goods.
Since tinctures involve soaking the entire cannabis plant, consumers get a myriad of benefits from all the compounds in the plant beyond just THC and/or CBD.
THC tincture dosage guide
This is based on a 300 mg THC, 1 fl oz (30 mL) tincture.
|Dosage in ml||Approximate dose in mg||Effects|
|0.10 ml||3 mg||Microdose for very low intoxication|
|0.25 ml||7.5 mg||Light dose with low intoxication for beginners and sensitive consumers|
|0.50 ml||15 mg||Standard dose with slight intoxication|
|1 ml||30 mg||Higher than average dose for experienced consumers|
|2 ml||60 mg||Potent dose for experienced consumers or patients with serious ailments|
How to use or take cannabis tinctures
Cannabis companies operating in legal markets are required by law to include accurate dosing information for ingestible products. If you pick up a tincture from your local dispensary, it will have dosing information on the packaging. Most health and CBD stores also provide this, but THC-free tinctures don’t always go through the same degree of testing.
Your ideal dose will depend on your tolerance, as well as the goal of taking the tincture. If the tincture has been formulated for helping with sleep, you may want a single high dose to ensure sedation. If you intend to use the tincture for general daytime wellness, you may find that multiple microdoses throughout the day may achieve a more uplifting experience.
Rule of thumb, as with anything weed-related, start low and go slow. In a 1 fl oz bottle, one full dropper equates to 1 mL, so we advise starting with a quarter dropper or less if you have a low tolerance or do not regularly consume high amounts of cannabis. You can go for half a dropper if you feel more confident.
For maximum efficacy, use the dropper to deposit the tincture under the tongue, and let it sit for 30 seconds before swallowing.
The mouth has absorbent tissue called oral mucosa, essentially a mucous membrane that lines the inside of cheeks, lips, and under the tongue that helps fight disease and keeps our mouths healthy. It also absorbs tinctures and administers cannabinoids into the bloodstream directly, without going through the stomach or liver.
How long does it take for a cannabis tincture to kick in?
Tinctures typically take effect within 15-30 minutes if left to sit under the tongue for 30-45 seconds. Swallowing a tincture directly can compromise its efficacy as your body won’t absorb it the way it will an edible or food item. Tinctures mixed with food will take longer to take effect, but may yield a more potent high.
Can you cook with tinctures?
Cooking with tinctures depends primarily on the formulation and how you plan to incorporate it into cooking. Since most tinctures contain THC, CBD and/or other cannabinoids that have been decarboxylated, exposing the tincture to high heat via an oven, stove, or boiling water may burn them away, rendering the final food useless from a medicinal standpoint.
However, you can easily add a tincture to the finished dish by incorporating it in a sauce or dressing. They also make good additions to top up cannabis weed tea recipes.
How to make cannabis tinctures
Tinctures are one of the easiest cannabis products to make at home. They require almost little equipment and you don’t need a high level of plant science, but they do need patience.
The ratio of base to flower will determine how concentrated the tincture is. A tincture made from an ounce of cannabis, for example, should be steeped in about 25 fl oz of base liquid for mild doses once in a 1 fl oz bottle. For a more potent tincture, use less of the base liquid or more weed.
- Eighth to a half ounce (3.5 – 14 grams) cannabis flower
- 3 – 12 fl oz. food-grade ethanol, glycerin or a carrier oil, such as coconut oil
- Glass mason jars
- Coffee filters or a cheesecloth
- A 1 fl oz glass bottle and dropper cap
Decarboxylate your cannabis. Because no heat is involved in the tincture-making process, you’ll need to activate your buds if you want an intoxicating effect from THC. You’ll need a baking tray, parchment paper, and flower.
Your cannabis should be ground and/or broken down for maximum surface area. Set your oven to between 220-240ºF (going too high will burn away cannabinoids) and lay the cannabis flower on the parchment paper on the tray. Let bake for 30 minutes to no more than an hour—any longer will cook all the good stuff away.
You can leave the plant raw if you prefer to harness the non-intoxicating benefits of THCA and CBDA, the acidic forms of THC and CBD. You may see better results if you grind the bud beforehand.
Pour your base and cannabis into a mason jar at your desired ratio; an eighth of cannabis to 3 fl oz solvent yields a fairly mellow and buildable dose. Cut the base amount or increase flower amount by ⅓ for a more potent effect; there needs to be enough of your base for the cannabis to be totally submerged. Stir the contents well.
Store your tincture mixture in a cool dry place for at least four weeks, shaking and/or stirring once a day. This agitation helps the base liquid better soak into the flower.
Over time, the plant’s cannabinoids and terpenes will dissolve (alcohol) or infuse (glycerin) with the base. A longer steep time will yield a more potent tincture.
Strain the mixture through a coffee filter or cheesecloth to remove all plant matter. What you’ll be left with is a dark liquid full of weedy goodness, ready to dose.
Maybe you don’t have weeks to spare to wait for a tincture to infuse, or you don’t like waiting. Here is an alternative recipe that you can do in a day.
Like in ice water hashmaking, freezing the bud before infusion, but after decarboxylation, helps dislodge the cannabinoid-rich trichomes from the plant. This recipe requires the use of alcohol as your tincture’s base.
Decarb your cannabis (see above).
Freeze the alcohol and cannabis in separate mason jars overnight. This makes the trichomes more brittle and will help the tincture taste less like plant matter.
Mix the alcohol and bud in one mason jar. Seal and shake it for one minute.
Place the mason jar mixture back in the freezer for five minutes to ensure contents stay cold and frozen.
Repeat the shaking of step 3 and step 4 two more times.
Strain the mixture through a filter of your choice to separate plant matter.
Bottle your tincture and enjoy!
Alcohol, glycerin, oil: Which is the best base?
Historically, tinctures have been made using an alcohol base. Alcohol cuts through the lipids and plant matter in the cannabis plant so the terpenes and cannabinoids dissolve into it.
Alcohol also helps the tincture enter the bloodstream more efficiently compared to glycerin or another oil.
Keep in mind that when we say alcohol, we don’t mean cocktails or the kind of alcohol you use to clean your bongs. One of the most popular options by far is Everclear, a grain alcohol with proofs as high as 190.
Glycerin-based tinctures will be less potent because glycerin—a sugar alcohol often derived from plant oils, like coconut or soybean—doesn’t bind to cannabinoids as well as an ethanol alcohol. Don’t worry, you’ll still reap many of the tincture’s benefits. Glycerin has a sweeter taste than alcohol and won’t irritate your mouth if you have any oral sensitivities.
Oil-based tinctures are ideal if you want a low, manageable dose, but they bind the least efficiently to cannabis compounds. The upside is that if the tincture isn’t to your liking, you can still use it as a skincare and topical product.
This article was originally published June 16, 2016 and is often updated for accuracy and clarity.