Have you ever seen a bunch of people sit down in a circle and start passing around a little glass bottle of cannabis tincture? Yeah, me neither. While marijuana tinctures aren’t the most popular way to use cannabis, they’re ah-ma-zing, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why they haven’t caught on yet.
While weed tinctures aren’t as social as other forms of ingesting marijuana, they have a bunch of benefits that make it a great alternative for folks trying to avoid smoke, keep things discreet, or for those who find fat-based edibles too intense.
Tinctures are discreet, easy to make, won’t fill your kitchen with the smell of cannabis, and are great for creating those hard-to-infuse edibles (like cannabis drinks and candy). They’re also a lot easier to dose than edibles because the effects come on and wear off much more quickly.
Weed Tinctures 101
Tinctures are commonly used as a convenient delivery system for medicinal herbs because the alcohol allows for plant compounds to be absorbed quickly into the blood stream. For this reason, taking cannabis in the form of tinctures makes it easier to dose than cannabis coconut oil or cannabutter based edibles. You can feel the effects quickly and can adjust your dosage as necessary.
Just this morning, I spiked my coffee with a maui wowie vegetable glycerine tincture that I made over a year ago. I thought the potency may have gone down a bit so I added a little more than I’ve used in the past. A half a cup of coffee later, I realized that the tincture was just as potent as it was last year.
I made a different cup of coffee and let my spiked one chill until I felt the full effects of the tincture, which only took about 15-20 minutes. I decided to drink the rest of the spiked coffee, you know, for science, and it ended up being a solid medicinal dose that lasted until early afternoon.
The effects of tinctures mellow out a lot faster than edibles, so even if you do take too much, it doesn’t linger (and possibly ruin your day) like fat based edibles can. On that note, tinctures are a lot harder to take too much of since they’re not in the form of something that tastes really good. Take it from someone who has eaten one too many cookie, pancake, and marijuana grilled cheese sandwich that it’s easy to overdo it when you infuse your favorite foods with weed.
In my experience, tinctures also leave you more clear headed and alert. They’re a great alternative for daytime treatment or if you have to complete a monumental feat (like writing a really really long blog post about tinctures).
Another major up shot of making marijuana tinctures (especially if you can do it shortly after your cannabis has been harvested and cured) is that compounds like CBD, THC, flavinoids and terpenes are preserved intact and retain their potency for decades, if stored properly. And if that sentence seemed oddly constructed, that’s also an effect of using marijuana tinctures 😉
Are you getting excited about cannabis tinctures yet?
This guide includes an overview of weed tinctures and covers three different tincture mediums: pure grain alcohol (a.k.a. Green Dragon or PGA), vodka or brandy, and non-alcoholic vegetable glycerine. I’m also going to throw in some benefits of tinctures and differences between other ways of ingesting cannabis. If you just want to make one right now, keep on scrolling to the end, but if you’re ready to get obsessed with what I think could/should/will be the next big thing in cannabis, get ready to get your TMI on.
Cannabis Tinctures vs. Edibles
I’m a big fan of edibles, but not every day is an edibles kind of day. Even when I take small doses of cannabis coconut oil or cannabutter, sometimes there’s a moment when it comes on really strong and I’m glad I didn’t leave the house. I love edibles for intense pain relief, when I’m ready to chill at home and spend some time alone. I understand that some people love being social and out and about when they eat edibles, but sometimes I get confused, lost, overwhelmed or distracted when I go into the world after taking a dose via edibles. I like fat based edibles for down time, sleep and quiet time. If you’re like me, tinctures might be the answer for you.
Since it’s easy to adjust the dosage of tinctures and the effects wear off quickly, I love to use tinctures when I have a bunch of stuff to do, and I happen to be experiencing a lot of pain. During farm season, when I spend a lot of time hunched over in the sun, or when I have a boatload of spine wrecking housework to do, tinctures are my go to way to ingest.
Weed Tinctures vs. Smoking Weed
One of the major benefits of taking tincture vs. smoking marijuana using fire is that you keep all of the medicinal compounds in tact. Since you don’t light the more nuanced and volatile parts of your medicine up in smoke, you’re literally getting more medicine for your money. Vaping is another good alternative to smoking, and can be really convenient if you have a small vape device. Otherwise, I think tinctures are way more discreet and travel-friendly than smoking or vaping.
The effects last a bit longer than smoking, but seem less “stoney” to me. I feel uplifted when I take tinctures and find that even indica tinctures are more of a fun head high than a couch lock body high. I have no science to back that bit up, but that’s been my experience so far.
Tincture #1 – Green Dragon: Grain Alcohol Marijuana Tincture
Green Dragon tinctures are made with Everclear, aka PGA or pure grain alcohol. The high alcohol content is incredibly strong and makes it a great medium for cannabis infusion. If the intense taste of high proof booze is an issue for you or if you’ve given up alcohol, keep on scrolling because I’ve got a sweet vegetable glycerine tincture just for you. This tincture is intense and, made with the long steep technique (see below), it’s the strongest tincture I’ve made to date.
The green dragon tincture is perfect for making strong candies, gummies, lollypops, etc. because it’s easy to incorporate small amounts with decent potency without changing the consistency of the mixture. I’ll be doing more of these this year, so stay tuned for that.
It’s nice to mix your green dragon tincture with something sweet (I use honey) if you’re just going to take it sublingually (under the tongue). It’s also great to add a few drops to your morning coffee, tea or juice.
Tincture #2 – Vodka or Brandy Cannabis Tincture (50-80 proof)
These alcohol based tinctures are much more mellow than the green dragon tincture. I know in some states, Everclear is illegal, so this is a good alternative if you can’t get your hands on the hard stuff. These don’t turn out as strong as the green dragon tincture, but they’re very very nice.
You can use any high quality vodka or brandy for these tinctures. I just happened to have some local organic stuff on hand and they turned out great. I haven’t tried any other brands, so if you prefer something, let everyone know in the comments below. I prefer the flavor of brandy cannabis tincture over the green dragon any day of the week even though it’s not as strong.
Tincture #3 – Vegetable Glycerine Marijuana Tincture
While the other tinctures in this post are stronger than the vegetable glycerine tincture, I really use this one the most often. It’s really palatable and sweet, and a dropper in my morning coffee is one of my favorite ways to start the day if I need to medicate.
I bring a bottle of this everywhere and introduce it to people who are curious about edibles, but don’t know where to start. If you’re a new patient or you’re making tincture for one, this is a great and mellow introduction. I have a hard time holding alcohol under my tongue (because I’m a big baby), so this is great for sublingual dosing of the weak tongued.
I use organic vegetable glycerine which can be a bit tricky to find. The best ones I’ve tried are this one and this one.
What is Sublingual Dosing?
I’ve mentioned the term “sublingual” a few times during this post and I feel like I should probably cover wtf that means. In short, it just means that you administer the tincture under your tongue and hold it there as it absorbs into the membrane beneath the tongue. It’s a very fast and accurate way to administer tinctures. Here’s a good in-depth explanation from Wikipedia:
When a chemical comes in contact with the mucous membrane beneath the tongue, it diffuses through it. Because the connective tissue beneath the epithelium contains a profusion of capillaries, the substance then diffuses into them and enters the venous circulation. In contrast, substances absorbed in the intestines are subject to “first-pass metabolism” in the liver before entering the general circulation.
Sublingual administration has certain advantages over oral administration. Being more direct, it is often faster,[quantify] and it ensures that the substance will risk degradation only by salivary enzymes before entering the bloodstream, whereas orally administered drugs must survive passage through the hostile environment of the gastrointestinal tract, which risks degrading them, either by stomach acid or bile, or by the many enzymes therein, such as monoamine oxidase (MAO). Furthermore, after absorption from the gastrointestinal tract, such drugs must pass to the liver, where they may be extensively altered; this is known as the first pass effect of drug metabolism. Due to the digestive activity of the stomach and intestines and the solubility of the GI tract, the oral route is unsuitable for certain substances, such as salvinorin A.
Do You Decarboxylate Before Making Tinctures?
Yes! If you want a high THC content in your tinctures (as opposed to a high THCA content), make sure to decarboxylate your plant material before beginning to steep your tinctures. Check out the Wake & Bake posts about decarboxylation here and here.
I use a Nova to decarboxylate my cannabis because it effectively transforms 100% of the THCA to THC without any THC loss. You can read more about that here.
How To Make Cannabis Tinctures
We’re finally here! Now that we’ve learned a little about the different tinctures and how to administer them, it’s time to learn how to create a batch in your very own kitchen. Exciting!
So, I’m not sure what the technical terms are for these techniques, but this is what I call them. The long steep is a several month process. It’s absolutely worth the time and minimal effort. The heat steep is for folks who want a tincture, like, now. The result is generally weaker, but it can be done in a just a couple of hours.
The Long Steep Technique
This is my preferred method for making strong tinctures.
Fill a quart jar with:
1 oz decarboxylated cannabis
Everclear, Moonshine, Vodka, Brandy or Vegetable Glycerine to fill the jar leaving about 1 inch of space.
Cover with a lid. Place in a dark cupboard or in a paper bag on a shelf.
Shake the mixture every couple days.
Steep for anywhere from 2 weeks to 1 year (probably could let it go for longer, but this is the longest I’ve ever personally steeped a tincture). Test periodically to determine if the tincture is at your desired strength. Strain out plant material. Pour into dropper bottles.
The Heat Steep Technique
If you need a tincture asap, this technique is quick and easy, but you sacrifice a bit of potency in my experience.
I’ve only ever done this in a Magical Butter Machine, but I believe you could do it on a stovetop if you’re very careful and you only use a lower proof alcohol or vegetable glycerine. I’ve tried making a green dragon tincture a few times using the heat method and one time, it destroyed my MBM, so I no longer recommend using it for green dragon unless the model of MBM you’re using has the no heat option.
In a Magical Butter Machine, combine:
1 oz decarboxylated cannabis
2-3 Cups Vodka, Brandy or Vegetable Glycerine.
Press the tincture button. Let the magic happen. Strain and pour into dropper bottles.
Here’s a photo that shows the difference between a heat steep green dragon tincture (4 hours in the MBM on the lowest heat setting) and a long steep green dragon tincture (7-8 months in a dark cupboard). I can verify that the long steep tincture is much much stronger in both flavor and potency.
For Special Brownie Points
What’s your favorite tincture method and medium? Do you have something really technical and informative to share with other tincture enthusiasts? Do you have questions about the process? Leave a comment below…
Disclaimer: This is not intended as medical advice. I’m not a doctor. I’m also not a lawyer and can’t defend you if you get busted trying to make this recipe in a state that still considers possession or cultivation of cannabis a criminal act. I don’t agree with this law, but I’d never advocate that you break it. Jail would suck. Instead, I strongly advise that you work to change the law in your state or nation by supporting and being active in grassroots organizations that are trying to legalize cannabis in your area (they’re everywhere). This recipe is heretofore only intended for people who live in states or countries where medical or recreational use of cannabis is legal, who are 21 and older, of sound mind and who understand that operating heavy machinery (cars, trucks, planes, etc.) under the influence of any intoxicant, including marijuana, is incredibly dangerous, immature, and wholly stupid. Please don’t ever eat and drive. Support public transportation or use the two legs that evolution gave you and walk your sweet ass wherever it is that you need to go.