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Cannabis Tincture: Benefits, How It’s Made, and More

If you grew up being subjected to vintage PSAs, you probably heard cannabis referred to as a dangerous “gateway drug.” But up through the first few decades of the 20th century, cannabis had a long history as a trusted medical product in this country. Nor was it smoked, but generally consumed in the form of cannabis tincture.

Today, with clinical research uncovering ever newer uses for medical cannabis, more and more of us are tuning into the potential upsides of cannabis tincture. If you’re interested in accessing the benefits of cannabis with a safe, consistent, and easy-to-use product, today’s article is just for you. In it, we’ll address such questions as:

  • What is cannabis tincture?
  • How are cannabis tinctures made?
  • What are the “active ingredients” in cannabis tincture?
  • What are some cannabis tincture benefits and advantages?
  • How do I choose the best cannabis tincture for me?
  • What are the best ways to take a cannabis tincture?

Ready? Let’s begin.

Cannabis Tincture: An Introduction

While for many of us smoking is the “classic” way to consume cannabis, it’s far from the only one. For most of this nation’s history, cannabis tincture was a popular and fairly uncontroversial pharmacy offering used to treat nausea, chronic pain, and other ailments familiar to most of us today

This changed in the early 20th century when a rising tide of anti-immigrant sentiment linked Mexican migrant workers to the use of “marihuana.” Though medical cannabis had been in use for over 100 years in this country (and literally thousands of years elsewhere), the advent of federal prohibition in 1937 shut the door on its use and further study.

Today, many scientists and physicians, such as the ones who lead Vireo Health, are interested in revitalizing the use of cannabis tincture as a simple, consistent, and intuitive way to access the benefits of cannabis. We’ll explore cannabis tincture benefits in just a moment. First, let’s turn our attention to how these deceptively simple products are made.

How Are Cannabis Tinctures Made?

Like all medications branded as “tinctures,” cannabis tincture (sometimes known as “THC tincture”) consists of the cannabis plant’s “active ingredients”—in this case, cannabinoids such as THC and CBD—extracted into a solution.

Historically, the solution used most often was a neutral alcohol base. But today, because many of us don’t want to consume alcohol—and because other bases may offer health benefits of their own—many cannabis tincture producers use either glycerin or MCT oil.

Glycerin is a slightly sweet-tasting liquid made by processing animal or vegetable fats. Glycerin is commonly used in foods and cosmetic products, where it can serve as a skin moisturizer, help relieve constipation, and improve hydration, for example.

Then there’s MCT oil, short for “medium-chain triglyceride.” Typically produced from coconut oil, MCT oil is neutral-tasting and shelf-stable and may offer a range of benefits over and above those imparted by cannabinoids.

Let’s turn now to the cannabis compounds such as THC and CBD that do the “heavy lifting” when it comes to the benefits of cannabis tincture.

Understanding Cannabis Tincture: The Cannabinoids and Terpenes

If you’ve worked with cannabis before, you’re probably familiar with its cannabinoids, the large family of compounds that we often call the major “active ingredients” in cannabis and hemp. The two most abundant cannabinoids in most cannabis and hemp plants include THC and CBD. 

THC contributes the bulk of the cannabis plant’s psychoactive “high” and has been shown to potentially reduce pain as well as help tame insomnia, among other benefits.  CBD, while it lacks THC’s intoxicating effects, has been shown to impart a wide range of potential effects. In addition to potentially improving sleep and reducing anxiety, CBD has demonstrated pain-fighting effects of its own.

In total, researchers have identified roughly 150 cannabinoids in the cannabis plant—including CBG and CBN—but they’re not the only players. In addition to being the major contributors to each cannabis strain’s distinctive aromatic and flavor profiles, terpenes are the largest and most diverse family of natural compounds found on the planet. And as we’ll see, a growing body of evidence suggests they’re imparting medical benefits of their own along with those distinctive aromatic cues.

How do cannabinoids elicit their effects? The answer lies in the way they interface with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), one of the body’s most crucial regulatory networks. It’s responsible for helping us control such processes as immune system function, sleep, and memory.

Research indicates that some terpenes interface with the ECS as well, in a phenomenon known the “entourage” (or “ensemble” effect), a theory proposed by Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, the Israeli researcher who first identified THC’s psychoactive properties.

In essence, the entourage theory proposes that cannabinoids and terpenes interact to elicit more useful and impactful effects together than they do on their own. That’s a major reason why so many of the best-in-class cannabis medicines we offer include both THC and CBD. In our experience, ingesting the fullest spectrum of cannabinoids and other compounds leads to better results and better overall wellness.

Cannabis Tincture Benefits and Advantages

Is taking cannabis tincture “better” than other ingestion methods? While everyone has their own needs and goals, we believe tinctures offer distinct benefits.

From a consumption standpoint, cannabis tinctures are far more consistent and predictable to dose than smoking or vaping. And unlike those other formats, tinctures don’t introduce potentially irritating smoke or vapor into our lungs. On top of this, they’re versatile, shelf-stable, and discreet.

When working with tinctures, it’s important to understand the concept of onset time. When we smoke or otherwise inhale cannabis, the cannabinoids reach the ECS fairly rapidly—typically within 10 minutes at most—and we start to feel their effects. By comparison, with cannabis tincture, the onset time is far longer, often taking from 45 to 90 minutes (we’ll share a way to reduce this in a moment).

That said, compared with smoking or vaping, the effects of a cannabis tincture also last far longer. Once the cannabinoids have entered your bloodstream, you can expect the benefits to last anywhere from 2 to 8 hours. This is just one reason tinctures are a great choice for addressing symptoms that demand a slow, long-term approach.

How to Choose the Best Cannabis Tincture: Practical Considerations

While cannabis tinctures can be highly effective and consistent, not all tinctures are made the same. Which one is best for you depends on a few practical considerations; here are a few of the most impactful.

  • Base Liquid
    As we referenced earlier, tinctures are formulated using a variety of different base liquids. Be sure to read the label carefully—or ask your friendly budtender—which one a given tincture uses so that you know exactly what you’re taking.
  • Cannabinoid Ratios
    Because there is no “one size fits all” with cannabis medicine, we developed the Vireo Spectrum™, a family of products color-coded according to their ratios of THC to CBD. If you’re trying to avoid intoxication entirely, you can try low-THC or no-THC products.
  • Potency and Dosage
    Everyone reacts slightly differently to cannabinoids, and there’s no “standard dosage.” Keeping in mind that many users derive greater benefits from smaller dosages, we advise you to start with the lowest possible dose and work your way up over time to find the minimum effective amount. Your cannabis will work at peak effectiveness, and you’ll save money by using less tincture!

Cannabis Tincture Best Practices

When you’re working with a long-acting medicine format such as tinctures, it’s especially important not to take too much. For one thing, because the onset time is so much greater than with inhaled cannabis, it’s all too easy to suspect the medicine “isn’t working” and take another dose…only to find that, in fact, you’ve taken two full doses and will be feeling the effects far more than expected!

In fact, there’s a way to reduce this delay. It’s known as sublingual dosing. To take advantage of it, rather than swallowing the tincture, simply place the dose under your tongue using the dropper. Allow it to sit there for at least sixty seconds so that it can be absorbed through the blood vessels beneath the tongue. Then swish the remaining oil around your mouth, making sure to coat the inside of your cheeks with it before swallowing. When taken sublingually, the tincture should take effect within 30 minutes or less.

That’s not to say you can’t, or shouldn’t, swallow cannabis tincture directly! Tinctures offer a very easy and versatile way of infusing foods and drinks! Added to your salad dressings, sauces, or even your morning coffee, tinctures offer convenience and consistency of dosing.

Drop By Vireo to Explore the Benefits of Cannabis Tincture Today!

If the idea of taking cannabis in tincture form sounded strange when you began reading, we very much hope you feel differently now. As you can see, cannabis tincture not only has a long history as a trusted, effective way of accessing the many benefits cannabis has to offer, but it’s finding even more use today as clinical research uncovers new approaches to relieving a wide variety of symptoms and conditions.

If you’re looking for best-in-class cannabis tincture (and our exceptional customer care), find the dispensary closest to you and begin your journey. And we’re always here to answer any and all of your questions; reach out anytime.

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