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A tincture is a solution of a medicinal substance in alcohol or water. Also known as golden or green dragon tincture, cannabis tinctures contain a range of cannabinoids. They are administered orally, sublingually, or mixed in foods or beverages and are, therefore, often packaged in small glass bottles with droppers as caps for convenient dosing. Tinctures offer a popular way to consume cannabis without combustion or inhalation.
A few years later, in 1851, tinctures first 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, or “purified extract of Indian hemp.”
Tincture drops are often administered sublingually, or under the tongue. They can also be mixed into foods and drinks, such as smoothies, salad dressings, and soups. Some people prefer tinctures because, unlike edibles such as cookies or brownies, they have very few calories.
Consuming a tincture sublingually is the most straightforward method and allows consumers to feel the full effects quicker because the medication is absorbed directly into the bloodstream via blood vessels under the tongue. Finding the right dose is relatively simple, but it requires trial and error and a bit of patience. Most, if not all, tinctures come with a dropper marked with milliliter (ml) measurements. Because all consumers are different, it’s best to start with a 1ml dose. Place the liquid under your tongue, use your tongue or finger to massage it into the tissue for 30 seconds, then swallow. Cannabis tinctures are fast-acting and will deliver the desired effects quickly.
Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
But first, a little CBD 101…
“The rate and scale of the research just hasn’t kept pace with the interest at this point. A lot of the medical uses for cannabidiol are backed by animal studies only or really no studies. So that’s where it can be a problem.”
What are tinctures specifically?
On that note, Hill cautions to know what you’re getting: “If you’re rubbing a CBD cream onto your skin, it’s not going to be absorbed into your bloodstream,” he says. “It can operate as a local anti-inflammatory, like other over-the-counter products… but CBD may not provide any more relief than those products, and it probably will be considerably more expensive.”
“Quality is always an issue, especially in a relatively young market, such as the cannabis market,” Low Dog says. And she’s right. A 2017 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that out of the commercially available CBD products, only 30 percent were accurately labeled.
Here, Tieraona Low Dog, M.D., an expert on herbal medicine and women’s health, and Kevin Hill, M.D., Director of the Division of Addiction Psychiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, get to the bottom of CBD tinctures’ mystique.