What CBD tinctures do, who should consider taking them, what you should know before buying one, and more. Learn what sets cannabis oils and tinctures apart from the crowd and why you should consider adding them to your cannabis medicine toolkit. What’s the difference between CBD tinctures and oil, why people take tinctures, and more.
Answers to All of Your Biggest Questions About CBD Tinctures, the Latest Health Trend
What they are, what they do, and what you should know before buying one.
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If it seems like cannabidiol (CBD) products are everywhere these days, you’re definitely not wrong. CBD has been gaining in popularity over the past few years, but it really peaked in September 2018 when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Epidiolex, an anti-seizure drug made with cannabis-sourced CBD.
While Epidiolex is a Schedule V drug (meaning it can be used to treat health issues), regular cannabis is a Schedule I substance. This means it doesn’t have any accepted medical use. Despite this (not so) tiny detail, countless companies chose to ride on Epidiolex’s coattails to bring a slew of CBD products to the marketplace.
By now you’ve probably seen thousands of them, whether on specialty store shelves or while scrolling through your Instagram feed. Most are self-explanatory—like CBD lotion, which is obviously something you just rub on your skin, and gummies and cookies. Just pop them in your mouth and enjoy.
However, CBD tinctures, which are sold in those pretty glass bottles sealed with a dropper, are more ambiguous. What the heck do you do with those? And why would someone want to buy them? Read on to learn more about CBD tinctures, and what you need to know before trying this trendy health product.
First things first, what is CBD?
CBD is one of many chemical compounds found within the cannabis plant. It’s a close relative of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive chemical found in cannabis. However, unlike THC, CBD cannot get you high—no matter how much you take.
While there’s not a ton of research out there yet, what CBD could give you is possible relief from stress, joint pain due to inflammation, or a better night’s rest.
Got it. So, what’s a tincture?
In very simplified terms, a tincture is a concentrated herbal extract that’s made by soaking herbs in a liquid. Over several weeks, the fluid becomes infused with herbal extracts, and when the herbs are strained out, you get a potent, ingestible tincture.
Over time, the solvent used to make tinctures has changed, but the basic method has remained the same. “In traditional herbal remedies, tinctures were most often made with alcohol,” says Jessie Kater, senior vice president of manufacturing at Curaleaf, a cannabis company lead by practitioners, pharmacists, and medical experts. “Today most cannabinoid tinctures use food grade plant-based oils and flavors as a solvent.”
Should I use tinctures instead of other CBD products?
Compared to other popular products like CBD chocolates and lotions, tinctures have extremely high bioavailability, so they’re very easy for the body to absorb. According to a National Center for Biotechnology Information study, CBD edibles, like gummies or cookies, have less bioavailability because the body has to process both the CBD and the ingredients used to make the treat.
According to researchers, a person will absorb a great deal more CBD if he or she ingests it in a pure tincture. You may also feel the effects sooner. “Due to the way you take tinctures versus other forms of administration, you get a high rate of absorption often starting as soon as the tincture is dropped onto the oral mucosa lining your mouth,” Kater explains.
How do I take a tincture?
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, just a quick reminder: Like any new supplement, it’s important to talk to your doctor before starting a CBD regime. CBD isn’t ideal for everyone, and it can interact with certain medications, such as Warfarin. Make sure a medical professional knows exactly what you’re taking and in what combination before you start experimenting with CBD in any form.
Assuming you’re given the go-ahead to try CBD, there are two ways to consume a tincture. After squeezing the liquid into the dropper, you can either place it under your tongue (this is known as taking something sublingually) or rub it on your skin. People trying to remedy arthritis, tendonitis, joint pain, and muscle soreness tend to use the latter method, whereas those using CBD for other reasons might take it orally.
These days, there are plenty of tasty CBD tinctures on the market. Curaleaf, for example, sells vanilla, lavender-orange, and ginger-cinnamon flavored drops. However, if you aren’t a huge fan of the taste, you can always mix your tincture into a drink, a smoothie, or your favorite food to make it more palatable.
Wondering how much should you take? This is a bit of a tricky question, as there are no official dosing guidelines for CBD. Dr. Steve Patierno, Chair of CuraLeaf’s Medical Advisory Board and the Deputy Director of the Duke Cancer Institute, suggests starting with a lower strength product and taking just 1 milliliter. (For a 30-milliliter bottle that’s likely a full dropper, but check the bottle to be sure.) You can always take a bit more next time if you don’t feel the effects.
Where can I find a quality CBD tincture?
When looking at any CBD product, it’s important to do a bit of research to find out how and where it’s made. A CBD product meant for human consumption should come with third-party independent testing information, to ensure their safety and purity.
Asking where a CBD company’s industrial hemp is grown, processed, and produced, couldn’t hurt either to see just how transparent a CBD company is willing to be with its potential clients.
Tincture CBD Oil Uses
Article written by
Shanti Ryle Content Writer
Shanti Ryle is a content marketer with more than half a decades’ experience writing about cannabis science and culture. Her work has been featured in Forbes, Weedmaps News/Marijuana.com, Wall Street Journal, and other publications.
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Everything You Need to Know About CBD Tinctures
Despite its relatively recent place in our collective consciousness, CBD has been at work delivering its calming agents as far back as the ‘80s by some estimates and the ancient world by others. With it, an almost endless menu of formulations has emerged—from capsules and oils to lotions and seltzer—each promising an even more effective dose of CBD than the last.
Tinctures, though, remain somewhat shrouded in mystery, in part because of their old-school apothecary-style packaging, but more likely because of how they’re taken: a few drops at a time, under the tongue.
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.
But first, a little CBD 101…
What is it?
The cannabis plant has hundreds of chemicals in it, including more than 120 cannabinoids, Hill explains. Of those cannabinoids, two are most familiar: THC, which produces the euphoric effects or “high” people experience from marijuana, and cannabidiol or CBD, which has some anti-inflammatory, anti-seizure, anxiety-relieving and analgesic properties, according to Low Dog.
At a plant level, the two chemicals operate as opposites, with CBD acting as a buffer of sorts to the effects of THC. “It’s sort of a ying and yang. THC is responsible for the high and CBD doesn’t do that,” Hill explains.
What are tinctures specifically?
An herbal tincture is made by using a mixture of alcohol and water to extract compounds from a plant—in this case, the cannabis plant.
“Sometimes, you will find extracts called tinctures that use glycerin, vinegar, or oil as the solvent, instead of alcohol,” Low Dog says. “These offer the advantage of being alcohol-free, but may not always offer the same potency as an alcohol-water extract.”
How are CBD tinctures made and what are the benefits of using them?
CBD tinctures are generally made from high CBD strains of hemp, with 60 to 70 percent alcohol, and are primarily used to help relieve anxiety or ease pain. “Tinctures are convenient, have a long shelf life, and are absorbed easily when taken under the tongue. The dose can be adjusted by increasing or decreasing the number of drops taken,” notes Low Dog.
And though there’s a lot of promise with CBD preparations of all kinds, Hill says there’s still a lot of research to be done.
“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.”
So are there side effects?
“At the end of the day [CBD] is a fairly safe compound,” Hill says. “Although, we still need to know a lot more about it, like how it interacts with other medications people may be taking and what are the long-term effects,” he adds. And perhaps his biggest concern: “Sometimes people want to use it instead of evidence-based treatment and that can be a problem clinically in certain situations.”
CBD tincture vs. CBD oil—which is better?
According to Low Dog, a tincture may offer a broader range of compounds from hemp than an oil extraction. “Consumers who are alcohol-sensitive often prefer hemp oil over tincture. While both can be used topically, hemp oil is generally easier to apply and less irritating,” she says.
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.”
How do you know what you’re getting? What should you look for?
“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.
“Many of them had more CBD than they were supposed to and many had less; some had none,” Hill notes. He suggests shopping organic—as a bio-accumulator, the cannabis plant will be affected by heavy metals and contaminants in soil—and broad-spectrum, meaning it includes the full range of phytocannabinoids, minus the THC.
Jessica Cumberbatch Anderson is a New York-based lifestyle journalist. Her work has been featured on HuffPost, ArchitecturalDigest.com, Lonny.com, and ELLEDecor.com, where she served as digital director.