CBD tinctures are usually taken sublingually and absorbed into the bloodstream by capillaries in the cheek, gums, and under the tongue. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
One final note: if you’re currently taking medication, it’s important to discuss CBD use with your doctor to determine if there might be any possible interactions between the CBD and your medication.
Another benefit of CBD tinctures is their high bioavailability, meaning the body is able to effectively utilize more of the cannabinoids in a tincture administered sublingually (held under your tongue for 15 minutes). Compared to other consumption methods and products, tinctures can deliver the same effects with a lower dose, cutting down on possible side effects, and saving money.
The first official record of cannabis tinctures used in Western medicine appeared in an 1843 medical journal. The journal featured a recipe, and soon after its publication, apothecaries and medicine producers began to make and sell their own versions of the product.
You may occasionally see CBD oil labeled as hemp oil. Typically, when you see this, it is because the CBD oil was extracted from a hemp plant, which is defined as a cannabis plant with less than 0.3% THC. This type of hemp oil is basically the same as any other type of CBD oil. The only thing to watch out for is hemp seed oil. This is an oil made exclusively from the plant’s seeds, and while hemp seed oil is nutritious, it does not contain CBD or any other cannabinoids. Hemp seed oil is not CBD oil, so carefully read the label to be sure you’re getting the right product.
Tinctures are made using alcohol as a solvent. Plant material is soaked in high-proof alcohol for an extended period of time. As it soaks, the alcohol pulls out many of the chemicals contained in the plant material. The final product contains a very high percentage of alcohol plus all the chemicals extracted from the plant — including cannabinoids and terpenes. Producers sometimes add flavors, sweeteners, essential oils, or other chemicals to the final product to enhance the flavor or create a different set of effects.
For first-time users and more experienced consumers alike, the vast array of cannabidiol (CBD) products available today can easily become a bit confusing.
“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.”
“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.
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.
How are CBD tinctures made and what are the benefits of using them?
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.
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.
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.
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.