Cannabis Oil Tinctures


The benefit from smoking as a route of administration is instant action and the ability of the patient to self titrate the dose needed for relief. Here we describe how patients can achieve similar quick acting relief and the ability to control dose without smoking.
Mar 18, 2016
Cannabis 101


It is important that the medical community understand that whole cannabis products are available today that provide significant relief without smoking. We don’t have to wait for a pharmaceutical pill to be developed years in the future in order to have the benefits of cannabis.

Tinctures are not new. Until cannabis was banned in 1937, tinctures were the primary type of cannabis medicines. Tinctures are essentially alcohol extractions of whole cannabis (usually the flowers and trim leaves). Tinctures are easy to make and very inexpensive. Tinctures contain all 80 of the essential cannabinoids. Some of the cannabinoids such as cannibidiol (CBD) actually reduce the psychoactive effects of THC while increasing the overall efficacy of the preparation.

The best way to use tinctures is sublingually (under the tongue). Titration or dose control is easily achieved by the number of drops a patient places under the tongue where the medicine is rapidly absorbed into the arterial system and is quickly transported to the brain and body. All a patient need do with tincture is use a few drops, wait for the desired medical effects, and either use more or stop as the situation indicates. Tinctures can be flavored for better taste. They are best stored in dark bottles in the refrigerator. Since tinctures average some 75% ethanol there is little worry of bacterial or other biological contamination.

A Note from Jay R. Cavanaugh, Ph.D., AAMC, National Director ~Many patients who utilize and benefit from medical cannabis do not wish to smoke due to the perceived health hazards of smoking or for other personal reasons. These patients are in something of a bind. Smoking cannabis delivers the active cannabinoids within seconds. Medicine is absorbed in the lungs and goes directly to the brain and general circulation. The same effect can be achieved with a vaporizer, which is safer than smoking burning vegetable matter. Since the effects of inhaled cannabis are so quick, it is easy for patients to titrate their dose by simply waiting a minute or two in between puffs.

Oral cannabis is absorbed in a very different fashion from smoking or inhalation. The GI tract gradually absorbs Cannabinoids over the course of one to two hours. Medicine is processed first by the liver, which converts some cannabinoids such as delta nine to delta 11 version of THC. Orally delivered cannabis requires four to ten times the amount of the smoked version in order to achieve the same effect. Orally delivered cannabis can present a problem in achieving the required or desired dose level in any consistent fashion.

Tincture is designed to address the problems of rapid medicine delivery and consistent dosing. Most tinctures are made to be used under the tongue or sublingually. English pharmaceutical companies are presently working on a cannabis extract “spray” that can be used under the tongue in a similar fashion. These sprays are not expected to be approved for use in the United States for years and will be very expensive. Absorption by the arterial blood supply under the tongue is completed in seconds. One trick is to not swallow the dose as, if swallowed, absorption will be in the GI tract. Many patients, though, add their tincture to a cup of tea or cranberry juice for easy delivery. When tincture is used in a beverage, absorption will be slower than if absorbed under the tongue. While tincture absorbed in an empty stomach is accomplished in minutes, conversion in the liver remains, as does the difficulty in titrating dose. Usually, a tincture dose is delivered by means of a medicine dropper or a teaspoon. A rule of thumb on dose is that patients receive benefit from 3-4 drops to a couple of full droppers depending upon the potency of the tincture and the patient’s own unique requirements among other factors.

General Rules:

Tincture is an extraction of active cannabinoids from plant material. Cannabis contains many chemicals that can either upset the stomach or taste nasty. One of the goals of extraction is to secure the cannabinoids while leaving out as many of the terpenes and chlorophylls as possible. Both heat and light adversely effect cannabinoids and should be avoided or minimized. Tincture should be stored in airtight dark glass containers kept at room temperature or below. Avoid plastic containers. The ethanol in the tincture may solubilize some of the free vinyls in the plastic.



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