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Everything You Need to Know About Tinctures

Cannabis tinctures were once the most prominent medicinal cannabis product in the U.S. Now that most states have legalized medical or adult-use cannabis after many decades of prohibition, tinctures are making a comeback. What exactly is a tincture and how does it work? This guide explains why cannabis tinctures could be an effective product for you.

What are cannabis tinctures?

Tinctures are cannabis extracts mixed with a carrier oil. They contain high concentrations of phytocannabinoids like Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), Cannabidiol (CBD), and Cannabigerol (CBG), to name a few. Typically, tinctures come in a small bottle with an eyedropper lid for easy consumption. Some eyedroppers might be graduated to simplify measurements.

How cannabis tinctures work

Tinctures are what is known as “biphasic,” which means there are two routes by which they take effect. The first phase is when a tincture is absorbed through mucus membranes in the mouth or capillaries under the tongue. This is known as “sublingual” consumption. The second phase is ingestion, when the remaining tincture is swallowed, and the remaining compounds are digested.

Tinctures typically result in a faster onset than orally ingesting a cannabis product; consumers can expect to feel the effects of a sublingual tincture in about 15 minutes. Tinctures also offer a relatively lengthy duration of effects, lasting about two to three hours[2].

Why cannabis tinctures?

Cannabis tinctures offer a fast-acting, smokeless method of consumption. They are also effective for many consumers, largely due to their rapid onset, significant duration of effects, discretion, and easy to control doses. Tinctures are also versatile and can be added to a wide variety of foods and beverages.

  • Rapid onset: Because tinctures absorb directly into the bloodstream through the mouth and tongue, phytocannabinoids and terpenes enter the bloodstream quickly and begin to take effect within 15 minutes. This is beneficial for consumers who need fast relief from their symptoms, such as sudden flare ups or panic attacks.
  • Long lasting: Tinctures’ effects can bring bring relief for some time. However, they typically do not last as long as cannabis ingestibles, such as edibles or capsules.
  • Discretion: Tinctures are extremely discreet products. Simply use the eyedropper to place the tincture in your mouth, replace the lid, and put your tincture away. There is no extensive prep required to use a tincture.

Many consumers prefer tinctures for these reasons, but there are some drawbacks that might draw you to a different product type:

  • Risk of spills: Like any liquid, a cannabis tincture could spill when transported. One loose cap is enough to soak the inside of a bag or pocket and waste your tincture. Always be sure the lid is secure before putting your cannabis tincture away. Check periodically for cracks in the cap or the bottle to avoid leaks.
  • Hard to measure: It may be difficult to dole out precise amounts of phytocannabinoids with a tincture. Some cannabis tinctures do include a graduated eyedropper, which makes measurements more accurate, but it’s not as foolproof as other premeasured products. If measuring precise amounts is important to you, be sure your cannabis tincture includes a dropper with measurements.

What are your options at the dispensary?

It’s important to understand the ratio of THC to CBD and how it relates to your goals. For example, a tincture with 5mg THC and 1mg CBD is expressed as a 5:1 tincture. This ratio would likely result in an intoxicating experience. A tincture with the opposite measurements of 5mg CBD to 1mg THC would likely not result in intoxication. Consider this ratio while selecting your cannabis tincture.

While the phytocannabinoids profile and ratio matter a great deal, the terpene profile of a tincture is also important. Terpenes are aromatic and flavorful compounds found in cannabis that can augment the effects of cannabinoids. If you are looking for a cannabis tincture that relaxes you, for example, consider one that includes terpenes like myrcene, beta caryophyllene, and linalool. 

Some tinctures also include flavorings. If you want to cover up a tincture’s slightly grassy taste, you might opt for a flavored product over an unflavored one. 

How do you consume tinctures?

Cannabis tinctures offer one of the most straightforward and discreet methods of consumption available. Consuming a tincture is simple:

  1. Fill the eyedropper with the desired amount of cannabis
  2. Drop the desired dosage under your tongue
  3. Hold the drops under your tongue for 20 to 30 seconds
  4. Replace the eyedropper lid and put your tincture away

If you are consuming a cannabis tincture high in THC, you will likely feel effects within 15 minutes. High CBD tinctures that do not cause intoxication will also take effect within 15 minutes, but the consumption experience is not likely to be as noticeable.

Find your new favorite tincture — or other cannabis product – with Ethos

Much of your cannabis journey will be about trying new products and discovering which works best for you. Cannabis products can be highly individualized, and their effectiveness depends on your biology, needs, preferences, and environment – all of these things will inevitably change over time as well. Whether you are new to cannabis and looking to find your first match, or you are a veteran consumer searching for something new, Ethos associates can help connect you with the right fit that can help you feel better.


1. Cannabis tinctures 101: How to make, consume, and dose them:

2. Beyond the Smoke: Cannabis Under the Tongue:

3. Cannabis, cannabinoids, and health:

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