Article written by
Dipak HemrajHead of Research and Education
Content reviewed by
Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
Table of contents
Cannabis tinctures are concentrated herbal extracts made by soaking cannabis in oil, vegetable glycerin, or high-proof alcohol. Many herbal tinctures are made this way. Most cannabis tinctures are infused with medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil, coconut oil, or olive oil. Cannabis tinctures are easy to make, have a long shelf life, and are relatively easy to dose. They are also great for medical patients who wish to avoid smoking cannabis.
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Benefits of DIY Cannabis Tinctures
You don’t have to smoke cannabis.
Inhaling the smoke of burning matter is not ideal for anyone concerned about their health, especially medical marijuana patients. Yes, there are vaporizers and inhalers, but far fewer things can go wrong with a good quality tincture (i.e., there aren’t any parts that can melt or break apart).
Suitable for a wide range of ages
Smoking or vaporizing cannabis isn’t for everybody, and minors with serious conditions will generally want to avoid anything that involves smoking, both for health and sometimes legal reasons. People of any age can use tinctures.
Blowing cannabis smoke or vapor is not always the most discreet method of intake, and if you’re in public, it could potentially land you in legal trouble or lead to other social problems. Opening a bottle of tincture won’t smell as much and won’t stink out a room or get in anyone’s face in public! The bottles are also easy to carry around in a pocket or bag if needed.
Tinctures are simple to measure and dose
Many methods of consuming cannabis can be relatively difficult to measure accurately. With tinctures, all you have to do is place a little bit of oil under the tongue and hold it there for about 20 – 30 seconds. Tinctures can be taken using a graded dropper, and you can get a relatively precise dosage of cannabinoids by using the following formula (assuming you know the concentration level of the tincture):
- Target Dose (mg) / Concentration (mg/mL) = Volume of Dose (mL)
For example, if you have a 100mg THC target dose with a 30mg/mL THC oil, the calculation is 100 / 30 = 3.33 mL.
Tinctures can be taken directly under the tongue, added to food or drinks, or even your favorite beauty product, and used externally as a salve or topical.
Powerful and quick-acting
Edibles can be useful for their potency and the amount of time they last but can take some time to take effect, and the results can be overwhelming. Smoking or vaping has immediate effects but may not be powerful or long-lasting enough for some.
Tinctures take effect within 30 minutes compared to one to two hours with edibles, and you can measure the dosage a lot easier. Tinctures can also have longer-lasting effects compared to inhaling or vaping (about six to eight hours compared to three to four hours, depending on dosage), so tinctures represent a great “in-between” point.
Tips for Making Cannabis Tinctures
- Keep it as simple as possible.
- Decarboxylate your cannabis first — or even use already been vaped (ABV) cannabis.
- Coconut, MCT, or olive oil are the best oils for tinctures.
- Avoid alcohol-based tinctures (isopropyl alcohol, grain alcohol, etc.).
- Infusing cannabis into olive oil is great for adding to recipes.
- Infusing cannabis into coconut oil is great for applying to the skin.
- Use almost equal amounts of oil (or alcohol) to fresh, decarbed cannabis for maximum potency: 500 ml olive or coconut oil to 440 to 460 g cannabis.
- If you want to reduce potency, use half, quarter, or even lower proportions of cannabis needed for maximum potency, so 500 ml oil to 220 – 230 g cannabis for half strength, 110 to 120 g for quarter strength, 50 to 60 g for one-eighth strength and so on.
- Using ABV cannabis will result in less-potent tinctures, but some may prefer this.
- If you want a cannabidiol-rich (CBD-rich) tincture, use a variety of cannabis high in CBD or a THC-rich variety for a THC-rich tincture.
- There is approximately 1,000 mg of cannabinoids in every gram of cannabis, so a gram of 20% THC cannabis will contain 200 mg of THC.
How to Make Cannabis Tinctures
There are a variety of ways to make tinctures. For more detailed instructions, check out our article on making cannabis-infused oil here.
What You’ll Need
- Rimmed baking tray
- Baking paper
- Crockpot, double boiler, or saucepan
- Cheesecloth or strainer
- Cooking twine to tie the cheesecloth
- 3.5 grams of flower
- 1/2 cup of cooking oil (coconut oil or olive oil)
Decarboxylate the cannabis
Break up any cannabis flower or “buds” you have into smaller pieces.
Layer the pieces onto a rimmed baking tray lined with baking paper/parchment. Place the baking tray into the center of a preheated oven set to 240°F-248°F (115°C-120°C) for 30-40 minutes. Stir every 10 minutes.
Allow the cannabis to cool to room temperature. It should appear darker in color – usually, light brown or yellow, not as green as fresh cannabis.
Note: you do not have to decarboxylate the cannabis if you are using marijuana that’s already been vaped.
Making your oil-based cannabis tincture
Combine the cannabis and coconut or olive oil using one of the following methods:
- In a slow cooker or crockpot
- On low for about four to six hours, stirring occasionally.
- In a double boiler:
- On low for six to eight hours, stirring occasionally – a simple heat-proof bowl over a saucepan of boiling water will suffice.
- On the stove in a saucepan:
- On low heat for three hours, stirring regularly. This method is the fastest but most susceptible to scorching. You can add a small amount of water to the oil to prevent scorching.
Note that the oil temperature should never exceed 245°F (118°C).
Strain your cannabis tincture through a cheesecloth or strainer to remove the plant material and store your oil in an airtight container in a cool, dark, dry place.
Alternative Methods for Making Cannabis Tinctures
The simple method
You do not necessarily need to heat your oil and cannabis together to infuse it. If you are willing to wait a few weeks, you can combine decarboxylated or ABV cannabis with oil and leave it to infuse for three to five weeks in a cool, dark place, turning the jar once every day. You will have a canna-oil similar to the product made by heating the two ingredients together.
Alcohol-based cannabis tinctures (aka “Green Dragon”)
You can make alcohol-infused tinctures instead of oil-based ones similar to the simple method above. Use ABV or decarbed cannabis (many people start using 1 or 2 ounces of cannabis to 750 ml bottle of high-strength, consumable, neutral alcohol such as Everclear or high-strength vodka. Then:
- Mix your cannabis flower with high-proof alcohol in a mason jar.
- Close the jar and let it sit in a cool, dark place for a few weeks, shaking it once a day.
- After a few weeks, strain the alcohol through a coffee filter to remove any plant material.
How to Store Cannabis Tinctures
Store your cannabis tincture in an airtight container in a cool, dark, dry place out of direct sunlight. Glass containers like mason jars are usually best.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you make tinctures without alcohol?
Yes, the main recipe we have given above (and the one we recommend) is oil-based, and most tinctures available on the market today are made using oil. Oil-based tinctures are generally safer to consume from a health perspective, as it’s not ideal for holding alcohol in the mouth. Alcohol-based tinctures are probably best avoided for minors who need medical cannabis as well.
Do cannabis tinctures get you drunk?
If the base is alcohol and you drink a lot of it, yes! However, you should only drink low quantities of alcohol-based tinctures, as the effect from the cannabis will be quite strong even at low doses. You should also avoid drinking large amounts of high-proof alcohol.
Why are so many cannabis tinctures made with MCT oil?
Medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil is a type of oil that contains medium-length chains of fats called “triglycerides.” Due to their shorter length, triglycerides from MCT are more quickly and readily digestible by the body. MCT oil is usually extracted from coconut oil.
The other reason why MCT oil (and coconut or olive oil) is often used to make cannabis and hemp tinctures is that it has a high amount of healthy fat that cannabinoids can combine with. As cannabinoids are lipophilic (i.e., they love binding to fats), you need to combine them with high-fat foods like oils and butter to get the effect you want.