Toiling Over Cannabis Oil Tinctures


CBD oil tinctures cannabis

A tincture is defined as “a solution of medicinal substance in an alcoholic solvent.” Yet, some cannabis oil tinctures are sold based on other types of liquids.

Why does it matter? Alcohol-based tinctures are supposed to be taken under the tongue. Oil-based tinctures do not absorb under the tongue or inside the mouth. They get absorbed and processed like a normal edible in the intestines. Despite this, it’s very common to be instructed by cannabis oil producers to hold the oil under your tongue to get the fastest psychoactive results.

One point that is causing confusion is that cannabis industry oil-based tinctures generally come in small, dark dropper bottles, just like the alcohol-based natural homeopathy tinctures sold in health food stores. So, it’s easy to assume the two types of products work in a similar way.

Alcohol versus Oil Based Tincture Products

Alcohol and oil are absorbed into the body in very different ways. Only alcohol has the ability to penetrate the skin inside our mouth to access the veins and deliver the medicine into the blood directly. Oil has to be processed internally by our gut. While we do have some receptors in our mouths for cannabinoids, there is no science as yet to support fast onset under the tongue or sublingual use of cannabis oil drops. 

The base oil for most cannabis industry “tinctures” is Medium-Chain Triglyceride (MCT) oil. It is derived from coconut or palm. MCT oil binds well to fat-soluble cannabinoids. It begins absorbing into our bodies along the digestive tract, giving it a slight boost in metabolism time over other types of carrier oils. The onset of effects for cannabis MCT oil “tinctures” ranges usually from 45 minutes to two hours after swallowing, depending on individual metabolism, stomach contents, and time of day.

Cannabis Oil Tincture Based on Different Solvent Liquids

Alcohol-based cannabis tinctures, by comparison, are supposed to be held under the tongue for several seconds until fully absorbed in the mouth. The alcohol delivers the cannabinoids across the tissue and into the bloodstream, making the onset time faster than a traditional edible.

Underground legacy growers have been making tinctures like these for decades using scraps and trim from their grows. You can easily make a fast-acting tincture at home with any bud, a jar, and high-proof alcohol using this recipe.

To test the theory, last summer, a team of researchers measured the number of cannabinoids in the bloodstream of participants, comparing those who swallowed the cannabis MCT oil directly in capsules to those who held it in their mouth and found their levels to be identical. The results demonstrated that cannabis oil delivered under the tongue is only absorbed after it’s swallowed.

Issues with Absorbing Oil Under the Tongue

So how did it become so standardized to call cannabis oils “tinctures” and expect them to absorb sublingually?

Rapid industry growth, combined with a scarcity of good education, has created a situation where the science isn’t being done. Or it’s not making the rounds fast enough to keep the public properly informed. At this point, it’s unlikely that the terminology is going to shift. Almost everyone is making the same claim. No one wants to be the first to admit their oil doesn’t work that way.

We do have receptors in our mouths that interact with cannabis plant compounds, and while they may not help you absorb any oil in your quest to get lifted, they can help in other ways. There is emerging research on these receptors in our mouths and their role in helping us maintain oral health. Scientists are finding evidence that swooshing a full spectrum cannabis oil inside the mouth can help to keep bacteria levels in a healthy balance, heal sores, and lower pain from dental procedures.

Figuring The Right Dose of Oil

Cannabis MCT oil “tincture” drops are still a great medicinal product. It’s one of the most versatile items on the dispensary shelf. The onset is slow. So, people find these oils great for chronic conditions like pain, anxiety, and insomnia, and they can also be directly applied to the skin to soothe things like burns, sores, and bug bites. Certain medical conditions, especially seizures, can sometimes respond very quickly to high-strength, full-spectrum cannabis oil drops.

Cannabis is unique since it affects every person differently. So, if you have been using cannabis oils under your tongue and finding it fast-acting, then that’s great. You should absolutely keep doing what works best for you.

For most people, swallowing it faster can help avoid the unpleasant flavor. Plus it’s easier to get precise dosing when dropping it onto a cracker, for example, than into your mouth.

If your goal for your edible experience is a rapid onset of effects, forget the oil drops and ask your budtender for a fast-acting product. Like Wana’s “fast-acting” gummies or something from the ButACake product line. These companies use nanotechnology or time infusion to offer edible cannabis products. They work within about fifteen minutes and effects can last up to five hours. With these and all edibles, start low and go slow for the most enjoyable experience.


Mary Ellen Lorello

Certified Cannabis Educator & Patient Advocate

Cannabis Student Mentor, The Natural Wellness Academy

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