Cannabis Tinctures: What Is THC Oil and How Can You Use It

Sophia Delphi May 21, 2022 - 7 min read
Fact Checked
Marijuana plant and tincture

When longtime weed smokers begin exploring other ways to get high — or new medical marijuana patients try to understand their options — they can be faced with a confusing array of products.

There are edibles, of course, as well as capsules and lozenges. There are lotions, creams, and transdermal patches.

The most confusing products? Hash oils, THC vape liquids, “canna oil,” and marijuana tinctures. They’re generally all in liquid form, but they’re very different methods of consuming weed.

Canna oil is used in the kitchen. Vape liquids, needless to say, are made to be used in vaporizers or vape pens. The difference between oils and tinctures, however, can baffle even experienced users — especially since many resource sites either confuse them or gloss over their differences.

Let’s sort it all out. (Spoiler alert: marijuana tinctures are the simplest way to enjoy the benefits of THC.)

Types of Liquids That Contain THC

The liquids we’ll be discussing can also be produced with high amounts of CBD, the non-psychoactive cannabinoid that is legal throughout America and has its own medical benefits. But we’ll be focusing on products containing THC.

Here are the ones to know about. We’ll get into marijuana tinctures after discussing the other liquids you’ll find at a dispensary.

Canna Oil

This term commonly refers to oil that’s been infused with cannabis and used instead of cannabutter to make edibles. It’s easy to make at home by simmering decarbed weed (a flower that’s been heated to activate its cannabinoids) with cooking oil for a few hours. [1]

Choices like coconut oil and palm kernel oil are best for making canna oil because they’re high in saturated fats which efficiently dissolve and distribute the compounds in marijuana. Olive and canola oils will work, too.

Canna oil can also be used by dripping it under the tongue, or in the preparation of topical products.

THC Vape Liquid

Needless to say, this product is designed to be used for vaping weed. It’s usually a mixture of some form of cannabis oil (which we’ll discuss shortly) and sugar alcohols like propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin. The latter provide flavor and a smoother vaping texture. Other ingredients may be added as well.

Cannabis Hash Oil

This liquid is described in so many ways that even experts struggle to rigorously describe it.

Some call canna-oil or similar forms of THC-infused oil “cannabis oil.” But the term is also used to refer to hash oil, also known as honey oil and usually used for dabbing.

Hash oil is an extremely potent cannabis concentrate, created when the active ingredients in weed are removed from the cannabis plant. That can be done by manual methods or with the help of a solvent.

The solvents most commonly used are butane or propane, which is why these forms of cannabis oil are often called butane hash oil (or BHO). Confusing the matter even more: hash oil isn’t always a liquid. It can be waxy, gooey, or solid, too.

In addition to its use for dabbing, hash oil can also be added to flowers for smoking or used to make vape juice.

Marijuana Tinctures

Weed tinctures are similar to hash oil, but alcohol is used as the solvent (instead of butane) that extract THC. The process also creates a potent, alcohol-based cannabis extract. High-proof ethanol, like Everclear, is normally the solvent of choice; isopropyl alcohol cannot be used.

There’s one other important difference. Butane is toxic, so it has to be purged from hash oil before it can be consumed. Since the alcohol in marijuana tinctures is safe for consumption, it does not have to be removed from marijuana tinctures. The infused alcohol is what’s consumed by the end-user.

Marijuana tinctures can also be created with food-grade glycerin, but it doesn’t bond to weed compounds efficiently and produces a weaker product. Some people use a combination of alcohol and glycerin and force the alcohol to evaporate after it’s done its work; that’s a dangerous approach that could cause fires or explosions.

Cannabis tinctures will normally be at least twice as potent as weed smoke.

What Can You Do With Cannabis Tinctures?

You probably know that smoking or vaping weed is a faster way to enjoy its benefits than consuming an edible. It can take just ten minutes for cannabis smoke or vapor to make its way to the brain, while it might take an hour or longer for edibles to be digested and processed.

Marijuana tinctures can work even more quickly when the tincture is dropped under the tongue (with the help of a medicine dropper).

That process is called sublingual administration. The tissues underneath the tongue absorb THC more quickly than the lungs do; it’s absorbed even faster if the liquid is allowed to sit under the tongue for a minute or so before swallowing. The tincture may not taste great, but many producers add terpenes to the mix to boost its flavor. 1-2 milligrams is the normal dose.

There are other options, too.

Marijuana tinctures can easily be added to food or beverages to provide them with a THC boost. Many users mix them into salad dressings, sauces, or soups. The ingredients may need to be mixed well or blended if you’re putting tincture into a drink, but the THC will still take effect more quickly than edibles do.

Tinctures can be used topically as well. They won’t get you high, but they may provide pain relief or ease inflammation when applied to the skin.

The one thing that tinctures aren’t good for is vaping. Many of them contain extra ingredients like coconut or hemp oil, which can cause lung irritation or illness.

Benefits of Using Cannabis Tinctures

Regular weed users often don’t think about tinctures, but there are good reasons to consider them.

  • They act quickly, even faster than smoking when administered sublingually.
  • They’re the most discreet way to use marijuana. The bottles are easy to conceal, there’s no telltale odor, and no one will notice what you’re doing when you put a few drops under your tongue.
  • Dosing is simple. The process is no more difficult than giving some medicine to a baby or a pet.

Short Recipe on Making Your Own Marijuana Tincture

Perhaps the biggest benefit of using tinctures is that you can easily make them at home.

Here’s how it’s done.

  1. Decarb an ounce of weed in the oven.
  2. Combine the decarbed flower with the contents of a 750-milliliter bottle of Everclear or another high-proof alcohol, and put it into a Mason jar with a lid that seals tightly.
  3. Keep the jar in a dark area at room temperature for a month, stirring the contents once per day.
  4. Strain the mixture, and your marijuana tincture is ready for use. It will last for at least a year if stored in a cool, dark environment.

Marijuana Tinctures: FAQ

Q: How long do the effects of weed tinctures last?
A: Not as long as the effects of edibles, but longer than when you smoke, vape or dab. The high will last an average of a couple of hours. Just remember the tincture will take much longer to kick in if you add it to food instead of administering it sublingually.

Q: Are the psychoactive or medical benefits of marijuana tinctures any different than the ones provided by smoking?
A: Nope. Tinctures are just a different way to get THC into your body.

Wang, M., Wang, Y. H., Avula, B., Radwan, M. M., Wanas, A. S., van Antwerp, J., … & Khan, I. A. (2016). Decarboxylation study of acidic cannabinoids: a novel approach using ultra-high-performance supercritical fluid chromatography/photodiode array-mass spectrometry. Cannabis and cannabinoid research, 1(1), 262—271. [1]