Niacinamide, BHT, Thiamin Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Yellow 5, Yellow 6.
You’ve probably hesitated if you’ve looked at ingredient labels before putting foods into your shopping cart. For example, we’ve just listed some of the ingredients in Cap’n Crunch Cereal.
That cereal doesn’t sound quite so tempting now, does it?
Truthfully, many of the scary-sounding ingredients are really pretty innocuous. Niacinamide, thiamin mononitrate and pyridoxine hydrochloride are forms of B vitamins. On the other hand, BHT is a preservative that might be hazardous, and Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 are FDA-approved artificial colorings.
Here’s the point: you can’t always judge an ingredient by its forbidding-sounding name — but you should do due diligence before consuming it.
That brings us to vegetable glycerin, a liquid that’s added to many foods to sweeten them or improve their consistency.
It’s also commonly used to make weed tinctures.
Is that a good idea? If so, how do you do it?
Let’s find out.
What Is Vegetable Glycerin?
Technically, vegetable glycerin (often simply called glycerine or glycerol and abbreviated VG) is a sugar alcohol.
VG is usually produced from coconut, palm, or soybean oil. It’s a clear, sweet liquid with the consistency of syrup that — believe it or not — was first used in the production of dynamite.
Today, vegetable glycerin is commonly found in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. It’s often added to foods as well because of its sweetness, its ability to prevent the formation of ice crystals in frozen foods, and because it helps oil and water to combine. (You probably remember from science class that oil and water don’t mix naturally.)
VG is also said to provide a number of health benefits. Many are external benefits, including skin protection, moisturizing, and overall skin health. Internally it’s said to improve hydration, help prevent constipation, and possibly provide athletic performance benefits. Some studies indicate it may contribute to heart health as well.
Most importantly, the Food and Drug Administration categorizes vegetable glycerin as “generally recognized as safe.” It can produce allergic reactions in some people, though, causing symptoms like headaches, nausea, and vomiting.
If VG sounds somewhat familiar, it’s because it’s one of the ingredients most commonly blended into e-cigarette vaping liquid. It gives vape juice a sweet taste and makes it less harsh, and it creates huge vapor clouds on the exhale.
Vegetable glycerin is also used to make some marijuana-based products. Let’s talk about that next.
Vegetable Glycerin and Weed
Two weed products typically contain vegetable glycerin.
One use for VG should be obvious: making THC vape juice.
Vaping is becoming an increasingly popular way to use weed, and vape carts are made in almost the same way as nicotine cartridges. They contain THC concentrate, water or alcohol, flavoring — and a “carrier” liquid. Vegetable glycerin is one of the two carriers used to make these carts. Propylene glycol (PG) is the other.
You can make THC vape juice at home, by extracting the THC from cannabis and combining it with VG or a VG/PG mixture. We’ll discuss that later on.
But there’s an easier way to combine VG and weed.
Even though they don’t get as much attention as other forms of weed, tinctures are perhaps the easiest way to consume marijuana and enjoy its benefits. In fact, it was the primary way that medical cannabis was administered in the years before prohibition. THC tincture is also the most discreet way to get high or to receive medical marijuana’s benefits.
A tincture is made with a consumable liquid like alcohol or vegetable glycerin. The liquid is first used to extract the cannabinoids (like THC and CBD), terpenes, and flavonoids from cannabis. Once it contains the weed’s goodness, it can then be ingested with virtually-immediate psychoactive effects.
The majority of THC tinctures are made with high-proof alcohol like Everclear. (Never use isopropyl alcohol, which can kill you.) Alcohol is preferable as a solvent because it is able to extract as much as 90% of the cannabinoids in weed, while VG can only extract about 10%. Needless to say, the latter will produce a much weaker tincture.
Then why would some people use vegetable glycerin to make weed tincture?
One reason is that it’s a viable option for those who can’t drink alcohol. Another is that alcohol can cause a burning sensation when it’s placed under the tongue, where tincture is often administered; by contrast, VG is sweet and doesn’t burn. Finally, alcohol/weed tinctures are illegal in some states, including California.
You might think that the ideal “solution” would be to use both high-proof alcohol and VG to make THC tincture. And you’d be right. Vegetable glycerin is used regularly to soften and dilute an alcohol extraction.
Let’s look at how that’s done, and then we’ll describe the process of making a VG-only tincture.
Making an Alcohol/Vegetable Glycerin Tincture
Before you can make a weed tincture, you have to activate the THC in your flower by decarbing it. That’s a simple process; you simply put small pieces of weed onto a baking sheet lined with crumpled tin foil and bake it for 30-45 minutes at 225°-230° until it’s golden brown.
Now, let’s make the tincture.
- Put ¼ ounce decarbed weed into a glass jar, and add enough high-proof alcohol to cover it completely.
- Seal the jar tightly. Put it into a dark and cool place and store it there for 21 days, shaking the jar once per day.
- When the 21 days are over, strain the liquid into a bottle through a coffee filter.
That’s a basic THC tincture. Now, add a small amount of vegetable glycerin and mix completely. Your tincture will taste better and shouldn’t burn the tissues under your tongue. Some people leave the tincture out overnight to let the alcohol evaporate before they add the VG; that can be dangerous, though.
Making Vegetable Glycerin Tincture
Making weed tincture with VG is almost as easy as making it with alcohol.
- Put ¼ ounce decarbed weed into a glass jar, and mix it with two cups of USP-grade vegetable glycerin. Be sure the weed is completely coated. Seal the jar tightly.
- Put a folded dishtowel on the bottom of a slow cooker. (Don’t skip this step.) Put the jar on top of the dishtowel.
- Add enough water to the slow cooker so it reaches 2/3 of the way up the outside of the jar.
- Cook for 24 hours, shaking the jar occasionally. Cool and strain through cheesecloth.
That’s all there is to making VG weed tincture. Be aware that it will spoil more rapidly than alcohol-based tincture, so keep it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it.
What Can You Do With Vegetable Glycerin Tincture?
We’ve already mentioned administering tincture sublingually (under the tongue) for fast absorption and action; start with one milligram at a time and increase the dosage slowly if appropriate.
There are many other uses for THC tincture. You can mix it with salad dressing or soup, add it to juice or smoothies, mix it into coffee or tea, make some weed Jell-O shots, or simply swallow it.
Realize, however, that it will be 30-60 minutes before the tincture takes effect if you eat or “drink” it. If you drop it under your tongue and let the sublingual tissues absorb it, the THC will begin to hit within a few minutes.
Vegetable Glycerin Tinctures: FAQ
Q: Can you use VG weed tincture as vape juice?
A: The recipe we’ve given won’t produce a very good vape juice, because alcohol isn’t ideal for vaping. To make juice for your vape pen or vaporizer, change the recipe. Add the vegetable glycerin in a ratio of three parts VG to one part alcohol, and you should be able to vape the mixed liquid.
Q: If you purchase a tincture at a dispensary, will it contain alcohol or vegetable glycerin?
A: It may contain either, or you may find that they use something called MCT oil extracted from coconut oil instead. It’s flavorless, but more importantly, it’s inexpensive. It’s not surprising that many producers use it.
Q: Isn’t vegetable glycerin used to make tinctures from concentrates?
A: You get a gold star. Decarbed rosin, wax, or shatter can be turned into potent tinctures when they’re mixed with VG and a small amount of MCT or coconut oil (to help them blend together).
- Milani, M., & Sparavigna, A. (2017). The 24-hour skin hydration and barrier function effects of a hyaluronic 1%, glycerin 5%, and Centella asiatica stem cells extract moisturizing fluid: an intra-subject, randomized, assessor-blinded study. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology, 10, 311 .
- Van Rosendal, S. P., Strobel, N. A., Osborne, M. A., Fassett, R. G., & Coombes, J. S. (2012). Performance benefits of rehydration with intravenous fluid and oral glycerol. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 44(9), 1780-1790 .
- Patlar, S., Yalçin, H., & Boyali, E. (2012). The effect of glycerol supplements on aerobic and anaerobic performance of athletes and sedentary subjects. Journal of Human Kinetics, 34(1), 69-79 .
- US Food and Drug Administration. (2017). CFR-code of federal regulations title 21 .