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CBD Tinctures

All About CBD Tinctures

This article is all about CBD-infused tinctures.

Feel free to skip ahead using the table of contents below.

Most people are semi-familiar with the word “tincture.” The term has really become synonymous with cannabis in recent years due to the boom of the CBD industry. The word, though, is actually applicable when describing any herbal or plant-based extract. What exactly is a CBD tincture and why should CBD users or prospect users care?

What is a tincture?

Tincture is a catch-all term that refers to a medicine or supplement made by dissolving a plant in a liquid solvent (usually alcohol) and applying low heat. This allows the active compounds in the plant or herb to leach into the solvent, most of which is boiled away until only the plant extract remains. In the case of cannabis, the extracts include the cannabinoids and terpenoids.]

The end-product is CBD in liquid extract that you consume orally. Refer to our primer on CBD oil for a more detailed breakdown of cannabidiol.

That’s the gist of it; though various steps and sub-processes may be involved depending on the specific solution the manufacturer is aiming for. This includes, for instance, whether the maker is producing a CBD-isolate or CBD full-spectrum oil (more on this later).

What Types of Solvents Are Used in a CBD Tincture Extraction?

Alcohol is the most common solvent; though there are different alcohol solutions, such as ethanol or low-grade alcohol.

There are also non-alcohol solvents, such as glycerin, butane, apple cider vinegar, and even water. Some manufacturers may produce their own synthetic solvent made of a combination of these liquids.

There is some disagreement over what is the best solvent. Some people, including DIYers, swear by alcohol, attesting to its ability to extract a wider range of the plant constituents, including both water-soluble and fat-soluble molecules. Some also say that alcohol-extracted tinctures have a longer shelf life.

Solventless Extractions

Alcohol is the most common solvent; though there are different alcohol solutions, such as ethanol or low-grade alcohol.

There are also non-alcohol solvents, such as glycerin, butane, apple cider vinegar, and even water. Some manufacturers may produce their own synthetic solvent made of a combination of these liquids.

There is some disagreement over what is the best solvent. Some people, including DIYers, swear by alcohol, attesting to its ability to extract a wider range of the plant constituents, including both water-soluble and fat-soluble molecules. Some also say that alcohol-extracted tinctures have a longer shelf life.

CBD manufacturers have deploy several commercial extraction methods that deliver varying levels of purity and potency. Let’s explore a few of these extraction methodologies.

CO2 Extraction

Carbon dioxide acts like a solvent under the right temperatures. This method, though, is unavailable to DIYers as it involves expensive equipment in the form of a compressing chamber. The chamber freezes the CO2 until it forms into a “supercritical” liquid state. This essentially means the CO2 is right at the point between being a liquid and a gas. The supercritical CO2 is used to extract the cannabinoids, terpene oils and trichomes out of the plant.

Olive Oil Extraction

Under this method, the cannabis plant is heated, usually at around 248-degrees Fahrenheit for one hour, to activate the plant’s chemicals. The next step is to douse the plant in olive oil and heat the material at 212-degrees Fahrenheit for 1-2 hours.

Dry Ice Extraction

This method is favored by DIYers. Under this procedure, the plant is chopped up and placed inside a container with dry ice. Place a mesh bag over the container and shake the contents. This loosens the plant extracts from the cannabis.

Carrier Oils

The finished CBD tincture also contains a carrier oil. Without the carrier, the CBD extract would be in powder form. Some manufacturers add a few fillers and encapsulate the extract. More commonly, though, makers incorporate a carrier oil and store the product in a miniature dropper bottle.

Infusing the extract in a carrier oil makes the CBD more consumer-friendly. Plus, it’s also easier to measure the dosage rather than having to count the powder grain by grain. When you combine the CBD with oil, you also increase absorption since the extracts bind with the oil’s fat molecules, which the body breaks down during the digestive process.

The fat molecules are what determines bioavailability. Not all oils suffice as a carrier because the fat molecules differ. Factors like the rate of breakdown, consistency and flavor determine carrier oil viability.

Types of Carrier Oils

The most common is medium chain triglyceride (MCT) oil. This usually entails coconut oil, which is favored for various reasons, such as its low viscosity and smaller fat molecules, which make it easier for the liver to digest. It’s also flavorless and has anti-fungal properties.

Other viable carriers include:

  • Palm oil: This is another digestive-friendly MCT source.
  • Olive oil: This carrier is known for its fruity texture. However, the high monounsaturated fat content is more difficult to break down, thus reducing CBD bioavailability.
  • Avocado oil: This carrier gives the tincture a nutty taste. The oil, though, is a lot more viscous and is also pricier.
  • Grape seed oil: This carrier is sought after for its wine-like aroma. However, this carrier has a high polyunsaturated fat content, which easily degrades.

Coconut oil has the overall best bioavailability and remains the go-to option for both manufacturers and DIYers. The other choices, though, may be a viable option for those who prefer some texture and flavor.

Isolate Versus Full-Specturm CBD Tinctures

CBD tinctures can be broken down to just two categories: CBD isolate and full-spectrum. How do these two differ, and which is best for you?

CBD isolate is pretty self-explanatory. It’s essentially cannabis oil with CBD as its sole cannabinoid. Full-spectrum oils, on the other hand, contain other cannabinoids that don’t have the same scientific-backed studies as CBD, but may just be as beneficial.

Some people regard full-spectrum oil is superior; after all, more cannabinoid variety is better, right? Well, that kind of depends on whom you ask. The subject of CBD isolate vs full-spectrum is a hotly debated topic in the industry.

Full-spectrum proponents cite what is known as the entourage effect, in which the various cannabinoids have a synergistic effect. Is there any merit behind the entourage effect? A study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology suggests that cannabinoids may have a heightened effect when taken together and along with a diverse terpene profile. The study, though, pertains mostly to the psychoactive cannabinoid THC and not CBD.

There is also one study from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical School. Israeli researchers there concluded that full-spectrum may be more effective than CBD isolate for relieving pain and inflammation.

Others, however, are skeptical of the entourage effect. One such skeptic is Margaret Haney, a neurobiologist from Columbia University. According to her assessment regarding the entourage effect:

“The lay public has really taken on the notion of the entourage effect, but there’s not a lot of data.”

The rest of the debate comes down to anecdotal evidence. Some users swear by CBD isolate, others are firmly on the full-spectrum bandwagon. Due to the mixed opinions, we can’t conclusively recommend one over the other. Direct experience with both will tell you which is right for your specific needs.

CBD Tincture Versus Other Oral Delivery Methods

CBD Tincture Versus Edibles

How do CBD tinctures compare to edibles, such as CBD gummies? Edibles have a few clear advantages. The first is the yummy taste. After all, who doesn’t love gummy candy and chocolate bars? Plus, these are also great for 420-friendly social gatherings. In addition, edibles are also more discreet; you can consume them in public, and no one will ever know you’re eating a CBD-laced lunch.

A CBD tincture, on the other hand, is portable. Assuming that you apply the sublingual method, bioavailability should also be higher. It’s also faster-acting since it goes directly to the bloodstream. It’s also easier to keep track of dosage with tinctures. Tracking dosage isn’t an issue with some edibles like gummies. However, for home-baked edibles, it might be a bit trickier to determine how much CBD is in a slice of cake or brownie.

Even with the convenience and higher bioavailability, tinctures may not be more effective in every situation. It may come down to why you’re taking CBD in the first place. This is just anecdotal evidence, but some people have reported better results with edibles for treating Crohn’s disease. This is an autoimmune disorder that affects the gastrointestinal tracts and causes vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. The GI tract happens to be where the edibles end up, so perhaps there is a direct influence.

As with choosing between CBD isolate and full spectrum, choosing between tinctures and edibles is a personal decision. A few experimental trials will help you determine which is more agreeable.

CBD Tincture Versus Soft Gels

What about soft gels? This is essentially the liquid version of a capsule. A gel-cap’s surface is made from a soft layer of gelatin that dissolves upon ingestion, causing release of the liquid contents.

The liquid inside a CBD soft gel is essentially the same CBD oil as a tincture. Does it really matter, then, which you use? Let’s explore some of the pros and cons of CBD soft gels, and how they compare to tinctures.

As with edibles, you can be discreet about consuming a soft gel. This method is also exceptionally convenient. You can easily store them in your purse or pocket. In addition, it’s also easy to keep track of dosage without having to mess with a dropper.

Soft gels, though, do have a few drawbacks. The obvious is that it cannot be taken sublingually. With that in mind, CBD tinctures are still the best bet if the highest bioavailability is your goal. Another problem is that it’s not possible to adjust dosage in small increments. The average CBD soft gel contains between 10-20 mg of CBD isolate or full-spectrum. This can pose difficulty for users who wish to adjust dosage by 5 mg or so. For this reason, users may use a combination of CBD soft gels and tinctures.

How To Take CBD Tintures Correctly

CBD tinctures are designed to be taken orally. However, there are multiple ways to go about this. The simplest method is to consume with food. Since the oil is usually flavorless, it doesn’t interfere with food taste. Some people add a few drops to their cereal, smoothie, salad, yogurt or energy drink. This is the beginner-friendly method of ingestion; though, it’s not the optimal way. According to a 1986 report, oral ingestion of CBD only has a bioavailability rate of 6 percent. A later study in 2009 yielded a bioavailability between 4-20 percent.

A more effective oral administration is the sublingual method. “sublingual” is a Latin word and means “under the tongue.” Under this procedure, you use the dropper that comes with the bottle and apply several drops underneath your tongue. Don’t swallow; just let the contents dissolve.

The area beneath your tongue contains tiny glands. Anything absorbed here goes directly to your bloodstream, meaning it bypasses the intestines. Anything that enters the intestines must survive the lengthy 6.5-meter journey where it’s exposed to harsh bile and stomach acids.

Studies examining the efficacy of sublingual administration reveals far more promising figures — a bioavailability between 12-25 percent.

The Bioavilability Factor

What accounts for the bioavailability difference between typical oral ingestion and the under-the-tongue sublingual method? We established the problems of CBD journeying through the lengthy digestive tracts. Let’s take a further look at this process.

When you consume CBD, the contents enter your stomach before reaching the hepatic portal system. The content eventually travels via portal veins and make their way to the liver. This organ has the all-important task of metabolizing the cannabinoids. The process is extraordinarily complex and is known as the first pass effect.

CBD metabolizing that takes place during the first pass effect greatly diminishes bioavailability. Studies, however, do show that the intake of fatty acids may offset some of the processes of the first pass effect. This is another reason for the use of carrier oils in CBD tinctures.

This is why we must stress again the increased bioavailability of CBD administration via sublingual method. This avoids the first pass effect altogether. This is why many CBD users eventually move onto other CBD products and administration methods, such as vaping, which has an equal or higher bioavailability than sublingual delivery.

A Note On Vaping

CBD tinctures are designed for oral use. If you choose to go the vaping route, then look for vape juices. These are similar to CBD tinctures, but contain a thinning agent, usually vegetable glycerin or propylene glycol. The carrier MCT oil from CBD tinctures are too viscous for vaping. Those who tried using it with a vape pen reported a bad taste and a mess all over the heating coil.

If you’re interested in exploring vaping, then see our section on CBD vape oils.

Where To Buy CBD Tinctures Online

Whether you use tinctures, edibles or capsules, only purchase CBD products from a reputable supplier. This way, you can be confident of the CBD to THC ratio, terpene profile and purity. We recommend seeing our Where to Buy page for a list of trustworthy CBD manufacturers.

Here are a few other sites that we vetted and can recommend with confidence. These e-stores carry CBD tinctures, vape juices, vape cartridges, etc.

While various products are available, we recommend starting out with CBD tinctures, capsules, or soft-gels. The easy mode of administration and dosage tracking make these the go-to option for newbies.

Soothe CBD Tincture

Soothe's trademarked motto is prioritize health and happiness with soothe. They encourage you to soothe your mind body with their extensive line of carefully formulated cbd products. Their tincture comes in natural and arctic mist flavors.

Hemplucid CBD Tincture 250 mg

HempLucid sells whole-plant hemp products aimed at improving your health.Their unique in that they offer multiple types of carrier oil options for their tinctures. These include water-soluable liquid as well as hemp seed and MCT oil.

CBD Essence's oil is made with organic hemp seed oil and sunflower lecithin. You can choose between a sprayer or dropper, as well as from grape, mango, unsweetened, natural, cinnamon, spearmint, vanilla, and unsweatened flavors.

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