- A CBD tincture is cannabidiol in liquid form obtained by extracting the compound from the hemp plant.
- CBD tinctures are not the same as CBD oils, although the terms are often used interchangeably. They differ in the production process used and the ingredients they contain.
- Two standard methods of taking tinctures are by adding CBD drops to food and taking it sublingually.
- Interested users should visit a physician before they decide to purchase and use any CBD product.
CBD tinctures are made by steeping high-CBD hemp flowers in grain alcohol, a purified form of ethyl alcohol (ethanol), and cooked over low heat for several hours.
Glycerin or vinegar can be used as an alternative to alcohol. However, manufacturers use alcohol to produce high-quality cannabis tinctures. The manufacturing process may be time-consuming but straightforward.
Once the mixture is ready, it can be combined with carrier oils, such as peppermint and orange, to add flavor to the tincture. By itself, plain CBD tinctures can have a bitter taste.
Quality CBD tinctures are high in CBD and do not have more than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the primary component in cannabis that causes its psychoactive effects(1).
CBD, also called cannabidiol, is sold in various forms to match user preferences, needs, and lifestyles. Many brands offer CBD as tinctures, oils, edibles, topicals, vapes, capsules, and cosmetic products.
Among the selection, CBD tinctures and oils are the most popular products sold.
CBD Tincture vs. CBD Oil
Although the two terms are often used interchangeably, CBD tinctures and CBD oils differ in their production process and final ingredients.
The term CBD drops may sometimes be used to refer to CBD tinctures and CBD oils. CBD drops also refer to how CBD tinctures and CBD oils are taken, where a few drops of the liquid are added to food and drinks or placed under the tongue.
Creating CBD oils require cannabis extracts to be diluted with a carrier oil, making this form of CBD oil-based. This carrier oil enriches the product and makes it easier for the body to absorb(2).
Many companies use purified coconut oil (MCT oil) for their CBD oil tinctures. However, other plant-based oils can also be incorporated.
A few alternatives for carrier oils include hempseed oil, olive oil, hemp oil, grapeseed oil, and flaxseed oil.
Note that hempseed oil refers to oil extracted solely from hemp seeds that barely contain CBD. Hemp oil, in contrast, is extracted from hemp flowers, stalks, or the whole hemp plant and is rich in CBD.
CBD tinctures are made by soaking hemp extracts in water and alcohol. The most commonly used alcohol is distilled-grain ethyl alcohol (ethanol).
CBD oils and tinctures both contain cannabidiol and are sold in tinted glass bottles. Dark-colored containers have been found to extend the shelf life of oil stored in them(3).
Both CBD tinctures and oils are sold with a dropper, making it easy to apply the right dose while making cannabidiol easier to consume.
CBD tinctures and oils are often taken orally, with many preferring the sublingual route. Sublingual administration is when a few drops of a substance is placed under the tongue for a few seconds before swallowing.
Typically, both oils and tinctures are made with a high concentration of CBD compared to other cannabidiol products.
How CBD Tinctures Are Made
The two most common commercial techniques in creating CBD tinctures are alcohol and CO2 extraction methods.
Alcohol Extraction Method
Alcohol extraction, also called ethanol extraction, is a technique that separates phytocannabinoids from cannabis extract. This process goes through several steps that may vary from one producer to another.
The first step is to mix the hemp plant materials with ethanol, isopropyl alcohol, or other high-proof alcohol for human use in a tank or large container. The processor may or may not heat the mixture, depending on the desired potency.
Once the extraction is done, the remaining extract is strained. Manufacturers then eliminate the excess alcohol through a dealcoholization process by distillation.
Processors may choose to distill the final product as an extra step to make a more potent and higher quality tincture. For this step, the concentrate is mixed with a carrier oil.
CO2 Extraction Method
This method involves using a series of tanks and tubes that extract cannabidiol from the cannabis plant. The approach uses pressurized CO2 that acts as a solvent within a specific temperature and pressure.
Although it takes longer to complete, CO2 extraction is considered a safer and more effective method of creating concentrated tinctures than extracting through organic solvents(4).
How to Administer CBD Tinctures
Individuals have varying degrees of CBD tolerance. Thus, a 20mg dose, for example, may not provide similar benefits of CBD for one person as it does for another.
Finding the right dose for CBD tinctures usually takes time and patience.
Individuals are advised to start with a small dose, maintaining this initial dosage for a few days before making any changes. Ensure that the body is given time to respond to CBD.
Another aspect to consider is the weight of the user when taking CBD. For example, a 20mg dose may be more beneficial for a 150-lb person than someone who weighs 230lbs.
Sometimes, it takes trial and error to determine the right CBD tincture dose. Thus, consulting with a doctor or healthcare professional before using CBD tinctures is essential to avoid complications.
Here are the three most common methods of administering CBD tinctures.
In sublingual administration, the user places a few drops of the tincture underneath their tongue. This approach allows CBD to be absorbed directly by blood vessels as it bypasses the digestive system.
The CBD drops should be held under the tongue between 10 seconds and 60 seconds before swallowing.
CBD Tinctures as Food Additives
CBD tinctures often contain additives, such as flavoring agents, essential oils, and herbal extracts, to give them a better taste. Commonly used essential oils are lavender, peppermint, rosemary, and vanilla.
Considering these ingredients’ benefits and CBD tinctures’ potency, people have been using these products in many recipes.
A few drops of CBD oil may also be added in beverages, like coffee, smoothies, fruit juices, carbonated drinks, cocoa drinks, teas, or water.
CBD drops can also be added to cupcakes, cookies, and other baked goods during cooking or food preparation. CBD on salads and desserts are also becoming popular.
Topical Use of CBD Tinctures
While both CBD tinctures and oils may be used on the skin, applying them directly onto the skin may cause irritations. Instead, CBD tinctures are added as an ingredient to CBD topical products, like creams and balms.
CBD topicals can be rubbed onto the skin for relaxation for targeted pain relief(5). Companies have also been introducing CBD-infused facial serums and other skincare products.
Studies have shown cannabidiol’s potential anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic properties(6), making it a safe and useful analgesic (painkiller).
Findings suggest that CBD and other phytocannabinoids positively influence the endocannabinoid system, involved in regulating various body functions(7).
Some users prefer adding a few drops of CBD tincture in their baths, primarily when the product contains essential oils.
Advantages of Using CBD Tinctures
CBD tinctures are known for their high bioavailability and absorption rates. CBD tinctures also offer other practical advantages over the different methods of taking cannabidiol.
Various Flavors of CBD Tinctures
Note that the natural flavors of CBD tinctures may not be appealing. To mask CBD oil’s naturally earthy and grassy taste, first-time users may choose a flavored CBD tincture, such as orange or mint.
Manufacturers often incorporate flavors on their CBD tinctures. Mint, orange, and berry flavors are the most common flavors.
Easy Storage and Transport of CBD Tinctures
CBD tinctures are often packaged in small glass dropper bottles. The little bottles make for easy storing in a purse or bringing on a trip.
CBD tinctures have a longer shelf life, especially when stored correctly.
However, note that the products need to be kept away from direct sunlight. They must also be stored at room temperature to prevent degradation.
Degraded CBD tinctures may lead to lower CBD doses, affecting the accuracy of dosages and their overall effect on consumers’ health and wellness(8).
Additionally, users must shake CBD tinctures well, as the products can congeal or thicken over time.
CBD tinctures have an alcohol base. Tinctures are more likely to last longer than CBD oils, as fatty acids from the oils may oxidize and become rancid.
Discrete Way of Taking CBD
The small bottles and handy glass droppers allow consumers to discreetly take their CBD tinctures, whether directly or by adding to food and drinks.
CBD tinctures do not emit strong odors and would not affect the smell and taste of food and drinks.
Wide Range of CBD Strength Options
When buying a CBD tincture, people are presented with several options in terms of milligrams. CBD brands often use the 30ml size for CBD tincture bottles, usually containing 500mg, 1,000mg, or 1,500mg.
Getting started with CBD in a low dose, like that from a bottle of 500mg of CBD, can help first-time users acquaint themselves with how much cannabidiol they need.
Keep in mind, however, that CBD content is different for each bottle size. For instance, a 500mg water-soluble tincture can contain 16mg of CBD in a single drop, while a 1,500mg bottle can have 50mg of CBD per drop.
Consulting a doctor, particularly someone experienced with CBD can help users find the right dosage for their needs.
CBD Potency: What It Means
Users should also assess their reason for taking cannabidiol. An effective CBD tincture dose for anxiety, for example, may not provide the same results when using it for pain.
In choosing which tincture to buy, users must also understand their desired tincture’s potency (strength). CBD tinctures are sold in a range of potencies, depending on the manufacturer.
Potency refers to the amount of CBD present per gram or per milliliter of the product. The potency is the value with an mg/g or mg/ml unit of measurement product labels and lab test results.
Certificates of analysis are lab test reports from accredited laboratories. Trustworthy brands provide complete analysis reports from third-party laboratories, aside from in-house lab reports.
Learning to interpret COAs is essential to ensure the potency, safety, and overall quality of the CBD tincture.
A COA for CBD tinctures and other CBD products should include the complete list of cannabinoids and terpenes present, the concentration and potency of the cannabinoids, and test results for contaminants, such as heavy metals, pesticides, and residual solvents.
Calculating Dosages of CBD Tinctures
Since most CBD tinctures come with a built-in or separate dropper, dosing with these products is easy. To adjust the dose, one can increase or decrease the amount of CBD per serving.
The right dose depends on an individual’s weight, intent, and severity of the medical condition.
In one study, results suggested that cannabidiol may reduce anxiety from a simulated public speaking test. The subjects were given 300mg to 600mg of CBD(9).
CBD products may not be for everyone. CBD may interact with other medications due to the compound’s ability to engage with receptors in the body responsible for drug metabolism(10).
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Epidiolex is the only CBD product they recognize(11). Thus, no clinical resource can accurately determine the right dose of CBD tinctures.
To calculate the CBD tincture dosage, a person needs to be familiar with the total CBD present (in milligrams) and unit volume (bottle size) in milliliters.
The 30ml bottle is a typical size for CBD tinctures. One dose (serving size) of CBD tincture is usually 1ml or the equivalent of twenty drops.
One way of knowing how much CBD a person can get in a single 1ml dose is by calculating how many drops are in one bottle.
For example, in a standard 30ml tincture, there are approximately 600 drops total since 1ml is equivalent to 20 drops.
Multiply twenty drops by 30ml to get the total. Then, divide the CBD content total in a bottle by the overall amount of drops it contains.
In this example, the product is a 30ml bottle with 600mg of CBD tincture. The 600mg can be divided by 600 drops, which is equivalent to 1mg per drop.
Using the same example, a 1ml dose from a 600mg CBD tincture can give a person 20mg of CBD.
Potential Side Effects of CBD Tinctures
In a 2017 report, the World Health Organization (WHO) noted that cannabidiol is a safe and effective compound to consume(12).
WHO also mentioned that there had been no evidence of health-related problems associated with using pure CBD.
However, users need to be cautious of pesticides, residual solvents, heavy metals, and other harmful additives, such as propylene glycol and 5F-ADB. 5F-ADB, also called spice or K2, was found to impair driving even at low concentrations(13).
Tests for these contaminants may be accessed through COAs or third-party lab test reports.
The following are some of the commonly reported side effects a person may experience when using CBD tinctures(14):
- Appetite changes
The Legality of CBD Tinctures
The 2018 Farm Bill passage declassified hemp as a controlled substance, allowing farms to legally grow, cultivate, and sell hemp-derived goods(15). This legislation means that CBD tinctures can be lawfully used in the United States.
According to this new law, the THC content in grown hemp should not exceed 0.3%. CBD tinctures that have more than this amount are classified as Class I drugs and are therefore illegal.
Thus, reputable CBD brands ensure that their CBD tinctures are derived from hemp plants high in CBD and low in THC level.
Some areas in the United States have bills explicitly authorizing the use and sale of CBD oils, tinctures, and other cannabidiol products.
For example, in 2019, Texas passed House Bill 1325, which allowed the selling and consumption of hemp-derived CBD(16).
CBD tinctures and other products are also legal in other states, such as Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Wyoming(17).
CBD tinctures obtained from hemp are allowed by the federal government. However, for cannabis to be considered hemp, it should have no more than 0.3% THC.
Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, and Vermont began allowing hemp cultivation in 2014(18). The four states were able to grow hemp on 1,866 acres of land.
Many new growers have joined the hemp race after states began implementing industrial hemp pilot programs following the 2018 Farm Bill passage.
By 2018, a total of 22 states have reported ongoing hemp pilot programs and a total of over 90,000 acres of land used for cultivating hemp(19).
An Overview of Other CBD Types
CBD is a chemical compound extracted from cannabis plants. It can be obtained either from industrial hemp or marijuana.
The cannabis plant contains numerous cannabinoids, with CBD and THC being two of the most abundant compounds(20). CBD, also called hemp-derived cannabidiol, is usually a by-product of these processes.
Although both CBD and THC can be obtained from cannabis plants, they are different in many aspects. A vital characteristic of THC is that it is psychotropic, while CBD does not cause mind-altering effects when consumed(21).
Findings also suggested that oral CBD in high doses may not impair cognitive and psychomotor performance(22).
Another study suggested that cannabidiol may exert several health benefits through its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties(23).
Cannabidiol tinctures are specially made to have a high concentration and potency of CBD. CBD can be categorized into three types: full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and isolates.
Full-spectrum CBD oil is made of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other minerals extracted together with CBD. Full-spectrum cannabidiol contains THC.
Full-spectrum CBD is known for the entourage effect, a concept in which cannabinoids work better when taken together(24).
According to federal law, full-spectrum cannabidiol must not have more than 0.3% THC to be legal. Tetrahydrocannabinol at this amount should not cause a person to get high.
However, 0.3% of THC content may be sufficient enough to show up in a drug test. Thus, people concerned about drug tests often choose broad-spectrum cannabidiol.
Broad-spectrum CBD oil is very similar to full-spectrum in that it also has the chemical compounds often derived from cannabis plants but without THC.
Meanwhile, CBD isolate is the THC-free type that only contains pure cannabidiol. Isolates do not contain terpenes, flavonoids, or any other cannabinoids.
With CBD isolates, CBD has been isolated from raw hemp extracts, offering only the compound’s purest form for consumption.
Apart from tinctures, manufacturers in the CBD industry sell various cannabidiol products on the market. Each item is made by using CBD isolate or an extract as its active ingredient.
Each product type has unique properties and particular applications that are discussed in detail below.
Oil-Based CBD Capsules
CBD capsules are CBD extracts in pill form that users can swallow like a supplement. The capsules may be sold as softgels or two-piece capsules. The capsules can have either liquid-containing CBD oil or powder.
The content of CBD capsules varies from one brand to another. They can contain the following:
- CBD isolate or extract – The quality of a CBD pill depends on its CBD content. The highest quality CBD capsules are made using extracts derived from a reliable, non-GMO hemp source, like licensed farms in Colorado, where farmers cultivate hemp sustainably.
- Oil carrier – CBD capsules use oil carriers to make it easier for the body to absorb the phytocannabinoid content. Since CBD and other cannabinoids are fat-soluble(25), they easily bind to fats, such as those derived from coconuts.
- Additional ingredients – Some CBD capsules can contain other ingredients, including supplement additives and herbs. These are only optional in the sense that they do not affect the supposed benefits of CBD.
The most common benefits of using this type of CBD product are:
- Ease of use
- Accurate measurement of dosage
- No cannabis taste
As CBD is taken orally, the compound goes through the liver, reducing its potency before reaching the brain. Only a small percentage of cannabidiol passes through the bloodstream and enters the body.
Bioavailability, which measures how much a substance is absorbed, determines how much CBD was useful to the system.
Consuming oil-based CBD capsules has the lowest bioavailability of all delivery methods. Approximately five to ten percent of the compound makes it to the bloodstream.
Thus, the recommended dosage for CBD capsules is higher than sublingual tinctures or other water-soluble cannabidiol products.
CBD concentrates are extracts derived from hemp plants known for their high potency. These products are available in various types, based on the source and method used in the extract.
People usually consume concentrates by smoking or dabbing, using a traditional dab device or vaporizer. Through these methods, the product is heated and then inhaled to apply CBD into the body quickly.
Inhalation is one of the most bioavailable ways of taking a substance(26). Many users prefer taking CBD in this manner due to its quick and direct approach.
Several types of CBD concentrates are available based on the extraction method used in creating the final product.
- Shatter is made by using a solvent to extract cannabidiol with trace terpenes and phytocannabinoids (CBG).
- Crumble is created by extracting oils from raw cannabis, resulting in a moist concentrate.
- Wax is the general term used in describing CBD concentrates that have a wax-like texture.
- Terpsolate is CBD isolate infused with terpenes from marijuana or organic hemp plants.
CBD edibles are made by adding cannabis extract or isolate into a range of food products. Commonly, people can find these in the form of baked goods or candies. Many brands sell CBD gummies, cookies, chocolate, and brownies.
One advantage of cannabidiol in edible form is its ease of use and ability to mask the plain CBD taste.
CBD Vape Products
Vaping cannabidiol is the same as other forms of vaping. CBD isolates or extracts are vaporized using a vape pen, which is then inhaled by the user.
There are various vape products available in the CBD industry, including:
- Disposable vape pens – These devices are one of the most convenient ways of vaping cannabidiol, even for inexperienced users. The vape pens are pre-filled with CBD vape oil and ready for use immediately.
- Vape cartridges – These CBD extract cartridges are attached to the end of vape devices before use. CBD cartridges are available in both disposable and refillable forms on the market.
- Vape e-liquid – Also called vape juice, CBD’s liquid form is heated, vaporized, and inhaled when vaping. The product is sold as a standalone, usually in a tincture dropper or squeeze bottle.
Despite the popularity of CBD vape products, one should be careful when using these devices. A study noted that electronic cigarettes and vaping products may be associated with lung problems(27).
Interested buyers are advised to consult a physician before purchasing and using vape devices.
Cannabidiol products intended for topical use can be applied to the skin. CBD topicals are sold in various forms, including balms, salves, creams, and ointments.
People often use CBD topicals for sore muscles, massaging, and skin conditions. Applying topicals directly on a sore or irritated area may provide localized relief from the medical condition.
CBD Pet Products
Dogs, cats, horses, and other animals can leverage the reported health benefits of CBD.
Some manufacturers sell pet-specific CBD products ranging from tinctures to treats. These products are formulated to help improve pet well-being.
CBD brands carefully design pet cannabidiol products for animal use, crafting them to provide the appropriate dose. Owners can purchase different CBD pet products, including sprays, capsules, tinctures, and treats.
Cannabinoids, such as CBD, are hydrophobic, which means they do not mix well with water(28).
With recent advances in extraction methods, water-soluble cannabidiol was introduced. Water-compatible CBD allows the compound to be added to liquid products.
Nowadays, users can find CBD-based drinks as powdered mixes, energy shots, and bottled water.
Still, buyers are advised not to purchase CBD drinks containing non-water-soluble extracts. These products may contain extracts that do not dissolve well in liquids, making them ineffective compared to water-soluble CBD.
CBD Transdermal Patches
These patches are similar to topical products in which they can be applied directly onto the skin. Transdermal patches feature CBD-infused strips that users can place on various areas of the body.
The products are designed for slow release and have been found to have long-lasting therapeutic effects when applied(29).
When the CBD transdermal patch is applied, the compound penetrates the skin layers. This process is accomplished through permeation enhancers and carriers.
The additives in the patch help apply cannabinoids to the skin. Once the skin has absorbed the compounds, CBD goes into the system.
CBD Benefits: What Research Says
Numerous studies on CBD’s benefits have been conducted over the past years, and many more continue to be conducted until today.
A 2016 study published in the European Journal of Pain suggested that CBD’s topical application may provide effective therapeutic relief for joint inflammation and arthritis-related pain(30).
A separate study on prolonged CBD treatment for cancer-related pain also indicated that CBD may help improve pain levels and overall quality of life without major adverse effects(31).
Additionally, CBD’s therapeutic pain relief benefits may also extend to dogs and other pets with osteoarthritis(32).
In a 2017 study involving healthy human volunteers, CBD has also been shown to be potentially useful in alleviating high blood pressure due to stress(33).
Additionally, researchers noted that CBD may be a promising alternative treatment for symptoms of anxiety and neuropsychiatric disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety disorder, and panic disorder(34).
Although none of the findings were conclusive, research showed that CBD may have physical and mental health benefits for humans and animals.
CBD tinctures are cannabidiol in liquid form. Along with CBD oils, these products have a higher potency and concentration of cannabidiol than other CBD products.
CBD tinctures are made with an alcohol base and additional ingredients. They are more likely to last longer than CBD oils.
CBD tinctures may be added to food or drinks or used as drops taken sublingually.
Users need to know the right type of cannabidiol for their needs. Viewing lab test results is equally important.
Check to see if the desired CBD products are made from reliable hemp sources. The top hemp-producing states in the country are known for providing high-CBD hemp extracts.
Users must consult a doctor for any possible complications. A doctor who is experienced in using hemp and marijuana is recommended.
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- Hammell, D. C., Zhang, L. P., Ma, F., Abshire, S. M., McIlwrath, S. L., Stinchcomb, A. L., & Westlund, K. N. (2016). Transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain-related behaviours in a rat model of arthritis. European journal of pain (London, England), 20(6), 936–948. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejp.818
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