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By Philip Bjorge

Also See: Great Cannabis Recipes and the Scientific Research Patients Need to Share with Doctors 
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Cannabis tinctures, also known as green or golden dragon, are alcohol-based cannabis extracts – essentially, infused alcohol. In fact, tinctures were the main form of cannabis medicine until the United States enacted cannabis prohibition. With a name like “green dragon,” you might think cannabis tinctures are not for the faint of heart, but they’re actually a great entry point for both recreational and medical users looking to ease into smokeless consumption methods.

How to Dose and Use Cannabis Tinctures

Tincture dosages are easy to self-titrate, or measure. Start with 1mL of your finished tincture and put it under your tongue. If you’re happy with the effects, you’re done. Otherwise, try 2mL the next day and so on until you find the volume you’re happy with (ramp up slowly while testing your desired dosage so you can avoid getting uncomfortably high).

According to The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook, tinctures will last for many years when stored in a cool, dark location. When combined with easy self-titration, the long shelf life means you can make larger quantities of tinctures at once and have a convenient, accurate way to ingest cannabis.

Compared to the traditional cannabis-infused brownie, tinctures are a low calorie alternative. If you make your tincture with 190-proof alcohol, you’re looking at about 7 calories per mL. Unless you have an extremely weak tincture, you’ll easily stay under your typical brownie’s 112 calorie count (and let’s face it, your brownies are probably far more caloric than that).

Tinctures can be incorporated after cooking into all sorts of meals and drinks:

I recently added some cannabis tincture to my homemade chicken tikka masala for a delicious infused dinner.

How to Make Cannabis Tinctures

If you don’t have a full-featured kitchen or just prefer simple, mess-free preparation techniques, cannabis tinctures are a great DIY project. At a minimum, you can make a tincture with a jar, alcohol, a strainer, and cannabis products. That’s all you need!

Depending on your available time, equipment, and risk tolerance, you’ll prefer some recipes over others. All of the below recipes have been tried by yours truly and have been confirmed to work. Pick whichever one seems most convenient to you!

Traditional Green Dragon

If you’ve heard about green dragon before reading this article, this is probably the recipe you’re most familiar with.

Master Wu’s Green Dragon

This guide was first published in 2006 on cannabis.com and is one of the most comprehensive tincture recipes available online, with detailed instructions and excellent tips and tricks. Master Wu’s recipe differs from the traditional method in that it uses heat to speed up the extraction and concentration process. Unlike the traditional method, you’ll be finished with this recipe in an evening. Below you’ll find an abridged summary of the technique.

Modern Green Dragon

If you’re following some of the latest developments in online tincture recipes, you may have heard of the following recipe which sounds too good to be true, but many people (including myself) are having great results with it.

Cannabis Tincture FAQs

How do I take my tincture?

Tinctures are usually taken by putting a few drops under your tongue (sublingually). When taken this way, the arterial blood supply under your tongue rapidly absorbs the THC. That being said, you can always swallow the tincture in a drink or food, but it will be absorbed slower by your liver.

How fast is the onset?

When dosing a tincture sublingually, expect to feel the effects in 15-45 minutes and reach your peak high at about 90 minutes. If you simply drink the dose, expect a slower onset that more closely resembles traditional edibles.

How long will I feel the effects?

Expect to be high longer than when you smoke or vaporize, but shorter than when you eat a butter or oil-based edible.

What science reveals about Cannabis Tinctures

  1. Bioavailability: The sublingual administration of cannabis tinctures can result in faster absorption and higher bioavailability compared to oral consumption of edibles. A study by Karschner et al. (2011) showed that the sublingual route of administration could lead to rapid onset of effects and higher bioavailability compared to oral ingestion, which is subject to first-pass metabolism in the liver (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21869692/).
  2. Dosing and consistency: Tinctures offer precise dosing and consistent potency, making it easier for consumers to find the optimal dose for their needs. Dropper bottles can provide accurate measurements, and tinctures are often formulated with a known concentration of cannabinoids, allowing for better control over the dose.
  3. Onset time and duration: Sublingual administration of cannabis tinctures typically results in a faster onset of effects compared to oral ingestion of edibles, with effects often beginning within 15 to 45 minutes. The duration of effects for tinctures is typically shorter than edibles, lasting for about 4 to 6 hours.
  4. Medical applications: Cannabis tinctures have several medical applications due to their ease of use, precise dosing, and rapid onset of effects. They can be used to manage various symptoms and conditions, such as chronic pain, anxiety, insomnia, and inflammation. In a study by Guy and Robson (2003), the authors found that cannabis-based medicines, including tinctures, could be effective for managing pain and spasticity in patients with multiple sclerosis (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12617376/).
  5. Preservation: Tinctures have a long shelf life when stored in a cool, dark place. The alcohol or other solvent used in tinctures can act as a preservative, maintaining the potency and stability of the cannabinoids over time.

While there is limited research specifically on cannabis tinctures, existing studies and evidence support their potential use as a versatile, effective, and convenient method of cannabis consumption. More research is needed to understand the full implications and benefits of cannabis tinctures for various medical conditions and individual needs.