Everything You Need to Know about Cannabis Tincture and Topical

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“Tincture” seems like such an old-fashioned word. It makes you think of the days when con-men sold “snake oil” and other magic tonics from the back of a wagon. But, it still refers to solutions made from soaking a drug in alcohol.

“Topical” has always made me think of sun-tan lotion or muscular liniment. But, topicals now include pain relieving and cosmetic applications made from cannabis.

Tinctures and topicals play a big role in the expanding canna-economy, and they present an option for users who want to know more.

What you need to know about cannabis tincture

Tinctures result from infusing alcohol with cannabis resin. They have traditionally been focused on medical problems. But, using them does away with the usual ritual and cultural ceremonies of smoking.

Still, as the cannabis market expands, an increasing number of people want the benefits of pot without smoking. Tinctures are convenient, low maintenance, and easy on the lungs.  

Massroots says, “tinctures are, without a doubt, the oldest mass-market way of extracting and consuming the cannabinoids and terpenes found in the medicine-bearing trichomes of the cannabis plant.”

Tinctures – commercial and homebrewed – are basically made the same way. Cannabis leaf trim or whole flowers are soaked in as pure an alcohol as you can find (an ethanol content between 25 and 60%). That’s 50 to 120 proof or higher! Soaking concentrates will increase the potency and reduce the production time.

As Honest Marijuana notes, “The alcohol dissolves the plant matter and all the chemicals it contains (trichomes, cannabinoids, oils, terpenes, and others). Those chemicals are then suspended in a solution (much like Kool-Aid mix in water) that can be ingested or administered under the tongue.”

There are several advantages to placing the drops under the tongue:

  • Sublingual administration enables rapid absorption into the blood supply.
  • It never contacts stomach acids, so its strength is not diminished by digestion.
  • When the sublingual artery absorbs the tincture through osmosis, it makes treatment easier to patients with ulcers, gastrointestinal problems, coeliac disease, and diseases affecting the digestive system.
  • Sublingual administration lets users hit at will throughout the day without the social embarrassment of smoking.

At the same time, tinctures will not produce the psychoactive trip you might enjoy while smoking. The psychoactive elements in THC do not activate until it is heated as in smoking or vaping. But, that leaves the CBD to do its medical best relaxing and soothing your experience more quickly and directly than edibles.

Preparing and shopping tinctures lets you apply the potency and purpose you want. For instance, you can brew or buy tinctures suitable for child intake as treatment for spasms, Dravet’s syndrome, and other pediatric problems.

Finally, you can make your own using any of the hundreds of recipes online. You can warm it or heat it, but the easiest route is a cold brew. But, a simple approach follows:

  1. Break a dry cannabis bud apart.
  2. Place as much as you want in a glass jar, approximately 1 gram of weed for every ounce of alcohol.
  3. Add enough ethyl alcohol (Everclear) to complete cover the cannabis.
  4. Cover the jar with its lid and shake thoroughly for two minutes.
  5. Place the jar in your freezer for 5 days, but remove and shake it twice a day.
  6. In five days, you can strain the fluid through cheesecloth into small dark glass bottles with droppers.

Brewing your own will save lots of money over buying weed for smoking. If the euphoric effects of THC are not your priority, tinctures are the way to go.

What you need to know about cannabis tincture

As the women’s magazine Elle quotes Raj Gupta, Chief Scientific Officer of Folium Biosciences, "Because the skin has its own endocannabinoid system, just the superficial application of CBD by itself is extremely helpful."

The cannabinoids naturally produced by the body integrate many neuro, hormonal, digestive, and other brain/body systems. Smoking marijuana obviously primes psychoactive and neuro-muscular reactions. But, the skin is both a means and end for topical cannabis.

THC infused topicals are only available in stated where cannabis restrictions have been legalized or decriminalized. CBD, which doesn’t have psychoactive chemistry, is available everywhere – if it comes from industrial hemp.

Topicals will not get users high. There is no trip or stone. But, people use them for at least two reasons:

  1. The CBD properties in cannabis topicals are known to relieve inflammatory pain. Applied like Ben Gay, Biofreeze, or Icy Hot, cannabis-based lotions and the massaging application will help ease muscular pain following exercise, injury, or stress.
  2. Those same curative powers are popping up in branded products for dermatological purposes. The cannabis products treat skin inflammation, and in doing so, they can enhance skin condition and appearance.

As the cannabis market expands, the demand for reasonably-priced, handsomely-packaged, and effective products is already driving competition for shelf space.

Colorado Pot Guide recommends topicals for treatment of the following:

  • Burns: Topicals soothe superficial and minor burns.
  • Pain: Cannabis-derived topicals offer fast-acting pain relief when massaged into the area.
  • Inflammation: Arthritis and other auto-immune conditions produce painful inflammation in muscles and joints that is relieved by topicals.
  • Skin infections: Topicals claim no antibiotic properties, but they do seem to relieve the symptoms of bacterial and fungal infections.
  • Skin elasticity: Topicals are a functional option to the skin damage produced by smoking. The cannabis content, along with other emoluments in the lotion, seems to improve elasticity and youthful appearance.
  • Sexual pleasure: Evos and Foria have introduced feminine personal lubricants to enrich sexual pleasure through osmosis in application to the genitalia.
  • Skin abnormalities: Anecdotes report the shrinking of warts and moles when topicals are applied and covered with bandage for a few days.

You can also make your own topicals by blending your self-brewed tinctures with commercially available lotions, balms, and oils.

Where THC-based topicals are available, you may find them more potent and warming than the CBD options. While users claim thorough relaxation when applied by a masseuse, for example, no one reports getting high.

Topicals of all sorts have been the subject of personal debate over the years. Customers prefer this or that skin product based on personal experience. Some prefer one fragrance over another. Some prefer the texture of one product, its packaging, or its celebrity endorsement. That’s likely to continue, especially when research on efficacy is so limited.

In the meantime, whether you’re in the market for tinctures or topicals, you need to read labels, consider the cost, and be careful of quality assurances.