Written by Eric Danville
Before wax, oils and shatter took the scene by storm, tinctures were the world’s concentrate of choice.
A tincture is Alcohol infused with healing herbs or therapeutic plant matter like bark, berries or leaves, using a process that dates back at least 5,000 years. During the time of the Byzantine Empire, around 400 A.D., the use of tinctures began to spread, with herbalists creating concoctions for headaches, digestion, weight issues and a host of other ailments. The original Concentrates, tinctures are similar to elixirs (tinctures that are sweetened with simple syrup or honey) and cordials, which are sweetened like elixirs but made to be sipped instead of placed on the tongue or in food or liquid. While some tinctures were known to be made with wine, the rise of Distilling in the fifteenth century helped make tinctures more widely available, allowing alchemists and healers to create a wide range of potions, which spread throughout Europe and the West, and similarly throughout Asia and the East. Extraction of the beneficial compounds of plant matter with alcohol makes tinctures the quickest and most efficient method of consuming medicine, since some require only a few drops to be effective.
The Original Concentrate
A different kind of energy
Long used in Wiccan healing and ceremonies, tinctures are widely associated with Female energy through their use of the bountiful fruits of Mother Earth. Author Rosemary Gladstar, in her book Herbal Healing for Women, notes that the cycles of the moon were used in harvesting the herbs and plants used to make tinctures and similar otherworldly potions. Referring to Herbalism as “a woman’s healing art,” she notes that beginning in the fourteenth century, the wise women herbalists who created tinctures and elixirs were persecuted as witches, and their wisdom was replaced with more increasingly scientific methods of health treatment. For almost a century in the aftermath of the Industrial Revolution, treating illness using herbs and herb-based tinctures became Illegal in the United States. Imagine being sent to Jail for creating something at home, in your very own Kitchen!
Laudanum, a tincture made from opium, was a staple of American pharmacies during the nineteenth century and could be found on shelves of local pharmacies and even grocery stores . . . right next to Marijuana tinctures. Tinctures of cannabis were the most common method of receiving the plant’s health benefits, rather than the recreational smoking of dried flower. Advancements in medicine, such as the development of the hypodermic Needle in the nineteenth century, were the beginning of the end of tinctures as a popular method of administering medicines, as injection provided even a faster absorption than Oral ingestion. Although cannabis was criminalized in 1937, cannabis tinctures remained listed in the United States Pharmacopoeia, a comprehensive guidebook to identifying compound medicines, until 1942.
Are Tinctures Safe?
Research into the synthetic cannabis derivative dronabinol showed faster, more thorough and more consistent absorption of THC using tinctures extracted with alcohol than did consuming edibles. Despite the presence of alcohol, tinctures made using this method of extraction can be used by children and adults Safely; the amount of alcohol present in an average tincture is less than the natural alcohol found in ripe bananas, fermented vegetables like sauerkraut and even kombucha tea. The potency of the cannabidiol CDB, THC and Terpenes (the compounds that give plant matter like cannabis its smell and also affect its flavor) can last for years when extracted with alcohol, as long as the container—usually a dark glass bottle with a dropper in its cap—is kept in a cool, dark place. The fact that tinctures can be administered orally or sublingually (meaning Under the tongue) make them a low-risk medication, especially when compared to smoking or even vaping. Sometimes Vegetable glycerine is used in place of alcohol to accommodate people in recovery or those who don’t like even trace elements of alcohol, but the end result is largely the same.
From their origin as ancient folk medicine and use in Wicca to modern-day implementation in the use of medical cannabis, tinctures have plainly stood the test of time. Whether you’re looking for relief for anything from acne to migraines and even Xerosis—or just want to enjoy an alternative way to enjoy cannabis, You can indulge your new-found Zeal for tinctures by creating your own concoctions with plants from your garden, your local herbalist store or even the nearest dispensary!
A Basic Guide to Making Tinctures
Neutral grain alcohol (80 proof vodka or 190 proof grain alcohol like Everclear) or non-alcoholic solvent such as apple cider vinegar or vegetable glycerine
A glass jar with a tightly fitted lid (Ball jars work great)
A measuring cup that will hold approximately the same volume as the jar, with a spout
A fine mesh strainer
Rubber or plastic gloves
A small funnel
Amber bottles with eyedropper caps
Your herb of choice, either fresh or dried. (Make sure your herb is finely chopped but not powdered.) If you’re going to use cannabis, decarboxylate it first by heating ground herb spread out evenly on an oven-safe tray at 220 to 235 degrees F for 30 to 45 minutes to activate the THC.
1. Place the herb in the glass container, and completely cover with alcohol solvent. If using fresh herbs, use a 1:2 ratio (one part herb by weight to two parts solvent by volume, meaning fill the jar with one-third herb and two-thirds solvent). If using dried herbs, use a 1:5 ratio, or fill the jar approximately 20 percent with herb, and the remainder with solvent. Leave about two fingers’ worth of space at the top of the jar.
2. Screw the lid on tightly, give the jar a shake, and store in a dark, cool place for at least four to six weeks, making sure to shake the jar a bit every day. If you notice that the alcohol has started to evaporate, top the mixture off so the plant matter remains covered.
3. After extraction is complete, filter the liquid through a fine mesh strainer into the measuring cup until all the liquid has been recovered. Put on your gloves, and place the plant matter into a few layers of cheesecloth, and squeeze the excess into the measuring cup as well. If you see any remaining particulate matter in the liquid, you may want to filter it again.
4. Pour the liquid from the measuring cup into the amber bottles. (Use the funnel to avoid spilling the tincture unless you have a very steady hand.) Be sure to label the bottles to record the type of herb used; the date of extraction; the type of solvent used; the ratio of herb to solvent used; type of herb; and any other information you want to retain. You can also start a recipe book of your tinctures for future reference or to share with friends.
Start small! Depending on the type and strength of the herb, as well as other factors mentioned above, you’ll need to figure your proper dosage.