Everything You Need to Know About CBD Tinctures
Despite its relatively recent place in our collective consciousness, CBD has been at work delivering its calming agents as far back as the ‘80s by some estimates and the ancient world by others. With it, an almost endless menu of formulations has emerged—from capsules and oils to lotions and seltzer—each promising an even more effective dose of CBD than the last.
Tinctures, though, remain somewhat shrouded in mystery, in part because of their old-school apothecary-style packaging, but more likely because of how they’re taken: a few drops at a time, under the tongue.
Here, Tieraona Low Dog, M.D., an expert on herbal medicine and women’s health, and Kevin Hill, M.D., Director of the Division of Addiction Psychiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, get to the bottom of CBD tinctures’ mystique.
But first, a little CBD 101…
What is it?
The cannabis plant has hundreds of chemicals in it, including more than 120 cannabinoids, Hill explains. Of those cannabinoids, two are most familiar: THC, which produces the euphoric effects or “high” people experience from marijuana, and cannabidiol or CBD, which has some anti-inflammatory, anti-seizure, anxiety-relieving and analgesic properties, according to Low Dog.
At a plant level, the two chemicals operate as opposites, with CBD acting as a buffer of sorts to the effects of THC. “It’s sort of a ying and yang. THC is responsible for the high and CBD doesn’t do that,” Hill explains.
What are tinctures specifically?
An herbal tincture is made by using a mixture of alcohol and water to extract compounds from a plant—in this case, the cannabis plant.
“Sometimes, you will find extracts called tinctures that use glycerin, vinegar, or oil as the solvent, instead of alcohol,” Low Dog says. “These offer the advantage of being alcohol-free, but may not always offer the same potency as an alcohol-water extract.”
How are CBD tinctures made and what are the benefits of using them?
CBD tinctures are generally made from high CBD strains of hemp, with 60 to 70 percent alcohol, and are primarily used to help relieve anxiety or ease pain. “Tinctures are convenient, have a long shelf life, and are absorbed easily when taken under the tongue. The dose can be adjusted by increasing or decreasing the number of drops taken,” notes Low Dog.
And though there’s a lot of promise with CBD preparations of all kinds, Hill says there’s still a lot of research to be done.
“The rate and scale of the research just hasn’t kept pace with the interest at this point. A lot of the medical uses for cannabidiol are backed by animal studies only or really no studies. So that’s where it can be a problem.”
So are there side effects?
“At the end of the day [CBD] is a fairly safe compound,” Hill says. “Although, we still need to know a lot more about it, like how it interacts with other medications people may be taking and what are the long-term effects,” he adds. And perhaps his biggest concern: “Sometimes people want to use it instead of evidence-based treatment and that can be a problem clinically in certain situations.”
CBD tincture vs. CBD oil—which is better?
According to Low Dog, a tincture may offer a broader range of compounds from hemp than an oil extraction. “Consumers who are alcohol-sensitive often prefer hemp oil over tincture. While both can be used topically, hemp oil is generally easier to apply and less irritating,” she says.
On that note, Hill cautions to know what you’re getting: “If you’re rubbing a CBD cream onto your skin, it’s not going to be absorbed into your bloodstream,” he says. “It can operate as a local anti-inflammatory, like other over-the-counter products… but CBD may not provide any more relief than those products, and it probably will be considerably more expensive.”
How do you know what you’re getting? What should you look for?
“Quality is always an issue, especially in a relatively young market, such as the cannabis market,” Low Dog says. And she’s right. A 2017 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that out of the commercially available CBD products, only 30 percent were accurately labeled.
“Many of them had more CBD than they were supposed to and many had less; some had none,” Hill notes. He suggests shopping organic—as a bio-accumulator, the cannabis plant will be affected by heavy metals and contaminants in soil—and broad-spectrum, meaning it includes the full range of phytocannabinoids, minus the THC.
What's the difference between CBD tinctures and oil, why people take tinctures, and more.
Methods of CBD Extraction, Storage and Tincture Blending
Home » Methods of CBD Extraction, Storage and Tincture Blending
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Just like hemp farmers are perfecting methods of crop cultivation, the CBD processing industry has developed various methods of extraction. Throughout the R&D process, safety and efficacy are the key concerns for pros and consumers alike. Below are 4 key factors that can determine the best choice for CBD extraction:
- Solvent – What will be used to separate the cannabinoids from the biomass
- Design – The equipment needs to be designed to handle the solvent being used
- Purpose – The equipment needs to be constructed for its intended use
- Facility – They must be appropriate for the extracted solvent
- Consumption – The solvent should be safe for consumption by humans
ETHANOL AS A SOLVENT FOR CBD EXTRACTION
This may be the oldest form of extraction. CBD can be stripped from the plant by soaking it in ethanol or a high profile alcohol. Not only is this an efficient way of extracting CBD from the hemp plant, but it’s also classified as GRAS (Generally Regarded as Safe) by the FDA. This method is great for creating a full spectrum of hemp extracts and tinctures as it aims to extract all cannabinoids, not just the CBD.
HOW DOES ETHANOL EXTRACTION WORK?
Soaking certain materials in alcohol can lead to a change in their biochemistry. When alcohol is applied and left for a certain amount of time, it draws out the cannabinoids like CBD and other compounds of the plant that are also beneficial. It is important to use a high-proof as it allows minimal damage of the cannabinoids, and suspending them in a liquid that prevents them from damage like oxidation.
The processing for ethanol extraction does require more work and involves the use of several different methods of refinement and filtration. Although if it is done properly, then there is no need for winterization, the process to remove undesirable elements which were also extracted from the plant. For those just starting in the industry, this process is easily scalable and obtainable at a small scale.
CO2 AS A METHOD FOR EXTRACTING CBD FROM HEMP
Technology continues to advance and the cannabis and hemp industries, in many ways, are driving it. The most advanced and widely used method of extraction is CO2 Extraction. This is a process that uses pressurized carbon dioxide to pull the desired photochemical from a plant. This comes in two forms: subcritical and supercritical. Both yield results based on temperature and pressure.
HOW DOES CO2 EXTRACTION WORK?
Subcritical: This method has a lower solvency power which leads to pulling mostly lighter oils and leave behind most resins, paraffin, and waxes. This process is not as common as supercritical CO2 extractions as extraction takes longer and yields are generally lower. Relative to the ‘sub’ name this extraction is cold, this makes it very effective in extracting temperature-sensitive volatile oils and terpenes.
Supercritical: When talking about the most commonly used extraction this one tends to be the one that comes to mind. Through this method it allows you to receive a completely different end-product with more cannabinoids to add further health-promoting properties. With a stronger solvency power, it also makes the extraction time faster, through high temperatures and pressures.
Supercritical CO2 extraction has allowed the extract makers to isolate, capture and scientifically research cannabinoids. With every benefit, however, there is a drawback. Although it lets you quickly pull out compounds, you could potentially extract chlorophyll as well.
CO2 extraction is very selectable and tunable for different molecular weights and leaves no residual solvent. With minimal facility safety requirements and costs, automation is easy and available.
WATER CAN ALSO BE USED FOR THE EXTRACTION OF CBD
Water, the universal solvent. Some manufacturers use water vapor or even ice to extract cannabinoids from hemp. This is an inexpensive method with a high yield if done correctly. However, this is not simple to practice and can be time-consuming. Most have perfected this so what is left of the plant is a very fine extract.
HOW DOES WATER EXTRACTION WORK?
This process can be simply described in 3 steps:
- Finely chopped plant trimmings are mixed with ice or dry ice and agitated to help separate extracts
- Water is added and the entire moisture is strained through a mesh bag often strained multiple times
- The extract settles as the bottom of the mixture and the excess water is drained from the top
Manufacturers continue to move away from using specific substances like alcohol to extract CBD as the industry continues to agree, the cleaner the process the better the product.
YOU’VE EXTRACTED WHAT YOU NEEDED, NOW HOW DO YOU STORE AND PRESERVE YOUR CBD CONCENTRATE?
As a hemp testing facility, first and foremost we’re scientists and we know first-hand the various methods to extract cannabinoids all take time and lots of care. All of this would be for nothing if the extracts are not taken care of after processing. Properly stored CBD oil has a shelf life of approximately one year. Something to consider before deciding how to store your oils is researching the carrier liquid your CBD oil is in.
All commercially available CBD oil products have more than just CBD. They contain a carrier oil which can come from a variety of plant-based fats. This does not mean that your CBD oil is less “pure” as some may think, instead it makes the CBD more efficient. For example, olive oil is a more efficient carrier oil for orally ingested CBD because it’s high fatty acid content allows it to travel through the lymphatic system thus, distributing CBD more thoroughly.
So all you need to store your CBD oil is an upright position spot with a stable temperature away from extreme light, heat or moisture. Basically, a dry pantry where you would ironically store your bottle of olive oil. Use glass, not plastic and dark-tinted glass is preferred to reduce light penetration.
Another option that many go to when thinking of storing CBD oils is refrigeration. Many believe this will increase the shelf life of their product. There is only one drawback to this and that is that if the CBD oil gets too cold, it may thicken to the point that you would need to heat it a little before use.
Storing your CBD products is the easy part of the process, which is great news compared to the tedious process that comes with extraction.
HOW ARE CBD TINCTURES MADE?
Tinctures are cannabis extracts generally made from high-CBD strains of hemp blended with a carrier oil (coconut is common). Tinctures were the main form of cannabis medicine until prohibition was enacted in the 1920s.
CBD tinctures can even be made at home through methods like steeping CBD-rich hemp flowers in high-proof grain alcohol, then cooking the mixture over low heat for several hours.
Typically administered under the tongue, tinctures generally takes effect much faster than edibles because there are blood vessels under the tongue where cannabidiol can enter the bloodstream immediately. The quality is the greatest factor in bioavailability, which is how well your body absorbs and then uses what you consume. The second factor is how you use it.
BENEFITS OF CBD TINCTURES
Primarily used to help relieve anxiety or ease pain, doses can be adjusted by the number of drops taken. These are specifically designed to allow for maximum absorption and use in the body and have a very long shelf life.
ACS Laboratory is a clinical-grade third party CBD and Hemp testing laboratory that is ISO 17025 Certified and CLIA Accredited. Our scientists ensure all products and oils entering the market are clean and safe of any potential contaminants. We take pride in our work at ACS and offer a wide array of tests to ensure the best and safest CBD. After all the chemical components are extracted and treated, the CBD oils are ready for use. For a hemp analysis laboratory such as ourselves, the brand new scientific advances and cutting edge technology are game-changing in the process of creating premier oils. Overall, this industry is changing at a rapid speed and we are witnessing the first of many changes in our own CBD testing facility.
ACS Laboratory in Tampa, FL – Methods of CBD Extraction, Storage and Tincture Blending . We're an ISO17025 Certified laboratory dedicated to servicing the cannabis and hemp industries from cultivation through to MMTCs and recreational dispensaries.