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Finding the Best CBD:THC Ratios and Products for Pain

How Different CBD:THC Ratios and Types of Products Can Help with Pain

Medically reviewed by Katherine Golden, RN
Written by Denise Gonzalez-Walker

When it comes to treating pain with cannabis, both the type of product and the ratio of cannabinoids matter. The two primary cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), though the cannabis plant contains many other cannabinoids, terpenes, plus other compounds that contribute to its therapeutic effect.

CBD: This cannabinoid is the star player in hemp products which are federally legal. CBD hemp products are required to have below 0.3% THC, which is such a small amount that it’s not intoxicating and won’t get you high. You’ll also find CBD in cannabis products that contain higher levels of THC.

THC: The cannabinoid responsible for the “high,” if used in large enough amounts. Cannabis products containing over 0.3% THC remain illegal at the federal level and can only be legally purchased in states that have legalized recreational or medical marijuana.

Understanding the roles that both CBD and THC play in managing pain can help you find the best product for your needs. If you need a quick refresher on the types of pain that CBD and THC work best on, check out our previous post here.

Timing Your Dose: How Different Cannabis Products Reduce Pain

Whether you’re looking at CBD hemp or cannabis containing higher levels of THC (sold legally in dispensaries), you have several different routes of administration to choose between :

  • Inhalation (smoking, vaping): Takes effect immediately and lasts 2-4 hours. This is a great choice for instant relief and for treating breakthrough pain (a flare-up in pain when you’re already taking longer-acting cannabis products). You can also layer inhaled cannabis with a longer-acting method (more on layering below) to help get you through the night.
  • Transdermal (patches, gels): Extended release option that takes effect quickly, since the cannabinoids are absorbed directly into your bloodstream. The time of onset is rapid, sometimes within 20 minutes. Transdermal products provide a consistent dose of medicine for up to 12 hours. The transdermal patch or gel is used on an area where the veins are near the skin’s surface—like the inside of your wrist or on your ankle.
  • Sublingual (placed under the tongue): Sublingual administration can provide rapid relief, but there are few true oromucosal (sublingual) products on the market. Cannabinoids are fat-soluble and, in their natural state, do not absorb well into the oral mucosa. Moreover, cannabis products are often extracted into oils, and these products are not water-soluble. Patients often expect rapid onset when using tinctures, only to wait 1-3 hours for the dose to take effect. Many products marketed as tinctures will end up being swallowed and absorbed via the digestive system, regardless of how long they are held under the tongue. A true sublingual (a product in which the cannabinoids are formulated to be more water-soluble) absorbs rapidly into the mouth. The effects can be perceived in 15-20 minutes and can last 4-6 hours.
  • Edibles (gummies, capsules): Edibles take effect in between 30 minutes and 2 hours. You’ll feel their effects between 5-8 hours. They provide a discreet, portable long-acting option.
  • Topicals (creams, salves): Topicals provide short-term localized relief. They can take effect within minutes, and may last for up to an hour.

Finding the Best CBD:THC Ratios and Products for Pain How Different CBD:THC Ratios and Types of Products Can Help with Pain Medically reviewed by Katherine Golden, RN Written by Denise

Cannabis tinctures 101: How to make, consume, and dose them

What is a cannabis tincture?

Cannabis tinctures are alcohol-based cannabis extracts—essentially, cannabis-infused alcohol. In fact, tinctures were the main form of cannabis medicine until the United States enacted cannabis prohibition. They’re a great entry point for both recreational and medical consumers looking to ease into smokeless consumption methods.

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How to make cannabis tinctures

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

Using alcohol vs. glycerin for tinctures

When it comes to making tinctures, high-proof, food-grade alcohol is going to be your best friend. If you wish to avoid using alcohol, glycerin, a plant-based oil, is an acceptable replacement. However, glycerin is not as efficient at bonding to cannabis compounds and will produce a less potent tincture.

Some people try to make a more potent glycerin tincture by first using alcohol, carefully evaporating the (very flammable) alcohol off of the tincture, and then introducing glycerin afterward. You get the potency of the alcohol with the glycerin body. Considering the dangers associated with evaporating alcohol with a heat source, we at Leafly do not recommend this method.

Choosing the right type of alcohol for tinctures

The goal is to find a high-proof alcohol that is safe for consumption. The higher the alcohol content, the better it will dissolve cannabis resin. Everclear is my alcohol of choice when making a tincture, as it is both safe to consume and highly potent.

Products like isopropyl alcohol are not intended to be consumed and should never be used when making a tincture—save that for cleaning your pipes!

Making the tincture

To keep it simple, I like to use this ratio when making a tincture: For every ounce of cannabis flower, use one 750 mL bottle of alcohol (for an eighth of weed, that’s about 3 fluid oz).

This produces a mild effect, great for microdosing. If you want a more potent tincture, reduce the amount of alcohol by a third until you hit your desired potency.

  • Step 1: Decarboxylate your cannabis flower or concentrate (if you’re using flower, grind it to a fine consistency).
  • Step 2: Mix your flower or concentrate in a mason jar with high-proof alcohol (preferably Everclear).
  • Step 3: Close the jar and let it sit for a few weeks, shaking it once a day.
  • Step 4: After a few weeks, strain it through a coffee filter.

And if you don’t feel like waiting several weeks, you can even get away with shaking it for 3 minutes, straining, and storing.

How to dose and consume cannabis tinctures

It’s important to be consistent when making tinctures. If you make two batches at different strengths, a dose from each won’t be the same. Write down how much alcohol and cannabis you use for each batch so it can be replicated again if it was to your liking.

Once you’ve made the tincture, dosages are easy to self-titrate, or measure. Start with 1 mL of your finished tincture and put it under your tongue. If you’re happy with the effects, you’re done.

Otherwise, ramp up your dosage slowly to avoid getting uncomfortably high—try 2 mL the next day, and so on, until you find the dose you’re happy with.

According to The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook, cannabis tinctures will last for many years when stored in a cool, dark place. Their long shelf life means you can make large quantities of them in one sitting.

Compared to the traditional cannabis-infused brownie, tinctures are a low calorie alternative. If you make a tincture with 190 proof alcohol, you’re looking at about 7 calories per mL.

Cannabis tinctures can be incorporated into all sorts of meals and drinks:

  • Juices
  • Ice creams and sherbets
  • Soups
  • Gelatin
  • Mashed potatoes and gravy
  • Salad dressing

I like to add some cannabis oil to my homemade chicken tikka masala for a delicious infused dinner.

Benefits of using cannabis tinctures

Tinctures are especially great for first-time cannabis consumers. Here are some reasons why:

  • They’re discrete. Has there ever been a moment in your life when you said to yourself, “I really wish I smelled more like weed smoke right now?” Me neither. Consuming a tincture allows you to avoid the smell while enjoying all the benefits of cannabis. It is also super easy to conceal in a small jar in your bag.
  • Fast onset of effects. Effects from a cannabis tincture set in rather quickly. Whereas cannabis edibles can take an hour or more to kick in, tinctures can be felt in as little as 15 minutes. This allows you to quickly understand how the cannabis is affecting you before you move onto other activities.
  • Easy to dose. Tinctures are the perfect product for finding your preferred dose! You can measure your dose with an eyedropper and increase, decrease, or let it ride.

Cannabis tincture FAQs

How do I take my tincture?

Cannabis 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.

Do tinctures burn under your tongue?

Some people have reported experiencing a burning sensation under their tongue after a few drops of tincture—the high-proof alcohol used to make a tincture is responsible for this. If the tincture burns under your tongue and you are looking for a different option, you can get a glycerin-based tincture or incorporate your tincture into a beverage.

How long does a cannabis tincture take to kick in?

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 of a cannabis tincture?

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

Cannabis tincture guide summary

Tinctures are alcohol based cannabis extracts. They’re a great entry point for both medical and recreational consumers looking for a smokeless method of consumption. Tinctures are easy to measure for dosing. Start with one eye dropper full under your tongue. When taken under the tongue, also called sublingually, effects should come on within the hour.

If you drink your tincture or add it to food, effects can take up to two hours to come on – more like edibles. If you’re happy with the effects, you’re done. If you’d like more, take it one eyedropper at a time. Always remember because it could take up to two hours to feel effects, the golden rule when ingesting cannabis is to start small and be patient. That way, you don’t end up uncomfortably high.

However you ingest a tincture, you can expect to feel the effects for longer than you smoked or vaporized cannabis. Tinctures will last for many years when stored in a cool, dark location. The long shelf life means you can make big batches of your own and have a convenient and accurate way to consume cannabis when you want to.

This post was originally published on June 16, 2016. It was most recently updated on March 4, 2020.

Learn everything there is to know about cannabis tinctures. Find out what they are, how you can make them, and how to dose and use them at Leafly.