Hemp CBD Tinctures: Your Questions Answered
Cannabidiol (CBD), a major constituent of Cannabis sativa L., has recently become the shiny new ingredient of a multitude of products. Because of fairly recent legislation, CBD products seem to line shelves absolutely everywhere—even in gas stations and the local coffee shop.
While being so spoiled for choice is fantastic, it's simultaneously becoming important to know what's what when you have to make a selection.
We compiled a list of your most pressing answers regarding one of the oldest ways to administer herbs (including cannabis)—in a tincture.
- What Is a Tincture and How Is It Made?
- How Much Alcohol is Typically Found in a Tincture?
- How Long Do Tinctures Last?
- How Do Tincture Extracts compare to CO2 Extracts?
- How Do CBD Tinctures Work?
- I Don't Like the Taste of Tinctures. What Now?
- What's the Difference between a CBD Tincture and a CBD Oil?
- How Do I Dose with CBD Tincture?
- Are Tinctures Safe to Take?
1. What Is a Tincture and How Is It Made?
Tinctures are extracts of substances (such as herbs and tree bark) that contain chemicals with healing properties.
Three basic menstruums, also called solvents, are used to extract the chemical compounds from these substances and form a tincture: alcohol, glycerin, and vinegar. The alcohol content acts as a preservative, and it is the most popularly used solvent because it can extract:
- Most alkaloids
- Some volatile oils
- Many other plant compounds 
Explain the authors in Botanical Medicine for Women's Health: 
The combination of water and alcohol optimizes the solubility of plants constituents when both water- and alcohol-soluble constituents are desired in the final product. Alcohol content ranges from 30% to 95% ethanol depending upon the amount of alcohol required for optimal extraction and preservation of the desired constituents.
They go on to note that there are four main types of hydroethanolic extracts:
During plant maceration, the authors explain, a freshly cut or dried herb is soaked in a hydroethanolic menstruum for 14 to 30 days. Afterward, the mixture is pressed under high pressure and then filtered for a final extract.
During percolation, the powder is first macerated in a small amount of alcohol for 24 hours.
The moistened herb is next packed into a percolation cone and the menstruum poured over the top of the herb. The menstruum is allowed to “percolate” through the herb in a continuous flow, with an extraction rate of one to three drops per second. Menstruum is moved through the herb until the desired amount of tincture has been produced.
The authors go on to explain that it is not clear whether percolation is superior compared to maceration when making tinctures.
Maceration allows the use of fresh or dry starting material and requires less equipment, whereas percolations can only be performed with dried, powdered starting material and percolation cones. Percolations can be produced at much higher concentrations and in a shorter period of time, typically 2 to 3 days.
2. How Much Alcohol is Typically Found in a Tincture?
This will depend on the substance used for the extraction of certain constituents. Some require a high percentage of ethanol while others require much less.
Alcohol preserves the tincture from bacteria and fermentation, even when left at room temperature. Ideally, they should be kept in a cool location away from direct light and heat.
3. How Long Do Tinctures Last?
According to the authors of the aforementioned book, research is lacking, but a tincture's lifetime tends to be quite long. They can last for years under the right conditions. It also depends on the constituent, though.
Indeed, some constituent may degrade over time, making certain medicines less effective for specific conditions requiring the presence of those constituents, but other constituents may remain intact, preserving the usefulness of the plant for other conditions.
4. How Do Tincture Extracts Compare to CO2 Extracts?
When executed properly, both the tincture and carbon dioxide methods of extraction have merit.
Tincture extracts involving alcohol can dissolve a much wider range of molecules that includes almost all of the plant’s medicinal oils, polysaccharides, carboxylic acids, and other beneficial chemicals, according to Botana.
"In other words," the author states, "alcohol dissolves both water and oil-soluble chemicals found in the plant." 
For the user looking specifically for a full-spectrum CBD, tinctures would probably be the way to go.
RELATED: What Does "Full Spectrum CBD" Mean?
According to Eden Labs, the carbon dioxide (CO2) extraction process creates phase changes in carbon dioxide using heat and pressure.
These phase changes create an environment to drop out differing weights of components in the plant material. 
These components are essential oils extracted from the hemp plant stalks, leaves, and buds. The CO2 extraction method is ideal if a pure component is required, such as CBD or another compound only.
It's also nontoxic and does not contribute to carbon emission increases in our atmosphere.
To enhance absorption, CO2-extracted CBD is probably best taken together with a lipid source such as a spoonful of coconut oil or a very greasy burger. (CBD molecules bind to fat molecules in the body for transportation.)
Absorption can also be enhanced by opting for liposomal CBD.
Liposomes are very similar to structures that the body naturally produces, called vesicles. These are double-layer, liquid-filled bubbles composed of phospholipids, which arrive ready to absorb in the gut. This means you don't have to ingest it with anything to ensure optimal uptake.
The spheres promote intestinal lymphatic system uptake, dumping CBD directly into the immune system and then the circulatory system. This process also avoids product elimination by the liver.
5. How Do CBD Tinctures Work?
Tinctures are best administered in drops under the tongue, as this will allow for fast absorption because of the many capillaries under the tongue and in the cheeks. This method eliminates the so-called first-pass effect in the body, which is defined as the "rapid uptake and metabolism of an agent into inactive compounds by the liver, immediately after enteric absorption, and before it reaches systemic circulation." Alcohol-based tinctures are therefore extremely fast-acting. 
CBD benefits are very well documented and include health properties such as:
- Soothing anxiety and stress, even in serious conditions like social anxiety disorder, PTSD, and others.
- Alleviating psychosis.
- Improving, even eliminating insomnia.
- Combating inflammation and pain.
- Protecting and preventing brain cell degeneration.
- Preventing dementias such as Alzheimer's disease, etc.
- Improving immunity.
- Eliminating epilepsy and seizures.
Only CBD's anti-epileptic action has been thoroughly researched in human subjects. More clinical study is needed before the compound can be prescribed specifically for the aforementioned conditions.
RELATED: CBD Gummy Bears for Anxiety and More
6. I Don't Like the Taste of Tinctures. What Now?
If the slightly wild cannabis taste of a CBD tincture is off-putting, it can be added to food for ingestion. Anecdotally, savory dishes with cheese and other herbs like rosemary or thyme are actually enhanced by the addition of a strong-tasting CBD tincture.
Writing for Life Hacker, Danielle Guercio also suggests this: 
Experiment with sugarless things that pair well with other herbs like rosemary and thyme and you will soon see weed’s earthy flavor in a new light. Buttery things like pie crust and hollandaise sauce also make really luxe cannabis food, and they don’t change the original recipe much or at all.
If the taste still bothers you, opt for a CBD oil capsule.
7. What's the Difference between a CBD Tincture and a CBD Oil?
The first important difference between a tincture and an oil depends on the extraction method, as explained above.
A tincture typically comprises a compound's comprehensive chemical profile (such as full-spectrum CBD) and can be very potent.
An oil is basically an "essential oil," which—depending on the extraction method—is either a full-spectrum concentrate of a substance or the purified chemical, such as a CBD isolate.
Both are infusion techniques, as the substance is left in a solvent for a period of time for its chemicals to be conferred to the solvent.
8. How Do I Dose with CBD Tincture?
While this is a very easy ingestion method, dosing with a CBD tincture can be a bit tricky. Obviously, it would be advisable to follow the product instructions at first. If this doesn't work well for you, there's no need to chuck the product just yet—experiment with finding your own personal dose. Bodies react differently to remedies, and what works for one will not necessarily work for another the same way. Fortunately, CBD is considered safe for use even in high doses, so playing around a bit with dosing won't be dangerous. (However, always consult with your doctor before taking very high doses of any CBD tincture if you're on prescription medication such as beta-blockers, blood thinners, drugs for psychosis, etc.)
How much you take will depend on the following:
- The strength of the tincture,
- Quantity of tetrahydrocannabinol (If it's very high in THC, it's probably a medicinal tincture and illegal, if you are not enrolled in a Medical Marijuana program. THC is the cannabinoid that makes you feel high. CBD doesn't have this effect.)
- The number of drops the dropper holds (usually 35–40 drops), and
- Whether you've taken CBD before.
An easy dosing method would be to measure out a milliliter of tincture, and titrate the doses accordingly. For instance, start with 1ml, if you're CBD-naive and the tincture is strong. If you don't feel much of an effect, or after two days, increase the dose to 2ml, and so forth. The idea is that when you feel a satisfactory effect, that will be the volume that works for you.
9. Are Tinctures Safe to Take?
This question may be on the minds of some, mainly because of the alcohol content in an ethanol tincture. What if you are sensitive to alcohol or cannot take it for religious reasons?
Tinctures have been in use for centuries, even by children. Normally, the amount of alcohol ingested in a dose is negligible.
But if this is an important consideration for you, this herbalist suggests you remove the alcohol from the tincture.
Linda Bates, B.A., Dip. Herb. Med., Nutrition writes: 
I have been removing the ethanol alcohol from patient’s mixes for 20 years to avoid possible physical damage – to children and adults. I personally cannot tolerate ethanol alcohol, it makes me nauseous. This is what drove me to provide this service. I also consider the dangers of herbs being blamed for reactions to herbal tinctures when actually it may be a reaction to the ethanol alcohol.
She also gives the following instructions to remove ethanol alcohol from herbal mixtures.
- Place tincture in a Pyrex glass measuring jug. Don't use metal under any circumstances.
- Place the Pyrex jug in a saucepan of cold water. Bring the water to the boil.
- WAIT BY THE STOVE TILL THE WATER BOILS. Turn the heat off immediately.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat immediately. Leave the jug (with the tincture) in the hot water (with no heat underneath it) for a few hours without a lid on. The ethanol alcohol will slowly evaporate.
- If your herb mix is 550ml (largest size), you may have to repeat the process one more time until the mixture is reduced by approx. one third—leaving the container open to the air for as long as 24 hours—until evaporation is finished.
- Herbs could leave a mark on the inside of the jar, which shows the original level before evaporation.
- Return the mix to the original bottle.
- Take some extra good-quality honey and dissolve it in hot spring water. Add this to the tincture to fill the medicine bottle back up. This makes a herbal syrup—tastes better and is better for your health.
- Use the same dose instructions as on the label and keep in the fridge.
Tinctures are a wonderfully fast-acting way to administer CBD. Make sure you invest in a good-quality product and be prepared to adore it forever.