What is a CBD Tincture?

Written by Laura Komkov
Scientifically Reviewed by Kyle Hammerick, PhD
August 22, 2019
Fact Checked

Tinctures. Topicals. Edibles. Vapes. As CBD appears in more places, you’ve likely seen all of these words -- some are self-explanatory (i.e. edibles), but some are concepts that you may not be familiar with. CBD tinctures hold more market share than any other CBD format right now, but do you actually know what a CBD tincture is?

On the most basic level, a tincture is a liquid extract made from plants that you take orally (or ingest). A traditional tincture is extracted from a plant using alcohol, allowing plant matter to soak in alcohol for days, weeks or even months, then filtering out the plant matter, leaving behind a plant-compound infused “tincture.” The first example on record of a hemp tincture being used in western medicine dates from an 1843 medical journal. By 1851, hemp tinctures appeared in the United States Pharmacopeia under the name “Extractum Cannabis Purificatum” but they were removed from the United States Pharmacopeia in 1937 following the Marihuana Tax Act.


Is a CBD Tincture the Same as CBD Oil?

In the modern world, much of what you see labeled as a tincture in the CBD space is likely not a tincture in the traditional sense - instead it’s more likely a hemp extract sitting within a carrier oil base (like coconut oil, olive oil, hempseed oil, etc.). A true, traditional “tincture” would be contained within an alcohol base.

The uses and applications of a CBD oil and a CBD tincture are essentially the same. Within the industry, the words “tincture” and “oil” are often interchangeable when describing a CBD product type. They both typically come in dark glass bottles (intended to block sunlight and protect the integrity of the cannabinoids) with dropper caps. They can both be taken orally (however a true CBD oil can typically be used topically as well).


Benefits of a Tincture

Both CBD tinctures and CBD oils are intended to be taken sublingually. This means that, to get the most benefit, you should hold the liquid under your tongue for anywhere from 30-60 seconds, then swallow. The reason for this method of use is that the mouth (transmucosal membrane under the tongue) is full of capillaries, which means that, when held under the tongue, some of the CBD (or other cannabinoids and terpenes included in an oil or tincture) can absorb directly into your bloodstream. Once you swallow, the remainder of that liquid is processed by the digestive tract, which is less efficient and means that less of the CBD can be directly used by your body.

Because of the sublingual consumption method of CBD tinctures and oils, they are particularly beneficial for systemic support. Once the CBD molecules are in your bloodstream, they can circulate throughout the full body, supporting as needed, and helping to provide an overall sense of balance or homeostasis.

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CBD Oil vs. Cream

Unlike a CBD oil, which has a systemic effect, a CBD cream or topical is best used for local relief. A CBD cream absorbs into the skin and most of the CBD molecules stay within the area of application, with only a small amount of the CBD actually making it into the bloodstream and circulating throughout the full system. Therefore, if you have an ache or pain in a specific place (for example, if you’ve recently exercised), a cream can be used to help provide relief to the muscles you’ve used. A CBD oil or tincture, on the other hand, circulates throughout the entire system, supporting overall balance.


How Do I Use a CBD Tincture/Oil and How Much Should I Take?

The best way to use a CBD tincture or oil is to use the dropper to dispense the drops under your tongue. If you can tolerate it, hold the liquid under your tongue for 30-60 seconds before swallowing. This allows a portion of the CBD molecules to absorb via the transmucosal membrane so that some of the CBD goes directly into the bloodstream instead of having to be processed through the digestive system and liver.


CBD dosage is still a pretty big question mark within the industry. Since federal regulations have limited research around CBD for the last (almost) century, we don’t know much about how exactly to determine the amount of CBD one should take. Everybody processes and metabolizes compounds differently, and each person’s Endocannabinoid System is different, so there’s not a standard in place yet.

Generally speaking, the recommendation is to start with lower dosages so that you can determine how your body reacts to CBD, then slowly bump up your dosage until you reach your body’s optimal feeling of balance.

If you are on any prescription medications, please do consult with your doctor before beginning to use any CBD product, as CBD does have the potential to interfere with certain types of medications.

Overall, CBD tinctures and oils are an excellent option for people in search of full-system support, hoping to feel a sense of calm or balance. As always with CBD, though, quality is key, so ensure that any CBD product you purchase uses American grown hemp with no more than 0.3% THC and that you trust the company you’re purchasing from.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or ailment. We recommend consulting with a qualified doctor when preparing any medical treatment plan. The information on our website is intended to provide general information regarding our products and is not to be construed as medical advice or instruction.

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