How to extract the essence of cannabis and keep it in a little glass bottle.

A tincture is a medicinal extract in an alcohol solution. The alcohol is used to extract and preserve the resins and other soluble material from the plant. Cannabis tinctures are an excellent way to utilize the plant’s medicinal ingredients, and a perfect alternative for those who find smoking difficult.

Until the 1920’s, Cannabis Indica tincture was available at your neighborhood pharmacy. Queen Victoria used medicinal cannabis extracts to deal with chronic pain. “Good for what ails ya,” cannabis tinctures and extracts commonly served as analgesics, sedatives and narcotics.

Tinctures connect us to our pharmacological past ? sepia-toned prescription memories and faded daguerreotypes of ancient potions, forgotten remedies, salves, lotions, ointments, syrups and miraculous elixirs.

Curious Alice pondered a small corked bottle labeled “Drink Me” in Lewis Carroll’s 1864 classic Alice’s Adventures Underground. “Well at least it doesn’t say ‘Poison,'” Alice wisely reflected. Yet Victorian magician Aleister Crowley’s bottle of laudanum was indeed labeled “Poison,” to impart a sense of danger and magic.

During the 18th century, absinthe drinkers mixed their wormwood extract with water, transforming it into the “Green Faerie” ? a thujone-rich instant psychedelic drink.

The alchemy of alcohol

Alchemy comes from the Arabic word Al-Kimiya. It is a scientific discipline with spiritual and mystical components connected to ancient teachings of metallurgy, smelting, chemistry, pharmacology and biology. Alchemy is the stepchild of chemistry and physics.

Alchemy and tincture medicines share a common heritage. Potions and poisons are all derived from plants grown and carefully tended. The ritual comes full circle in the growing, preparing, and ingesting of the plant medicine ? our bodies become the alchemical alembic.

Paraceselus, a 15th century Swiss alchemist, made medicinal tinctures and adopted the Arabic term al-kohl. He is also said to have invented laudanum, tincture of opium.

Alchemical procedures involve both wet and dry forms such as soaking, distillation and evaporation. The extraction of entheogenic plants requires similar steps. Distillation remained undiscovered until the 12th century, when alchemists first created aqua vitae ? aqueous alcohol concentrated by distillations.

In the ancient world, wines derived from fermentation reached a maximum of only 14%. Yet Graeco-Roman wines were customarily diluted by three or four parts, sometimes even by eight, and Homer mentions that cutting 20 parts of water to wine is sufficient for deep intoxication. It is obvious that an exceptionally potent concoction was being consumed. Indeed, the wines of Greek and Roman Bacchanalia were commonly infused with psychoactive plants like opium, mandragora, datura, henbane, cannabis, and belladonna to make a kind of vinous tincture.

The herbs were macerated in distilled spirits and then distilled again. Sometimes the distillate was then reinfused with a second batch of herbs.

Fruits were also used, along with minerals and precious stones like ground pearls, lapis lazuli, and gold leaf. Sometimes animals were used to make “man’s brains” and “viper” wine.

Bee tincture, listed in an early 1900 edition of Practical Formularies, involved capturing and drowning live bees in spirits. Scorpion tincture requires soaking the arachnid for six months in pure grain alcohol, resulting in a nutty flavored restorative. Scorpions feature often in Chinese medicine, along with snakes and other exotica.

Alcohol availability

Cannabis tincture works best with 90% pure alcohol, such as Everclear.

Mexican tincture, however, uses only 35% pure, while Parke Davies Pharmaceuticals distributors of the original medicinal pharmaceutical extract to pharmacies during the late 19th century used 80%.

Pure grain alcohol can be difficult to obtain, depending on where you are located. If it’s unavailable at your local liquor store, try a duty-free shop.

Most Canadian provinces sell only the highest potency navy rum at 75 proof (32% pure). Further distillation will increase the purity.

Confusion often exists around “proof” and “percent.” Percent is approximately half to proof. The origins of the term “proof” hearkens back to the practice of testing alcohol content by wetting gunpowder with it then lighting the powder. If the alcohol was more than 50% water, the explosive would not ignite.

When the gunpowder did spark it was “proof” that the booze in question was at least half alcohol. In the US, 100 proof is defined as 50% alcohol by volume.

Exercise extreme caution when evaporating high-proof alcohol due to its flammable nature. Remember “proof and poof!”

How to make tincture

The philosophy behind tincture is to capture the spiritual and physical essence of the plant. This is done by using the power of ethyl alcohol to dissolve and preserve the herb in question, in our case cannabis.

Ethyl alcohol, known as ethanol, is used for countless applications. Produced biologically by the fermentation of either sugar or starch, ethanol may be used as a solvent for organic chemicals, or as a starting compound for manufacturing dyes, drugs, perfumes, and explosives.

Different plant species demand different strengths of solvent or alcohol. For example, opium requires 70% pure grain for effective alkaloid leaching. Resinous plants such as cannabis, along with countless other alkaloid-rich botanicals, are ideally suited for extraction in high-proof spirits such as 90% pure grain alcohol (such as Everclear).

The cannabis used for soaking must be dry. When fresh bud is used, the end result is disappointing. Scissoring up the plant material effectively facilitates extracting all psychoactive constituents.

Cannabis should soak anywhere from one to 10 days. Some folks soak it for up to four weeks, following that up with a secondary five day soak in fresh ethanol just to ensure all cannabinoids have been leached.

Buds are great for tincture, but must be dried first. However, some others insist that the buds remain in the solvent no longer than six hours. They claim that solvents instantly grab onto THC molecules, and anything after this time frame benefits only terpene, oils, and chlorophylls, contaminating the final product.

From my personal experience seven days is adequate, but you should experiment with different time frames to see what works for you and your buds.

The recommended minimum cannabis to alcohol ratio is one gram of bud per 35ml (one fluid ounce). Some prefer up to seven grams per 35ml but others might find this too strong. Individual needs vary. Cautious experimentation is the key.

Throughout the soaking period use only enough ethanol to cover the plant material and occasionally agitate. In a nod to the Goddess, herbs still in solution at this stage are referred to as the “Menstruum.”

After you’ve soaked the bud for the desired time, shake and strain the plant material. After filtering the cannabis solution, it is ready to be stored. This is done best within a blue apothecary medicine bottle. This will protect the precious mixture from degradation by light, while also imbuing mystery to the potion.

For further protection, the tincture should be kept in a cool, dark place. Yet cannabis preserved in ethanol has a long shelf life. Tincture medicines do not come with an expiry date. The fragrance and bouquet of mature tincture is floral akin to perfume.

As the mother tincture matures, new cannabis solution is added, and the final evaporated concentrate extract becomes a composite of many superior cannabis flowers.

The test for making sure all THC has been transferred into ethanol is to smoke the discarded plant material. If it tastes terrible, has a straw color, and is inactive, the operation has been successful.

The spent bud should be collected in a porcelain bowl for drying before mulching. Over several deposits, however, you will notice a residue mark from essential extracted cannabinoids adhering to the sides of the collection bowl. Simply add a small amount of alcohol, swirl, and redissolve this valuable material back into the original mother tincture. Waste not want not!

How to use and consume

Cannabis tincture tastes positively Dionysian, with the sweet earthy flavor of cannabinoids and a lingering bitter aftertaste. The effects are noticeable within 15 minutes, and are felt completely within a half-hour.

An advantage of tincture and extract preparations is their ease of dispensing, consumption, and rapid absorption. Tinctures can become very potent when concentrated, so adjust according to individual dosage requirements.

Tincture comes on fast but soon flattens out, unlike the sustained build and longevity of cooked cannabis products. Throughout the tincture experience one is imbued with great tranquility, able to drift in and out of contemplative reverie.

Care must be exercised, as the delayed onset time may possibly encourage overdosing among those unfamiliar with cannabis tinctures. Orally administered cannabis products may be very uncomfortable when too much has been consumed. Possible panic and anxiety reactions or physical malaise may occur.

Heating the potion may also increase tincture strength. Tincture can be added to cooking recipes by concentrating the tincture into a syrup consistency, further enhancing efficacy. This becomes a commitment when considering the tincture experience’s duration and extended nature.

The imbibing vessel or chalice should be reserved for “ceremonial” tincturing. An accompanying dropper for drawing extract, along with small flask for dispensing water into the libation glass is necessary. Tincture first goes into the glass, followed by the water. Glorious green cannabis quintessence explodes upon mixing with water into cloudy green opalescence.

Alcohol awareness

Ethanol represents the least toxic of all the alcohols. The toxicity of medicines, drugs, and poisons is calibrated by the LD50, meaning the lethal dose for 50 percent, signifying the amount of substance necessary to be fatal. Alcohol is considered in the highly dangerous category. Just five times the amount needed to get you happy can be lethal.

Unlike cannabis, ethanol shares no receptor sites to which it connects. Alcohol intoxication represents a true poisoning rather than a key to our cerebral natural paradises. Humans possess an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase which helps metabolize ethanol by oxidizing it to acetaldehyde. Other alcohols like methanol, propanol, phenol, and ethylene are extremely poisonous and can cause blindness and death.

The term “denatured alcohol” means poisonous methanol has been added to prevent drinking, rendering it unsuitable for tinctures ingested orally. When considering dealing with pure grain spirits, it is essential to dilute it with an equal part of water. I once subjected myself to an 0.70ml squirt of 95% ethanol ? my upper palette remained sensitive for days.

When it comes to making tinctures, solvent alcohols are essential. These methods require high-proof spirits. Although in small amounts they are indispensable to the extraction process, some individuals may have difficulty with this dual relationship and possibly slippery slope.

For example, absinthe drinkers regularly consumed high alcohol-containing beverages along with their psychoactive thujone-rich wormwood extract. As well, many poets from the Romantic and Gothic periods entertained the additional drug ethanol along with their daily dosages of opiate-ladened laudanum. Thomas D’Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium Eater eloquently portrays the heaven and hell of this dual addiction.

So be careful that you use alcohol for its true purpose, as a carrier for the essence of magic plants, and not for its poisonous intoxication.

Personal experience

A standard tincture is at a ratio of one gram of cannabis to 35ml (1 ounce) of pure grain ethanol. At this strength, a dosage of 1.4ml of extract (2 squirts) mixed with water is barely noticeable, although it is a very effective appetite stimulant.

A tincture of seven grams of cannabis flowers suspended in 50ml (1.5 ounces) of ethanol is definitely psychoactive at a dosage of 0.7oml (one squirt). Upon doubling the dosage to 1.4ml, I achieved a Buddha-trance state, ideal for serious meditation. It was a heavy physical sensation to experience, and I was able to go in and out of meditative state. I felt a warm glow to my extremities.

At this strength, a “heroic dose” is five squirts for the five points of the pentacle and five wounds of Christ. I felt a heightened sense of novelty, an oceanic quiet and inner peace. I was very contemplative.

Often a small amount of cannabis smoked after tincturing greatly potentiates the experience, but the desire for further cannabis smoking is usually lessened.

By Stan Czolowski. Source.

November 12, 2009 – Here is the very successful result of a considerable amount of research into the elusive and magical Green Dragon.

This is a simple and efficient 4 Step process.

1/8oz high quality cannabis
2 oz Bacardi Rum – 151 proof

Process Summary:

1. Chop cannabis very fine (coffee grinder works great)

2. Place in a shallow pan (pie pan with aluminum foil works great) and bake at 325°F for 4-5 minutes.

3. Remove from oven and place cannabis and place in 2 oz of rum (use a small wide mouth mason jar)

4. Simmer in a water bath for 20 minutes. Maintain temperature of the rum/cannabis mixture between 150°F – 165°F.

5. Strain the mixture and store.

One eyedropper is very nice. Two puts you in space. But you should self-titrate. Effects take about 1.5 hours to begin (at least in myself) and lasted for 5 hours (1 dropper) to 7-8 hours (2 droppers).

Process details—references and rationalizations:
1. Chop the cannabis—more surface area gives means a faster and more efficient extraction.

2. Bake the cannabis.

In whole-plant cannabis, THC content is expressed as THCA (tetrahydrocannabolic acid) prior to decarboxylation into THC, which takes place when cannabis is heated during cooking, and smoked or vaporized ingestion. THCA is a mild analgesic and anti-inflammatory but does not have good affinity with our CB1 receptors, so in order to make a THC-rich tincture that has many of the same therapeutic effects as smoked ingestion (including rapid absorption, quick relief and ease of self-titration), we must convert the THCA in the plant matter into THC prior to extracting it through an alcohol soak. (from Vancouver Island Compassion Society

THC vaporizes at about 380°F. We want to heat the cannabis to convert THCA to THC, but keep the temperature under 380°F. That is why 325°F is used. Between four and five minutes your oven (and house) will start to smell very strong. This is the time to remove the cannabis from the oven.

Notice also that there is considerable misinformation regarding heating the cannabis. It is true that you don’t have to heat it to extract both THC and THCA, but the amount of THC in whole plant preparations is relatively small compared to after decarboxylation of the THCA. So if you want to maximize the strength of your tincture you must heat the cannabis prior to extraction.

3. Use the highest proof alcohol available. In my area this was Bacardi 151. The more alcohol the more efficient the extraction will be.

4. Simmer the mixture.
This is one of the areas that seems to be most debated. Many recipes call for placing the cannabis (unbaked of course) into the alcohol and waiting 2 – 6 weeks. The main concern with heating the alcohol is that it is “explosive” (not exactly true…it is however flammable).

The purpose of the simmering is to heat the alcohol mixture to improve extraction rates and efficiencies. Heating during extraction increases the motion of the molecules (basic physics/chemistry) and drastically decreases extraction times. The boiling point of pure ethanol is 173°F (78°C). We will use the water bath to heat the rum/cannabis mixture to just below the boiling point of ethanol.

Heating the alcohol mixture can be done very safely using a hot water bath. You will need an accurate candy or quick read thermometer. Place about 1 inch of water in a wide, vertical-edged pan (9” wide x 3” high). Bring the water to a low simmer. The rum/cannabis mixture should be in a small (1 pint) mason jar. Do NOT cover the jar.

Put the thermometer into the mason jar and place into the simmering water bath. Bring the temperature of the rum/cannabis mixture to about 165°F (I maintain it between 150°F and 165°F). You want the alcohol mixture to be just barely moving (not boiling, but showing active convection within the mixture). If the mixture starts to bubble too much, just turn down the water bath.

You should have the oven fan on high. You will notice that any alcohol fumes are mixed with water vapor from the water bath and vented out the fan. This combined with the fact that you are trying not to boil the ethanol makes the process quite safe.

5. Strain, titrate, and store.
When you are finished with the extraction you will be left with about 1oz of green dragon tincture. Note that one ounce of the alcohol has evaporated.

Now you should test your eyedropper. In my test 34 full droppers equaled one ounce of liquid (this is a little less than one gram of liquid per dropperful as 29g equals 1ounce).

The liquid should be dark green and smell like cannabis.

6. Dosage.
Everybody is probably different. It takes me 1.5 hours to feel the effects of eating cannabis. Similarly this tincture also takes 1.5 hours to take effect.

I had tried a tincture someone had made using the cold extraction method with the same amount of cannabis and found that 5 droppers did pretty much nothing.

Using my Green Dragon technique I find that one dropper will bring effects on in 1.5 hours and last 5 hours with 1.5 hours of lingering aftereffects.

Two droppers gave me a “spiritual dose” (as strong as any brownie I ever had). Effects lasted 7-8 hours with lingering effects for 2 more hours.

This means that 1/8oz of good cannabis yields about 30-34 doses of tincture (1 dropperful is really all I need). And is much more pleasant than smoking (which really is bad for you and your lungs and the reason I’ve stopped smoking entirely).

This link might be helpful.
Metric Conversion:

Enjoy and let me know of your success and/or questions.

Master Wu