How To Make Marijuana Tincture (Decarboxylation & Alcohol Extraction of THC and CBD)
[Writer Glenn Panik’s “How To Grow Cannabis At Home: A Guide To Indoor Medical Marijuana Growing”, is available on iTunes here, for the Amazon Kindle or via Smashwords here. You can also order the ‘stealth title’ of our information-packed ebook for the Kindle here.]
For a variety of reasons, cannabis consumers may prefer not to smoke (or even vaporize) their marijuana in order to consume THC/CBD. The most obvious reason might be a breathing condition, such as asthma, but others may simply not enjoy the taste or smell of marijuana smoke, or may want to avoid smoking out of consideration for a roommate, family member, or pet!
Although baked goods are an excellent alternative for those who would rather hide the taste of cannabis completely while still enjoying all the benefits of THC & CBD, your stash will have a limited shelf life when baked into brownies or oatmeal cookies. Even chocolates will only remain fresh in flavor for a few weeks (although they may still be edible).
Enter extraction. By extracting the THC & CBD from your marijuana, you can create a tincture that will hold for a relatively long time – a full year is not an unreasonable expectation of shelf life if stored properly. Store the finished extract in a brown glass (light protected) bottle, and in a cool place. The tincture can be consumed directly by diluting it in water or another beverage, such as fruit juice, or a classic ‘bhang lassi’. You can also use the tincture in baking, taking some of the guesswork out of how strong your baked goods will be. (More on this in a moment)
The biggest advantage of creating a marijuana tincture is that you can learn to control the dosage more carefully than other methods of ingesting cannabis. You may have already had the experience of baking with marijuana, and have far under- or over-estimated the amount of marijuana bud you should use in the recipe. This may have led to a bummer experience, or far more heavy a dose than you expected! Even worse, sometimes the distribution is uneven in baked goods – one cookie leaves you with little more than a dry mouth, another sends your buddy off to Jamaica on a cloud of daydreams… Not fair!
With a tincture, you can easily self-titrate (that simply means “learn the dosage that works for you by testing it on yourself”). Simply start by ingesting 5-10 drops of prepared tincture in a half of a glass of water, and determine if that is the proper level of effectiveness for you. Allow up to an hour for it to work. If not, try again the following day (if you take more directly following the first dose, you may skew your results). Tincture strengths will vary significantly based on the initial strength and quantity of the marijuana and the extraction process itself, so be cautious. Luckily, neither the quantity of alcohol nor the quantity of THC you can consume in this way are dangerous for an otherwise healthy individual, but always consult your doctor before taking any medicine at all – herbal or otherwise.
First, the shopping list:
- 1/2 ounce dried medicinal marijuana. We don’t recommend using fresh buds, as it makes it difficult to heat properly. You can halve/double/triple/etc. the recipe if you want to make more tincture in one go. Any strain at all will work, and the extract will, naturally, reflect the THC/CBD content of the marijuana used, thereby having a similar medicinal effect as other methods of consumption.
- A high-alcohol spirit, preferably 70% alcohol or more, and without added flavors/extracts/sugar. We suggest “Everclear”, or “Bacardi 151”, or in Europe, there are varieties of pure distilled spirits (“Primasprit”, for example) of ten used for creating traditional fruit liqueurs. Some Russian vodkas also run up to 70% alcohol. Standard vodka/rum/etc is only about 40% alcohol, and is far less effective in extracting THC/CBD, as are any spirits that already have sugar or oils in solution (Absinth comes to mind). This MUST be consumable alcohol (ethanol)!
- An oven with a fairly accurate and reliable temperature control. Beware of old gas ovens, which often have “hot spots”!
- An oven-safe bowl, such as Pyrex or metal, preferably with a close-fitting top to help control odor while heating the cannabis for decarboxylation.
- A mason jar or other sealable glass container (for extraction) with at least 2 cup (1/2 liter volume). BPA-free plastic (free of Bisphenol-A) is OK, too, just don’t use a plastic container for extraction if you unsure whether it is free of BPA or not. You don’t want to extract BPA into your tincture.
- A funnel, a square of cheesecloth, and an additional glass to strain into – for filtering the plant material from the finished tincture.
- Dropper bottles, preferably brown glass, with enough volume to store the finished tincture.
Creating A Marijuana Tincture Using Alcohol Extraction:
In the following steps, it is important to follow the suggestions for temperature, time, and volumes closely. The process by which THCA and CBDA (relatively inactive in humans) are converted to THC and CBD (the good stuff) is known as decarboxylation, and takes place at a lower temperature than THC turns into a gas and floats up and out your window. If you raise the temperature in an attempt to speed up the process, you’ll just be doing the birds a favor, not yourself! A word of warning: The early steps – heating the cannabis – will produce a very potent marijuana odor! If discretion is your goal, then consider finding a sealable, oven-safe container in which to heat the marijuana.
- Finely grind the marijuana. A standard blender works fine for this, although you can chop or crumble it as you see fit.
- Preheat your oven to 225 F (110 C). Do NOT exceed 300 F (150 C) to prevent letting your precious THC vaporize!
- Place the crumbled marijuana in the oven-safe container, and bake for 45 minutes. 30 minutes will often suffice, but if the container is rather thick-walled, it will take some time to come up to temperature.
- Remove the container from the oven and let it cool for 1/2 hour.
- Next, place the “baked” (decarboxylated) marijuana into the mason jar/glass, crumbling more if necessary. Gently pour in 1 cup of 70% grain spirits, and stir thoroughly.
- Seal the jar and shake it. You’ll notice a change in color almost immediately, and this will develop into a deep, almost black-hued green color over the next couple of days.
- Shake the jar containing the alcohol/cannabis mixture several times a day for at least two days. There’s no need to wait a week or more, THC is quite soluble in alcohol. The waiting time does allow all the bits of marijuana to become saturated and the THC to go into solution.
- Strain the alcohol/cannabis mixture through a funnel lined with cheesecloth and into a large enough receiving jar. Ball up the cheesecloth and squeeze out more of the solution – waste not!
- Transfer the tincture into brown glass dropper bottles for storage and dosing. If you can’t get dropper bottles, just brown medicine glass bottles will do – the brown glass helps prevent light from degrading the tincture.
- Store the finished tincture in a cool place away from strong light sources for maximum shelf life.
After creating and testing your alcohol-extracted cannabis tincture, you have a convenient way of measuring and consuming the right amount of this healthful medicine in liquid form. You can also easily create an even distribution of THC/CBD in your baked goods by stirring a measured amount of the tincture into the liquid ingredients, just as you would use vanilla or rum extract/flavor in traditional baking; same methods, same recipes, new effect!
Thanks for visiting our blog – If you’re missing the most important ingredient on the list above – high quality, organically grown medical marijuana – then order Glenn Panik’s well-written for beginning growers, “How To Grow Cannabis At Home: A Guide To Indoor Medical Marijuana Growing” available on iTunes here, for the Amazon Kindle or via Smashwords here. (Smashwords provides you with all the formats in one; Kindle, iBooks, PDF, etc.)
To get a feel for the style of the book, read more cannabis growing tips and techniques in our blog.
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