In the CBD industry, companies often use terms like “CBD oil,” “CBD tongue drops” and “CBD tincture” interchangeably. In most cases, those terms refer to the same product; the companies using those terms are simply using them to try to capture traffic from people who search for those terms on Google. The lack of standardization in the CBD industry tends to make things difficult for buyers because the loose usage of various terms makes it difficult for consumers to know which products are right for them and what products they should be searching for online.

So, we’re here to help set the record straight. What is a CBD tincture, and how do CBD tinctures vs. CBD oil compare? Should you be looking for a UK CBD tincture when you shop for CBD? In this article, we’re going to shed some light on one of the CBD industry’s most confusing terms and get you one step closer to true CBD expertise.

What Is a CBD Tincture?

We’ll begin with the technical definition of what a CBD tincture is. “Tincture” is a medical term referring to the use of a solvent – most commonly alcohol – to extract the active compounds from a plant. Tinctures were once extremely common in conventional medicine, and they remain popular among herbalists. You’ll find an enormous stock of herbal tinctures at any health food store. Tinctures can be very strong; a tincture condenses a large amount of plant matter into a small bottle. Taking a tincture is also a much easier way to enjoy the benefits of an herb compared to consuming the plant itself.

So, a CBD tincture is a liquid product containing CBD that’s been extracted from hemp with a solvent. CBD tinctures differ from traditional tinctures, however, in that they generally contain no alcohol. While it is possible to use alcohol as a solvent when extracting CBD oil from hemp flowers, most CBD brands – such as OK CBD – use supercritical CO2 extraction instead. CO2 extraction leaves no residual solvents in the final product.

In most cases, companies that use alcohol when extracting CBD process the resulting extract in a vacuum purge oven to remove any residual solvents. In addition, there are a few companies that produce alcohol-based CBD tinctures. There isn’t much demand for alcohol-based CBD tinctures, however, due to the discomfort that can occur when holding high-proof alcohol under the tongue.

In short, most products labelled “CBD tinctures” are not actually tinctures at all because they contain no alcohol. They are still used sublingually, though, just as alcohol-based tinctures would be.

History of Cannabis and CBD Tinctures

Humans have likely been using cannabis as medicine for at least 10,000 years. The Ebers Papyrus from Egypt – housed at the University of Leipzighburg in Germany – is the oldest known complete medical text. It dates back to 1,550 B.C., and it specifically mentions medical cannabis.

The earliest known reference to cannabis tinctures is nearly 2,000 years old. Hua Tuo – an early Chinese surgeon – mixed powdered cannabis with wine and administered it to patients before surgery. Cannabis eventually became so essential in traditional Chinese medicine that that the Chinese word for anaesthesia actually translates to “intoxication by cannabis.” The Chinese word for cannabis – má – also means “numbness,” suggesting that the Chinese have known about the plant’s medical properties for at least 3,000 years.

Throughout much of history, the most common way to use cannabis – either recreationally or medically – has been by smoking it. That’s because the onset of relief when smoking cannabis is almost instant. Instant relief is good for patients, and it also makes it easy for patients to find their own effective doses. There has always been a place in medicine for cannabis tinctures, though, because some people have difficulty inhaling smoke or simply don’t want to smoke. Smoked cannabis also has a distinctive smell, while taking a cannabis tincture is far more discreet. Cannabis tinctures were available by prescription and remained in common use in the United States through the early 20th century.

Where medical cannabis use is legal, some people make their own cannabis and CBD tinctures. They steep cannabis flowers in high-proof alcohol, sometimes putting the flowers through a gentle heating process called decarboxylation to maximize their potency before steeping. The alcohol draws the cannabinoids and terpenes out of the flowers. After about two weeks, it’s time to strain out the plant material and bottle the tincture.

CBD Tincture vs. CBD Oil

As we mentioned above, there is functionally no difference between a CBD tincture and CBD oil unless the tincture is one that contains alcohol. Most CBD tinctures are oil based, however, because holding high-proof alcohol under the tongue tends to cause great irritation.

How to Use a CBD Tincture

All CBD tinctures – whether oil based or alcohol based – are intended for sublingual use because CBD can absorb through the skin and mucus membranes. You’ll use a CBD tincture by placing several drops under the tongue and holding the tincture there for up to one minute. The CBD enters the bloodstream through the sublingual artery and travels from there to the carotid arteries. After holding the tincture under your tongue for one minute, you can swallow it. Any CBD remaining in the tincture is processed by the digestive system.

One of the reasons why CBD oil tinctures are so popular is because sublingual absorption is one of the fastest ways to get CBD into the system. When you place CBD oil under the tongue, the CBD begins to enter your bloodstream within seconds. When you swallow a CBD product, on the other hand, absorption through the digestive system can take up to two hours.

An additional benefit of CBD oil tinctures is that the sublingual absorption bypasses the first-pass metabolism of the liver. When you consume any supplement or medication orally, your liver breaks down a portion of the active ingredient, rendering it inert before it can reach your bloodstream. The liver doesn’t metabolize CBD when you use it sublingually, though, so more of the CBD is available for your body to use.