A Guide To Choosing Topicals vs Tinctures

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Cannabis isn’t just a plant that you can smoke. Now that it’s legal throughout Canada, manufacturers and cannabis lovers are free to experiment with different types of cannabis products. It’s not uncommon anymore to see cannabis lotions, vape pens, and discrete droppers of cannabis concentrate that you can slip in your purse or gym bag. 

In this blog post, we’re breaking down two of the most popular (and least controversial) forms of cannabis: topicals and tinctures. Topicals and tinctures are both types of drugstore products – they’re just infused with cannabis. Learn about these two different types of cannabis products and how you can use them to treat pain, get high, and explore the possibilities of cannabis. 

What Are Topicals?

Topicals are products that are directly applied to the body. You have used topicals before – any sort of lotion, balm, or itch relief cream is considered a “topical.” Cannabis topicals are just starting to enter the market.  

You can find all sorts of cannabis-infused topicals, including:

  • Balms (including lip balms) 
  • Rollers
  • Body butters
  • Lotions 

Cannabis-infused bath products (i.e. bath bombs and salts) are also considered topicals. How relaxing does a bath full of cannabis sound? 

Topical Bases 

In order to make topicals, manufacturers have to blend cannabis into different oils and butters. These bases vary depending on the type of topical and the manufacturer’s preferences. Most have a cocoa butter or shea butter base, like the Earth Dragon Organics CBD Face and Body Butter. Other products may use coconut oil, almond oil, or other types of oils for a more slick texture.

How to Use Topicals

Topicals come in a wide variety of products. Not all of them are intended to be used in the same way or on the same parts of the body. If the product is created for one specific area of the body, simply apply and let the cannabis do its work. Other products should be applied at the site of your pain or discomfort. Cannabis-infused topicals are great for offering powerful relief to one targeted area. Just apply and let dry! 

Each topical is different, so read the instructions. Not all products may be suitable for the face, and they generally should not be ingested or put inside the body. 

How to Use Topicals

Will Topicals Get You High? 

Cannabis-infused topicals may contain THC, but most products won’t get you stoned. The effects of topicals won’t reach the bloodstream. Without the psychoactive elements, patients can still get relief without worrying about a heavy buzz.

There are some topical products, mainly patches, that do penetrate the bloodstream and may be intoxicating. Read instructions and review each product before you use it. Try each product and wait at least an hour before driving or doing anything that you wouldn’t want to do while stoned. 

Benefits of Using Topicals

Why should you use topicals? 

  • Targeted pain relief
  • Easy to apply 
  • Discreet – can be applied at work, in class, or on the go! 
  • Little to no risk of getting stoned 
  • Comes in a variety of products to fit your preferences for texture and scent

What Are Tinctures? 

In order to infuse cannabis into a topical product, manufacturers pull CBD, THC, and terpenes out of the plant in a form that can be infused into lotions, balms, etc. One way to do this is to first make a cannabis tincture.

Like topicals, tinctures are not unique to cannabis. A tincture is an extract from a plant. The extract is made by dissolving the plant in alcohol. You can find different types of tinctures at your local grocery store or health food store. 

Before cannabis was criminalized throughout North America, healthcare providers made cannabis tinctures and used them as medicine. The tincture contains all of the health benefits of cannabis, and most active ingredients (THC, CBD, terpenes, etc.) 

How to Use Tinctures 

Tinctures are versatile, but most of them are taken sublingually. Simply fill a dropper or syringe with your tincture and drop it under the tongue. Don’t swallow the tincture if you want to get the quickest high from the tincture. The taste is mildly bitter, but it doesn’t take long for the tincture to dissolve. 

If you don’t like this method, try mixing your tincture into a food or beverage. A drop of tincture in your tea is a lovely way to wind-down at night. Put your tincture into a smoothie bowl or coffee for a pick-me-up that you won’t even notice. The tincture won’t be ineffective if you swallow it, but the effects will take longer to kick in. 

How to Use Tinctures 

Alcohol-Based Tinctures vs. Oil-Based Tinctures 

Most tinctures are made with alcohol. Others use oils to extract THC and other ingredients from the cannabis plant. (Common oils include coconut oil and MCT oil.) The biggest difference in these types of tinctures is the texture of the product and how long it takes to kick in. Oil-based tinctures feel more slimy than alcohol-based tinctures, but might taste less harsh. 

Due to the makeup of the tincture, oil-based products will take longer to “kick in.” Give your oil-based tincture at least 30 minutes to hit the brain. 

Do Tinctures Get You High? 

Unlike topicals, tinctures do enter the bloodstream and can get you high. When the tincture is administered sublingually, it immediately makes contact with the sublingual artery. This is the tongue’s main blood supply. THC can travel from the sublingual artery up to the brain fairly quickly, and you’ll feel a strong high within 15 minutes. (If you swallow the tincture, you’ll still get high, but it will have to be processed by the liver and travel a greater distance in order for you to “feel it.”) 

Within 90 minutes, you’ll feel your “peak” high. Like edibles, it’s best to wait at least an hour before taking another dose. 

Benefits of Tinctures 

  • Fewer calories than edible products
  • Versatile and easy to apply 
  • Easy to dose 
  • Can be made at home 

How to Make Tinctures with Marijuana 

If you have dry flower and don’t want to smoke it, you can easily make your own tincture and save yourself some money. All you have to do is follow a few simple steps:

  • Decarboxylate your flower to break down the THCA into THC. (Read our blog post for more information on the decarbing process.) 
  • Grind the flower into a fine consistency. 
  • Add your flower to a mason jar and fill with grain alcohol. (We prefer Everclear.) 
  • Close the jar and store it where you can shake it up once a day.
  • After a few weeks, open the jar and put the mixture through a cheesecloth. Discard the flower and bottle up your tincture! 

Tinctures are easy to dose when you buy them from a trusted retailer. Things get harder to measure when you make your own product. It’s important to test the potency of homemade tinctures before you start using them regularly. Start with just a 1ML dropper and see how you feel after an hour. You may discover that your tincture is weaker (or stronger) than the products that you buy online. 

Can Tinctures Be Used As Topicals

Can Tinctures Be Used As Topicals?

Tinctures are more versatile than you might think! Patients can also apply cannabis topicals to the skin and get a stronger dose of cannabinoids to treat skin conditions or pain. When applied to the skin, they won’t get you high – but an additional drop under your tongue will! 

Can You Vape Tinctures? 

Tinctures are versatile, but don’t put them in your vape pen. Oil-based tinctures are especially dangerous to vape. Only vape products that are specifically designed to be used in a vape pen. (They will often have vegetable glycerin and/or propylene glycol listed as top ingredients.) 

Topicals vs. Tinctures: Assess Your Symptoms

How do you know whether or not to choose topicals or tinctures? 

First, assess your symptoms. What are you looking to get out of your cannabis products? How severe are your symptoms? If you are looking to treat severe anxiety, for example, a topical that treats joint pain is not the right product for you. 

Pain Relief 

Tinctures and topicals are both great for targeting specific types of pain, including:

  • Headaches
  • Cramps 
  • Joint pain 

Tinctures are going to provide a stronger dose of cannabinoids, but topical products last longer. Both provide targeted relief that can help you move along with your day after a quick application.

Acne or Psoriasis 

Cannabis may just be the secret to getting the clear skin you’ve always wanted. THC and CBD can both help to treat inflammation that leads to redness in the face or swelling that causes acne. Consider looking at topicals that can be applied to the face. Some of these topicals contain hemp oil, which is made from the seeds of the hemp plant and do not contain THC. 

Anxiety Relief 

There are different ways to approach anxiety and stress relief, too. Does the idea of a CBD bath bomb instantly melt the stress away? Or do you need a little dose of THC tincture throughout the day to treat more intense anxiety? 

Too much cannabis at once can exacerbate anxiety symptoms – experiment with doses to find the right amount of cannabis for your stress levels. Choose tinctures if you have more severe symptoms. If you’re just looking to treat yourself to some self-care, shop for topicals with scents that you love. 

Anxiety Relief 

Choose CBD vs. THC Products 

Not all cannabis-infused products have THC in them. If you don’t want to get high from a cannabis tincture, consider choosing a CBD tincture

Cannabis also contains CBD. CBD has no intoxicating effects, but it will provide excellent pain and anxiety relief. It interacts directly with the body’s endocannabinoid system to regulate functions like appetite, sleep, and mood. 

CBD is surging in popularity and is more accessible throughout Canada. Products made with hemp seeds or the hemp plant will only contain CBD due to hemp’s extremely low THC content. These labels can often be confusing – topicals advertised as containing “hemp oil” may not even contain CBD! Carefully read labels to make sure you are getting the right benefits from your topical or tincture. 

Do Your Research 

There are a lot of factors to consider before buying topicals and tinctures. Cannabinoid content is just one of them. Take a close look at each product before you make a purchase, and consider the following factors:

  • Ingredients other than cannabinoids (terpenes, essential oils, etc.)
  • Scent or taste 
  • Concentration of THC/CBD 
  • Cannabis origins (Where is it grown? Is it organic?) 
  • Application instructions 
  • Storage instructions 
  • Price 
  • User reviews 
  • Where you can buy the product (online, at a dispensary, etc.) 

Side Effects of Tinctures vs. Topicals 

Cannabis products don’t produce serious side effects (unless you take a high dose and get super stoned.) Mild side effects like nausea or fatigue may occur if you are ingesting the product. Allergic reactions and rashes may occur if you use topicals that don’t interact well with your skin. Always test a small amount of the product first to see if side effects occur. 

Alternatives to Topicals and Tinctures 

Keep your mind open while shopping for cannabis products. In addition to topicals and tinctures, you can purchase:

  • Flower
  • Edibles
  • Vape juice
  • Oils
  • Other types of concentrates (hash, budder, HTFSE, etc.) 

All of these different products can treat your symptoms and get you high in different ways. Experiment and enjoy exploring the world of cannabis.  

Where To Buy Topicals and Tinctures 

Where To Buy Topicals and Tinctures 

CBD topicals and tinctures are easy to find both online and in stores. Keep an eye out for CBD products and read reviews before you buy. 

Topicals and tinctures with THC are a little harder to spot. It’s possible to get these products in your local dispensary, but don’t be surprised if they are sold out. These products move fast once they are in stores. 

Your best bet is to go online and get topicals, tinctures, and all of your favorite cannabis products at a trusted retailer. Not only will you have more options, but you can also read reviews right next to the products and get them delivered right to your door. 

Don’t wait for ages to start experimenting with these different types of cannabis products. Browse our full selection of topicals, and tinctures today!  

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Comments (4)

  • robmeisterz28
    robmeisterz28

    Very informative !

    December 19, 2019 at 10:29 am
  • heyhey
    heyhey

    Im loving topicals now. Some people swear you cannot absorb thc through the skin but I disagree

    December 14, 2019 at 8:38 pm
  • Cofoxl
    Cofoxl

    Wow thanks I still have yet to try any topicals but I just had my first experience with a tincture and it was great.

    December 14, 2019 at 12:46 am
  • TerpX
    TerpX

    I havent had too much success with with topicals but tinctures are one of the greatest ways to consume cannabis. Easy to make at home with some high proof alcohol.

    December 13, 2019 at 7:24 am

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