How To Make Alcohol-Free Cannabis Tincture
When making tinctures, alcohol is the standard solvent used. Why? Because alcohol is very efficient at extracting cannabinoids, making it possible to produce a highly potent tincture. Plus, ethanol aids the speed of absorption, which means the effects can be felt almost instantly. However, besides being very expensive in its pure form, not everyone wants to consume alcohol. If you are sensitive, even a few drops of high proof liquor can actually be felt having an effect. That’s where alcohol-alternatives come in, and fortunately, they exist. The most common non-alcoholic solvent used is glycerin, which is a common food ingredient and safe to consume.
Glycerin is sourced from animal or plant origin, the latter being the preferred choice. It is widely available in pharmacies and sold as a sweetener in pure form. The sweet taste is a bonus, making the tinctures very palatable and enjoyable to consume. However, glycerin tinctures have one limitation, and that is their potency. It has been found that glycerin only holds about 1/3 of the cannabinoids alcohol can hold, making it necessary to consume a bit more for the same effect. Since the boiling point of glycerine is 290°C, it is impossible to reduce the liquid as one could with alcohol, thereby increasing the concentration. The only way to make glycerin tinctures stronger is by re-soaking the infused liquid with fresh material, but that has its limits. While never quite as potent as alcohol-based tinctures, their strength usually isn’t a problem when just a bit more is consumed.
Hot vs. Cold extraction
The sweet taste makes glycerine tinctures ideal to use in dishes, as well as by themselves by the drop. There are essentially two methods to prepare glycerine tinctures; with heat and without heat. Heating has the advantage of speeding up the process tremendously, however, it comes with the disadvantage of boiling off some terpenes and losing a bit of flavor. If you are after the most wholesome product, cold maceration is the way to go. If you need your tincture anytime soon, it’s going to be with heat.
Making the tinctures
Since tinctures are primarily used orally, the cannabinoids need to be decarboxylated so they become orally active. Even when using heat in a crock pot, it might not be enough to fully decarboxylate the weed, therefore it is a good idea to bake the herb in the oven at 120°C for 30 minutes before commencing the extraction. This will destroy some terpenes and give it a slightly baked flavor, but it will render the cannabinoids almost completely orally active. As an alternative, you can decarboxylate the cannabinoids once they have been infused into the glycerine, that way there is no roasted flavor.
Here is what you will need:
Food Grade Glycerin
Dry bud or trimming (the better the material the better the tincture)
A crock pot (slow cooker) or some glass jars
A fine mesh strainer or a Cheesecloth
The Crock Pot Method - With Heat
1. Set the crock pot to low. The ideal temperature is 80°C. If possible, keep the crock pot on a ‘Keep Warm’ setting; some crock pots will burn the tincture even at a low setting so be warned! If you are worried or this is indeed the case, try the Clear Jar method (see below).
2. Grind up your cannabis as finely as possible using the coffee grinder or blender.
3. Place the weed in the jar and fill with glycerin until all the herb is covered. Place the jar in the crock pot.
4. Let it sit for 6 – 24 hours.
5. Remove from heat and let it cool down for a few hours or over night.
6. Strain with a cheesecloth (a paper coffee filter will clog). This will be a long process because the glycerin is very slow moving and sticky. A good moment to practice patience.
7. Fill into a dropper bottle and enjoy!
The Cold Maceration Method
1. Grind up your cannabis as finely as possible using the coffee grinder or blender.
2. Place the glycerin and the cannabis in a clear glass jar. A well sealed cap is crucial.
3. Place in a window or another sunny location and let it sit there for 3 to 5 weeks minimum, but there’s no limit to the duration. If you have the time, let it soak for half a year. Shake it each day to help release the desired cannabinoids.
4. Strain with cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer(once again a paper coffee filter will not work!).
Although the clear jar method is a substantially longer process, it does preserve the terpenes more efficiently. When it comes to storing your cannabis tincture it is recommended to store it in the refrigerator, this will help to extend the shelf life further. When using this method and no heat is every applied, the tincture won’t be orally active. To make it active, decarboxylate the material either before the soak or by placing the final liquid in a hot oil bath for half an hour.
Depending on the amount of herb and glycerine used, the tincture might be more or less potent. Experiment with the dose until you have found the right amount, but in general start at the low side. If one single drop isn’t doing the trick, try two, then three, etc. The tincture is ideal to infuse foods with - simply add the desired amount into your dish of choice. Also, it’s possible to use glycerine tincture in a electronic cigarette, although the effects won’t be very strong.
Please let us know in the comment section how your glycerin experiments went!