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A Guide on Tinctures, Infusions, Extracts, and Concentrates

When we’re talking about labels on cannabis products, a name could be a pretty big deal. For instance, there’s a world of difference between an “extract” and a “concentrate,” even though it’s easy to conflate the two terms.

This might all seem pedantic, but there are real issues associated with using the wrong word. Without a thorough understanding of different cannabis terms, you run the risk of buying the wrong product for your needs. Even worse, vendors who mislabel goods could have some significant problems in the customer care department!

In this piece, we’re going to explore the four following terms in detail:

As you read on, you’ll discover there are significant distinctions between each of these product types. Knowing these differences will make it far easier for you to navigate today’s cannabis marketplace.

Four Easily Confused Terms In The Cannabis Market

Liquid: Tinctures

Of the four categories listed above, tinctures are arguably the most common in the contemporary cannabis business. Believe it or not, this isn’t the first time cannabis tinctures have been popular. In the late 19th century, it was fairly common for herbalists in North America and the UK to have a regular supply of cannabis tincture vials available for patients.

The art of making tinctures has a long history in traditional medicine, but the basic method is pretty simple to learn. All you have to do is place decarboxylated cannabis or hemp flower into a closed mason jar with high-proof alcohol and let it sit for a few days. That’s it!

After a few days, the alcohol will extract all of those lovely cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids from your cannabis flower. The next step is to simply strain your mixture with some type of filter and place it in a vial with a dropper. There are more sophisticated methods for making tinctures out there, but using this simple method will get the job done.

A major reason cannabis tinctures have become so popular in recent years is due to their high bioavailability. Just place a few drops of your tincture under your tongue, hold for a few seconds, and swallow. If you use this technique, you should feel the effects of your tincture within a few minutes.

Why does this “sublingual” method work so well for patients? Simple: there are special glands underneath your tongue that have the uncanny ability to absorb whatever you put there. By leaving the tincture drops on these sublingual glands, you allow the cannabis to enter your bloodstream directly.

Although tinctures are most praised for their potency and ease of dosing, they could also be used in edibles. Of course, if you mix tinctures into edibles, they will not have as strong of an effect on your system. Patients who want to keep accurate tabs on their daily cannabis consumption must use the sublingual method.

The only significant problem people have with using tinctures is their “grassy” taste. There are, however, many companies now incorporating terpenes like limonene and myrcene to make their tinctures more palatable. Keep a lookout for these flavor-enhanced tinctures when you’re shopping around.

Baking: Infusions

When you see the word “infusion,” you should instantly think of edibles. Unlike cannabis tinctures, infusions have been made explicitly for food. When you find infusions on store shelves, typically, they will already be diluted into some kind of oil or mixed into an edible.

The reason people often make infusions with cooking oils or butter is to take advantage of their fats. It’s really easy for cannabinoids like THC to attach to fat, which means these compounds will exert a stronger effect when preserved in butter or oil. Plus, there’s a higher chance the cannabinoids in oils will be evenly spread throughout your dish. 

The primary goal with all cannabis infusions is to compliment whatever baked goods, meals, or foodstuffs you want to add them with. However, you should be careful around edibles, as they have a reputation of being extremely potent. When THC is metabolized by the liver (i.e., eating), its effects are multiplied. Therefore, the standard course of action is to start small, wait, and dose incrementally. 

Dabbing: Extracts

In reality, “cannabis extracts” refers to a pretty broad category of goods ranging from oils to shatter to vaping juices. What all these products share, however, is that they were “extracted” from the principle cannabis plant using some kind of hydrocarbon solvent.

You might be thinking: wait a second, what’s the difference between an extract and a tincture? One simple answer is that while all tinctures are extracts, not all extracts are tinctures. While both are usually dissolved in some kind of agent (alcoholic solvents, glycerin, water), extracts are much more concentrated. For example, a tincture can contain 1:3 parts of plant matter/solvent, the ratio for extracts is usually 1:1.

Since the methods of extraction and purification are so advanced nowadays, there are various extracts now available for different purposes. For instance, you could purchase shatter or wax if you’re interested in dabbing. Cannabis oils, on the other hand, could be taken sublingually, made into capsules, or added to edibles. And, of course, cannabis that has been extracted to make a vaping liquid is intended for vaping machines.

Unfortunately, it’s rather difficult to make professional-grade extracts at home. The machinery and expertise involved in proper cannabis extraction are complex, time-consuming, and expensive. Plus, working with chemicals like butane can be pretty dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. It’s best to leave these types of extraction to the pros.

Versatile: Concentrates

We’ll be honest; sometimes it’s even difficult for the experts to tell the difference between a concentrate and an extract. These two categories are similar in many ways, but here’s the key distinction: the term “concentrate” should be used solely for cannabis that has been processed through mechanical means (i.e., no hydrocarbon solvents).

People have been using pressure and heat to process cannabis oils for a long, long time. Indeed, the most popular form of cannabis concentrate is a substance you might be familiar with: hash.

To make hash, first, you need to separate the cannabinoid-rich trichomes from your buds. There are many different ways to do this, but a few popular ways include:

  • Freezing your buds and gently rubbing them against a silk mesh
  • Rubbing the bud on your hands (the old-school method)
  • Collect the kief and put it in a pollen press

Because hash is made directly with trichomes, it is far more potent than smoking on ground cannabis buds. This means you get a lot more bang for your buck with a block of hashish. There are countless ways to enjoy hash, but a few of the most common include dabbing, smoking, or mixing it into a brew known as bhang.

Many people nowadays like concentrates over extracts because they carry no risk of solvent residue. As an added bonus, it’s far easier for people to make concentrates at home compared with extracts.

There are many concentrate techniques in the cannabis community, but one of the most popular is using the heat of a hair straightener to pull out sticky rosin onto parchment paper. People could easily use this rosin for dabbing, edibles, or even add it to a joint. Just remember to take plenty of precautions if you’re going to test out this method at home.