Dosing home-made tinctures and oils
Why is dosing important?
Cannabis should be used in moderation. Just like any other medications it is important to understand that our bodies can develop a tolerance and that dosage will need to increase over time if used daily or if abused. It is always best to use the minimum effective dosage to increase the efficacy of the treatment. This is to help avoid potential addiction and increasing potential tolerances which will decrease the effectiveness of future treatments.
Learning how to dose our own home-made medicines will allow us to treat our ailments more effectively and help us maintain the efficacy of treatment by using the lowest effective dose.
Types of tinctures and oils
There are many types of tinctures and oils varying in use and effectiveness. Therapeutic topical creams and oils, sublingual tinctures, edible oils, and butters are the most common.
How are tinctures and oils made?
Tinctures and oils are made by submerging decarboxylated cannabis in high fat content oils, butters, or high proof alcohols. Cannabinoids are fat and alcohol soluble and will bind to the electrons in fats and alcohols. This allows the fats and alcohols to strip the cannabinoids out of the trichomes and plant material and in essence absorb them creating an infusion. The higher the fat content of the oil and the higher the alcohol percentage of the alcohol the more cannabinoids the tinctures can hold.
For oil tinctures the oil and decarbed cannabis is mixed together and heated in a slow cooker or double boiler.
Crockpot or slow cooker should be set to low for 2 hours and then the oil should be removed and strained into a mason jar. This works best with thicker oils or butters and water can be added as a buffer to keep the oil and decarbed cannabis from touching the direct heat.
Double boiler method should be used for 90 minutes then removed and strained into a mason jar. This method works with most butters and oils as well as pure grain alcohols.
New studies have found that cold infusion of pure grain alcohol is just as effective as using a double boiler but it is less dangerous. Just put your decarbed cannabis and pga in a jar and let it sit. A minimum set time of 3 hours with agitation is optimal. You can set the alcohol tincture in a cold dark dry place to evaporate on its own to increase the potency and level of the cannabinoids by volume.
What is decarboxylation and why is it important?
Decarboxylation in short is how you activate CBD-A and THC-A as well as other chemicals in cannabis.
Decarboxylation is a chemical reaction that removes a carboxyl group and releases carbon dioxide. Usually, decarboxylation refers to a reaction of carboxylic acids, removing a carbon atom from a carbon chain.
This activates the carboxylic acids THC-A and CBD-A turning them into THC and CBD which our bodies can process. This process also activates other cannabinoids.
This is important because when making tinctures and oils we need the cannabinoids in a form that we can ingest or that can be absorbed by our skin. It isn’t like smoking it in which we apply a flame or heat source decarboxylating it as we take it into our lungs then into our bloodstream so we need to decarb it before use in making our medicines at home.
The most effective home decarboxylation methods are a slow cooker or crock pot, a double boiler, or the oven.
In a slow cooker or crock pot you first place a silicone mat or a fabric towel down in the bottom of the pot. You then place your cannabis in a glass container like a mason jar and put the lid on. Fill the pot with water halfway up the side of the jar then set the temperature to low for up to two hours.
For the double boiler place your cannabis directly into the top pot of the double boiler. Heat on medium to medium high heat for 90 to 120 minutes.
For the oven preheat to 230-240f. Grind your flower and other material then put on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper in an even layer. Heat for approximately 40 minutes to decarb all cannabinoids. If you don’t mind your CBDA not fully decarbing you can heat for 25 to 30 minutes.
How to dose home-made tinctures and oils.
In order to dose at home first we need to know as much information about the strain we have as possible. Namely the THC-A and CBD-A levels. CBG and CBN levels are harder to source as most seed and cannabis retailers do not list these.
Next we need to know a few facts and statistics such as the average decarboxylation rates of common decarbing methods. For this we are in luck as the most common decarbing methods share about the same rate at 70% +/- 5%.
Next we need to know how much of our decarbed cannabinoids our alcohol, oil, or butter can hold. Since this information isn’t very easy to find I will share the average infusion rates for the most commonly used items for tinctures.
EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) has an infusion rate of between 83 and 96% depending on fat level. Cold pressed Koroneiki olive evoo is best. It can hold up to 4 grams decarbed cannabis per liquid ounce.
Coconut Oil has an infusion rate between 82 and 86% and can hold up to 4 grams decarbed cannabis per liquid ounce.
MCT has an infusion rate of 87 to 90% and can hold up to 4 grams decarbed cannabis per liquid ounce.
Walnut oil has an infusion rate of 80 to 90% and can hold up to 4 grams of decarbed cannabis per liquid ounce.
Butter has an infusion rate of 83 to 93% and can hold about up to 3 grams of decarbed cannabis per liquid ounce.
PGA has an infusion rate of 80 to 96%+ and holds up to 2 grams decarbed cannabis per liquid ounce (it strips everything alkaline and acid alike including chlorophyll so more is usually required to get higher levels of CBD/THC etc). Ultimately can become more potent as the alcohol evaporates.
Now onto the fun part. The math. Hooray!
In this example we will say we are using an unnamed strain that has 25% THC-A per gram.
Percentages of cannabinoids are measured by weight just as we measure our cannabis by weight.
One gram of cannabis is 1000 milligrams so to get the milligrams of THC-A we will multiply 1000 by 25%.
This looks like 1000x.25=250.
That gives us 250 milligrams THC-A per gram.
Now we multiply the THC-A by the decarboxylation rate of 70%.
This looks like 250x.7=175.
That gives us 175 milligrams of activated THC per gram.
Now we take that number and multiply it by the infusion rate of one liquid ounce of our desired tincture or oil base. In this example I will use EVOO at 90%.
This looks like 175x.9=158 (157.5 rounded up).
That gives us 158 milligrams of activated THC per liquid ounce of EVOO.
Now to figure out dosing it is easier to break one liquid ounce down into milliliters. Each liquid ounce has 30 milliliters. Since one liquid ounce of EVOO has 158 milligrams of activated THC we will divide 158 by 30 to see how much activated THC we have per milliliter.
This looks like 158÷30= 5 (5.26 rounded down).
This gives us 5 milligrams of activated THC per milliliter.
An average single medical dose is 5 milligrams of THC so with this mixture we would just dose 1 milliliter at a time.
Potency can be increased using up to the maximum amount of decarbed cannabis each oil can hold. Increasing the dry material can change the overall infusion rate becoming less efficient as you add more cannabis, but it will still increase potency up to the maximum molecular weight your desired base can hold.
So let’s say we used 4 grams of decarbed cannabis at the same rates purely for simplicity. That would give us about 20 milligrams active thc per milliliter using the evoo. A 5 milligram activated THC dose would be .25 milliliters.
These same steps are applied when approximating and dosing CBD.
Since CBG and CBN decarboxylate at different rates and have lower levels harder to measure quantitatively there is very little definitive research as of yet to help us dose at home. Fear not though fellow therapeutic cannabis users, as research is currently underway.
I hope this helps all of you understand how to effectively approximate dosages for medicating at home. Keep in mind that these are approximations and are based on statistical data gathered from varying methods. There are so many variables getting 100% accurate dosing at home is next to impossible without getting expensive lab testing done. These approximations will indeed help you understand the process and get an idea of your dosing, but some trial and error will still be necessary.
In another upcoming article I will share my recipes and methods that will maximize decarboxylation so you can decarb your cannabis efficiently every time.
Stay well cannafam and happy growing.