What is CBD and What are CBD Tinctures?


What is CBD?

At its core, CBD, or cannabidiol, is a compound in the cannabis plant. The genus cannabis sativa is the source of unique compounds known as cannabinoids or (phyto)cannabinoids, if you want to be fancy, that interact naturally with the human endocannabinoid system –a rich source of cannabinoids in its own right (Pertwee, 2008).

At last count, 104 cannabinoids and 441 non-cannabinoid compounds had been identified within the plant (ElSohly & Waseem, 2014). Cannabidiol or CBD is a largely non-psychoactive compound and one of the most prominent cannabinoids found in marijuana (ratios with other cannabinoids in the plant vary between different strains or varieties of cannabis).

CBD is a metabolite that requires a process known as decarboxylation (i.e. adding heat such as that added when the harvested plant is naturally drying) to transform from its natural state of cannabidiolic acid or CBDA (Russo, 2017).

What is a CBD Tincture?

In its pure form, CBD can be extracted from the cannabis or the hemp plant and then concentrated into an inert oil for easy administration. CBD can also be delivered as a CBD tincture. A CBD tincture is, most simply, a liquid product that could contain potent amounts of cannabidiol. In traditional pharmacy, this centuries old method of making and delivering medicinal products uses an alcoholic or hydroalcoholic (water + alcohol) solution to dissolve very high amounts of the medicinal agent, the solute, which varies in the product based on the concentration desired. While there is more than one method to make a tincture, it is common to either percolate a product or macerate it, which is often the procedure with plant material. The collection of the desired active ingredient, the solute, is concentrated and purified before being dissolved into alcohol or alcohol and water to make the final tincture.

Some tinctures contain up to 50%, by weight, of the solubilized compound. For example, a 30 ml bottle that contains 15 grams (15,000 milligrams) of CBD is a 50% tincture. This tincture has a concentration of 500mg of CBD per milliliter. There may not be products on

the market with a concentration this high; the physical properties of CBD may not lend to solubility this high or the expense of the active ingredient (CBD) makes such a tincture cost-prohibitive to make.

CBD tinctures are usually made by steeping CBD-rich hemp flowers in high-proof alcohol, the percolator method, then cooking the material over low heat for many hours. Importantly, a pure CBD tincture will not have the euphoric, psychoactive effects of a tincture from a marijuana plant with THC.

Interestingly, in many modern-day recreational cannabis products, CBD has been almost entirely bred out of the plant. However, there are some CBD-rich strains of cannabis which can contain up to 30% CBD. These are the plants more commonly used to prepare medicinal or therapeutic products for consumption. CBD-based products have an impressive and growing fan club in the guise of multiple world-renowned researchers in the medical cannabis space.

For example, leading cannabis researcher Russo (2017, p.198) has claimed “It is a pharmacological agent of wondrous diversity, … encompassing analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiemetic, antianxiety, antipsychotic, and anticonvulsant”. This view was reflected by world-renowned CBD professors Mechoulam, Peters, Murillo‐Rodriguez, and Hanuš (2007, p.1) who stated in a comprehensive review of the academic literature: “The plethora of positive pharmacological effects observed with CBD make this compound a highly attractive therapeutic entity”.

Positive trends relating to CBD

First isolated in 1940 (Adams, Hunt, & Clark, 1940), over the last couple of decades evidence has been starting to accrue that suggests CBD has medicinal potential for a range of ailments. For example, Mechoulam et al. (2007) have highlighted several areas where studies are indicating positive trends including:

  • Epilepsy
  • Cancer
  • Anxiety
  • Diabetes
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Neuroprotection
  • Schizophrenia
  • Inflammation
  • Addiction
  • And many more (see for example Blesching, 2015; Israeli Ministry of Health)

Common misconceptions of cannabidiol

Despite these positive signs, it is essential to remain attached to the facts. According to Russo (2017), current interest in CBD is fuelling some inaccurate misconceptions and he has attempted to clarify the most common of these:

Misconception 1: CBD is non-psychoactive and non-psychotropic

CBD has been shown to have pharmacological benefits, for example with Schizophrenia, and should more accurately be called non-intoxicating.

Misconception 2: CBD is sedating

Reports in early academic literature noted low incidences of sedation, however, modern-day reports have ‘contemporaneously’ listed sedation as a side effect of administering CBD. In fact, research has shown when taken in low to moderate doses, CBD in its pure form can be alerting as evidenced by its ability to delay sleep time and counteract the effects of its ‘naughty cousin’ THC, which is the cannabinoid responsible for intoxication (Nicholson, Turner, Stone, & Robson, 2004).

Misconception 3: CBD is legal in all 50 states

Federally in the US, CBD is still covered by the Controlled Substances Act and prohibited as a schedule 1 compound. It's important to note though that the regulatory environment around cannabis is dynamic and potential changes are presently working through the House and Senate. At the state level, there remain some jurisdictions where CBD has not been approved for legal sale, although the vast majority do now allow the product to be sold in some form. Please make sure to stay informed with the latest developments in your locale.

Misconception 4: Cannabidiol turns into THC in the body

The false claim that CBD turns into THC once consumed is more prevalent on the internet than in the academic literature, although it has gained traction since a journal article documented a simulated process that demonstrated it was technically possible to convert CBD to THC after prolonged exposure. In essence, however, there is no ‘real world' evidence to support this claim.

21st Century Tinctures with CBD:

The modern-day use of CBD tinctures links to their historical medicinal use in the oldest pharmacopeias (Hazekamp & Pappas, 2014). CBD tinctures differ from CBD oil previously described in that isolate material is soaked in high proof grain alcohol which allows the CBD compounds to infuse into a neutral spirit, the majority of which is then boiled off. This results in a pure product when process according to appropriate quality controls. CBD tinctures are perceived to have multiple advantages over oil, and even other dosage forms, including flexibility of use (e.g. oral drops or baked goods) and they are relatively easy to produce.


  1. Adams, R., Hunt, M., & Clark, J. (1940). Structure of cannabidiol, a product isolated from the marihuana extract of Minnesota wild hemp. Journal of the American chemical society(62), 196 - 200.
  2. Blesching, U. (2015). The Cannabis Health Index: Combining the science of medical marijuana with mindfulness techniques to heal 100 chronic symptoms and diseases. Berkley, CA: North Atlantic Books.
  3. ElSohly, M., & Waseem, G. (2014). Constituents of cannabis sativa. In R. Pertwee (Ed.), Handbook of Cannabis. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  4. Hazekamp, A., & Pappas, G. (2014). Self-Medication With Cannabis. In R. Pertwee (Ed.), Handbook of Cannabis. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  5. Israeli Ministry of Health. Medical Grade Cannabis – Clinical Guide (Green Book). Retrieved 2/2/2019 from https://www.xn--4dbcyzi5a.com/2018/01/medical-cannabis-official-israeli-clinical-guide/ Retrieved from
  6. Mechoulam, R., Peters, M., Murillo‐Rodriguez, E., & Hanuš, L. (2007). Cannabidiol–recent advances. Chemistry & biodiversity, 4(8), 1678-1692.
  7. Nicholson, A., Turner, C., Stone, B., & Robson, P. (2004). Effect of Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol on nocturnal sleep and early-morning behavior in young adults. Journal of clinical psychopharmacology, 24(3), 305-313.
  8. Pertwee, R. (2008). The diverse CB1 and CB2 receptor pharmacology of three plant cannabinoids: Δ9‐tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabidiol and Δ9‐tetrahydrocannabivarin. British journal of pharmacology, 153(2), 199-215.
  9. Russo, E. (2017). Cannabidiol Claims and Misconceptions. Trends in Pharmacological Sciences, 38(3), 198-201. doi:10.1016/j.tips.2016.12.004