Long before the pharmaceutical industry, herbal medications were used to treat all sorts of conditions, diseases and illnesses. And tinctures were a common method for consumption for hundreds of years.
These days, it’s primarily cannabis consumed through tinctures, either to get high or treat illness.
Seedsman sat down with Sarah Godfrey, who’s used cannabis to treat her terminal Chron’s diagnosis and help end her dependency on painkillers. Today, she grows, harvests and creates her own tinctures and oils for medicine.
What Are Cannabis Tinctures
A cannabis tincture is a highly concentrated liquid extract made by soaking cannabis flowers in oil, alcohol or glycerin.
Their long shelf life and method of ingestion make them a preferred method of medication for medicinal marijuana users who may not wish to smoke. A tincture is taken orally, passing through your body and liver and eventually into your bloodstream. The effect is then delayed, and the feeling differs from a regular stoned.
A tincture is measured with a dropper meaning the dosage can be properly measured and customised depending on your needs and tolerance.
Sarah is an expert in the cultivation and preparation of tinctures and oils. Here’s her story:
Which condition do you use cannabis to medicate With?
I use cannabis to treat severe Crohns’s disease, CPTSD, autism, and heart disease. I was also diagnosed with severe osteoporosis in 1995, but it’s mostly gone now, thanks to my dietary and herbal protocol.
How did you begin your journey with medicinal cannabis? What first incited your treatment?
I began my journey with cannabis in 1989 when my Crohns’s started because there was nothing else that worked on my symptoms.
Do you buy medical cannabis legally, and if not, why not? Is it available to you?
I don’t buy medical cannabis because 1. It doesn’t contain essential plant acid cannabinoids and 2. It’s unaffordable to me.
Do you see cannabis and medical cannabis as being different?
No. There is only cannabis. Even the person who considers themselves a recreational smoker is probably medicating for low-level stress. They just don’t realise it. For example, when I gave my elderly mother a low dose of my homemade extracts, I asked her how it made her feel, and she replied, ‘It made me feel happy and relaxed, but I’m not used to feeling like that.’
The natural human state is one of happiness, relaxation, curiosity, and playfulness. Our society is so unhealthy currently that most of us don’t even know what it’s like to naturally feel that way. In fact, the closest many of us have come to feel like that is being a child. Then you grow up, and that feeling of joy and playfulness fades as life stresses occur, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Those life stresses are actually unnecessary if we live in a healthy, nurturing, anti-inflammatory society.
How easy and economical is it to produce your own oils and cannabis tinctures?
Producing your own oils and tinctures is far more cost-effective than buying either illegal or legal cannabis. It is no more difficult than following a recipe to make a meal. You can easily make an effective infused oil or an alcohol tincture with no special equipment other than what is in your kitchen.
Things get a little more complicated if you have need to use ethanol to extract because you may need to buy some equipment, and you will have to be careful of working in a well-ventilated area. But most conditions can be treated by making an oil infusion or alcohol tincture; it is usually severe symptoms like mine that require a concentrated extract using ethanol.
What recommendations would you have for people looking to grow cannabis for medical purposes?
My recommendation for people looking to grow cannabis is to start organically and look into living soil and microbial growing. These methods produce a more calming effect. In fact, these methods have enabled me to reduce my consumption of CBD as they produce more calming extracts.
There are other benefits to growing with microbes, such as increased nutrient density.
Can domestically produced cannabis be produced as hygienically as medical cannabis? How do you ensure that any product is not contaminated?
Yes, domestic cannabis can be as hygienically produced as commercial. In fact, there have been many cases of mould in legal cannabis so I would say home production is often more hygienic.
As long as your work or grow space is clean and tidy and you use good quality inputs, you will get a minimum of contaminants. When making extracts home using ethanol, buy good quality organic ethanol and ensure you evaporate thoroughly to remove as much ethanol residue as possible. I add iced spring water at the end of evaporation to stir in and then carefully pour away, keeping the cannabinoids in and washing out some tannins and other water-soluble undesirables.
I then carefully dry the oil at around 40 degrees C. Tannins taste bitter and can inhibit absorption of iron; I have pernicious anaemia, and severe nausea, and I’ve also had other severe nutrient deficiencies, so taste and absorption really matter to me, but I’m in an unusual situation with my health, so this won’t be necessary for most people.
What are the best sites that inform you which cannabinoid(s) to use?
I tend to use websites where I can read studies and patient stories. I use Google Scholar (and Sci-Hub when possible), listen to Cannabis Health Radio, and follow the Analytical Cannabis Expo, which has some good speakers and info.
There are some useful groups on Facebook, such as Cannabis Oil Success Stories, if you have time to search and take notes. I’ve also been lucky when I first started extracting to have had advice on cannabis medicine from Mary Lynne Mathre of Patients Out of Time. She is a fantastic cannabis nurse and advocate. Green Flower Media used to put out some great free webinars around 2016/17, but I believe they stopped doing that and started concentrating on providing certification for the industry.
I’m trying to find the time to build a website myself where the emphasis is on cannabinoid plant acids and also using cannabinoids in combination with nutraceuticals, e.g. functional foods and amino acids, which improve the effectiveness of the cannabinoids.
Do you need to get high to use cannabis medicinally?
No, you don’t need to get high to medicate with cannabis, although you have to face the fact that any strong painkiller will have some psychoactive effects. If you are extracting to replace painkillers such as morphine or a strong dose of codeine, then you will always have some psychoactive effect or ‘high’.
I extract at various temperatures, and then blend the extracts to create oils that make me feel ‘normal’ rather than ‘high’ by using THCA, CBDA, CBGA, CBG, CBD and THC. However, when the pain is severe, you need something that will get you to sleep so you can then wake up feeling much better. Sleep is very healing, and cannabinoids are a great sleep aid. And you can always eat raw cannabis leaves and flower, which doesn’t make you high; it makes you feel like the best version of yourself.
What extraction techniques do you use for cannabis tinctures?
I use ethanol extraction and raw juicing/smoothies/foods, and occasionally I make ice hash. I would like to try CO2 extraction as it is a good way to capture terpenes.
Are there any books that are a must-have if going down this route?
I don’t really use any cannabis books because they generally don’t discuss low-temperature extraction using ethanol, but please correct me if you know of any! I’ve been studying herbal medicine for many years, so I mostly use herbal medicine books and textbooks and base my methods on traditional medicine techniques.
I’m lucky that my partner has some prior experience with cannabis oil, knows some traditional methods, and has a good instinct for it. I rely on my instinct often and read my body very carefully, which I’ve been doing for nearly 30 years now, so I’m pretty good at it! A great way to learn is through observation; I spend as much time observing nature as possible.
Are there any plants, supplements etc, that are worthwhile using alongside cannabinoids?
I would say all herbs, foods and supplements work well with cannabis. There is a synergistic effect between cannabinoids, herbs and functional foods, where the cannabinoids improve absorption and bioavailability of the nutrients and this in turn allows both the cannabinoids and nutrients to work more effectively.
I add chamomile to my cannabis infusions, I use comfrey oil in topical cannabis balms, and next spring I will make capsules for tachycardia and cardiac arrhythmia containing hawthorn and various cannabinoids such as CBDA. Medicinal fungi such as reishi, Lion’s mane, and cordyceps work well with cannabinoids, as does microdosing psilocybin.
As someone going through menopause, I also take amino acids daily and have found they work well in combination with cannabinoids for joint/tendon/ligament pain because they reduce recovery time. I’m also currently working on making capsules containing NAC amino acid and CBD to help with symptoms of psychosis, in combination with allopathic anti-psychotic drugs. But this is a work in progress due to different factors such as extraction methods, lack of funds, and the complex nature of psychosis itself.
What conditions are you likely to see the best improvements with cannabinoids?
In my experience, every condition can be helped by cannabis. If you’ve tried it and it hasn’t worked for you, that’s because you haven’t found the right combination of cannabinoids and/or ROA for you. For example, I know many people find THC or 1:1 CBD: THC extracts don’t work for severe pain, but if they made a 1:1 THCA: THC extract, it would be effective.
This can be done by evaporating at 37-38 degrees C. I would advise everyone who can try raw cannabis because eating fresh flowers and leaves has a wonderful effect. You don’t feel high as such; you just feel energised and happy.
Processing and extracting adversely affect terpene levels, and terpenes have a profoundly positive influence on effect. Hence raw is so beneficial. However, consuming the plant raw doesn’t treat acute symptoms therefore, I use it alongside extracts, and also I ingest hashish daily, which can be fantastic for acute symptoms if you can get the right hash. That has become more challenging recently due to Moroccan hash farmers changing from old strains to new ones.
Are there particular strains you’d recommend for certain conditions?
As for what strains suit what conditions, I now believe that it’s less about strains and more about terpenes, percentages and ratios.
For example, you could grow two seeds from the same plant but grow them under different conditions and use different extraction methods, and you get two extracts with very different effects, despite being the same strain.
However, there are some general rules for health conditions, e.g. for moderate to severe pain; you want a 1:1 or THC strain that is calming and relaxing.
There are more than 20% THC strains, like White Widow, Zkittlez x Gorilla Glue, and Amnesia, which can help with severe pain but can also cause anxiety when ingested without CBD.
However, I also like the effects of slightly lower THC strains, such as Skunk No.1, which has 15-20%. And I find that THCA increases the effects of THC and is essential for treating severe pain. But my favourite oils are made by mixing many different strains, so I grow a range of different THC and CBD percentages and blend them together to create my own 1:1, 3:1, or 20:1 extracts (or any ratio I desire).
Real-world evidence shows that mixing 6 different strains in an extract is more beneficial than using just one or two, as it provides a wider range of cannabinoids. It also gives the extract a nicer feel, in my opinion, it’s hard to describe, but I would say multiple strains give a more rounded effect.