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Thursday May 12, 2022

By Erin Hiatt

Image of an array of tincture jars that are different colored glass like different shades of amber, surrounded by a bunch of pot leaves. Education

Tinctures as medicinal formulations have been around since ancient times, most famously in the buttoned-up Victorian era, where people regularly used Warburg’s Tincture, a distillation of quinine and herbs to cure tropical fevers like those from malaria, and the highly-addictive laudanum, a tincture of opium powder and alcohol that treated pain and acted as a cough suppressant.

Nowadays, tinctures are much less buttoned-up and available to everyday consumers in the form of cannabis tinctures — and you don’t have to get malaria or wear a corset to use them. Today’s consumers love tinctures because they are discrete, simple to dose, versatile, convenient and reliable, typically kicking in around 15-45 minutes after administered sublingually. They also provide the same effects as other consumption methods, without the waiting game of an edible and the potential lung irritation of smoking or vaping.

a bottle of cannabis tincture on a wooden table with the dropper laying next to it
Tinctures are a great option for cannabis consumers who don't particularly like smoking or vaping. photo credit

What Are Cannabis Tinctures?

Put simply, tinctures are a mixture of cannabis plant matter and alcohol, usually vodka or grain alcohol (like Everclear), and they’re quite easy to make. With a little patience and time, you could make your own cannabis tinctures at home and your efforts will pay off over the long run. If stored properly, cannabis tinctures can last for years, delaying more trips to the dispensary.

But how long do they last? What is a tincture’s shelf life? Do cannabis tinctures expire? We’ll dig in below.

First, a word about tinctures because there is some confusion about the difference between cannabis oils and tinctures. The terms are often used interchangeably, most likely because they are administered and packaged similarly — the signature dropper bottles being the unifying factor.

Though they both deliver the same effects, the key difference is that cannabis oils are just that — extracted cannabinoids mixed in a carrier oil, usually an MCT (medium chain triglyceride) like coconut oil.

an icy bottle of vodka on a black background
Tinctures are made by combining cannabis extract with alcohol, like vodka or Everclear. photo credit

Tinctures on the other hand, are an alcohol-based extract that contain cannabinoids like CBD and/or THC, as well other ingredients like sweeteners or flavorings to disguise a tincture’s frequently bitter taste.

Knowing the difference is important because it has an effect on the shelf-life of the product.

Cannabis oils tend to have a shorter shelf life because there are more steps in their production. From the extraction process, to the carrier oil, to the list of other ingredients that all have shelf lives of their own, cannabis oils can turn murky and rancid, especially if stored improperly. Nonetheless, when handled and stored properly, cannabis oils often last from 1-2 years. To get the most bang for your buck, get the tincture.

How Long Can You Store Cannabis Tinctures?

Cannabis tinctures can be stored longer than most cannabis products, which last about a year under the most ideal conditions, and much less in practice. If stored and cared for properly, a cannabis tincture can last for 3-5 years. Here are some tips to prolong its shelf life:

Tips to Prolong Your Cannabis Tincture’s Shelf Life

  • Keep the product in its original packaging at or below room temperature in a cool, dark place
  • If making your own, package the tincture in a dark-colored bottle - cannabinoids degrade and lose their potency when exposed to light, air, and moisture
  • Keep the dropper as clean as possible so as not to introduce bacteria into the bottle
  • Screw the cap back on tightly between uses

Even if you make it to that five-year mark, cannabis tinctures do expire, as cannabinoids degrade over time. Also, if that tincture starts to smell and taste terrible or is well beyond its expiration date, best not to take it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Tinctures Go Bad?

Yes, tinctures can and do go bad, especially if stored improperly.

Do Tinctures Lose Potency Over Time?

All cannabinoids - whether its flower, edibles, or a tincture will lose their potency over time.

How Long Do Homemade Tinctures Last?

Just like the store-bought product, homemade tinctures can last from 3-5 years if stored in a dark-colored bottle and away from light, air, and moisture.

How Long Do Tinctures Last Once Opened?

Once a tincture is opened you have introduced light, air, and moisture to the mix, all of which degrade cannabinoids. If the cap is screwed back on tightly between uses and stored in a cool, dark place at room temperature or lower, a tincture can stay good for years. If not stored properly, the life of the product will be much shorter.

Do you like cannabis tinctures? Have you ever tried making your own? Let us know in the comments!

Photo Credit: Shutterstock


Erin Hiatt Erin Hiatt

Erin Hiatt is a New York City-based writer who has been covering the cannabis industry for more than six years. Her work - which has appeared in Hemp Connoisseur Magazine, PotGuide, Civilized, Vice, Freedom Leaf, MERRY JANE, Alternet, and CannaInvestor - covers a broad range of topics, including cannabis policy and law, CBD, hemp law and applications, science and technology, beauty, and psychedelics.

Erin's work and industry insights have been featured on the podcasts The Let's Go Eat Show, In the Know 420, and she has appeared as a featured panelist on the topic of hemp media. Erin has interviewed top industry experts such as Dr. Carl Hart, Ethan Nadelmann, Amanda Feilding, Mark A.R. Kleiman, Dr. James Fadiman, and culture icons Governor Jesse Ventura, and author Tom Robbins. You can follow her work on LinkedInWordpress, @erinhiatt on Twitter, and @erinisred on Instagram.

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