What is a Tincture?

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What is a Tincture?

You’ve heard about cannabidiol or CBD, a natural ingredient derived from hemp, and its potential to ease joint pain, reduce anxiety, calm digestive issues and reduce seizures without producing a “high” like marijuana (or high THC cannabis). 

It sounds like the perfect natural product to work into your four-legged friend’s wellness plan, right? 

Research about the potential health benefits of CBD for pets show promising results. In pet-specific studies, CBD oil reduced pain in dogs with osteoarthritis (1) and was associated with significant reductions in epileptic seizures in dogs (2).  

Administering hemp-derived CBD oil to pets is simple with the use of a tincture. CBD tinctures for pets are designed to deliver an accurate dosage and can help pets absorb the beneficial compounds faster than capsules or topical delivery methods. 

What is a Tincture?

The word “tincture” refers to herbal plant parts such as berries, bark, leaves or roots that are suspended in either alcohol or a carrier oil. This process extracts the active ingredients and creates a medicinal solution. 

Tinctures are usually stored in a glass bottle with a dropper that is used to pick up and easily administer the product.

What is a CBD Tincture?

A CBD tincture is a liquid with high levels of CBD content. Traditional CBD tinctures have an alcohol base (the alcohol is boiled off during the heating process). 

CBD oil tinctures can also be made with vegetable-based carrier oils or medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oils that are made from saturated fatty acids. Coconut and palm oils are common sources of both vegetable and MCT oils.

How is a Tincture Made?

hemp oil on a table

A complex manufacturing process is used to make CBD tinctures for both humans and pets. The CBD is extracted from the hemp plant using one of the following methods: 

CO2 extraction. This process uses high carbon dioxide gas under high pressure and low temperature to isolate the oil. It produces a safe, potent CBD oil.

Ethanol extraction. This method is done with a high-grade grain alcohol. The ethanol alcohol is boiled and then condensed on a cooled coil that drips through the hemp material, stripping out the cannabidiol. 

Butane extraction. This process, also known as hydrocarbon extraction, uses butane as a solvent. It passes through the raw plant matter, collecting cannabinoids; the cannabis is heated to evaporate the butane until only the extracted oils remain. 

In all extraction processes, once the cannabidiols are separated, the tincture is made by suspending the CBD oil in carrier oils or alcohol.

CBD Tinctures for Pets: The Benefits

Dog licking a tincture

The tincture form of CBD oil provides ample benefits for pets including:

  • High bioavailability (meaning more of the active compound is absorbed) 
  • No added calories
  • Ease of use—they’re simple to give to pets once you get the hang of it

But one of the biggest benefits of CBD pet tinctures is the ability to adjust the dosing. Tinctures allow you to make incremental and precise changes to dosing so you can find the ideal milligram (mg) amount for your pet’s needs and lifestyle—something that is not as easy with CBD treats, capsules or topicals. 

CBD Tinctures: Potential Drawbacks for Pet Parents to Consider

Despite the fact that the benefits of using tinctures for pets outweigh any risk, there are a few drawbacks that should be mentioned.  Pet owners who opt for tinctures might find that their dog or cat does not enjoy the natural flavor. Cats can be especially picky about the flavor. Unlike treats—which may be cheese, bacon, or peanut-butter flavored—tinctures generally do not contain added ingredients to help with palatability. 

Administering hemp-derived CBD oil to a dog or cat with a tincture dropper may also take a little bit of practice and be a bit messy at first. But once you get the hang of how to administer it, these products are actually easy to use.

How to Use a Tincture With Your Pet

Man giving dog tincture

Tinctures are meant to be taken sublingually, which means held under the tongue or against the cheek. The mucus membranes in your pet’s mouth are full of blood vessels and glands that easily absorb cannabinoids so the longer a tincture is held under the tongue or in the mouth, the higher its absorption rate and the more effective it will be. 

When a cannabis tincture is administered properly, it’s bioavailability (or the amount of drug that enters the system) can be as high as 40 percent, which is much higher than the amount of the active ingredient your pet gets from a CBD capsule.

Steps for Using a Pet CBD Tincture

Step 1: Find the correct dosage for your pet by observing the dosage chart on the product box. 

Step 2: Shake well! Place the tincture under the tongue or against the cheek of your dog or cat’s mouth and drop in the oil. Be careful to not let your pet bite down on the syringe. If your pet will not let you hold a dropper in their mouth, the dose can be added to tasty food or placed on top of a soft, absorbent treat. Strong-smelling foods such as sardines or tuna will ensure that cats receive every last drop.

Step 3: After each dose, make sure to clean the dropper with hot water to prevent bacteria from building up.

Step 4: Store the tincture according to the instructions on the package. 

Precautions When Using a Pet CBD Tincture

Although hemp-oil tinctures are safe and allow for more accurate dosing, it is important to research potential interactions with other medications. Pet tinctures might cause increased drowsiness when used in conjunction with other medicines. Talk to your veterinarian if you have any concerns.

Be sure to use a CBD tincture made specifically for pets. Some of the products made for humans contain xylitol, which is toxic to dogs.

Always research the brand and company that is selling the tincture to ensure the safety and quality of the product for your pets. Look for ingredient transparency, third-party testing, and a certificate of analysis that is available for you to review. 

Tincture Storage Instructions

Many of the compounds in a CBD tincture are not as stable when exposed to light and heat. THC-A—the acid, not the form of THC that provides a cannabis high—can transform into an intoxicant if it is exposed to light and heat. Your pet tinctures should not be stored in the car or on a window sill—keep them safely enclosed in a kitchen cabinet or in the fridge. 

Check the manufacturing date on your pet’s cannabis tinctures. Products that are more than one year old might not have the same active compounds as the original tincture. Over time, THC transforms to a cannabinol or CBN, a mildly psychoactive compound found in cannabis that can have an intoxicating effect on your pet.  

If your CBD tinctures are more than one year old, dispose of them and invest in new products to ensure that the medicinal ingredients will have the desired health benefits and protect your pet from unintended intoxication. 

Dr. Trina Hazzah, DVM, DACVIM (Oncology), CVCH