Discover the difference between two popular ways to use cannabis: tincture vs. edibles, and learn how they can impact you differently with their onset and duration times and ultimately how they make you feel.
Table of Contents
- A simple explanation of tinctures vs. edibles
- An overview of why they can make you feel different
- Tips to help you decide which one is right for you
Why You Will Love This Guide
There are various ways to use cannabis to manage conditions like chronic pain, anxiety, and more.
Oftentimes I get asked about the different ways to consume cannabis by members of my Well With Cannabis Community.
I tell them how you use cannabis will influence how soon they feel the effects and how strongly they may feel them.
The key differences are the absorption and bioavailability rates, onset times, and duration of effects.
Bioavailability refers to “to the extent a substance or drug becomes completely available to its intended biological destination“1.
In this guide, we will review tinctures vs. edibles in detail, explain why each method can affect you differently, and help you pick the one that’s right for you.
Different Ways To Use Cannabis
There are many different ways to consume cannabis.
The main cannabis application methods include:
- Sublingual tinctures – liquid products, cannabis oils, alcohol-based tinctures, or FECO held under the tongue for absorption
- Edibles – cannabis edibles, cannabis drinks, pills, and capsules, orally consumed via swallowing
- Topicals – topical cannabis products applied directly to the skin
- Inhalation – inhalation via vaping cannabis oil, smoking flower, or using a dry herb vaporizer
Many cannabis users quickly realize that marijuana edibles affect them much differently than smoking or other consumption methods.
This can be a good or a bad thing, depending on your desired experience.
Choosing the right consumption method is unique for each person because we all respond to cannabis differently based on our unique endocannabinoid systems.
Additionally, each strain of cannabis flower is likely to induce variable effects depending on the specific cannabinoid and terpene profile.
I recommend that you try all types of consumption methods to find which one is best for you.
Tincture vs. Edible
Here, we will explore tinctures vs. edibles because the two methods often get confused but can have big differences.
There is a big difference between holding a tincture under your tongue vs. eating and swallowing edible marijuana products.
While the main difference is small, the different onset of effects can be quite noticeable.
There are many benefits of cannabis tinctures.
The best thing you can do is hold the product under your tongue or inside your cheek for as long as possible for the best results and most efficient absorption.
There is a dense concentration of capillaries under the tongue and around the mouth, so products held in the mouth are delivered directly to the bloodstream, making sublingual administration quick and easy2.
The cannabinoids are then absorbed into the bloodstream and circulate throughout the whole body.
This is a popular method because it can bypass the body’s digestive system, produce a faster onset time than oral ingestion, and products can have a longer shelf life.
The typical onset time is between 15-30 minutes and the typical duration time lasts for an average of 2-4 hours.
Note: cannabis tinctures made with high-proof alcohol can create a burning sensation when placed under the tongue.
The good news? You can evaporate off most of the alcohol before placing drops of tincture under the tongue to avoid the burn.
Other tinctures are made with different kinds of carrier oils like MCT oil, coconut oil, vegetable glycerin, and more.
Your tincture dose will depend on the amount of THC in the tincture bottle.
For first-time users, it is a good idea to start with a very small amount of THC (you don’t need to worry as much about CBD products).
Starting with a low dose is a great way to ensure you have an enjoyable experience.
Tincture Pros & Cons
- Bioavailability rate: ~30%
- Onset time: 15-30 minutes
- Duration time: 2-4 hours
- Effects: systemic (circulates through the whole body)
- Pros: higher bioavailability rate, works with quick action, delivers a precise dose, has a long shelf life
- Cons: taste and or burn can be a problem for some people
Edibles involve any form of cannabis that is eaten and processed through the gastrointestinal tract.
Many people find edibles to be the easiest way to enjoy the medicinal effects of cannabis and that edibles can produce stronger effects.
Unlike tinctures, edibles are a bit more complicated because the active compound THC passes through the digestive tract.
Once the THC is eaten, it travels to the liver, where it undergoes the hepatic first-pass metabolism.
During this process, enzymes turn THC into a potent compound known as 11-OH-THC that readily crosses the blood-brain barrier3.
It is the 11-OH-THC that can provide stronger, more potent, or intoxicating effects in some individuals.
This causes potentially unwanted (or wanted) side effects for unknowing consumers.
There have even been anecdotal reports of people experiencing hallucinogenic effects when too much THC has been consumed.
Because edibles affect the body differently than tinctures, it is important to be cautious when dosing, especially for the first time.
It is always recommended to start with the lowest amount possible and work your way up until you determine how the edible affects you.
Because dosing of edible products varies considerably among individuals, start low, and go slow!
Edibles tend to manifest stronger and last longer, with a peak onset of noticeable effects setting between 1 to 3 hours post-consumption.
The effects can last anywhere from 6 to 8 hours or more and can vary from person to person.
This is quite different than how quickly and long a tincture will last and is important to consider when choosing a consumption method.
Individual physiological factors, such as absorption rates, rates of metabolism and excretion, and body weight, can affect the bioavailability of cannabinoids that also vary from person to person.
No Effects of Edibles
It is important to note that a portion of the population report feeling no effect from edibles at all.
This may be because they lack the enzyme (or enough of the enzymes) needed to convert Δ9-THC → 11-OH-THC or due to digestive differences.
Edible Pros & Cons
- Bioavailability rate: ~6-10%
- Onset time: 30-90 minutes
- Duration time: 4-8 hours
- Effects: systemic (circulates through the whole body), passes through the digestive system to produce 11-OH-THC
- Pros: long-lasting, convenient & delicious
- Cons: lower bioavailability rate means that you may need to take more milligrams to achieve the desired effect
In conclusion, tincture vs. edibles can have some pretty big differences when it comes down to how they will make you feel.
Tinctures will act more quickly and have a higher bioavailability rate.
Edibles can be a bit more unpredictable, with longer onset and duration times and the potential for are more intoxicating experience.
Ultimately, I recommend giving both a try to see which method is right for you!
|~10% (but can be more potent)
|Average Onset Time:
|Average Duration Time:
|Circulates through the whole body
|Circulates through the
whole body, passes through the digestive system to produce 11-OH-THC
|Higher bioavailability rate, quicker onset times
|Long-lasting, discrete convenient and delicious
|Taste and burn can be an issue for some
|Lower bioavailability rate means you may need to consume more