February 15, 2021

Everything You Need to Know to Get Started with Cannabis Sublinguals

How to use cannabis sublinguals: Here’s everything you need to know to get up to speed on this unique form of cannabis consumption.

Typically, we think of cannabis in two ways: It’s something you can inhale, either by smoking traditional flowers or vaping, or it’s something you can eat, in various forms of edibles. 

However, there’s another type of cannabis product that’s rising in popularity because it has a faster onset time than edibles, provides more exact dosages, is super discreet and puts no stress on the lungs: cannabis sublinguals.

What are cannabis sublinguals?

Cannabis sublinguals are a form of delivery in which cannabinoids such as THC and CBD are consumed by placing a dose under the tongue (hence the Latin “sub-lingual”), and letting it dissolve. From there, the cannabis compounds enter into the bloodstream by absorbing into blood vessels in the mouth. While not as fast-acting as any method involving the lungs, the onset is typically quicker than edibles—around 10 to 20 minutes, as opposed to up to two hours. 

Sublinguals typically come as concentrates or tinctures. You also might find strips or sprays, similar in appearance to breath fresheners. 

Concentrates designed for sublingual consumption are highly potent oils that tend to have the texture of honey or molasses. Tinctures are cannabis extracts diluted in a neutral food-grade “carrier” substance, typically ethanol alcohol or a plant-based oil such as coconut or olive. They often come with a dropper to help you measure out exactly how much you want to consume. 

How are cannabis sublinguals made?

The tincturing process is relatively straightforward. Low heat is applied to ground cannabis to activate the cannabinoids, a process called decarboxylation (this step is similar to activating cannabinoids by applying a flame to a bowl or joint). Then the cannabis plant matter is steeped in oil or alcohol for a period of time to extract the plant trichomes that contain cannabinoids and terpenes before the plant matter is filtered out, leaving the infused liquid ready for consumption. 

Concentrates have a more intensive manufacturing process that requires expensive equipment to safely capture flammable solvent gases, aka a closed-loop system. The trichomes are extracted by a solvent—a hydrocarbon such as butane or propane, or supercritical CO2 that in liquid form acts as a solvent—in a process that generally involves high heat. The solvent is removed after the concentrate is made, but hydrocarbon residue may persist in the final product at trace levels, which is why it’s important to seek out tested products in the regulated market. 

How to use cannabis sublinguals

Because cannabis sublinguals have a fairly quick onset time, and can be metered out in precise doses, new cannabis consumers are advised to start small and work their way up until they reach the desired effect. The same advice holds when trying a new product. 

Concentrates and tinctures can be highly variable in how powerful or diluted they are, so always make sure you know the potency of what you are consuming. Concentrates may be several times the strength of smokable flower.

Tinctures tend to be easy to measure out, because one typically uses a dropper to ferry a dose from bottle to mouth. Many consumers find oils to have a pleasant taste, and that cannabis interacts well with fats—a notion that will be familiar to anyone who has baked with cannabutter.

Be especially mindful when using concentrates, as it is very easy to consume much more than you were intending. One can use a precision digital scale to measure out doses (and again, if you aren’t sure how your body will react to concentrates, start with a minimal dose, and add only a little more if needed—keeping in mind that it’s a cumulative effect). Due to its sticky, viscous texture, some concentrate consumers put it on something edible, such as rice paper, so that they can measure out how much they want without making a mess.

Finally, remember the “sub” part of “sublingual.” Whatever form they take, cannabis sublinguals are meant to be absorbed into the membranes underneath your tongue, not through your stomach. If you apply your dose to the top of your tongue, you probably won’t get the desired results.

As a smoke-free, discreet, and precise consumption method, sublinguals are seeing increased popularity, and that trend is likely to keep going as more people try them out. Both trepidatious novices and experienced cannabis aficionados have good reason to give cannabis sublinguals a try.
Check out the Veritas blog to learn more about scientific discoveries and cannabis trends.