Green Dragon: making cannabis tincture

Over the years, many new and different ways have been developed to extract resin from the cannabis plant, ranging from the age-old Charas, typical of Central Asia, to the modern methods of BHO or Rosin. Nevertheless, today we're going to present one of the oldest techniques for separating the cannabinoids and terpenes of cannabis from the plant material.

Cannabis extractions and tinctures made with alcohol are products of one of the most ancient techniques still in use, particularly in the field of medicinal cannabis. The theory is simple: by macerating cannabis leaves or flowers in alcohol, the trichomes are dissolved and their contents infused with the chosen alcohol. Today we'll show you how to prepare Green Dragon, one of the names by which we refer to this type of extraction and without a doubt one that will provide us with many memorable moments!

Green Dragon: cannabis & alcohol
Green Dragon: cannabis & alcohol

Extracting cannabis resin with alcohol

Before we go on to the method for making Green Dragon and show a few of its multiple variations, we should make one thing clear. Broadly speaking, there are two types of alcohol extractions: on one hand, with some extractions, the alcohol is consumed along with the cannabinoids and terpenes dissolved in it, which is the case we'll be demonstrating here.

However, this first type of extraction shouldn't be confused with other methods that also employ alcohol to dissolve the trichomes, but which differ in that the alcohol is subsequently purged, or evaporated, with a vacuum oven or chamber. With this technique, what ends up being consumed is a pure cannabis concentrate, with no trace of the alcohol used in the extraction. Depending on the type of solvent, these extractions are known as QWISO (made with isopropyl alcohol, not really recommended) or QWET (using pure ethanol, much safer). Follow the link below for more information about this second type of extraction technique using alcohol:

Cannabis extractions with alcohol

Cannabis extractions with alcohol are simple, fast and safe to perform, producing a first quality concentrate if done properly. In this article we show you our extraction method using two different alcohols: ethanol and isopropyl alcohol.

How to decarboxylate cannabis

The first thing to do is to decarboxylate the plant material to use in the extraction. Thanks to this process the cannabinoids (carboxylic acids) lose a carboxyl group in the form of a CO2 molecule, converting them from their acid form to their active form. In other words, we go from having the cannabinoids in acid form (THCA, CBDA, CBGA, etc.) to the active form (THC, CBD, CBG, etc.), which will have a much more potent effect when ingested. It's an important step because the carboxylic acids like THCA or CBDA will barely have any effect without being previously decarboxylated.

Decarboxylation is a natural process that occurs with the passage of time and when the trichomes come into contact with the air, although we can accelerate this process by heating the buds or trim in any conventional electric or gas oven. The more precise the temperature control of the oven is, the more efficient the process will be. It's important not to use too high a temperature, as this may lead to losing some compounds with medicinal properties, so it's best to use a lower temperature and not rush the process. In this way, for example, heating at 110ºC for 30-40 minutes will not lead to us losing any beta-caryophyllene, a therapeutically useful substance, whereas at a higher temperature it would be lost.

Two cannabinoids in acid form - THCA & CBDA - decarboxylate, losing a CO2 molecule, converting to THC & CBD
Two cannabinoids in acid form - THCA & CBDA - decarboxylate, losing a CO2 molecule, converting to THC & CBD

For maximum efficiency, use a grinder to break the plant material up and spread it over an oven tray lined with parchment, aluminium foil or a reusable PTFE sheet. Once the tray is filled, you also cover it with more parchment or foil and heat the oven to 110ºC. Once the oven reaches temperature, simply place the covered tray inside it and wait for 30-40 minutes. When the time has elapsed, we can remove it and use it to prepare all kind of cannabis edibles such as cannabutter or the type of drink we'll show you below.

If you don't have access to an oven, you can heat the mixture of alcohol and cannabis in a glass jar using a water bath or bain-marie, but keep the jar holding the alcohol uncovered and take great care not to let the water boil! A water temperature of around 70ºC will be ideal. Heat it until the plant material has sunk to the bottom, at which point you can remove the jar from the hot water. Once the jar has cooled, close the lid tightly and let it sit for 20 days in a cool, dark place to complete the maceration process.

How to make Green Dragon or cannabis tincture

Once the material has been decarboxylated, you can start to prepare the Green Dragon drink. As you'll see, it's a really simple process indeed, and all you'll need are the following items:

  • 5g of dried weed buds, previously decarboxylated
  • 750ml alcoholic beverage around 40% graduation
  • Glass jar in which to macerate the alcohol and cannabis

You can use Green Dragon to prepare all kinds of cocktails
You can use Green Dragon to prepare all kinds of cocktails

To make this kind of tincture, it's best to select an alcoholic drink that you enjoy: whiskey, rum, vodka, tequila... any of them will do the trick. Next, all you'll need to do is put the decarboxylated cannabis in the glass jar and add the contents of a bottle of, let's say vodka. Close the lid of the jar tightly and leave it in a cool, dark place for about three weeks. In this way, the contents of the trichomes (cannabinoids, terpenes, etc.) will dissolve in the alcohol. If you like, you can give the jar an occasional shake to make the process a little more effective.

After three weeks have passed, it's time to strain the alcohol from the plant material. For this, you can use some folded cheesecloth/muslin, coffee filters or a jam strainer. Once the alcohol is well filtered and no plant residue remains, the tincture is now ready for use. You can serve it as it is, or use it in combination with other ingredients to prepare a delicious cocktail... as we always say, the only limit is your imagination!

Remember that ingesting cannabis can give a much more potent effect than when smoked or vaporised, so we highly recommend that you begin with a low dose to evaluate the effect, which usually takes longer to make itself felt than with other methods of consuming cannabis. Of course, you can adjust the proportions of plant material to alcohol and make the tincture as strong or as weak as you like, but always take care the first time you try it.


Comments in “Green Dragon: making cannabis tincture” (3)

Pawt Head
How long would solventless rosin take to be dissolved in a 90 proof alcohol?
Tim Alchimia
Hi and thanks for your question. It shouldn't take too long at all, but you can speed things up by applying a bit of heat and shaking or stirring the mixture, which will help the rosin dissolve much easier. If you really go for it you can have it dissolved in a few minutes, but if you just leave it at room temperature without stirring or shaking, it may take a few days. I hope that helps!
first timer
Hi there! can I use for the tincture the dried weed stored for one year in a jar or it has to be a fresh harvest? If dried is ok, then do I still need to decarboxylate? Thanks
Tim Alchimia
Hi, thanks for your question. Yes, you can definitely use well-cured weed for making the tincture, and although it will have partially decarboxylated, it won't be fully activated by any means, so I'd highly recommend going through the full decarb process to be sure. I hope that helps, all the best and happy growing!
Can I let some of the alcohol evaporate to make a stronger tincture or will I lose the in the process?
Tim Alchimia
Hi Calvin, thanks for your question. Yes, you can certainly allow some of the alcohol to evaporate without converting too much THC to CBN in the process. The key to avoiding this conversion is to use as little heat as possible in the process, it won't take long for alcohol to evaporate away at room temperature if you use a fan of some sort to create airflow over the surface of the tincture. I hope that answers your question. all the best and happy growing!

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