Topicals vs. Tinctures: Which Cannabis Product Is Right for You?


As the cannabis industry continues to evolve, consumers are presented with a plethora of innovative products designed to cater to a diverse array of needs and preferences. Among these products, topicals and tinctures continue to gain popularity for their versatility and ease of use, allowing newcomers and seasoned cannabis users alike to explore the benefits of cannabis in non-smokable forms. But with so many options available, it can be challenging to determine which product is best suited to one’s unique needs and goals.

At 406 Essence, we believe that informed decisions lead to more satisfying and personalized cannabis experiences, and our mission is to empower our clients with the knowledge they need to navigate the world of cannabis with confidence. In this comprehensive blog post, we will provide an in-depth comparison of cannabis topicals and tinctures, exploring their respective benefits, uses, and differences to help you make informed choices about the ideal products for you. 

Whether you’re seeking relief from pain or inflammation, looking for a low-key method to reap the therapeutic benefits of cannabis, or simply wishing to expand your knowledge about the ever-growing cannabis product landscape, this detailed guide offers valuable insights and guidance into the world of topicals and tinctures.

Topicals vs. Tinctures: Which Cannabis Product Is Right for You?

Understanding Cannabis Topicals

Cannabis topicals are products like lotions, balms, salves, and creams that contain varying amounts of cannabinoids (most commonly THC, CBD, or a mix of both) and are applied directly to the skin. These products work by being absorbed through the skin’s surface, interacting with receptors in the endocannabinoid system located primarily in the tissues and cells of the dermal and epidermal layers.

  1. Benefits of Topicals: Cannabis topicals are hailed for their localized effects, specifically targeting the areas where they are applied rather than producing systemic or psychoactive effects typically associated with inhalation or ingestion. Many people use topicals for pain relief, reduction of inflammation, and treatment of certain skin conditions, like eczema or psoriasis. The high concentration of cannabinoids in topicals can have a therapeutic effect on the skin without any psychoactive ‘high’.
  2. How to Use Topicals: To use a cannabis topical, simply apply a small amount of the product directly onto the skin in the affected area. Gently massage the topical into the skin until it is fully absorbed. The effects typically take up to one hour after application, and the duration of relief can vary depending on the product and individual factors.

Understanding Cannabis Tinctures

Cannabis tinctures are liquid extracts made from a mixture of cannabinoids suspended in a carrier oil or alcohol. They are commonly administered under the tongue (sublingually) or added to food and beverages. Tinctures provide a convenient, discreet, and versatile method for cannabis consumption without the need for inhalation.

  1. Benefits of Tinctures: Tinctures offer a potent and fast-acting option for those who seek an alternative to smoking or vaping. They are often praised for their precise dosing, customizable cannabinoid ratios, and discreet, odorless nature. Tinctures can provide systemic relief, making them a preferred option for those seeking full-body effects for conditions such as anxiety, chronic pain, or insomnia.
  2. How to Use Tinctures: To use a cannabis tincture, measure the desired dose using a dropper and place it under the tongue. Hold it there for at least 60 seconds to allow maximum absorption before swallowing. The onset of effects generally occurs within 15-45 minutes, and the duration of relief can vary depending on factors like dosage, personal tolerance, and metabolism. Tinctures can also be added to food or beverages, but keep in mind that the onset time may be delayed, as the cannabinoids must first be processed through the digestive system.

Comparing Cannabis Topicals and Tinctures: Key Differences

  1. Method of Consumption: Topicals are applied directly to the skin for localized relief, while tinctures are consumed sublingually or ingested for systemic effects. This difference in consumption methods leads to contrasting effects and results, so it’s essential to consider whether you’re seeking localized or full-body relief when selecting a cannabis product.
  2. Psychoactivity: Topicals are typically non-psychoactive, which means they do not produce the euphoric sensations or ‘high’ associated with some forms of cannabis consumption. On the other hand, THC-rich tinctures consumed sublingually or orally can produce psychoactive effects depending on the cannabinoid content and dosage.
  3. Onset and Duration of Effects: Topicals generally take up to one hour for effects to become noticeable, but the relief tends to be long-lasting, usually for a few hours. Tinctures administered sublingually are known for their quick onset time (usually 15-45 minutes) and can provide relief for anywhere between 3-8 hours depending on the individual’s metabolism and dosage.

Choosing the Right Product for You

When deciding between topicals and tinctures, consider the following factors:

  1. Desired Effects: Determine whether you’re seeking localized or systemic relief, as topicals are ideal for targeted applications, while tinctures provide broader benefits throughout the body.
  2. Ease of Use and Discretion: If discretion is a priority, tinctures provide a virtually odorless option for easy use, while topicals may have a discernible fragrance depending on the ingredients.
  3. Cannabinoid Preferences: Consider the specific cannabinoids you’d like to incorporate into your routine, as both topicals and tinctures come in various ratios of CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids.


Both cannabis topicals and tinctures offer unique benefits, making them appealing to a wide range of users. By considering your specific needs, desired effects, and preferences, you can make an informed decision on which product type is best suited for you. 

Let the expert team at 406 Essence in Billings, MT guide and support you in your journey to discovering the ideal cannabis product for your unique needs and preferences. Contact us today for more information.