Consumption Methods of Cannabis

When considering cannabis consumption methods, there are two basic concepts
which come into play – route of entry into the body and time of effect.

There are many ways to ingest medical cannabis, and patients may find that one method is more effective than another for their specific needs. The effects often vary with each method, sometimes affecting the length of time it takes for the herbal medicine to take effect, or the length of time that it remains effective. Each patient should find which manner is best for them.

Learn a few of the most commonly used ways
patients ingest marijuana for medicinal purpose below:

Smoking Medical Cannabis

Historically, the most traditional form of ingestion is smoking the dried flowers or leaves of the cannabis plant. Hash and kief are also ingested this way. Cannabis can be smoked through a pipe, rolled into a joint (or cigarette), or smoked using a water pipe (bong).

For most patients, the effects of smoking dried cannabis are felt almost immediately, but soon begin to diminish. Depending on the individual patient, and the cannabinoid content and potency of the cannabis strain, effects wear off almost completely within 90 minutes to 4 hours. Regularly smoking any plant material, including marihuana for health reasons, can have a negative impact, which is why Harborside Health Center recommends patients use vaporizers or edible forms of medicinal cannabis whenever possible.


Vaporizing Medical Cannabis 

A vaporizer is a device that is able to extract the therapeutic ingredients in the cannabis plant material, called cannabinoids, at a much lower temperature than required for burning. This allows patients to inhale the active ingredients as a vapor instead of smoke, and spares them the irritating and harmful effects of smoking. Those patients who are used to “smoking” marihuana may not feel like they are “getting anything” at first because it does not “burn” the throat. It is advised to use caution and wait a few minutes to feel the full effects. Many patients say that half as much herbal medicine will provide twice the effect when vaporized.


Edible Medical Cannabis

Cannabis can be infused into butter or oil that is then cooked in food. Edibles, as they are typically called, usually take longer to take effect than smoking or vaporizing, often 20 minutes to an hour or more. Doses can be difficult to judge, so it is recommended to eat only small portions of edible medical cannabis at a time, and wait at least an hour to assess its effects so you do not over-medicate. Edible herbal medicine will kick in significantly faster if eaten on an empty stomach. In general, the therapeutic effects from eating cannabis last much longer than other consumption methods, often up to four hours or more, and then slowly begin to wear off. Many patients report that this method provides more of a relaxing body effect than the cerebral high that is often accompanied with vaporizing and smoking.

Learn more about the "Essentials Things You Need To Know About Edibles"


Topical Medical Cannabis

Topical herbal medicines are applied directly to the skin or muscles. They include lotions, salves, balms, sprays, oils, and creams. Harborside patients report they are tremendously effective for skin conditions like psoriasis, joint diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, migraines, restless leg syndrome, some spasms, and everyday muscle stress and soreness. However, unlike smoking, vaporizing or eating the medical cannabis, topicals are completely non-psychoactive—you could take a bath in them, and never get high.


Tinctures (Medical Cannabis Concentrate)

A tincture is a concentrated form of medical cannabis in an alcohol solution. Tinctures are highly concentrated and require careful dosage levels, starting out small and waiting to feel the effects before adding more. They can be taken under the tongue or mixed into water or other beverages.


The Health Benefits of Juicing Cannabis

Cannabis preparation techniques are based on what benefits you seek from the plant. By juicing the cannabis, you receive most of the medical benefits of the plant without the “high”. Cannabis in its raw form is still psychoactive, just not like the medicating effects you are used to from smoking or eating an edible. In fact, he claims that achieving the psychoactive effects from cannabis is purely a human aspect of the plant that, “Has nothing to do with the 34 million years of evolution the plant has.   - More information on juicing cannabis >


Sublingual Oral-Mucosal

Before you swallow, cannabis can also enter the blood stream. Under the tongue and within the mouth there are a large number of blood vessels which can absorb cannabinoids.

Common examples of these type of medications include dissolvable strips, sublingual sprays, or medicated lozenges or tinctures.

The time of onset for this method of consumption is similar to those seen in general oral consumption, however, some studies have reported an earlier time to effect.


Dabbing Concentrates

A dab is a small amount of a concentrated cannabis extract. “Taking a dab” refers to the process of touching, or “dabbing”, this small amount of extract against a heat source, a titanium nail in most cases (sometimes glass or quartz), in order to vaporize the extract.
The most potent cannabis flowers in the world lab test around 30% total cannabinoids at best. Keeping in mind that a certain percentage of a flower’s weight would be terpenes, one could reasonably assume that 50% or more of it would be vegetative plant matter. This plant matter, in addition to having limited therapeutic value, can be harmful to the lungs when smoked.

Of course, one can avoid the harmful carcinogens by vaporizing cannabis, and that is the thought process behind “dabbing” as well. Using one of many solvents, concentrate makers are able to separate the essential oils, which contain cannabinoids and terpenes, from cannabis plant matter. A list of commonly used solvents include: ethanol (Everclear), Isopropyl Alcohol, Propane, CO2, and Butane.

A lot of confusion about cannabis extracts stems from the lack of uniform terminology in the cannabis community. For instance, ‘Butane Honey Oil’, or ‘BHO’ as it’s commonly referred to, is a type of concentrate made using butane as the solvent.
While a number of variables can determine the final consistency of BHO (mostly temperature), people use different names when referring to each consistency. ‘Shatter’ for instance, refers to the glass-like consistency that often snaps or “shatters” when handled. Budder, honeycomb, and sap also have their own meanings, though they all fall under the category of BHO.

As the name suggests, the finished cannabis concentrate will be much more potent than medicating with the whole flowers it was extracted from. This is because the process of making oil focuses on extracting only the beneficial compounds, or resin, from the cannabis flowers. When made properly, a cannabis concentrate should be reminiscent of the strain it was extracted from. The smell, taste, and effects are simply magnified due to a larger concentration by weight.


Eating Cannabis for Cancer, Aids,
Chronic Pain and Other Medical Conditions

Eating cannabis can be an excellent alternative to smoking, especially for patients who would like to use the herbal medicine but do not want to ingest smoke. Here is some information that you should be aware of and may find helpful. Many members use edibles as a sleep aid, consuming about an hour before bedtime for a sounder sleep.

Food-based cannabis medicines affect patients differently than inhaled methods like smoking or vaporizing.

Eating too much medical cannabis can cause extreme drowsiness, dizziness, inability to concentrate, diminished ability to focus, rapid heartbeat, increases or decreases in blood pressure, need for sleep, and feelings of euphoria.

How can you ingest cannabis medicines safely?

Learn to manage your dosage effectively…

  1. Begin with a ¼ of a “dose” or small portion of herbal medicine.
  2. Wait for at least one hour and analyze the effects.
  3. If necessary, consume another ¼ dose or small portion.
  4. Wait for at least one more hour.
  5. If necessary, consume part or all of the remaining herbal medicine.

Do not operate heavy machinery, motor vehicles, boats, or motorcycles while taking edible medication. Do not use if you are pregnant, nursing or caring for an infant. Be aware of your surroundings and possible hazards, and prepare for your needs before taking medication.

Remember: Edibles can vary greatly in potency. Products often contain multiple doses or lesser doses of medicine. Weight, metabolism, and eating habits can alter dosage effects. Eating medical cannabis on an empty stomach can intensify effects. Learn dosage management that works for you when ingesting herbal medicine.

If you feel you have eaten too much of a food-based herbal medicine, do not panic, your symptoms will subside within a few hours. Remain calm. Stay hydrated and eat food to help symptoms pass.

Edible medical cannabis is safe and will not cause any long-term toxicity.


Cannabis 101: Consumption - Delivery Methods

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