Medical cannabis is a versatile medicine that is used by patients across the country to alleviate the side effects and symptoms of countless medical conditions. Many new patients wonder how to medicate with cannabis or how to take their medicine. Unfortunately when people think of marijuana they often think about smoking a joint or getting stoned but that’s not what medical cannabis is about
With medical cannabis becoming a more widely accepted form of treatment dozens of new products have become available that enable patients to use their medicine and get relief from their symptoms without smoking and even without getting stoned.
Smoking is probably the first thing that comes to mind when people think about cannabis. We do not recommend smoking as we see the inhalation of a combusted material to be counterproductive towards wellness. Granted, smoking cannabis has shown to be much safer than tobacco smoke, inhaling burnt plant matter is not the healthiest or most efficient way to medicate. That being said, inhalation is an excellent form of medicating because it can alleviate symptoms almost immediately. When you inhale cannabis, the majority of cannabinoids enter the body through the lungs where they are passed directly into your blood stream.
Due to this direct exchange, consuming cannabis via inhalation has the shortest time of effect of all routes of entry. People who consume cannabis via inhalation have reported feeling the effects of the medication within minutes, with peak effects around the hour mark and total duration of effects of around two hours. However, it is important to note that there can be significant variation in these times due to factors such as cannabinoid content, depth and length of inhalation (a.k.a. smoking style), and previous cannabis exposure (tolerance).
If patients prefer to inhale their medicine we recommend the use of a vaporizer. Vaporizers work by heating up cannabis to the point where certain cannabinoids are released from the raw plant matter and create a clean and flavorful medicated vapor that can be inhaled just like smoke but without the negative effects of combusting.
Cannabis vapor is very smooth and flavorful. There is no harshness felt in the lungs or throat that is commonly associated with smoking. When you light a joint, the smoke is a mix of cannabinoids and a number of somewhat toxic combustion by-products and hydrocarbons. In fact, analysis has shown that joint smoke only contains just over 10% cannabinoids; the rest consists of combustion byproducts. In contrast, vaporizers can produce clouds of vapor that contain up to 95% cannabinoids. Vaporizers are much more efficient than smoking and allow patients to consume less raw cannabis while still achieving their desired effects.
Edibles & Capsules
Cannabis edibles are also a very popular and widely accepted method of medicating. Cannabis edibles are excellent because patients do not have to smoke or inhale anything; they simply get to enjoy a light snack. Additionally, it allows patients more control over their dosage. Edibles are excellent in that they provide a much longer lasting effect that inhalation.
When smoked or vaporized, peak effects are felt after 30 minutes and wear off around 2-3 hours. Depending on the patient and their metabolism, edibles can provide a patient with symptom relief over the course of 5-6 hours. In addition to brownies and other baked goods, patients can enjoy healthier options like cannabis infused granola, lozenges and even medicated tea.
For patients looking to regulate their dosage more consistently and to not consume a lot of calories in the process, pills or gel capsules may be a good method of medicating.
Capsules may consist of either activated cannabis or hash oil that is mixed with materials such as coconut orsaf-flower oil to aid in the digestion. Capsules come in a variety of sizes, typically containing 10mg, 25mg, and 100mg doses of cannabinoids.
Oils, Concentrates, and Tinctures
By extracting the cannabinoid containing essential oils from the raw plant matter we can create different cannabis oils and concentrates. These oils are much more concentrated in cannabis content than the raw flower and contain only the medicinal properties of the plant; concentrates should not contain any plant material. These oils come in many different consistencies. Some are thick and sticky like molasses or honey, others can be waxy or crumbly and some can even be in a stable form and look like amber glass.
Regardless of the form and consistency, these oils provide patients with a potent, and very clean and refined form of cannabis. Cannabis concentrates differ from dried marijuana buds, stems and leaves in that it has a much higher concentration of THC. Due to the high potency, patients will often combine a small amount of concentrate/hash with a less potent form of cannabis to create a strong and immediate effect, offering pain relief in minutes.
These oils and concentrates can sometimes be used topically and will provide a more concentrated dose of cannabinoids than lotions or patches and have shown to be effective in reducing tumor size. These oils can also be vaporized and inhaled to provide a very potent dose of cannabinoids when patients need immediate relief; or they can be placed into capsules and taken just like a Tylenol.
Additionally these oils can be mixed with a hemp seed oil, vegetable glycerin or alcohol base to create a cannabis tincture. Tincture is designed specifically for oral consumption and is not to be smoked or vaporized. Tincture is stored in a dropper bottle and allows patients an easy to dose form of cannabis. A few drops can be placed under the tongue and absorbed sublingually or placed into water, juice or milk and drank. Cannabis oils and tinctures are probably the most versatile form of cannabis offered and is a preferred method by many patients.
Topical administration of cannabis in the form of creams, lotions, patches, sprays, salves and even lip balms has been used to alleviate muscle pain, joint pain, and skin irritation.
Cannabis infused topical lotions, massage oils and transdermal patches are excellent for patients who are experiencing extreme muscular or nerve pain, poor circulation, muscle spasms and dystonia, arthritis and even seizures.
Because these lotions are absorbed through the skin they do not get you high but rather provide a tremendous amount of relief. Skin disorders, in particular, do well with topical cannabis. Eczema, psoriasis, contact dermatitis, pruritus (itching) and even skin infections have been reported to improve with topical cannabis.
Cannabis may also be used topically for stopping migraines, headaches or pain.
Topical rubs are ideal for arthritic joint pain, sore muscles, nerve pain, cuts and scrapes, infections and dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis and bruises.