The following is intended as a basic guide to the main differences between the various methods of medicating with medical cannabis.
Oral Consumption (eating, drinking, tinctures, etc.):
Eating a medical cannabis-infused food product, savory or sweet, tends to impart a relaxed, sedated effect, as consumed cannabinoids are metabolized in a different way to inhaling. This feeling may take anywhere from twenty minutes to two hours to kick in, regardless of your level of experience, frequency of use and the quality of cannabis used. Patients seeking an indica-style ‘down’ effect usually benefit from consumed medical medical cannabis, minus the negative consequences associated with smoking.
If you want to eat cannabis, baked goods are not your only option. Cooking oils, butter, tinctures, drinks, spreads, and much more are available. While the non-smoking approach is preferable for health reasons, some ailments are actually better treated with metabolized cannabis rather than inhaled. The downside to this application is that dosage is often arbitrary, and the time from consumption to onset of effect is unpredictable and even seasoned users find that the same dosage of the same cake, for example, takes different amounts of time to work and imparts varying strength of effect each time they eat it.
One exception to the delayed-effect rule may be tinctures. Offered in various forms, including sublingual (‘under the tongue’) drops, sprays, oils, etc., tinctures are sometimes faster-acting, as they consists of a solution of cannabinoids dissolved in alcohol and generally absorb directly into the body via mucous membranes.
In many cases the relatively immediate action of medical cannabis being absorbed through the lungs into the bloodstream delivers better therapy to those suffering from certain ailments, such as asthma, nausea or glaucoma. In the case of nausea sufferers specifically chemo patients medicating with medical cannabis is necessary in order to lower pain levels and stimulate appetite.
Inhaling weed, hash, hash oil, ‘budder’, etc. is preferable in a vaporizer, which heats the product to the melting point of the active substances, the cannabinoids. As the temperature is not high enough to trigger combustion unless the product is over-vaporized or the temperature is set too high the trichomes are heated to the point where they burst, turning from liquid to vapor. The patient only inhales the helpful cannabinoids, which are all released at slightly different temperatures, forgoing the harmful carcinogens, smoke and other contaminants. Vaporizers generally impart a high, happy feeling, whereas smokers receive the more intended effect of the original strain: high/energized from sativas and hazes, and stoned/relaxed from the indicas.
Smoking should be considered a ‘last resort’. Many patients are either unaware of the positive attributes of a vaporizer, unable to purchase one, or simply incapable of making certain models or methods work properly due to the constraints of their illness. If your ailment requires inhaled cannabinoids and vaporizing is not an option, bongs (water pipes), pipes, screens and other smoking paraphernalia should be glass not plastic, wood, metal, etc.
Joint smokers must be mindful of the contents of their rolling papers, filter tips, and any mixing ingredients, whether tobacco or herbal tobacco alternatives. Even the butane sucked from your lighter through the joint or bong should be considered. All smokers should do their best to source responsibly-grown, organic products.
Topical Application (tinctures, oils, creams, lotions, poultices, etc.):
Perhaps the least-known approach to using medical cannabis as medicine is through a topical application. Rick Simpson famously advocates this method, popularized through his website (www.phoenixtears.ca), which involves applying cannabis oil externally to ailments such as skin cancer.
Lotions, creams and tinctures containing cannabinoids also tend to have a similar effect to topical anesthetics, lending to a less painful recovery period for burns, blisters, etc. For thousands of years cannabis has been used, mixed with other herbs and applied directly to the skin. Psoriasis and eczema have been treated via this method, capitalizing on cannabis’s anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.
Do some research you may find that an alternative medical cannabis consumption method may be right for you, and help you even more.