Cannabis is a very versatile medicine that can be consumed and applied in a multitude of ways – smoking it, vaporizing it, eating it, or applying it topically.
Freshly Cut Raw Flower
Freshly cut flower can literally be eaten raw off the plant, but the more recommended application of raw cannabis is to either add it to a salad, or to juice it. Juicing recipes are abundant – throw a little kale, apple, carrot, and some beats in your juiced cannabis and voila, you’ve got a delicious, healthy, anti-cancer smoothie! When consuming the plant in the raw form, psychoactivity is greatly reduced. Even with the reduced psychoactivity, you will still be receiving the therapeutic effects from the raw cannabinoids and terpenoids. For example, THCA, the raw form of THC, still possesses anti-cancerous, anti-inflammatory, and anti-spasmotic properties. For more information on juicing, Watch this Documentary.
Most people are familiar with the dried and cured flowers (buds) from the cannabis plant. Consumption is typically done by either smoking or vaporizing the buds. What happens from a chemical standpoint is that the raw cannabinoid acids such as THCA or CBDA are converted by heat into the better-known compounds THC and CBD, respectively. When these compounds are inhaled they bind to a set of receptors in your brain and throughout your body known as the Endocannabinoid System. This system works to provide the various therapeutic effects possible with the cannabis plant.
The most common ways to smoke cannabis include:
- Rolled joint
- Pipe with a packed bowl of cannabis
- Bong with a packed bowl of cannabis
- Rolled spliffs and blunts mixed with tobacco (this is not recommended).
Although smoking (burning) the cannabis flower is indeed the most commonly known method of consumption, it is not the best method from a medical standpoint. Smoking can be an irritant to one’s throat and lungs, especially for patients with sensitivity due to their specific ailments (someone with emphysema, for example, should not smoke cannabis).
Vaporizing is the more recommended delivery method, and is actually a better way to efficiently consume the cannabinoids and terpenoids. When burning the plant matter, you actually lose about 30-40% of the medicine to combustion; this loss is minimized when the compounds in the plant are vaporized at the right temperature.
There are two styles of flower vaporizers available – Tabletop and Portable.
- Tabletop Vaporizer – Common examples available on the market include, but are not limited to:
- Silver Surfer
- Easy Vape
- Hot Box
- Portable Vaporizer. Common examples available on the market include:
- PAX Plume
- Magic Flight Launch Box
- Atmos Pen
- DaVinci Ascent
- Puffit Vaporizers
Cold Extracted Cannabis
Cold Extracted Cannabis can provide a more potent and longer lasting effect than smoking the flower. These medicines have a higher concentration of trichomes, which contain the therapeutic cannabinoids.
These loose, powdery collections of trichomes and plant matter are typically smoked – either alone in a pipe, or mixed in with other ground up cannabis in a rolled joint. Alternatively, Kief may also be vaporized in a vaporizer. Again, they may be mixed in with other cannabis flower. Kief can be consumed raw by itself as well (eating the powder), or mixed with food, or juiced.
After soaking or steeping raw cannabis and/or hash in alcohol or olive oil, the entire mixture is consumed, including the granular plant material.
Hash and Bubble Hash come in two forms; loose and pressed. The pressed version of hash is literally a pressed, compact, solid form of the medicine. The loose form of Hash can be smoked or vaporized alone, or mixed in with cannabis in a pipe, bong, or rolled joint. Vaporizing can either be done with traditional Tabletop Flower Vaporizers or Portable Flower Vaporizers, or vaporized using Portable Oil Vaporizers such as the Koil Vape Pen. They may also be “dabbed” in an Oil Rig (these resemble bongs but are outfitted with “nails” made of titanium, quartz, or ceramic); this nail is heated and a small amount of medicine is applied to it so that it may be vaporized and consumed in a manner cleaner and less irritating to the lungs than smoking. Pressed Hash is typically smoked, but may also be dabbed in an Oil Rig or vaporized using Portable Oil Vaporizers such as the Koil Vape Pen.
They have larger concentrations of cannabinoids and terpenoids, and can be helpful for patients who are very sick, and need high doses of medicine. Most often, the therapeutic effects of these essential oils are intense, and longer lasting than the effects of cannabis flower. Essential Oils come in many textures (Wax, Crumble, Budder, Shatter, Sap, Taffy). Essential oils may be used in cooking edibles in order to provide very high concentrations of cannabinoids for ingestion. But typically this type of medicine is best consumed vaporized. This may be done in an Oil Rig (see above description) or using a Portable Vaporizer.
Popular Portable Oil Vaporizers include:
- Koil Vape Pen
- Micro Vaped Pen
- Atmos Pen
- Vaporbrothers Dabbler
- Trippystix Vaporizer
Heat Extracted Cannabis
Cannabis extractions by way of heat can be effective for additional medical benefits:
This can be useful for patients who need a long lasting and potent medical effect. Cannabis can be infused into virtually any food or beverage. Edibles may also be made with specific dietary needs in mind (vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, etc.). And they may be made using specific strains with the aim of achieving particular therapeutic effects. Be aware that eating cannabis most often will provide a more potent and longer lasting effect than smoking/vaporizing flower or hash. When THC is digested and metabolized in the liver, it is converted into 11-Hydroxy-Delta-9 THC, which is more psychoactive than Delta-9 THC. Too much of this can cause THC toxicity which can result in dysphoria (this will pass with time and is not lethal).
Cannabis oils, such as Full Extract Oils, Rick Simpson’s Oil, or cannabis infused olive or coconut oil, are typically eaten. Most often, a very small amount of concentrated oil is eaten or mixed with other food so that it goes down easier. Alternatively, these oils may be used as a topical and applied to various parts of the body.
The practice of steeping leaves from various plants, including cannabis, into hot water and then drinking it has been around for thousands of years. Making tea out of cannabis is a simple process – simply steep your bud or leaves in hot water. It is harder to determine the dose, but adding milk or cream helps dissolve the cannabinoids. The effect of cannabis tea is generally described as less potent, calming, and soothing.
Tinctures are typically administered sublingually (under the tongue) for a fast acting therapeutic effect. When the tincture is applied under the tongue, the medicine bypasses your digestive tract and enters the blood much faster than if you were to consume an edible. Typically, the onset of a tincture’s effect will take about 10-15 minutes versus 45 minutes to an hour with edibles. Tinctures can, however, be added to drinks or food, and treated as a normal cannabis infused edible.
Creams, lotions, salves, patches are applied to the skin for a variety of skin, muscle and joint ailments, such as inflammation, psoriasis, arthritis, and even skin cancer. These products are applied topically by rubbing into or placing on the skin.
Although not available everywhere, cannabis suppositories can be a helpful means of administrating cannabis when smoking, vaporizing, or oral digestion is not possible. Absorption is quick and bypasses liver metabolism.