When using cannabis as part of your health plan, the method of consumption can be just as important as the strain you choose to use. Each strain comes in multiple forms of consumption, such as cannabis oil that can be vaporized or consumed orally, and flower (aka dried cannabis buds) that can be smoked or vaporized.
Each method for consuming cannabis will create a different experience. How you ingest the plant influences the time it takes for the effects to manifest. The method you choose will determine whether you experience a slow or rapid onset, long or short-term effects, localized or systemic relief. Cannabis products come in a variety of doses and it’s important to always start with the smallest amount possible so you can evaluate the effects and adjust the dosage accordingly to get all the therapeutic benefits. Your mood, daily activities, pain level, or condition will determine when and how you consume cannabis and what potency and ingestion method you will choose.
Our team in Israel has spent years working with new cannabis patients and studying different methods of ingesting the plant, so we’re here to guide you on the various methods and how they can help with your specific needs.
Cannabis flower is the mature buds of the cannabis plant and is the most common method of ingestion. Flower can be smoked or vaporized and will provide immediate relief as the cannabinoids are absorbed directly into your bloodstream through your lungs.
Smoking cannabis requires accessories such as a water pipe, a glass pipe, a chillum, or rolling papers. However, smoking can be harsh on the lungs, especially for new patients. Rolling papers are the stereotypical method of consuming cannabis, but if you have asthma or trouble breathing it is not recommended.
If you have never tried smoking cannabis, start with vaporizing rather than smoking. Placing dried flowers into the heating unit of a vaporizer causes the cannabis to combust at a different temperature, which varies in effect from the intense heat of combustion when smoking. Unlike traditional smoking methods, less plant matter is likely to be inhaled which is better for the lungs. Vaporizing flower takes up to two minutes to cycle via the lungs, through the bloodstream to the brain, so it will take a little longer to experience effects but will also last longer in the body. Flower vaporizers may be handheld or larger vaporizers may require an electrical outlet. We recommend that patients start with a handheld vaporizer so that their medication is portable.
The effects of consuming cannabis flower typically last 2-4 hours, depending on the rate of consumption. For a long-lasting effect, try another method.
CANNABIS OIL | VAPE OIL
At our Tel Aviv clinic, we rarely instruct older patients who are new to cannabis – and smoking in general – to inhale flower (dried herbs). Instead, we offer them an alternative such as vaporizing cannabis oil or flower.
Cannabis oil is made up of the natural plant oils that are extracted from the cannabis plant. Some cannabis brands will add terpene oils from other plants such as lemon to their products to create a sweeter taste. All Tikun Olam products are made with terpenes extracted from each individual strain.
The most popular cannabis extraction methods are BHO (butane hash oil), CO2 oil (carbon dioxide oil), and ice water, also known as bubble hash extraction. Many users report that the extraction method affects the taste of the vapor, and have a preferred type of oil extraction. Since cannabis oil is extracted from the plant, it contains a much higher concentration of cannabinoids like THC and CBD. Typically, cannabis oil is sold in cartridges and consumed in a vaporizer pen or with a tabletop device.
Since the oil is heated and not ignited, you will inhale vapor, not smoke. Vapor is more concentrated and therefore one or two doses of a vape and feeling is often smoother and deeper than the immediate hit of smoking. Because the oil is not being burned, the flavor of the cannabis terpenes is also more pungent. The onset effect lasts 2-4 hours, depending on the dosage.
Cannabis oil can also be ingested orally in capsules, passing through the digestive tract and absorbing into the body through endocannabinoid receptors in the intestines. Consuming cannabis oil orally will have a longer-lasting effect; however, the impact will be affected by each individual’s metabolism rate and is similar to the effect of an edible.
CONCENTRATES & HASH
Concentrates & Hash are highly concentrated forms of the cannabis flowers that are made from a variety of techniques, which produce wax, shatter, cold water hash, bubble hash, crumble, and honey. They are consumed by smoking just as you would with regular flowers or by dabbing, which is a form of vaporizing a small amount of extract against a heat source. Extreme care should be used when applying a high heat source to vaporize concentrates.
Concentrates are very strong and can be beneficial for patients in extreme pain, for PTSD, and for patients who are replacing opiates with cannabis. Generally, a small amount of concentrate will produce a strong euphoric and psychoactive effect, so new users are encouraged to exercise caution by consuming in small doses. Concentrates can be mixed with flower as well for an enhanced effect. They also have a rapid, immediate onset and the effects last for about 4 hours.
Tinctures are concentrated liquid oil extractions from the cannabis flowers, which allow for easy oral administration and rapid absorption. Tinctures are generally administered sublingually via droppers and are one of the oldest methods of cannabis consumption. In fact, before the US removed cannabis from the US formulary in 1943, tinctures were a popular medicinal product prescribed by doctors. Now that medical marijuana is once again legal in 30 states, it is a popular method of consumption for patients that want an easily measurable dosage.
Since cannabis is fat-soluble, the extractions are often mixed with an oil like coconut oil, to allow for consistent dosing with each drop. Tinctures can be also be mixed with alcohol or glycerin. Glycerin-based tinctures have slower absorption than alcohol-based ones, like those produced by Tikun which are absorbed sublingually and rapidly enter the bloodstream providing quick benefits. Tinctures are an easy, quick way to use medicinal cannabis every day. Dosing is easy to control and to titrate up or down.
Transdermal cannabis is absorbed through endocannabinoid receptors in the skin. The skin is the body’s largest organ and contains three layers: the epidermis, the dermis, and the deepest layer is the hypodermis. Transdermal patches allow the medication to be absorbed through the skin and absorbed into the bloodstream via the hypodermis.
After penetrating the skin and entering the bloodstream, the blood carries the cannabinoids through the circulatory system and throughout a patient’s body. A transdermal patch will provide full dose absorption for the duration of its usage, making it a great option for patients who are looking for relief throughout the workday.
Each patch will have specifics about dosage and length of usage.
Topicals are creams or salves that absorb and can be applied directly to the skin. Topicals absorb quickly into the body and can provide relief and healing within minutes.
Since topicals do not pass into the deepest layer of the skin, it does not pass into the bloodstream and cross the blood-brain barrier. Therefore, topicals are not psychoactive and can be used generously. Some brands, like Tikun, produce strain-specific topicals.
Topicals are very beneficial for localized pain, acting as an analgesic or for inflammation and rapid healing in conditions like bruising, skin ailments or infections, headaches, muscle soreness, arthritis, or acute injuries.
Edibles are foods or drinks infused with cannabis oil or extracts. Edibles are the longest-lasting cannabis products, often providing 8-12 hours of continuous relief. Edibles can take up to two hours to take effect depending on your metabolism and how much you have eaten prior to ingestion, so it’s important to plan ahead.
Products sold in dispensaries have clearly labeled dosing in individual pieces, so you can easily control the dose and start very low. Edibles also allow you to medicate from anywhere anytime since they are portable, discreet, and compact. They affect the body differently than other forms of cannabis, so even if you are used to other cannabis products we recommend beginning with the lowest possible dose of an edible. Edibles are great for people suffering from digestive diseases since they can have a powerful effect on the whole digestive tract.
Before, During, and After Consumption
Stay hydrated and well-nourished. You may experience dry mouth, increased appetite, euphoria, or deep relaxation. Be prepared before medicating with anything that comforts and nourishes you. Try different strains and products as you begin consuming cannabis and track your dosing and progress.
Choosing the Right Product for You
The type of cannabis you choose to smoke will also affect your experience. Do you need a high-THC dose to help you with nausea or chronic pain? Or high CBD to help reduce inflammation? Consult our blog entries on CBD and THC to get a more in-depth understanding of cannabinoids before consulting your health practitioner about your specific symptoms and how cannabis fits into your treatment.