Cannabis remedies are available in many forms and can be utilized in various ways. The most appropriate delivery system for therapeutic cannabis is one that provides an optimal dose for a desired duration with few unwanted side effects.
Cannabis is typically smoked in a pipe or joint. When inhaled, CBD, THC and other compounds are absorbed by the lungs, into the blood, and cross the blood-brain barrier. The first effects of inhaled cannabis usually occur within a few minutes, and gradually wear off after 2-3 hours. Smoking is often effective for treating acute symptoms that need to be addressed quickly, such as painful spasms, nausea, and vomiting. It is fairly easy to titrate the dose by inhaling. If the effect is insufficient after a few minutes, one can take another puff until the desired effect is achieved. But smoke contains noxious substances that may irritate the lungs.
Vaporizing with a vape pen or another device offers the same immediate benefits of smoking. But since a vaporizer heats the cannabis flower or oil without burning it, the active ingredients are inhaled as a vapor and no smoke is involved. This makes it a healthier alternative to smoking.
Tinctures are herbal remedies in which the active ingredients of cannabis are dissolved in alcohol or another solvent. Their effect, duration and dosing are similar to that of edibles.
Sublingual sprays are made from cannabis extracts that may be mixed with another substance like coconut oil. The cannabis concentrate is sprayed under the tongue and quickly absorbed through the oral mucosa. First effects are generally felt within 5 to 15 minutes. Sublingual sprays are a good option for consistent, discreet, and timely cannabis dosing. There is no preparation involved and no lingering smell from smoking.
Edibles are foods or snacks cooked with cannabis-infused oil, butter or ghee. The effects of orally consumed cannabis can last 4 to 6 hours—considerably longer than inhaled cannabis. But the onset of effects is much slower (30-90 minutes) than for inhaled cannabis or sublingual sprays. The slow onset and longer duration make edibles well suited for treating chronic conditions that require a steady dose of medicine throughout the day. The biggest risk with orally administered cannabis is overconsumption. The longer time of onset makes it more difficult to titrate dosage. One should proceed cautiously by taking a small dose of an edible and waiting at least an hour before deciding if more is needed. Edibles may not be appropriate for someone suffering from nausea, vomiting or lack of appetite.
Capsules & Gel Caps
Cannabis oil can also be taken in a capsule or gel cap like a vitamin or supplement. The effect, duration and dosing are similar to that of edibles.
Cannabis prepared as an herbal tea will include significant amounts of CBD and THC in their raw “acid” form (CBDA and THCA) because the heat required to steep tea is less than the temperature necessary for "decarboxylation," which transforms CBDA into CBD and THCA into THC. Cannabis tea is not inebriating because cannabinoid acids do not bind with receptors in the brain. CBDA and THCA appear to have significant therapeutic properties, but there has been little research on these compounds.
Raw cannabis juice made with a blender will contain CBDA, THCA, and the other non-psychoactive cannabinoids since it’s also not heated. It is difficult to gauge a precise dose using this method of administration, but the health benefits are potentially significant.
Topicals & Salves
Cannabis tinctures and oil can also be infused in a balm, lotion or ointment and applied directly to the skin. Patients report that cannabis topicals can be effective for pain, inflammation, infections, and skin conditions. Because they are applied externally, topicals and salves are not inebriating.
Cannabis Oil Extracts
Cannabis oil extracts can be taken orally, sublingually or applied topically. Concentrated cannabis oil extracts can also be utilized as an ingredient to vaporize or cook with. Some cannabis oils come with an applicator for measured dosing. These oil extracts—CBD-rich and THC-dominant—are very potent. The time of onset and duration of effect vary depending on the method of administration.
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