Methods of Medical Cannabis / Marijuana Consumption

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There are many different methods of using medical cannabis all of which have different effects, but not all marijuana consumption devices or types may be ideal for you. Some forms of intake, such as smoking, can aggravate symptoms instead of delivering the medicine intended to help alleviate them. Here are some tips on finding the best consumption method for you:

  • Before you buy, discuss intake options with your doctor to see which form is suggested to you.
  • Do some research on ways to use cannabis to familiarize yourself with different styles of cannabis use.
  • If a particular method is not working for you, try something else.

Click any of these links to skip to the section: See Smoking, See Bong, See Vaporizers, See Edibles, See Tinctures & Tonics, See Topicals, See Tea, See Concentrates.

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Smoking medical marijuana is the most expedient method of consumption, with almost immediate effect and dosage controlled by the patient. Although not as harmful as cigarettes, the downside to smoking marijuana is that it can damage the lungs and cause respiratory problems. Although results from clinical trials have been contradictory, many researchers believe herbal marijuana contains toxins and carcinogens that lead to increased risk of respiratory diseases and cancer and therefore recommend other methods of consumption of medical marijuana besides smoking.

If you do choose to smoke, here are some helpful tips to minimize the risk due to toxins and tars contained in the marijuana:

  • Use a more potent, higher THC cannabis so less inhalation is necessary to acquire an effective dose.
  • Using a pipe allows a more consistent and predictable dosage.
  • Use a filter and non-chemical rolling paper if smoking a marijuana cigarette (joint).
  • Exhale immediately after inhaling deeply to avoid the tars in the marijuana from coating your lungs. It is a myth that holding your breath will create a stronger dosage or enable more THC to be absorbed.

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One major advantage of a bong, sometimes called a bubbler, or water pipe, is that it contains water that not only cools off the smoke, but also filters it— minimizing elements such as nicotine or any other resin. However, it’s recommended not to use a bong or water pipe regularly. The water absorbs some of the THC and other cannabinoids, and you can inhale water vapor or water drops into your lungs which will limit some of the benefit of your medical marijuana.

Don’t use a bong made from plastic, rubber or aluminum that can produce harmful fumes when heated or melted. If you do use one, change the water frequently to limit exposure to germs and viruses.

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Use of a vaporizer for your medical marijuana is the most recommended method as an alternative to smoking. A vaporizer is a device that gently heats up cannabis at a lower temperature, achieved with digital accuracy, releasing the active medicinal components of marijuana, such as THC, while producing fewer harmful byproducts.

How Vaporizers Work

A vaporizer heats the cannabis plant slowly causing the active ingredients to evaporate into a vapor without reaching the point of combustion, thereby releasing a much lower portion of other harmful components than come from smoking. Inhalation of the vapor then offers the same therapeutic benefits of smoking medical marijuana but without exposure to harmful toxins.

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The effects of consumed cannabis is much different compared to smoking or vaporizing. Edibles are slower to kick in, slow to wear off and usually give more of a “body” versus “head” high, an effect described as ‘heavier’ or ‘deeper’ than if smoked or inhaled. This can be particularly beneficial for those with chronic severe body pain.

A word of caution to those choosing to medicate with edible marijuana – unlike with smoking and vaporizing, it is much easier to over-consume, and therefore over-medicate with ingestion. Because it can take longer to feel the effect and/or because the edibles taste good, patients are warned to start with a small amount, wait an hour or two before ingesting more, and be extra careful in consumption so as not to exceed recommended dosage.

That said, it’s also important to know that eating raw cannabis does not deliver therapeutic benefits and is not recommended. Marijuana edibles are made, instead, with butters or oils derived from the cannabis plant, often called cannabutter or cannabis infused oil. Marijuana butters and oils are made by simmering the cannabis flowered tops and leaves in butter or oil for several hours. This process transfers the THC and other therapeutic cannabinoids into the butter or oil, which can then be used in cooking all sorts of food, such as brownies, cookies, candies, as well as liquids, such as soup and sauces.

What conditions are edibles most recommended for?

Because most cannabis edibles (with the exception of alcohol tincture) are exposed to some kind of heat during the cooking process, many of the inactive cannabinoids such as THC-a and CBD-a, are converted to THC, CBD and CBN. The cooking process, as well as the high levels of THC found in marijuana edibles, work together to create the perfect treatment for many disorders, including chronic pain, muscle inflammation and spasms, autoimmune disorders, nervous system disorders, insomnia, and nausea (provided the patient is well enough to ingest the medication).

While anyone can enjoy the benefits of edibles, patients suffering from crohn’s disease, an autoimmune disorder of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract that affects as many as 700,000 Americans, find this method of medicating extremely beneficial. Because Crohn’s Disease occurs in the GI tract, edibles distribute useful active and inactive cannabinoids at the root of the problem, instead of having to rely on the bloodstream to carry them from the lungs.

Marijuana edibles are also particularly helpful to relieve pain, spasticity and sleep disorders but is, for obvious reasons, not the best method if experiencing nausea or vomiting.

View Greenly’s edibles here.

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Cannabis can also be made into tinctures and tonics, which are then added to food and liquids, applied on the skin, or consumed directly in small amounts or by placing drops under the tongue. This is particularly useful when nausea and vomiting are present, such as when undergoing chemotherapy treatments. Tinctures and tonics are made much in the same way as edibles, but instead of cooking them in butter or oil, the cannabis flowered tops and leaves are soaked in alcohol. The solids are then finely strained, leaving behind a liquid that contains the THC and other cannabinoids that produce the needed medical relief. Typical dosage of marijuana tinctures is between 3 drops to no more than 2 full droppers. As with the edibles, it is best to start slow and use only a small portion until relief from symptoms is achieved.

View Greenly’s tinctures here.

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Another alternative route of administration for medical marijuana free from any psychoactive reactions is to use a topical made from cannabis and apply it directly onto the skin. Marijuana topicals, such as balms, salves, lotions, sprays and ointments made from cannabis oils, can be very effective analgesics and anti-inflammatories.

Conditions in which marijuana topicals have helped provide relief are arthritis, chapped skin, eczema, minor burns, muscle soreness, sunburns, swellings, joint pain, and tendonitis- to name a few.  Sprays can be used topically to ease muscle aches that accompany many conditions and more importantly the painful symptoms of shingles.  It is especially useful for the unfortunate few who develop post-herpetic neuralgia (phn), a nerve inflammation condition that results from shingles disease.  Cannabis topicals have been proven to not only have anti-inflammatory properties but also to act as an antibacterial, quickening healing times for injuries.

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Cannabis leaves, stems, and buds can also be used in making a medicinal tea.  The process is fairly simple.  As with other herb teas, boil the water,  pour this over the leaves and stems in a small pot or cup, and let steep for at least half an hour.  Similar to marijuana edibles and tinctures, adding alcohol, oil or butter is necessary to help dissolve the THC, which is only slightly soluble in boiling water.   Recipes often use milk, spices, and sometimes hard liquor to make a spiced chai-type tea.

Marijuana tea can vary in strength, depending on the types and amounts of ingredients used.  Teas have been described by patients to vary from being much like drinking chamomile tea to delivering a high that lasted for hours.  General advice is to start with an amount equivalent to a marijuana cigarette for each cup, however experimenting with different recipes and amounts will help determine the amount needed to deliver the therapeutic effect desired.

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Hash is made by collecting the resin from the flowers of a female cannabis plant, also called trichomes.  The primary active substance of this part of the cannabis plant is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) along with other cannabinoids as well.

The resin collected from the marijuana flowers can then be compressed into small blocks (sometimes referred to as Ear Wax), which can then be eaten, smoked, or added to tea, edibles and other medical marijuana products.  Hash differs than 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 hash with a less potent form of cannabis to create a very strong and immediate effect, offering pain relief in minutes.

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