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What is the best way to use my Medical Marijuana?

Updated: Apr 27, 2020

There are many different ways to ingest your medicine. Choices range from inhalation to tinctures, edibles, topicals, rectal ingestion, and consuming raw cannabis.  Each method has its pros and cons, and depending on the needs of each patient, some forms may be more advisable to use than others. So, during a consultation I would normally take into consideration the health of the individual, the target symptoms, the immediacy needed for medication effectiveness, duration of  medication effectiveness, Etc.  Each patient may then have a unique approach to ingesting their medical cannabis as a result of the above factors.

When we describe inhalation, we are referring to the use of cannabis flower which can either be smoked directly or used in a dry herb vaporizer. Inhalation is the most common mode of ingestion for people, and it has the fastest onset of relief for patients. This method is good to determine the optimal dose for a patient, because the effects tend to come within 30 seconds to 5 minutes and last from 1 to 6 hours. On the downside is the process of combustion, and the effect it has in the production of volatile organic compounds from the vegetative matter as a person inhales the medicinal resins of the plant. This can lead to complications in patients with pulmonary and cardiovascular disorders, so it is not the most advisable method for these people. 

In cases such as these I frequently make reference to a dry herb vaporizer. Using this device, a  patient can specifically determine the temperatures needed to activate the different compounds in the plant for the medicinal benefits that they are seeking. By doing this they also avoid combustion of the vegetative plant matter, and negate the complications of ingesting smoke. Another form of inhalation is the use of vaporizer cartridges, which contain hemp oil that is heated to the point of vaporization. This offers a simple delivery system that avoids combustion, and minimizes the negative impacts from smoked cannabis. However there are many questions about the metals contained in the vaporizer cartridges, and the long-term effects of heat and the oil leaching out toxic chemicals from the metals. Further the excessive use of a vaporized oil and the potential use of cutting agents that are toxic to human lungs have been a public issue this past year.

Liquid cannabis preparations include tinctures and extractions. There are many different views on the use of these products where some complain that the process of extraction removes beneficial plant compounds. To compensate for this, companies are now moving towards other methods of extraction which yield full extract cannabis oils that preserve the phytocannabinoids, terpenoids, and flavonoids in the plant. Regardless of your point of view on the process of extracting the oil, the delivery system offers a very simple and much more accurate way of taking medicine. It avoids issues with the respiratory system, and is quickly absorbed by the oral mucosal membrane.  

Cannabis edible preparations are another great way to consume your medical cannabis. It can take the form of baked products, cannabutter, capsules, gummies, and a variety of infused foods. The benefits are a much longer duration of effectiveness of the medication, with much stronger results at lower doses. The effects take 30 minutes to 2 hours to begin after consumption and last approximately 4 to 10 hours depending on an individual's metabolism. This route takes longer to begin, but the duration of effects are stronger than a tincture.  This method of ingestion is good for my medical patients with severe problems to deliver high doses of medicine. 

The use of topical cannabis preparations includes transdermal patches, balms, lotions, and salves. They are useful in treating focal pain and muscle spasms, as well as inflammation, itching, and eczema. Since we do have receptors under the skin for cannabinoids, one must be cautious with high THC topical products as they may yield very strong psychoactive effects.

The rectal use of cannabis comes in the form of suppositories. These are best for the treatment of problems in the vagina, or rectum.  This method is not a good source of absorption, and can be wasteful. With high doses it can enter the blood-brain barrier and cause intoxication. It is a good method of ingestion for those who cannot inhale or swallow cannabis products. Further research is needed in this area.

Raw cannabis preparations are yet another way that people use medical cannabis on a daily basis. In the non decarboxylated form, we have THCA (the NON- psychoactive form of THC)  which is a good anti-inflammatory, anti-nausea, and anti-seizure medication. This is true at really low doses as well. In its raw form we preserve the terpenes, flavonoids, and cannabinoids in the plant and minimize any psychoactive effects. The raw flower can be eaten whole, infused into an oil at low temperatures (avoiding the process of decarboxylation which converts THCA to activated THC) or  you can steep it into a tea.  In my opinion, when used in this form, this is cannabinoid medicine in its truest form.

To continue reading more by Dr. Lonny Weiss Psy.D. please visit www.drlonnycbd.com!


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