There are many ways to ingest medical cannabis, and patients may find that one method is more effective than another for their specific needs. The effects often vary with each method, sometimes affecting the length of time it takes for the herbal medicine to take effect, or the length of time that it remains effective. Each patient should find which manner is best for them.
- Smoking Medical Cannabis
Historically, the most traditional form of ingestion is smoking the dried flowers or leaves of the cannabis plant. Hash and kief are also ingested this way. Cannabis can be smoked through a pipe, rolled into a joint (or cigarette), or smoked using a water pipe (bong).
For most patients, the effects of smoking dried cannabis are felt almost immediately, but soon begin to diminish. Depending on the individual patient, and the cannabinoid content and potency of the cannabis strain, effects wear off almost completely within 90 minutes to 4 hours. Regularly smoking any plant material, including cannabis for health reasons, can have a negative impact, which is why MyCompassion recommends patients use vaporizers or edible forms of medicinal cannabis whenever possible.
- Vaporizing Medical Cannabis
A vaporizer is a device that is able to extract the therapeutic ingredients in the cannabis plant material, called cannabinoids, at a much lower temperature than required for burning. This allows patients to inhale the active ingredients as a vapor instead of smoke, and spares them the irritating and harmful effects of smoking. Those patients who are used to “smoking” cannabis may not feel like they are “getting anything” at first because it does not “burn” the throat. It is advised to use caution and wait a few minutes to feel the full effects. Many patients say that half as much herbal medicine will provide twice the effect when vaporized.
- Edible Medical Cannabis
Cannabis can be infused into butter or oil that is then cooked in food. Edibles, as they are typically called, usually take longer to take effect than smoking or vaporizing, often 20 minutes to an hour or more. Doses can be difficult to judge, so it is recommended to eat only small portions of edible medical cannabis at a time, and wait at least an hour to assess its effects so you do not over-medicate. Edible herbal medicine will kick in significantly faster if eaten on an empty stomach. In general, the therapeutic effects from eating cannabis last much longer than other consumption methods, often up to four hours or more, and then slowly begin to wear off. Many patients report that this method provides more of a relaxing body effect than the cerebral high that is often accompanied with vaporizing and smoking.
- Topical Medical Cannabis
Topical herbal medicines are applied directly to the skin or muscles. They include lotions, salves, balms, sprays, oils, and creams. MyCompassion patients report they are tremendously effective for skin conditions like psoriasis, joint diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, migraines, restless leg syndrome, some spasms, and everyday muscle stress and soreness. However, unlike smoking, vaporizing or eating the medical cannabis, topicals are completely non-psychoactive—you could take a bath in them, and never get high.
- Tinctures (Medical Cannabis Concentrate)
A tincture is a concentrated form of medical cannabis in an alcohol or glycerin solution. Tinctures are highly concentrated and require careful dosage levels, starting out small and waiting to feel the effects before adding more. They can be taken under the tongue or mixed into water or other beverages.
Eating Cannabis for Cancer, Aids, Chronic Pain and Other Medical Conditions
Eating cannabis can be an excellent alternative to smoking, especially for patients who would like to use the herbal medicine but do not want to ingest smoke. Here is some information that you should be aware of and may find helpful. Many members use edibles as a sleep aid, consuming about an hour before bedtime for a sounder sleep.
Food-based cannabis medicines affect patients differently than inhaled methods like smoking or vaporizing.
Eating too much medical cannabis can cause extreme drowsiness, dizziness, inability to concentrate, diminished ability to focus, rapid heartbeat, increases or decreases in blood pressure, need for sleep, and feelings of euphoria.
How can you ingest cannabis medicines safely?
Learn to manage your dosage effectively…
1. Begin with a ¼ of a “dose” or small portion of herbal medicine.
2. Wait for at least one hour and analyze the effects.
3. If necessary, consume another ¼ dose or small portion.
4. Wait for at least one more hour.
5. If necessary, consume part or all of the remaining herbal medicine.
Do not operate heavy machinery, motor vehicles, boats, or motorcycles while taking edible medication. Do not use if you are pregnant, nursing or caring for an infant. Be aware of your surroundings and possible hazards, and prepare for your needs before taking medication.
Remember: Edibles can vary greatly in potency. Products often contain multiple doses or lesser doses of medicine. Weight, metabolism, and eating habits can alter dosage effects. Eating medical cannabis on an empty stomach can intensify effects. Learn dosage management that works for you when ingesting herbal medicine.
If you feel you have eaten too much of a food-based herbal medicine, do not panic, your symptoms will subside within a few hours. Remain calm. Stay hydrated and eat food to help symptoms pass.
Edible medical cannabis is safe and will not cause any long-term toxicity.