There are many different ways to consume medical cannabis, find the one that's right for you.
There are two variations on the classic method of inhalation, most well known would be smoking, followed up by vaporization. Both of these two variations provide a rapid onset and similar effects. While both involve heat, the two methods are unique in the application of heat. Classic smoking uses heat to cause combustion, typically performed with pipes or joints.
Vaporization is like a paired down version of smoking, where the material is heated but not to the point of combustion. This heat causes the oil in the plant material to change phases of matter from solid or vapor, allowing it to escape and be absorbed by the lungs. This option is generally thought of to be the healthier choice of inhalation. Both cannabis flower and concentrates alike can be vaporized.
Ingestion is capable of producing the strongest and most psychoactive effects ahead of all other consumption methods. During digestion, cannabinoids are broken down in the gastrointestinal tract and then passed through the liver before entering the bloodstream. As a result of this process, cannabinoids are more effectively able to pass across the blood-brain barrier. This increases the perceived potency of the medicine as compared to other consumption methods by making the cannabinoids more able to bind with receptors throughout the body. It may take up to four hours to feel the full effects from ingested cannabis.
Ingestion of cannabis affects everyone a bit differently depending on a patient’s body size, metabolism, and experience with the medicine. The most iconic emblem of cannabis edibles is the venerable pot brownie, but this sole example hardly even scratches the surface of the endless possibilities in this realm. Medical cannabis has a solid foundation in ingestion, like most typical pharmaceutical routes specific cannabinoids can now be profiled in pill, capsule, tablet, and liquid form. These additional forms allow for very controlled and repeatable dosing events – again much like traditional pharmaceutical medicines, you can now take a pill that contains a precision dose.
Oral absorption inside the mouth can occur in multiple areas. Once absorbed the medicine enters the bloodstream and travels throughout the circulatory system. There are three general areas inside the mouth where absorption can occur; under the tongue (sublingual), on the tongue, and all other mucosal tissues lining inside the entire mouth.
The full effects from using this delivery system will be felt more quickly than by ingesting, but less quickly than with inhalation. The cannabinoids will be absorbed most quickly when held under the tongue. Most commonly, cannabis is consumed orally with infused mints, lozenges, and breath strips. In this method of delivery, the effects will be felt within 10 to 60 minutes.
Medical cannabis can be applied directly to the surface of the skin in the form of lotions, balms, creams, salves and patches. When applied directly to a troubled location on the body, the medicine can provide localized relief from inflammation, pain, skin irritations and more.
Excluding patches (also called transdermal patches) all forms of topical application do not allow cannabinoids to reach the bloodstream. Their medical efficacy is achieved via direct interaction with local endocannabinoid receptors in the skin. Consequently, most topical treatments do not result in any psychoactivity. Some transdermal patches are able to insert cannabinoids into the bloodstream via specialized mechanisms.