What’s your favorite way to consume?
There are many ways in which a person can consume cannabis: smoking, vaporizing, oral, sublingual, topical preparations. Each method has variables to consider and produces different effects. Additionally, depending on the manner of consumption, the amount of active ingredients needed to achieve the desired effect can vary from method to method.
Smoking is probably the most common and popular method for consuming cannabis. The onset of effects are usually rapid, reaching peak effects in 3-10 minutes. THC is absorbed in the lungs and breaks the blood brain barrier there, and peak effects can last anywhere from 30-60 minutes or several hours depending on your level of tolerance. While smoking cannabis does carry with it the negative effects of breathing in burning material, it is still much different than smoking cigarettes. Studies have shown less incidence of lung cancer among cigarette smokers who also consume cannabis. Worth noting is 40% of the active ingredients in cannabis are lost in side stream, or combustion – a maximum of 27% remaining active ingredients can then be absorbed by the body. Meaning that 1gram of 10% THC would allow the patient to absorb up to 16.3 mg of THC.
Vaporizing is similar to smoking, in that the onset of effects are rapid, and the lungs are where THC breaks the blood brain barrier. Vaporizing can be used with both dry flower or concentrate and differs in that it does not heat the product to the level of combustion, as smoking does. It allows the flower or concentrate to be heated up and then begin to release its ingredients in a gentle fashion. Thusly, vaporizing does not produce smoke - what is exhaled is just vapor. Vaporizing also allows for a larger amount of active ingredients to be absorbed. Depending on the effectiveness of your vaporizer, you may have to utilize more flower to get the same effect as smoking. Certain ingredients activate at lower temperatures, so that is also a factor to consider. Vaporizing is a healthier alternative to smoking that produces similar results that usually last up to 2-4 hours.
Oral consumption tends to be the second most common/popular method of consumption. Eating a cannabis infused product allows the body to absorb the active ingredients through the intestinal tract and the onset of effects can be between 45 minutes to 1.5 hours (patient depending) after ingesting. One reason that edibles are so popular is that patients can keep better track of exactly how much product they have ingested. However when orally ingested, THC is degraded in the liver to the byproduct 11-HYDROXYTHC, which has potent psychoactive properties. For this reason, it is important patients take care not to over consume. Bioavailability (the proportion of active ingredients that enters circulation) in edibles range from 5-20% depending on the patient and other pharmacokinetic (how the active ingredients interact with your system) considerations. Up to 3x as much cannabis can be required to get desired effects when compared to smoking/vaporizing. The effects of consuming cannabis orally can last anywhere from 2-10hrs, patient depending.
Sublingual is becoming a more popular method of consumption for patients who are not interested in the previous methods described. When suspended in an alcohol base (like a tincture) the alcohol acts as a delivery method and circumvents the digestive tract. Allowing the pharynx and stomach lining to absorb the product right in to the bloodstream. This allows for a faster acting onset of effects, usually around 15-45 minutes with effects lasting somewhere around 2-5hrs. If allowed, absorption under the tongue and pharynx, the effects tend to last closer to the 2hrs side, where as if it is swallowed effects last closer to the 5hrs side. More cannabis is usually required to reach desired effects due to the preparation involved in this method.
Topical methods of delivery are gaining traction with patients. Unlike the methods previously discussed, topicals typically do not produce psychoactive effects. This is due to the fact that this route of administration does not usually allow for the active ingredients to break the blood brain barrier. Topicals allow for the stimulation of the local cannabis receptors in the area the product is applied to. Most cannabis infused salves can be used anywhere you would typically use a first aid ointment; scrapes, cuts, bruises skin infections. (Always be sure to check the full list of ingredients before applying a cannabis infused topicals) Topicals have analgesic, disinfectant and emollient (moisturizing) effects.
It is important to remember that no matter which route of administration, there are always going to be factors to consider. Everyone’s body reacts a little different to cannabis, so dosages for patient X may be different for patient Y even if their ailments and consumption methods are the same. The best way to figure out which method is right for you is to slowly and carefully test to see what delivers the results you are looking for.