Along with having more medicinal properties than the anti- crowd wants to admit, medical marijuana is also amazingly diverse when it comes to the ways you can get the healing properties of this wonder plant into your system.
This is hands down the most well known and common method of consuming medical marijuana. Face it, it’s easy. Just roll a joint or drop it in a pipe or bong and light it up. You’re done. It’s a quick and effective way to introduce cannabinoids into the bloodstream and the associated cannabinoid receptors in the brain. The psychoactive effects known as the “high” come on quickly (usually within one to three minutes) and can last for two or three hours. On the upside, smoking cannabis allows dosage to be calculated more easily because the effects are so quickly noticeable. But what are the downsides?
The Cons of Smoking Cannabis
First and foremost; we all know that smoking anything is not the healthiest thing you can do. While there have been studies on the effects that smoking marijuana can have on your lungs, the results seem to vary depending on which side of the medical marijuana fence they’re sitting on. Rather than citing a study I happen to like the results of, let’s just use a more common sense approach. Whether it’s tobacco, marijuana, smog, car exhaust or even an asthma inhaler … bringing anything other than oxygen into your lungs is more than likely going to diminish the overall ability of the organ to function as well as it once did. Over time, it’s all going to take its toll.
Secondly; smoking is not something you can do anywhere and keep it to yourself. It’s aromatic as well as visible. When you light up, everyone around you knows it.
Third and finally; science shows there are better ways to medicate. For example, anytime dried plant material is burned thousands of chemical substances are produced in the smoke. It is as true for cannabis as it is for tobacco. Not only does it break down the chemical bonds of the carbon (leading to the creation of free radicals), the combustion process also destroys the active cannabinoids (significantly reducing the desired effect of the cannabis plant). While it does ultimately seem like marijuana smoke is less toxic than that of cigarettes, there are other ways to get the same psychoactive effects while increasing the health benefits.
While the concept of vaporization is not brand new, it is becoming more and more popular with medical marijuana patients for a variety of reasons. Vaporizers work by heating the marijuana only to the point where the active chemicals turn into a vapor. This happens somewhere between about 356 and 392 degrees, which is much lower than the point of combustion.
Not only is the vapor cooler and easier on your lungs, because the marijuana never burns you’re able to avoid ingesting the potential carcinogens that are produced in the process as well as maximizing the effectiveness of your medication … which can also save you money in the long run.
Vaporizers come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They can be portable and discreet or a just around the house kind of thing. Either way, it definitely seems like a smart way to go to make sure you get the full psychoactive and medicinal effects of each dose.
Hash, Kief, Wax and Other Similar Concentrates
There are many different types of cannabis concentrates. For this section, we will address the concentrated forms that require smoking. These concentrates are made by mixing the plant matter with a solvent such as water or butane. The goal here is to eliminate plant matter while extracting the resin glands. The mixture is processed and then the resulting solution is strained or otherwise purged to remove all plant matter and remaining solvents. The end result is a highly potent concentrate of the finer qualities of the cannabis plant. While these do still require the inhalation of smoke, you need to use far less so the negative effects of smoking are significantly reduced.
The use of tinctures as medicine dates back to the 1800’s. Cannabis tinctures are made through a process of mixing plant matter with alcohol or glycerine. Just like with hash and wax, the goal is to eliminate plant matter while extracting the resin glands. The end result of a tincture is a liquid form of hash that can be taken as drops or added to food or drink. Alcohol tinctures are often referred to as “Green Dragon”, made with the highest proof and clearest alcohols, and offer a heavy body buzz combined with the effects of the alcohol. Glycerine tinctures take months to properly make, and are much sweeter than the alcohol variety (making it a perfect edible for children).
Tinctures taken under the tongue are absorbed directly into the bloodstream and provide near immediate results that are similar to smoking or vaporizing. When tinctures are added to food or drink, the effects can take longer to feel as they must first be processed by the liver before making into the rest of your system.
It may take a bit of experimenting to figure out the proper dosage. You should start with only a drop or two and wait to see the effects before taking more. Tinctures that are made with high proof alcohol will evaporate if left uncovered. As that happens, the potency of each drop will increase.
Edibles are made by infusing butter or cooking oil with cannabis and then using that infusion into a variety of traditional recipes. They’re most often offered up in the form of high calorie treats like cookies and brownies, but there are truly an unlimited number of possibilities that don’t require adding inches to your waist.
There are many reasons why consuming your medication through food is a good idea. The first, and probably most obvious, reason is that there is no smoke with which to cause potential damage to your lungs with. This also makes it a preferable method of medicating for those patients with asthma or other respiratory ailments that make smoking unappealing or unadvised. It’s also more discreet. You can eat edibles anywhere and without drawing attention to yourself.
The second reason is about the added health benefits of swallowing medical marijuana that you don’t get from inhaling it. Because almost all edibles are exposed to some kind of heat during the cooking process, the many inactive cannabinoids found in medical marijuana (such as THC-a and CBD-a) are converted to THC, CBD and CBN that the body can absorb and process. On top of that, since edibles get into the body through the gastrointestinal tract they are processed through the liver before they enter the bloodstream. As a result, the THC is converted into the more potent 11-hydroxy-THC that tends to offer a stronger and more sedative effect. You should start to notice the effects of most edibles within about 30 minutes to 1 hour, with the “high” peaking after about 90 minutes. The relief should stay with you anywhere from 2-4 hours or longer depending on the potency of the edible and the ailment being treated.
Much like the tinctures discussed above, it make take some experimentation to determine your proper dose.