Ways to Consume Medical Marijuana
Medical marijuana is a very effective medicine used by patients across the globe to treat and alleviate symptoms of many serious conditions in which traditional interventions have failed. Studies have proven that cannabis has therapeutic properties not be replicated by any other currently prescribed medications, AND has far fewer and much less severe side effects.
One of the first questions we're asked is: What are the best and healthiest ways to consume medical marijuana?
We tell patients that first, they must have a recommendation letter from a qualifying doctor or a medical marijuana card. Once they have this, they can purchase different types of cannabis to be used as medicine from a local marijuana dispensary. For those who choose not to smoke marijuana, there are numerous alternative forms, such as marijuana based products and foods. Here we discuss all the various methods of consumption of medical marijuana available to patients in need.
Smoking Medical Marijuana
Smoking is the most expedient method of consumption, with almost immediate effect and dosage controlled by the patient. The downside to smoking marijuana, although not as harmful as cigarettes, is that it can damage the lungs and cause respiratory problems. Although results from clinical trials have been contradictory, many researchers believe herbal marijuana contains toxins and carcinogens that lead to increased risk of respiratory diseases and cancer and therefore recommend other methods of consumption of medical marijuana besides smoking.
If you do choose to smoke, here are some helpful tips to minimize the risk due to toxins and tars contained in the marijuana:
- Use a more potent, higher THC cannabis so less inhalation is necessary to acquire an effective dose.
- Using a pipe allows a more consistent and predictable dosage.
- Use a filter and non-chemical rolling paper if smoking a marijuana cigarette (joint).
- Exhale immediately after inhaling deeply to avoid the tars in the marijuana from coating your lungs. It is a myth that holding your breath will create a stronger dosage or enable more THC to be absorbed.
Medical Marijuana Vaporizers
Use of a marijuana vaporizer is the most recommended method as an alternative to smoking. A vaporizer is a device that gently heats up cannabis at a lower temperature, achieved with digital accuracy, releasing the active medicinal components of marijuana, such as THC, while producing fewer harmful byproducts.
How the Medical Marijuana Vaporizer Works:
A vaporizer heats the cannabis plant slowly causing the active ingredients to evaporate into a vapor without reaching the point of combustion, thereby releasing a much lower proportion of other harmful components that come from smoking. Inhalation of the vapor then offers the same therapeutic benefits of smoking but without exposure to harmful toxins.
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For more on vaporizing, read our blog articles:
Medical Marijuana Edibles
The effects of consumed cannabis is much different compared to smoking or vaporizing. Edibles are slower to kick in, slow to wear off and usually give more of a “body” versus “head” high, an effect described as ‘heavier’ or ‘deeper’ than if smoked or inhaled. This can be particularly beneficial for those with chronic severe body pain.
A word of caution to those choosing to medicate with edible marijuana – unlike with smoking and vaporizing, it is much easier to over-consume, and therefore over-medicate with ingestion. Because it can take longer to feel the effect and/or because the edibles taste good, patients are warned to start with a small amount, wait an hour or two before ingesting more, and be extra careful in consumption so as not to exceed recommended dosage.
That said, it’s also important to realize that eating raw cannabis does not deliver therapeutic benefits and is not recommended. Marijuana edibles are made, instead, with butters or oils derived from the cannabis plant, often called cannabutter or cannabis infused oil. Marijuana butters and oils are made by simmering the cannabis flowered tops and leaves in butter or vegetable oil for several hours. This process transfers the THC and other therapeutic cannabinoids into the butter or oil, which can then be used in cooking all sorts of food, such as brownies, cookies, candies, as well as liquids, such as soup and sauces.
Marijuana edibles are particularly helpful to relieve pain, spasticity and sleep disorders but is, for obvious reasons, not the best method if experiencing nausea or vomiting. Dispensaries can help you to experiment which type of edible and dose is best for your particular situation and to find the best tasting edibles.
Medical Marijuana Tinctures & Tonics
Cannabis can also be made into tinctures and tonics, which are then added to food and liquids, applied on the skin, or consumed directly in small amounts or by placing drops under the tongue. This is particularly useful when nausea and vomiting are present, such as when undergoing chemotherapy treatments. Tinctures and tonics are made much in the same way as edibles, but instead of cooking them in butter or oil, the cannabis flowered tops and leaves are soaked in alcohol. The solids are then finely strained, leaving behind a liquid that contains the THC and other cannabinoids that produce the needed medical relief. Typical dosage of marijuana tinctures is between 3 drops to no more than 2 full droppers. As with the edibles, it is best to start slow and use only a small portion until relief from symptoms is achieved.
Medical Marijuana Topicals
Another alternative route of administration for medical marijuana free from any psychoactive reactions is to use a topical made from cannabis and apply it directly onto the skin. Marijuana topicals, such as balms, salves, lotions, sprays and ointments made from cannabis oils, can be very effective analgesics and anti-inflammatories. Most dispensaries will have a variety of marijuana topicals to choose from, or you can make your own using cannabis oil and adding it to a substance of your choice.
Conditions in which marijuana topicals have helped provide relief are arthritis, chapped skin, eczema, minor burns, muscle soreness, sunburns, swellings, joint pain, and tendonitis- to name a few. Many dispensaries also carry sprays that can be used topically to ease muscle aches that accompany many conditions and more importantly the painful symptoms of shingles. It is especially useful for the unfortunate few who develop post-herpetic neuralgia (phn), a nerve inflammation condition that results from shingles disease. Topicals have been proven to not only have anti-inflammatory properties but also to act as an antibacterial, quickening healing times for injuries.
Medical Marijuana Tea & Sodas
Cannabis leaves, stems, and buds can also be used in making a medicinal tea. The process is fairly simple. As with other herb teas, boil the water, pour this over the leaves and stems in a small pot or cup, and let steep for at least half an hour. Similar to marijuana edibles and tinctures, adding alcohol, oil or butter is necessary to help dissolve the THC, which is only slightly soluble in boiling water. Recipes often use milk, spices, and sometimes hard liquor to make a spiced chai-type tea.
Marijuana tea can vary in strength, depending on the types and amounts of ingredients used. Teas have been described by patients to vary from being much like drinking chamomile tea to delivering a high that lasted for hours. General advice is to start with an amount equivalent to a marijuana cigarette for each cup, however experimenting with different recipes and amounts will help determine the amount needed to deliver the therapeutic effect desired.
For those that prefer consuming marijuana in liquid form, there are several marijuana sodas available at some dispensaries as well. Sodas are made by adding a marijuana tincture (see tinctures above.) The latest sodas to hit the market were released late last year by Clay Butler. The 12 ounce cans containing between 35-65 milligrams of THC come in five flavors: Canna Cola, lemon-lime Sour Diesel, Doc Weed (much like Dr. Pepper,) Grape Ape and Orange Kush. Other sodas are available as well so if this seems like an option for you, check with your local dispensary.
Hash & Wax
Hash is made by collecting the resin from the flowers of a female cannabis plant, also called trichomes. The primary active substance of this part of the cannabis plant is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) along with other cannabinoids as well.
The resin collected from the marijuana flowers can then be compressed into small blocks (sometimes referred to as Ear Wax), which can then be eaten, smoked, or added to tea, edibles and other medical marijuana products. Hash differs than dried marijuana buds, stems and leaves in that it has a much higher concentration of THC. Due to the high potency, patients will often combine a small amount of hash with a less potent form of cannabis to create a very strong and immediate effect, offering pain relief in minutes.
Check with your local dispensary for hashish products they carry and how to use them best for pain or symptom relief from your medical condition.
United Patients Group is dedicated to improving the lives of patients suffering from serious medical conditions. Bringing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information about medical marijuana to those who are suffering. We invite you to come back to our site and blog frequently as we keep it constantly updated with the most comprehensive and reliably sourced information, and please contact us if you have any further questions or comments.