Methods of Consumption: A Patient Guide
Inhalation Delivery Methods
Hand pipes are one of the most common smoking devices for cannabis consumption. They operate by trapping the smoke produced from burning cannabis, which is then inhaled by the user.
Rolling papers are used to smoke joints or blunts. Joints are cannabis rolled in paper while blunts are cannabis rolled in cigar paper made from the tobacco plant and contain nicotine. While joints are more commonplace, blunts are preferred by users who enjoy the flavor and combined effects of the nicotine and cannabis.
Homemade One-Time Use Devices
Homemade, one-time use devices allow for user creativity. The most common homemade device is a pipe due to its simplicity, using disposable products, such as an apple.
Dabbing is a form of vaporization in which potent cannabis concentrates, such as marijuana wax, are dropped on a hot surface, creating vapor that is trapped in a glass globe and inhaled. Dabbing tends to produce intense effects with a swift and powerful onset.
Water pipes, such as bongs and bubblers, operate like a hand pipe with the addition of water. The water cools the smoke before it is inhaled by the user, producing a cool, smooth hit.
Cannabis is rarely smoked in a hookah because its low water content causes the plant to burn faster than can be inhaled, resulting in a bitter taste and wasting the herb. To combat this issue, the cannabis is generally smoked with wet tobacco, known as shisha.
Vaporizers operate by steadily heating the cannabis to a temperature that is high enough to extract THC, CBD, and other candonids, but too low for the potentially harmful toxins that are released during combustion. Many vaporizers take cannabis concentrate which comes in a variety of forms, including oil and wax.
Oral Delivery Methods
Tinctures are a liquid cannabis extract usually placed under the tongue to be absorbed by the body rather than swallowed or ingested. Tinctures are considered an ideal consumption method for precise dosing and elicits longer lasting effects.
Cannabis-infused food and drinks are known as edibles. Most often, the cannabis is infused into an ingredient high in fat, like butter or olive oil. The effects of edibles may take up to three hours to kick in. However, once they do, they can last much longer than if smoked or vaped.
Ingestible oils are swallowed and digested like an infused product, but often have the consistency of oil. These oils can be eaten or put in easily ingested capsules.
Topical Delivery Methods
Topical cannabis, such as cannabis infused balms, lotions, sprays, and creams utilize full cannabis extract that is absorbed through the skin. Topical effects do not provide cerebral stimulation that occurs from inhalation or oral delivery methods. Because of this, topicals are appropriate for localized relief such as muscle aches and soreness.
Indica is the less scientific name for the cannabis indica species of cannabis. In comparison to sativa plants, indica plants are usually shorter and have more compact flower structure. Indica strains tend to produce a more relaxing physical effect and can have a sedative quality and as such may be preferred by patients for relaxation and nighttime use, as well as those experiencing anxiety.
Sativa is the less scientific name for the cannabis sativa species of cannabis plant. These strains tend to grow taller as plants, are lighter in color and take longer to flower. Sativa strains tend to produce a more cerebral effect and as such are often preferred by patients for daytime use or for patients experiencing depression, low energy or fatigue.
THC is the most well-known psychoactive phytocannabinoid. THC is primarily responsible for the psychoactive effect. It has also been reported to be effective for treating nausea and vomiting, stimulating appetite, managing pain, reducing muscle spasms, facilitating sleep, opening airways, decreasing pressure of the inner eye, and relieving mental-emotional stress. THC is also known to cause impairment, sedation, mental confusion, anxiety, and panic attacks in some people.
Cannabinoids are the chemical compounds unique to cannabis that act upon the human body’s cannabinoid receptors, producing various effects including pain relief and other medically beneficial uses. Marijuana’s most well-known cannabinoid is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) due to the fact that it is the most abundant, and also because it produces the psychoactive effects (or the “high”) that drives the plant’s recreational use. However, there are more than 85 known cannabinoids all with varying effects, so THC isn’t the only one.
Hybrid strains are a cross between indica and sativa strains and often provide patients with more selective and well balanced experience.
CBD is a non-psychoactive phytocannabinoid, CBD does not produce the euphoric (“high”) effect associated with THC in medical marijuana, instead it often mitigates those effects.
Concentrates are a potent consolidation of cannabinoids that are made by dissolving marijuana in its plant form into a solvent. The resulting product has very high THC levels and can produce varying products that range from wax to shatter. Most flower contains 20 to 30% THC, whereas a concentrate usually contains 70 to 80% THC.
Shatter is often referred to as one of the purest and cleanest types of extract. It is generally an amber color with glass transparency. The reason shatter comes out perfectly clear has to do with the molecules which, if left undisturbed, form a glass-like appearance. Heat, moisture, and high terpene contents can also affect the texture, turning oils into a runnier substance, sometimes referred to as “sap”. Oils with a consistency that falls somewhere between glassy shatter and viscous sap is often referred to as “pull-and-snap.”
Cannabis wax refers to the softer, opaque oils that have lost their transparency after extraction. Unlike more transparent oils, the molecules of cannabis wax crystallize as a result of agitation. Light can’t travel through irregular molecular densities, and that refraction leaves us with a solid, non-transparent oil. Wax can take on different consistencies based on heat, moisture, and the texture of the oil before it is purged.
Kief refers to those sticky crystals that cover a cannabis flower. Kief refers to the resin glands that contain the terpenes and cannabinoids.
Hash is short for hashish, which is derived from cannabis plants. Production involves the removal of the plant’s trichomes by sieving or filtering. Once the cannabinoid-laden powder has been collected, it is typically pressed and ready to be used. Hash ranges in potency, but is generally stronger than straight flowers since everything but the active part of the plant has been removed. Hash is basically kief that has been heated and pressurized to form a soft green ball. Applying heat and pressure to keif changes its composition by rupturing the resin glands. Once the kief is ruptured the overall taste and effects of the product are slightly different. Pressurizing kief also darkens its color; the more pressure you apply, the darker the hash becomes.