An Exploration of the Many Ways to Consume CannabisWritten by Chris Weatherall on Apr 30, 2021
As products derived from cannabis are increasingly legalized across the country, they have continued to grow in notoriety and expose themselves to new audiences in the process. As such, people who previously had no interest in trying cannabis might suddenly find themselves considering the potential benefits of it or might even have such substances recommended to them by their doctors. However, many new users may not realize how important a factor your chosen method of consumption can be. When people picture cannabis products, they often think of inhalation, but there are many different ways that you can introduce cannabis to your body. Learning about the various options available is critical because each one is likely to have different benefits. Also, the strain or brand best suited for the occasion will vary depending on said method. Being mindful of this will ensure that you have the best possible experience.
The Three Main Marijuana Consumption Methods
While these can be further subdivided into an extensive list of many variations, most forms of consumption can be grouped into three distinct categories. These categories are inhalation, ingestion, and topical application. But how do they work?
The most commonly known method, inhalation is simply smoking cannabis flower from a bong, pipe, joint or blunt. This method also refers to the process of consuming cannabis by first transforming it into a product that can be inhaled into the lungs. From there, the molecules pass into the blood and travel to your brain, triggering the reactions people most commonly associate with cannabis. This is a relatively quick process and yields fast results.
Cannabis Inhalation Products Include:
- Fresh Cannabis Flower
- Pre-rolled Flower
- Vape Cartridges
- Concentrates, such as: sugar, wax, budder, diamond sauce, batter, and crumble
This refers to the process of consuming cannabis by first activating the ingredients contained within. Simply ingesting the plant without going through this process will result in no effects. Once the cannabis has been activated and integrated into an edible product, it can be ingested.
Instead of traveling to your lungs, edibles travel to your stomach, where the acids break it down into its base components. These are then taken to your liver, where they are transformed once more before finally moving into your blood and reaching your brain. While this overall takes longer than inhalation, the effects tend to be stronger and take more time to wear off. So, be careful and pay attention to the number of milligrams in your edibles!
See also: How to Try Cannabis Edibles the Right Way
Cannabis Ingestion Products Include:
- Gummies and Soft Chews
- Cakes, Cookies, Brownies and other Baked Goods
- Suckers and Hard Candies
- Corn Nutz, Chex Mix and other Snacks
- Sodas and Teas
- Syrup and Honey
This refers to consuming cannabis by integrating it into some form of topical cream, gel or balm for pain relief. Raw and activated cannabis can be used to create these compounds. In some cases, both are included to create a more well-rounded product. Topical cannabis is simply rubbed onto the affected area. Because this method does not involve any introduction of cannabis to your blood, people who choose this option will not experience any psychoactive effects, even if the cream contains THC. Instead, it achieves its desired results by interacting directly with the affected area, helping manage all sorts of conditions present in the skin and underlying muscle.
Cannabis Topical Products Include:
- CBD Salves
- Lotions and Creams
- Sports Gels
- Bath Soaks
- Personal Massage Oil
- Healing Ointments
Analysis of Each Method
Overall, this should help to give you a general idea of how the basic methods of cannabis consumption work, but there is still much more information available on the subject, from popular subcategories to the most common uses, to some of the drawbacks involved. If you’re looking to make informed decisions regarding which might be the safest way, the healthiest way, or simply the best way for your particular needs, we’ll need to go a little more in-depth regarding the pros and cons of each.
The Pros and Cons of Inhalation
When it comes to inhalation, one of the most significant benefits is the quick timeline. Depending on the amount being inhaled, the user can start feeling the effects within minutes. For people that are seeking immediate relief for their symptoms, this might seem like the ideal choice. This is especially beneficial for people who experience sudden flares of pain that require a rapid response. Another benefit of inhalation is that it allows more flexibility when dosing. Because of how quickly users experience the effects, it becomes easier to begin inhaling a small amount and then slowly increase the dosage until the desired benefits have been achieved.
Unfortunately, while the effects of inhaled cannabis kick in after a short time, they tend to fade after a short time as well, requiring a person to continue re-dosing if they want to extend their usage.
Beyond the short duration, the biggest issue with inhaled cannabis is the potential impact on your respiratory system. Whenever particulates are inhaled, they can harm your lungs, and a lot of the particulates contained within cannabis smoke are particularly harmful. People who inhale cannabis regularly are often at an increased risk of developing respiratory issues.
If you’ve determined that inhalation is the best way for you but aren’t keen on some of those adverse effects, you could also try different types of inhalation, some of which can help mitigate those effects to a degree. For instance, instead of traditional smoking using water pipes or rolling papers, you could try vaping. Because this process creates vapor instead of smoke, it prevents users from breathing in the same tar or carcinogens produced by burning the cannabis. Dabbing is one particular method of vaporization that requires specific equipment but can provide users with a highly smooth vapor that is gentle on their lungs. For those who anticipate requiring constant doses, this could be the healthiest way of engaging in inhalation.
The Pros and Cons of Ingestion
In many ways, the method of ingestion is very much the opposite of inhalation. Ingestion is characterized by its relatively slow timeline, meaning that it takes much longer for the effects to kick in. However, once you start feeling the side effects of cannabis, the potency and duration of the experience are far greater than with inhalation. In terms of benefits, this type of method is beneficial for people who experience significant or persistent ailments.
One of the most significant drawbacks of ingestion is that dosing can be complicated. Many products available for ingestion have their contents clearly labeled, confirming the specific amounts of THC or CBD within. Unfortunately, the fact is that each person metabolizes those amounts a little differently. Other factors, including body weight, previous exposure to cannabis, and natural metabolism, can impact the intensity of the effects. This means that two people could effectively ingest the same amount of edible cannabis and experience completely different results.
Because this method takes a lot longer, a common error of first-time users occurs when they suspect their dosage is too low because they have yet to feel any effects. Users might decide to ingest more cannabis to achieve the desired effect, not realizing that their initial dose has yet to kick in. This mistake can cause people to eat too much cannabis. While ingesting more cannabis than is recommended is not life-threatening, it can still be a very unpleasant experience.
Despite these issues, ingestion bypasses all the potential respiratory issues involved with inhalation. Edible cannabis can be cooked into all manner of foods and beverages, turning it into a pleasurable snack, or it can be simply packed into capsules for ease of use. Additionally, if you’re partial to ingestion but prefer something that will act a bit faster, consider exploring tinctures. These extracts can be placed directly under the tongue, where they are partially absorbed into your bloodstream. For some users, this sublingual method provides the best of both worlds, resulting in fast-acting effects without negatively impacting the respiratory system.
Just keep in mind that unless you’re purchasing cannabis that has been prepared for ingestion already, you will need to first activate your cannabis via a process called decarboxylation to maximize the benefits.
The Pros and Cons of Topical Application
The most important thing to keep in mind regarding topical applications is that, by the very nature of being topical, cannabis used in this manner will not end up in your bloodstream or reach your brain. This means that it cannot ease ailments often treated via ingestion or inhalation with the same effectiveness, such as general pain, nausea, or anxiety. Topical cannabis is local regarding its benefits, meaning that it generally only impacts the direct area to which it is applied. However, this limitation can come with several benefits.
Unlike the other two methods, there is no real concern about limitations, as your skin will only absorb what it can. There are also virtually no side effects to using this method, so there are no real risks to trying it. In fact, it is easy for users to test different strains and combinations of topical creams and ointments, including ones made from raw cannabis, ones made from decarboxylated cannabis, and ones featuring a combination of both. People experiencing pain in particular areas, such as an arthritic patient with a serious flare-up or an athlete nursing a sore muscle, can benefit greatly from this method.
Because people often have different skin types, topicals are offered in salves, creams, lotions, gels, oils, and sprays. This provides people with a wide array of options to prevent drying out their skin and allowing them to reach difficult areas.
One More Method to Consider
While there is an extensive history of research and product development behind the three methods described above, scientists are continually researching and creating new products. This particular method is relatively new compared to the others and is worthy of distinction because it cannot be easily classified under them. This method is known as the transdermal patch or cream.
Like other topical products, transdermal patches and transdermal creams are applied directly to the skin where there are blood vessels near the skin’s surface (for example, the wrist). However, unlike other topical products, the patch or cream allows cannabis to enter the bloodstream. This method was designed to produce steady, low effects over long periods and takes longer to kick in than ingestion or inhalation but less time than edibles. The ideal user of transdermal patches would be someone who experiences chronic pain and needs constant symptom management.
Deciding Which Ways to Consume Cannabis
Depending on your current needs, one of the above methods might immediately jump out at you as the most relevant and potentially beneficial. If that’s the case, you can apply that knowledge to narrow the field and start testing some of the more specific variations, such as the ratios of THC and CBD or individual strains, terpene profiles and brands. Alternatively, you might find that two or more products work for your wants and needs.
While this uncertainty can be frustrating, arming yourself with the knowledge of what each method does and how it helps can be the key to determining what works best for you. If you decide to try inhalation but dislike its effects on your respiratory system, you could test tinctures and edibles instead. If you find the effects of ingestion too intense, you could consider vaping as an alternative to smoking.
By identifying which aspects of cannabis you like best and which you dislike the most, you can successfully navigate the space and ultimately find the right products and methods for you.
Find the Best Cannabis Consumption Methods for You: Visit Kind Meds
If you’re ready to start your journey of exploration in the state of Arizona, the team at Kind Meds is here to help.
We offer an extensive selection of products for medical cannabis patients and recreational users over 21.
We are available to answer any questions you might have in the process.
Feel free to browse the products currently available on our site or contact us for more information by calling our dispensary at (480) 686-9302 today.