Updated: Sep 20, 2020
By Lauren Beatrice, Owner Seed Sound Herbals.
We are living in the most exciting times for cannabis. We now have the freedom to explore different strains that work well for us with a variety of delivery methods. From smoking to topical use, I will help you navigate the world of delivery and dosing by exploring studies and personal experience working with my patients.
The most popular way to dose is smoking – inhaling combusted cannabis flowers. Tried and true, smoking delivers the quickest onset (within five seconds) and peak (within five to 10 minutes). This method is easily dosed. You feel it quickly but it also fades the quickest, making it easy to change the dose in subsequent uses.
Different methods of smoking include a pre-rolled joint, pipe (glass, stone, wooden, ceramic, etc. or water pipes (bongs, bubblers, etc). Joints tend to burn up fast and one study found that only 27% of the available THC was delivered. Pipes are more effective for THC use, the same study finding more than 50% of the available THC was delivered. Water pipes are usually smoother because the water cools and filters the smoke.
Now, what to smoke – flowers or concentrates? With flower you have less chance to overmedicate, while concentrates are a concentrated dose of THC. Concentrates give you less exposure to combustion, making it a bit safer. I urge anyone new to cannabis to tread lightly and start with a small inhalation of flower before delving into the world of concentrates.
There has been some controversy with smoking because when the cannabis flowers are heated at combustion temperature, the smoke releases noxious substances. Studies have shown 1,500 different chemicals that are present in cannabis smoke, but other studies have seen no noticeable increase in cancers associated with the lungs, neck and head.
The new and “improved” way to smoke is vaping – inhaling vapor heated at the perfect temperature before combustion. You can use this method with both the flower and concentrates. However, note that the concentrates deliver a larger dose of THC and are not for those new to cannabis. Concentrates can also build your tolerance rather quickly, so dose control is essential.
Vaping is just as effective regarding quickness of delivery. The biggest benefit is that the lower heat keeps terpenes intact. Terpenes are the smell and flavor profile of many plants. New studies find they are full of medicinal qualities that are beneficial when inhaled. I could write a whole article on terpenes themselves, so we will delve into them in depth at a later time.
There are so many different tools to use or vaping that sorting it out can be overwhelming. You can find vapes that are for flower only, for concentrate only, for both, and then an array of more complicated ones. Everyone has an opinion, but reading the third party reviews and asking around can be helpful.
Definitions You Should Know:
Tinctures – Plant material extracted into a “menstruum” (usually alcohol or oil), and taken sublingually – placing the extract underneath your tongue and holding it for about 30 seconds. Under your tongue, there are lots of tiny blood vessels and mucus membranes that diffuse the cannabinoids into your bloodstream quickly.
Because of the quick onset, tinctures are a great way to quickly learn your perfect dose. There is a wide variety of ratios that include both CBD and THC and are found helpful for a variety of ailments. When first starting out, it is beneficial to start with a very low dose of just THC (<2.5mg) or try a ratio of an 8:1 (CBD:THC) to lower the psychoactive effects of the THC, while still getting the benefits.
Medibles – The greatest advantage of medicinal edibles or capsules are the long-lasting effects. Unfortunately, the dosing variety greatly can make it difficulty to find the correct dose quickly. The delivery is dependent on the individual’s metabolism (15 minutes to two hours), making it easy to overmedicate.
I have found medibles or capsules very useful for sleeping through the night because of the long lasting effect (six to eight hours). I always start patients with a very small dose, increasing slowly until we find the dose that works. This can take time, but it is very rewarding once it’s found!
There are many options for medibles. Many are made with lots of sugar or forms of sugar, so be aware while taking this form as your medicine. Capsules work really well and are becoming more available and in many different ratios. My patients find that lower THC and higher CBD rations work well for their anxiety and can help with the issue of overmedicating.
Topicals – Oils, creams and salves infused with cannabinoids. Using cannabis topically can be very effective for those not interested in the psychoactive effects of THC, but would like the benefits for pain and inflammation. Cannabinoids are absorbed by the skin through CB! And CB2 receptors and have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties as well as regulating oil production in skin, which can help with acne, psoriasis, and eczema. Many options for topicals include different ratios of CBD and THC. Topicals stay very localized, so make sure you are utilizing it on every part of your body that you feel needs it. If you are finding that you are taking a bath in it, it may be time to consider another delivery method.
Suppositories can be administered rectally or vaginally. The absorption of cannabinoids can be very effective because you are bypassing the digestive acids and enzymes. I have used suppositories with patients who have digestive issues and have seen great results with both.
You can also do a combination of any of these delivery methods, which I usually do with my patients. Some situations call for one method, while another calls for a different one. Each individual is unique, and working closely with your caregiver will help guide you to find your perfect delivery method and dose.