Cannabis forms, products and consumption methods
The growing medical Cannabis movement has inspired the creation of many different Cannabis products that provide effective therapies for chronic patient conditions. The breadth of choices include three primary forms of Cannabis, each offering an assortment of consumption methods, as well as varying degrees of potency and effects. Here, we offer an overview of basic Cannabis information in the effort to assist patients in finding optimal relief.
There are three forms of Cannabis: flower, concentrates and infused products.
The flower is the actual flower bud that is found on the Cannabis plant.
When harvested and dried, flower is typically either smoked or vaporized using any number of devices to suit individual needs. Traditionally, this is the most commonly used form of Cannabis and is available in numerous flower strains, all of which are distinguished by appearance, effect, odor, potency and taste.
Response time: In spite of the relatively quick response time of utilizing flower, the vast arrays of strains and the relative potency levels among Cannabis flowers yield similarly vast spectrums of efficacy and usage results. Therefore, it is recommended to start slowly with a single inhalation, and wait at least 10 minutes before taking a second inhalation. Repeating the process in 10-minute intervals allows the patient to safely measure and achieve the desired effects of the medicine.
Concentrates are oils from the Cannabis plant that are extracted through scientific processes using solvents such as CO2, ethanol or butane.
Concentrated Cannabis is a more diverse form of medical marijuana than its flower counterpart. Its products range from stalked resin glands or trichomes in solid or resinous forms, to waxes and oils. Like flower, concentrates are typically smoked or vaporized, including smokeless inhalation methods. The potency of this Cannabis form tends to be stronger than flower or infused products.
Response time: Concentrates deliver an immediate effect, typically recognized within five minutes of usage. As with any inhaled Cannabis product, it is recommended to start with a single inhalation and wait a period of time (at least five-to-seven minutes in this case) before taking a second inhalation. Repeating the process in seven-minute intervals allows the patient to safely measure and achieve the desired effects of the medicine.
Infused products are any products infused with concentrated Cannabis extracts. Forms of infused products include candy, baked goods, beverages, tinctures, oral sprays, pills, topical products and personal care products.
Response time: As there are many infused products that can be purchased in various potency levels, it is not possible to predict response times for this category. It is important to note, however, that these products may have a longer response time than experienced with flower or concentrates. Therefore, when testing an infused product for the first time, it is recommended to use only a small dose in a controlled environment (i.e., do not plan to drive, operate heavy machinery, etc.) and wait at least 30-60 minutes before taking another dose.
Cannabis Consumption Methods
Just as the potency and form of Cannabis determine the reaction time of each product, so does the method of its consumption. The different consumption methods for all forms of Cannabis and their relative impact on reaction time are as follows:
Inhalation allows a majority of the medicine to enter into the blood stream by passing through the lungs. There are a variety of ways to inhale Cannabis flower or concentrates, the most common being the use of a pipe (made from a variety of materials such as glass, ceramic and wood), or a Cannabis cigarette. A relatively new addition to these methods is vaporization, which requires a special device to vaporize the active ingredients of the plant material, for the purposes of inhalation. Doing so ultimately reduces exposure to carcinogens, making it a popular alternative.
This direct method of consuming Cannabis generally produces an effect within a few minutes (as mentioned above in “flower” and “concentrates”). Both inhalation forms yield a short duration period, and may require repeated treatments within a few hours.
Oral Ingestion – Infused Products
Cannabis can be ingested through infused edible products, which patients find more convenient and innocuous than inhalation. In this method, Cannabis is introduced through the gastrointestinal tract and processed by the liver, before entering the blood stream.
Individual responses to edibles vary depending on the product’s potency and the patient’s metabolic rate and/or prior food consumption. While the reaction time may not be immediate for edibles, taking up to two hours to realize the effects, the duration time of their effects is known to last as long as 10 hours.
Oromucosal and Sublingual Delivery – Infused Products
In addition to ingesting edibles, cannabinoids can enter the blood stream through absorption, via the mucous membranes and blood vessels abundant in the mouth. Infused products within this category include, but are not limited to: medicated tinctures, sublingual sprays and dissolvable strips, each of which may be placed on or under the tongue, as well as inside the inner cheek pocket.
The response time of this delivery method is immediate with relief generally attained within a few minutes.
Transdermal/Topical – Infused Products
Cannabinoids can also be absorbed through the skin, through topical products such as, balms, salves, creams, lotions, patches and liquid sprays.
Topical applications are generally used for localized pain, allowing cannabinoids to focus on a specific area. The response to the application usually occurs within minutes.
[NOTE: We recommend seeking assistance from an experienced dispensary professional to help you choose the appropriate Cannabis product and consumption method to fit your needs and desired effects. If use of medical Cannabis ever interferes with your safety or health, seek professional help, call your doctor or 911 immediately for medical assistance.]