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Looking at different delivery methods
As it has been established, medical cannabis doesn’t need to simply be smoked or baked to be incorporated as part of a healthy routine. There are also concentrates, topicals and edibles on the market that have started to pique the interest of recreational consumers and medical patients. Many of these products have helped to open the door to the full potential of the cannabis plant and its extracts.
Because the type of product consumed is as significant as how it’s consumed, it’s important to look at these different delivery methods. From vaping and smoking to edibles and dabbing, the means of ingesting cannabis are as robust as the products currently available to medical cannabis patients.
Smoking is quick, convenient but highly suspect in public places. This method is very fast-acting, but it doesn't overwhelm with the dosage. However, smoking any material is hard on lungs, and prolonged use of cannabis in this way could result in long-term damage. It is also one of the least efficient ways of using cannabis because a more substantial number of cannabinoids are burned by way of combustion. It also leaves smokers smelling of cannabis smoke, so it's not the most discrete choice.1
A small and convenient device that serves as a more discreet delivery option than, say, a joint, vaporizers allow patients to consume flowers and oils, depending on the model. Dry flower
vaporizers have a heating chamber, called an oven, which brings the cannabis up to a pre-set temperature. The heat helps release the cannabinoids from the crystallized trichomes on the flower just enough without causing combustion to occur, and the patient inhales the vapour through the mouthpiece of the vaporizer.
Most vaporizers are about the size of a pack of cigarettes and run on a battery. Like smoking cannabis, vaporizing dry flowers delivers fast relief from symptoms, and controllable doses, with fewer downsides because of the lack of combustion. Most medical cannabis doctors encourage vaporizing over smoking, as does Health Canada.2
Edibles provide a tasty, odourless and portable ingestion method, one that requires virtually no fire and flame. Medicated treats come in all shapes and sizes, from baked desserts to popcorns, to gummy bears and ice creams, and even tea and coffee. With improved food technologies and testing equipment, almost anything can be medicated, and the dosages are easily controlled and advertised on the package.
Ingesting cannabis in this way provides long-lasting relief, but it takes a little longer to set in. That's why it's necessary to dose "low and slow" at first to get the hang of whether a patient's condition requires something like a single-dose 10mg edible twice per day or a more significant pain-busting dose. Aside from the calories from the foods, this could be a very healthy way for patients with chronic conditions to get all-day, all-night relief without putting smoke into their lungs.3
Tinctures and sublingual sprays
Tinctures and sublingual spray are cannabis extracts that are produced using alcohol, glycerin, or an oil solution. They are packaged in a way to be sprayed or dropped with a dropper or syringe under the tongue. The salivary glands under the tongue absorb the medicine on-site, although some will pass through the stomach like an edible. The cannabis is processed through the liver and takes a longer time to become bioavailable than smoking, but it is faster than edibles. This method also results in more absorption of the medicinal ingredients compared to smoking.4
As a relief for muscle or joint pain, or even chapped lips, without getting high, topicals can reportedly be rather effective. The downside of using topicals for some conditions, is that they don't work on conditions like PTSD, Alzheimer's disease, or epilepsy that require either the uplifting effects of THC or the stabilizing effects of CBD.
Transdermal patches
Transdermal cannabis patches are some of the most technologically advanced products available on the market. Applied to the skin's surface, the patches emit cannabinoids that are then absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream. This is an ideal way to deliver exact doses in one of the most unobtrusive delivery methods. The transdermal patches on the market right now come in different ratios of cannabinoids, from high-CBD to high-CBN, and even CBD and THC in a 1:1 concentration.
Suppositories are a relatively new delivery method, and are prepared as home solutions. Suppositories are cannabinoids extracted by a fat, like coconut oil, and then solidified in the freezer or injected into a gel casing that will melt after being inserted into the rectum. The obvious downside is that patients must get used to the process of using these, but the potency can be high.
  1. Marijuana smoking: factors that influence the bioavailability of tetrahydrocannabinol. http://rzbl04.biblio.etc.tubs.de:8080/docportal/servlets/MCRFileNodeServlet/DocPortal_derivate_00001952/Monograph99.pdf#page=49
  2. The Canadian consortium for the Investigation of cannabinoids-vaporization. http://www.ccic.net/index.php?id=132,742,0,0,1,0
  3. Lower-risk cannabis use guidelines: A comprehensive update of evidence and recommendations. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28700290
  4. Quality control of traditional cannabis tinctures: Pattern, markers, and stability. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5064247/
  5. Cannabis suppositories: taking your medicine down under. https://naturegoingsmart.com/cannabis-suppositories-medicine/

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