As more and more people discover the benefits of cannabis for treating everything from cancer and epilepsy to sore joints and anxiety, there is rising curiosity about how to best consume it. While some are inexperienced, and others haven’t enjoyed cannabis for decades, the landscape has changed dramatically in recent decades, with more options than ever. Here is our definitive guide on how to choose the right cannabis consumption method for your needs:
Choose the consumption method that’s right for you
There is a huge variety of consumption methods with no one-size-fits-all solution. The consumption method that is best for you will depend on the cannabis product you are using and the experience you are after. Generally, consumption methods fall into four categories: inhalation, oral, sublingual, and topical.
When you inhale cannabis, the plant’s active compounds, cannabinoids and terpenoids—are absorbed into the bloodstream through the lungs. The effects are felt almost immediately, making this the go-to method for people looking for near-instant results. While the effects will be felt faster than in any other form of consumption, they are also likely to wear off more quickly. Inhalation is great for acute pain relief, as well as neurological and psychological symptoms.
Cannabis can be inhaled through smoking or vaping, each of which has its own benefits:
Smoking is one of the most tried-and-true methods of consumption. When you smoke cannabis, you’re lighting cannabis flower and inhaling the smoke. Because of the wide array of other consumption methods available, smoking is no longer the automatic choice it once was. People who prefer discretion or are wary of potential strains on the respiratory system have gone other routes. However, connoisseurs who prize taste, flavor, and experience continue to stand by this method.
Cannabis flower can be smoked in compact pipes, water pipes, joints, and blunts. Your local dispensary employee can help you explore your options and pick a system that is best for you!
Cannabis vaping has surged in popularity among both connoisseurs and cannabis newcomers. It’s an easy, discreet way to medicate that’s healthier than traditional smoking methods, and offers a full spectrum of benefits. Vaping offers a healthier alternative to smoking flower as it involves fewer side effects and less strain on the respiratory system.
Vaporizers: Vaporizers can be used with both concentrate and flower. To create vapor, the active compounds in cannabis are heated at low temperatures. As there is no combustion involved, vapor doesn’t release the tar and carcinogens normally created while burning flower. Simply add the cannabis to a heating chamber, adjust the temperature, and inhale the vapor through the mouthpiece. Vaporizers come in both portable and tabletop versions.
Vape pens: Vape and hash oil pens have been specifically designed to work with distillates and oils. They are a great option for people who prize ease and discretion when medicating. Their compact, streamlined design makes it easy to fit one in the palm of your hand unnoticed. Even better – they take the guesswork out of dosing. Especially for the uninitiated, an overwhelming experience can be unsettling. Using a pre-loaded vape allows for a highly controlled dose with each inhalation. This gives the user full autonomy over their level of consumption.
Dabbing: Dabbing is a method of vaporizing cannabis concentrate using a dab rig, which entails heating a glass, ceramic, or titanium “nail” and applying the concentrate directly to the hot surface, which turns it into vapor for consumption. Dabs are concentrated doses of cannabis that are made by extracting THC and other cannabinoids using a solvent like butane or carbon dioxide, creating sticky oils. Depending on their consistency, these marijuana concentrates are also commonly referred to as wax and shatter. Some point out the dangers of dabs because of the chemicals involved in the extraction process.
Furthermore, while it is not possible to overdose, dabs can be extremely potent, leading to an uncomfortable and overwhelming experience. However, with the right dosing, and high-quality, lab-tested product, dabbing can be both safe and enjoyable.
Oral Cannabis Consumption
There are two main ways to consume cannabis orally: edibles and tinctures. Oral consumption generally has the slowest onset of effects, but longest duration. Edibles, for example, can last up to eight hours or more, depending on the dosage and the individual.
Edibles: Edibles are one of the most straightforward consumption methods out there. Just eat or drink, swallow, and wait for the effects to kick in. When you ingest a cannabis-infused snack, beverage, or gummy, the active compounds are absorbed through the digestive tract. As such, edibles have a delayed onset, between 20 minutes and three hours. Because of this, it is important to take it slow and be clear about dosing, so you don’t overdo it. Many people have taken to making their own edibles, which allows you to control dosing, flavor, and quantity to suit your tastes, and creates a product custom made for your needs. Some people report that taking edibles on an empty stomach causes discomfort; so eating something else first might be a good idea.
Tinctures: Created by steeping cannabis in alcohol, tinctures are absorbed through the blood vessels under the tongue (sublingually). This method of consumption has a quick impact – similar to that of inhaling – but the effects last longer. Normally, tinctures are made with a carrier such as medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) oil, vegetable glycerin, or food-grade alcohol. Simply put a few drops of the tincture under your tongue and hold it there, allowing the cannabis to absorb. The remaining liquid can be swallowed—any compounds not absorbed sublingually will be absorbed through the digestive tract. Because the cannabinoids are absorbed from two different locations, tinctures often deliver two separate waves of effects.
Topical, meaning applied to the skin, is a delivery method that involves creams, salves, sprays, or oils. These products allow you to absorb active compounds through the skin and provide localized relief for pain, muscle soreness, joint stiffness and inflammation. Topicals don’t provide any psychoactive effects and are becoming popular in drugstores and apothecaries across the country.
Topical formulas usually deliver quick relief and moderate duration of effects, depending on a formula’s strength and what other ingredients the product contains.