While smoking has historically been the most common way to consume Cannabis, patients are no longer limited to inhaling cannabis through pipes and rolling papers. Over the past decade, the cannabis industry has grown and expanded, and as a result more consumption methods have been developed. How you ingest cannabis will influence how quickly and intensely you feel the effects, or for those not interested in the euphoric side of Cannabis, whether you feel effects at all.
There are four main methods for consuming cannabis:
- Inhalation Method
- Oral Delivery
- Sublingual Delivery
- Topical Delivery
Each of the methods for ingesting cannabis and its cannabinoids has unique benefits and potential drawbacks. Below is an overview of each method.
For those interested in feeling the effects of Cannabis as quickly as possible, inhalation is the most ideal method. When you inhale cannabis, the cannabinoids enter through the lungs and are promptly passed into the bloodstream, offering nearly immediate effects. Depending on the potency of the cannabis strain, your tolerance, and how long and deeply you inhale, the inhalation method can elicit effects that last up to two hours.
Smoking is the most common way to inhale Cannabis. Dried flower can be smoked using hand pipes, water pipes, rolling papers, or hookahs. Smoking Cannabis has shown to pose some risk to the health of the lungs, though not as seriously as when smoking cigarettes.
Another method used to inhale Cannabis is vaporization. A vaporizer heats up concentrated cannabis oils enough to make the psychoactive ingredients become active, but not to the point where harmful toxins are released or smoke is created. Because vaporization eliminates irritation to the throat and lungs, it is a healthier alternative to smoking.
A third, and newer delivery method for inhaling cannabis is dabbing. A form of vaporization, dabbing is when highly potent cannabis concentrate like butane hash oil or wax are dropped on a heated nail, creating vapor. The vapor can then be inhaled using a dab ring.
Over the past few years, cannabis products that are designed to be consumed orally have become much more popular. Those concerned about the image of inhaling Cannabis can privately consume cannabis with products like edibles and ingestible cannabis oils. When orally consuming cannabis, the cannabinoids must first be digested before entering the bloodstream. As a result, the effects take much longer to kick in. Once they do kick in, however, they can be rather intense and are known for providing longer lasting relief, so it’s important that beginners are mindful of their dose.
Edibles are cannabis-infused foods and drinks. Because of their popularity, the array of Cannabis edibles continues to expand. Edibles can range from higher-calorie comfort desserts like Cannabis-infused cookies, brownies, and cakes, to more health-conscious snacks like Cannabis-infused granola. There are also a variety of Cannabis beverages available, including coffee, punch, tonic, elixir, and soda. For relaxing in the evenings, Cannabis-infused tea is a favorite.
Ingestible oils, such as cannabidiol (CBD) oil, are any cannabis concentrate taken by the mouth and swallowed. Often times they’re packaged in plastic applicators or in capsules.
Cannabis can also enter into your bloodstream by being absorbed through your mucous membranes in the mouth. Products like tinctures, sprays and dissolvable strips can be placed under the tongue and held until the cannabinoids are absorbed. Cannabis-infused gums, though chewable, are also absorbed through the mucous membranes. Compared to inhalation methods, the effects take effect slightly faster when consuming Cannabis using sublingual delivery.
Topicals are creams, balms, salves, bath salts, and oils that are infused with cannabis and applied onto the skin. With topicals, the therapeutic benefits of Cannabis penetrate and are absorbed directly through the skin. Unlike other delivery methods, topicals don’t cause a cerebral high. Rather, they’re best for localized relief and typically used to address inflammation, joint pain or sore muscles. They can also be used to nourish and improve skin elasticity, and to treat burn treatments. Depending on the potency of the topical, you may feel relief effects within minutes to an hour and those effects can last for long periods.