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Methods of Medicating

It’s an exciting time to be a cannabis patient, as there are more ways to medicate with cannabis today than ever before.  Different methods have different rates of absorption, which affects time of onset, duration, and levels of psychoactivity.


Inhalation offers the fastest relief, and is the most popular method of consumption.  This includes both combustion (pipes, bongs, joints) and vaporization.

While studies have shown that even decades of smoking cannabis is not associated with higher risks of lung disease, it is still not the healthiest alternative. Vaporizers work by heating the smoking substance to a temperature hot enough to vaporize the plant material but not burn it, which releases the cannabinoids and terpenes without the harmful tars and carbon monoxide of combustion. The biggest drawback to this method is its complexity — this category includes everything from the simplest e-cigarette to the most elaborate tabletop unit, along with the daunting array of attachments, accessories, and options they offer. Don’t let this discourage you! You can arrange a private, in-home new patient consultation and we can show you how everything works.


When patients need a more discreet method, or cannot tolerate inhalation, the next quickest route to relief is through the mucous membranes of the mouth. Tinctures, hard candies, sprays or strips, and gum all fall under this category. The longer the medicine is retained in the mouth, the more will be absorbed through the sub-lingual and buccal surfaces (under the tongue and inside the cheek, respectively); like inhalation, the medicine passes directly into the bloodstream.  Still, some of it will be swallowed, and swallowed medicine must be digested before the effects are felt, so the rule to wait at least an hour and a half still applies.


Ingestion refers to cannabis that is absorbed through the digestive tract, which changes both the duration of the effects, and the effects themselves (more on that later). It will last much longer,  but it could take an hour or more to be felt; it is very important for new patients to start out with a low dose and wait for the full effects before increasing the dose.  Too much THC can be an unpleasant experience, causing disorientation, anxiety, paranoid thoughts, and a very, very dry mouth. You can’t overdose and you won’t do any lasting damage, but it isn’t any fun.

For new patients, experts recommend a very small (5 – 10mg) dose.  Since cannabis interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system, you may require less, or substantially more, to treat your symptoms but we urge you always to err on the side of caution, and keep in mind that the rate of absorption and the duration will be different on an empty or full stomach. In spite of all these variables, once you have established what works for you, ingestion allows for precise dosing and predictable results.


Topical cannabis preparations work locally, without any intoxicating side effects.  THC has antibacterial, anti inflammatory, anti-cancer and immune-modulating properties, and is lipophilic, which means that it can be dissolved into a fat-soluble substance and readily enter cell membranes. Topical preparations include balms, lotions, ointments or alcohol-based solutions.

Very little research has been done on this method, but at least one study found that nerve and mast cells in human skin contain cannabinoid receptors. Anecdotal evidence suggests that topical cannabis is excellent for skin irritation and itching, rashes, allergies, sunburn, psoriasis, eczema, bruises, sprains, and arthritis.

There are reports of patients having positive results with topical applications of undiluted cannabis oil on skin cancers. While this is encouraging, we urge our patients to evaluate such claims with a healthy dose of skepticism, especially if they tell you that you can treat your cancer at home with nothing but cannabis. We recommend that you find a doctor who is knowledgeable about current cannabis research, and work closely with them to incorporate cannabis into your treatment regimen.