3 Healthier Ways to Use Medicinal Cannabis

The healing effects of cannabis are fast becoming public knowledge. At the same time, the need for alternative forms of consumption is growing among medical smokers. Because although the well-known approach of smoking a joint or a bong is still widespread, there are healthier methods of consuming cannabis such as edibles or vaporizers.

We are happy to see that, once again, a growing number of countries are adopting a more tolerant attitude towards cannabis. In most cases this is because they want to give patients access to medicinal marijuana, as France has done, for example. More and more frequently, the legalisation of consumption for recreational use is also considered or even passed by law, as in Uruguay and parts of the US.

Especially for non-smokers who have access to medicinal marijuana in its natural form, the idea of adding tobacco can be a barrier. Patient associations who are interested in alternative treatment methods are therefore regularly asked whether there are any alternative methods of consumption. And indeed there are.

Cannabis can be included very easily in all kinds of food and drinks, and it can even be inhaled in a way that is practically harmless to your health. Different consumption methods will, however, substantially change the way it will affect you, and for how long. In order to explain the healthier alternatives to smoking to cannabis patients, we’ll review some of the differences between the methods of consumption.

What we recommend in any case: before starting to consume medicinal marijuana, you should seek out a sympathetic GP you can trust.

1. Vaporizing cannabis: healthy and efficient

Using a vaporizer offers an effective and clean method of consuming cannabis. A vaporizer is a device that heats cannabis to a temperature of between 180 and 220 degrees Celsius. But nothing is burned, so no damaging by-products are released, such as benzol, tar and carbon particles, or only miniscule quantities.

At the same time, the controlled heating makes vaporizing considerably more efficient than smoking. Up to 95% of the active substances such as THC and CBD are consumed, which is why you need much smaller quantities to achieve the same effect. In contrast, when smoking a joint, a large part of the cannabis is lost to uncontrolled burning. Finally, you will feel the effects very quickly, which can be very welcome relief if treating acute pain, for example.

This method of heating plants to extract specific active substances came down to us from ancient Egypt, so it has been known for millennia. Back then, the Egyptians would heat stones in a fire until they were glowing red hot. Then they would take them out of the fire and place aromatic herbs on the stone. The heat would release the essential oils in the herbs, creating a pleasant aroma, without polluting the air with smoke.

Vaporizing healing herbs such as cannabis is based on exactly the same principle. We can thank Frank William Wood – better known by his pseudonym Eagle Bill Amato (USA, 1942 – 2005) – for the fact that so many people are now able to use this method. As a cannabis activist and pioneer of medicinal marijuana, he learned about this principle in 1993, from a cannabis grower in California.

He had created a primitive vaporizer which heated the cannabis using a heat gun. Wood immediately grasped the medical benefits this system offered. He improved the design and launched “Eagle Bill’s peace pipe of the future”. In 2004, he was given a Cannabis Culture Award for this and other contributions.

Wood’s model is made of glass with a globe at the lower end that needs to be heated using a butane gas cigarette lighter. This model has been improved many times over the years, and is still one of the most commonly found types of vaporizers.

Since then, endless electronic versions have become available, some of which are no bigger than a packet of cigarettes. These modern devices heat dried cannabis using a heating element until it reaches exactly the right temperature. Please note that vaporizing (herbal material) is different from vaping (e-liquids).

2. Eating cannabis: a powerful effect that lasts and lasts

Foodstuffs containing cannabis (edibles) are well known for their powerful and long-lasting effects. This is due to the fact that 11-OH-THC is more potent than Δ9-THC, and appears in blood in higher quantities when Δ9-THC is ingested than when it is inhaled. Therefore, the effects build up more slowly and can be maintained for much longer, sometimes for as long as eight hours.

But there are some risks involved when eating cannabis. When smoking or vaping, you can control the impact. If the effect is too strong, the smoker just stops inhaling and pretty soon, the effects wear off. On the other hand, when you eat it, the effect is not felt for some time. In some cases, as long as one and a half hours after swallowing it.

As a result, someone might be tempted to consume even more cannabis, because they initially assume it is not having any effect. This may result in someone eating too much, meaning the effects will be too intense and last too long. It is recommended to only gradually increase the amount of cannabis consumed in edibles; to start with a low dose, or just eat a small quantity of the food, and to gradually increase it day by day until the sought for result is achieved.

3. Drinking (raw) cannabis: benefits without the high

Another way of absorbing medicinal cannabis is drinking it. Milk and tea are the most common ways of serving it up. Remember also when drinking cannabis drinks that it can take an hour and a half before you feel any effects.

The custom of drinking cannabis tea comes from China, where it was known as early as 3000 BC. Hemp fibre was already being used to make ropes by then, and cannabis was regarded as a normal component of traditional Chinese medicine.

According to a Chinese legend, Shen Nong (or Shennong), a mythological Chinese figure, was one of the founders of this habit. He supposedly invented the tea by chance when he was boiling water in a forest. After some leaves fell into the water, they created a pleasant aroma and gave the water a delicious flavour. We can also see from the bhang tradition in India that the use of cannabis in drinks is far from unusual in Asia.

The American doctor William Courtney has published research results that show that the use of raw cannabis in fruit drinks can play a significant part in preventing and curing various diseases. By raw cannabis, Courtney is referring to the use of the leaves when making fruit juices and salads. One of the benefits of this is, for example, that any psychedelic effects are reduced to a minimum.

Conclusion: Edibles and vaporizers are healthier than smoking

In summary, we can see that eating foodstuffs that contain cannabis, and using vaporizers are considerably healthier and more efficient methods than smoking cannabis.

Especially for medicinal patients, looking for the best form of consumption, it may well be worth investing in a vaporizer. But even those who do not want to stop smoking can make their cannabis use considerably more healthy by opting for a healthy alternative to tobacco with nicotine, or by smoking pure cannabis.

  • Disclaimer:
    This article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult with your doctor or other licensed medical professional. Do not delay seeking medical advice or disregard medical advice due to something you have read on this website.

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    Sensi Seeds

    The Sensi Seeds Editorial team has been built throughout our more than 30 years of existence. Our writers and editors include botanists, medical and legal experts as well as renown activists the world over including Lester Grinspoon, Micha Knodt, Robert Connell Clarke, Maurice Veldman, Sebastian Maríncolo, James Burton and Seshata.
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    Sanjai Sinha

    Dr Sanjai Sinha is an academic faculty member at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York. He spends his time seeing patients, teaching residents and medical students, and doing health services research. He enjoys patient education and practicing evidence-based medicine. His strong interest in medical review comes from these passions.
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