Smoking is the most expedient method of using medicinal marijuana. The effects are more controllable and are experienced within moments. The downside is that the smoke produced when smoking marijuana contains a number of irritants andcarcinogens. However, According to a 2006 study,* found that there is absolutely no link between smoking marijuana and cancer–even in heavy, long-term marijuana users. Additionally, a 2007 American Association for Cancer Research study** found that marijuana cuts lung cancer tumor growth in half.
If you choose to smoke medical cannabis, try the following strategies to reduce some of its risks:
- Medicate with more potent cannabis.
- Smoking cannabis with a higher TCH content reduces exposure to irritating tars, since less cannabis is required to reach the effective dosage.
- Use a vaporizer or pipe. The most recommended method of smoking marijuana is through a vaporizer, which significantly reduces exposure to carcinogenic smoke. If you use a pipe with cannabis, it enables more consistent and predictable dosage than a joint. If you prefer smoking joints, use a filter and opt for a rolling paper made from plant cellulose.
- Don’t hold your breath. Holding your breath after inhaling cannabis smoke does NOT absorb more THC. Doing so will only coat your lungs with more tar. When smoking medical cannabis, inhale deeply, then immediately exhale.
A vaporizer is a device used to extract the active components of cannabis without the means of combustion. Ideally, a vaporizer will nearly eliminate any particulate matter or tar associated with smoking marijuana, and should significantly lower concentrations of noxious gases such as carbon monoxide.
Several studies have shown that vaporizers can dramatically reduced or completely eliminate the harmful constituents of marijuana smoke. For example, a 2006 study conducted on a Volcano Vaporizer by researchers at Leiden Universityconcluded: “Our results show that a safe and effective cannabinoid delivery system seems to be available to patients. The final pulmonal uptake of THC is comparable to the smoking of cannabis, while avoiding the respiratory disadvantages of smoking. ” In a 2001 study testing a device called the M1 Volatizer®, researchers found that “it is possible to vaporize medically active THC by heating marijuana to a temperature short of the point of combustion, thereby eliminating or substantially reducing harmful smoke toxins that are normally present in marijuana smoke.”
HOW TO SELECT A VAPORIZER
There are many vaporizers on the market, not all of which will deliver all of the benefits of vaporizing because there are currently no guidelines for the manufacturers of vaporizers. To learn more about how to get quality vapor from a vaporizer, please see the following guest blog posts from Mark McCoy, founder of Vrip Tech, a Northern California-based company that is dedicated to producing the highest quality vaporizers on the planet.
HOW TO GET THE HIGHEST QUALITY VAPOR
According to vaporizer expert Mark McCoy, founder of Vrip Tech a Northern California-based company that produces high quality vaporizers:
- Maintain proper temperature – There are at least 60 pharmacologically-active compounds in cannabis, all of which are released at different temperatures. The aromatic terpenoids begin to vaporize first and at the lowest temperatures (»126°C), but the more bio-active cannabidiol (CBD), cannabinol (CBN), and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) do not vaporize until they reach significantly higher temperatures (206.3°C,212.7°C,149.3°C, respectively). So in order to receive the benefits of all of the compounds in cannabis in the same inhalations, you must ensure that your vaporizer maintains the high end of that temperature range at the point of extraction without going over and producing components in smoke.
- Use a vaporizer that provides rapid onset delivery – As we just explained, all of the medicinal components of cannabis have a broad temperature range. So in order to get them in the same inhalation, you have to extract as rapidly as possible. Using a vaporizer that provides rapid onset delivery of a full spectrum inhalation will deliver aromatics and the actives concurrently. Not only will this deliver the highest quality vapor, but it will require you to use a smaller amount of medicine at a time.
- Ensure even extraction – Even extraction goes hand in hand with maintaining proper temperatures and rapid onset delivery. Without even extraction, there will be “hot spots” in the medicine, which means you won’t be able to reach the ideal temperature andyou won’t receive a full spectrum inhalation. VripTech accomplishes even extraction through the design of its chamber bowl, which utilizes a sequential venturi heat intake effect to accelerate a vortex of hot air through the herb and give an even and faster extraction.
- Minimize oxidation – Minimizing oxidation during the collection and delivery phase of vaporizing creates the freshest and most bioactive vapor possible. Oxidation—or the addition of oxygen to a compound with a loss of electrons—turns active vapor constituents into less active components, which means the normally perceived and desired physioactive effects are altered or minimized (this is why many ineffective vapor experiences are described as “overly heavy” by smokers). The sequential venturi heat intake effect noted above used in conjunction with a water pipe for delivery can effectively eliminate oxidation through the bulk of the vapor volume inhaled. This results in a higher quality vapor being delivered and improved flavor and effects.
- Run the vapor through water or ice – Even though vapor is cleaner than smoke and contains less particulate matter than smoke, most vaporizers utilize a dry delivery method. The heat and the dryness in the vapor can irritate the throat and bronchial tree. But running the vapor through water and/or past ice to moisture condition and cool prior to inhalation can reduce or eliminate irritation of the throat and upper airway. This can be accomplished by medicating with a vaporization “tool” based system—such as VripTech’s Vaporization heat wand and vaporization chamber bowl—that works in conjunction with your existing water pipe/bong or with a vaporization water tool. Even bigger bonus? This method compliments the ritual of smoking that most people are accustomed to.
BENEFITS OF VAPORIZING
According to vaporizer expert Mark McCoy, founder of Vrip Tech a Northern California-based company that produces high quality vaporizers:
- Potency – Vaporizing delivers the most potency out of any method of medicating with marijuana, which means patients can medicate with a smaller amount of medicine at a time. Why? There are many pharmacokinetic and psychoactive components of cannabis, such as THC, CBD, CBN and terpenoids. When patients smoke marijuana, the majority of these actives are destroyed in the high temperatures through a process called pyrolysis—and that means patients need more medicine to achieve the preferred results when smoking. But vaporizing delivers a lower heating temperature than smoking, which means patients receive the maximum benefits from small amounts of marijuana.
- Cleanliness – Vaporizing compliments the ritual of smoking marijuana without delivering the carcinogens, particulate matter and tar associated with joints, bongs, pipes, etc. Although cannabis has an expectorant effect that makes you cough up all the tar and particulate matter that accompanies the traditional smoking of marijuana, many doctors will recommend that vaporizing is far cleaner than smoke.
- Rapid Onset Delivery – When medicating with edible medical marijuana products, it can take as long as two hours to feel the effects. The downside here is that it’s more difficult to tell if you are getting the correct dose. But vaporizing has a rapid onset delivery just like smoking, which means you are able to feel the effects (and get relief) immediately.
- Quality – Another benefit of the rapid onset delivery of vaporizers is that you will be able to get all of the plant’s actives, as well as the terpenoids that provide the flavor element, in the same inhalation—and that makes for high quality vapor! (Stay tuned for Mark’s post on how to get the highest quality vapor).
- Medicinal Component – Prohibitionists against medical marijuana claim that cannabis cannot be considered a medicine because “you don’t smoke medicine” (despite the fact that studies show there is no link between cancer and marijuana, and also that marijuana has been shown to kill cancer cells). But if all patients used a vaporizer, which is a more medical oriented delivery of medical marijuana, it would silence all of those who are against it.
One common method of using or taking medical marijuana is ingestion. Eating cannabis raw will not deliver the full therapeutic benefits; The active components must first be extracted into fats, oils or alcohol before ingesting. Medical marijuana is commonly extracted into cannabutter or cannabis infused oil, which is then used to make edible medical marijuana products such as pot cookies and pot brownies as well as savory dishes. Check out our blog, where we regularly post recipes for medical marijuana edibles. If you choose to medicate with edible cannabis, here are a few things to remember: Oral cannabis feels much different than smoked cannabis. This is because when cannabis is eaten, some of the THC is destroyed by the liver metabolism and a potent THC metabolite is formed. Beware of overmedicating. When used in edible form, the actual dosage of medical marijuana can vary widely. Choose a cannabis medicine with a known content of THC and be sure to wait for the effects to manifest before taking another dose. Effects take longer and last longer. Use a small dose of cannabis when ingesting, as it takes considerably longer to experience the effects than when smoking. It can take as long as two hours to feel the effects when ingesting medical marijuana, and the effects can last much longer than smoked cannabis.
Cannabis tinctures are a great alternative for patients who prefer not to smoke marijuana. A tincture is a medicinal extract in an alcohol solution, in which the alcohol is used to extract and preserve the resins and other soluble material from the plant. Making a marijuana tincture is easy but takes several weeks. Cannabis tinctures work best with 90% pure alcohol, such as Everclear. HOW TO USE MEDICAL MARIJUANA TINCTURES Cannabis tinctures may be used topically on the skin, taken orally by adding to a cup of hot tea or dropped directly under the tongue. A tincture dose is delivered by a medicine dropper or teaspoon. While dosage varies between each patient, generally a typical dose is anywhere from 3-4 drops to 2 full droppers. Always use caution when medicating. Begin with a small portion and increase accordingly until you reach the desired effect. Many patients report experiencing pain relief by using medical marijuana tinctures, but most report no “high” effects. Marijuana Tincture Recipe Difficulty Level: Moderate Most medical marijuana patients know that the THC in cannabis can be extracted in fat or oil in order to make edible treatments, but did you know that it can also be extracted in alcohol to make a tincture? Tinctures are a great alternative to smoking marijuana, and are relatively simple to make. A tincture is a solution of a medicinal substance (marijuana in this case) in an alcoholic solvent. A tincture dose is delivered by a medicine dropper or teaspoon. While dosage varies between each patient, generally a typical dose is anywhere from 3-4 drops to 2 full droppers. The effect will last about 1-2 hours. Ingredients Sanitized glass jar Finely ground marijuana (amount depends on size of jar) High proof alcohol, such as Everclear or vodka A few sprigs of fresh mint (optional) Liquid dropper bottle Directions Grind marijuana finely with a grinder or in a blender. Fill jar ¾ full with marijuana and mint sprigs. Fill the jar with the alcohol, leaving a few inches at the top so you can shake the jar and its contents. Be sure the lid is on tightly as the tincture may stain. Store jar in a dark, cool place and be sure to shake the jar one to two times a day. Strain tincture through a fine metal strainer or cheesecloth, and into a liquid dropper bottle.
Did you know that marijuana can be used topically (on the skin) to relieve pain from certain conditions? Cannabis oil is used in balms, lotions, and ointments because of its alleged analgesic (pain relief) anti-inflammatory effects. According to Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base*, marijuana is lilophilic, which means that it can be dissolved into a fat-soluble substance and readily enter cell membranes. In other words, it can be effective when applied topically. It is important to note that marijuana will typically have no psychoactive qualities when applied topically. That means that this method of medicating with marijuana may be useful for times when ingesting or smoking marijuana is inappropriate. How to Make a Marijuana Topical Solution If your state allows for medical marijuana dispensaries, you may be able to purchase topical solutions at these dispensaries. Otherwise, you may make your own by mixing cannabis oil (using light almond oil or coconut oil is best) with beeswax or aloe vera: Beeswax Balm: Mix 3 ounces melted beeswax with 8 ounces of cannabis oil. Cool and store in a sealed container in a dark cupboard. Aloe Vera Lotion: Mix 8 ounces of aloe vera gel with 4 ounces of cannabis oil. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Medical Marijuana Topical Solution Uses Anecdotal evidence and reported uses for topical marijuana balms and oils include: Arthritis Dry/chapped skin Eczema Headaches or migraines Insect bites Minor burns Muscle soreness Psoriasis Pain Rashes Rheumatism Swelling >Sunburns Stiff neck Tendonitis