Getting Medical Cannabis into Your System and How it Works

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Shanti Ryle - Content Writer

Aug 08 2021 - 3 min read

Cannabinoids enter our bodies when we ingest cannabis and, once in our system, they interact with our bodies like a ball caught in a baseball catcher’s mitt. Our body contains a system known as the “Endocannabinoid System” (ECS). For cannabinoids to work effectively, they must enter the bloodstream and be pumped by the heart around the body and the ECS plays an important role.

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Today, even people who have never used cannabis before, some of whom were once suspicious of marijuana’s medical applications, are looking for an alternative to prescription medications. These patients are not looking to “get high”. They want to find a medicine that helps them with their condition, especially when other treatments haven’t worked. Most of these patients, who have a reasonable fear of smoking anything, gravitate towards oils or edibles. While this is understandable, avoiding flower and opting for oils and edibles should be carefully considered.

“Why?” we hear you ask. Well, it’s pretty simple: oils and edibles are often far more potent than vaping or smoking cannabis flowers. Dosing is also more challenging, making it difficult to measure the number of cannabinoids entering your body all at once. Using edibles and oils may also affect how the cannabinoids are absorbed, and the effect they have.

cannabis flower

How Cannabis is Processed in the Body

The fastest-acting method of getting cannabinoids into our system is through our lungs. The effects are usually immediate: the cannabinoids enter our lungs, quickly make their way into the bloodstream and are pumped out through to the rest of the body via the heart.

For edibles, the process works differently. After eating an edible, it passes through to your digestive system and gets processed in the liver (second-pass metabolism). The liver is where the cannabinoids are absorbed, after which they are circulated into the bloodstream. This means that it will usually take anywhere between 45 minutes to two hours for marijuana edibles to take effect.

cannabis edibles

Moreover, when cannabis is digested and released into the bloodstream, all the cannabinoids are absorbed at once. This is why marijuana is so much stronger when eaten, even in smaller doses. One of the most familiar stories of those taking edibles is “It’s not working, it’s not working, it’s not working … Please take me to the emergency room.” What’s worse, when people think it’s not working, they sometimes make the mistake of eating more.

Cannabis edibles can be unpredictable in this way and ought to be consumed with caution and research. Also, once you’ve eaten an edible, there’s no going back, and you may have just committed yourself to a journey that you may not have wanted to take. For good or bad, you will have to ride any negative experiences out, though there are ways to mitigate any overwhelm.

cannabis medicine

The Most Controlled Way to Consume Cannabis

In terms of efficiency and the ability to control the dosage, a high-quality vaporizer is the most reliable method of consumption. While we need to do more research on the long-term health effects of vaping, it intuitively makes more sense than smoking and inhaling burnt carbon fibers or potential carcinogens. Vapes burn at a lower temperature than fire, allowing you to inhale more cannabinoids and terpenes while minimizing the potentially harmful effects of smoking.

Sublinguals and Cannabis Tinctures

There is an alternative to both consumption methods outlined above, and that is tinctures and sublingual ingestion. Tinctures are cannabinoids infused in coconut or olive oil, consumed by holding the liquid under the tongue for about 30 seconds and absorbed into the body via saliva and the gums. The effects usually set in within 30 minutes (sometimes about an hour), and the effects are stronger than smoking but not necessarily as strong as edibles.

Tinctures also allowed for more controlled dosing, as products often measure the amount of cannabinoids present per milliliter as a precise serving size. For many people, tinctures are the ideal cannabis consumption method, and are versatile to boot. Tinctures and cannabis-infused oils can be taken as-is or in food or drinks.

So, all-in-all, the five simple reasons why we recommend marijuana vaping over edibles, at least initially when getting to know your tolerance for cannabis:

it’s efficient;
its effects are immediate;
the results are usually more predictable;
you can “test” it to see if marijuana’s the medication for you
you can measure (“titrate”) your dose.

If you’re interested in getting a medical marijuana card get in touch!

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Written by
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Shanti Ryle

Shanti Ryle is a content marketer with more than half a decades’ experience writing about cannabis science and culture. Her work has been featured in Forbes, Weedmaps News/Marijuana.com, Wall Street Journal, and other publications.

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