The most common cannabis delivery method that people are familiar with is combustion and inhalation – either a pipe or a joint. But there actually four primary ways that people can use cannabis, each suited to different products and conditions.
- Inhalation: During inhalation methods, THC and other cannabis compounds are absorbed into the system through inhaling vaporized or combusted cannabis into the lungs. This can include cannabis flowers, concentrates and oils. This is the most common way that people use cannabis and there are many strains and products to choose from. Onset of effects is rapid with most people feeling “high” within 5-10 minutes of inhalation. Strain genetics and personal body chemistry make this unique for everyone. With very potent strains colloquially known as “one-hit wonders,” effects may be felt almost immediately.
- Ingestion: During consumption of cannabis by oral means, cannabinoids are absorbed through the digestive tract and metabolized by the liver. Ingestible products include cannabis-infused edibles and beverages, of which there are many types and flavors. Due to cannabinoids and other compounds needing to be broken down in the digestive system, onset of effects can take much longer, up to 2 hours. It’s critical to start with a low dose of edible cannabis products, wait a significant amount of time and then incrementally increase your dose in small amounts until the desired effects are achieved. The effects of edible cannabis products can feel much different than inhaling it. There are many factors that can affect your experience with edibles including whether you’ve eaten recently, how much you’ve eaten, your comfort level with cannabis and the potency of the product ingested.
- Oral: The fastest and most effective method of medicating is oral-mucosal, administered under the tongue and into the lining of the mouth. Cannabis tinctures are the most common products to use oral-mucosal delivery. Due to the rapid onset of effects, this is the preferred delivery method for many serious medical conditions like epilepsy and nervous system disorders. While all areas of the mouth can absorb cannabinoids, the most direct method is to place drops under the tongue.
- Topical: Topical cannabis products are applied and absorbed through the skin. The effects of the cannabinoids and other compounds are localized and cannot enter the bloodstream so there is no “high” from these products. Common topical products include balms, oils, sports rub and creams. Topical products can offer relief from pain, inflammation and skin conditions like eczema.