101 & Beyond • Cannabis
Up in Smoke: 10 Alternative Ways to Consume Cannabis
Much of the hesitation around cannabis is centred on the idea that it must be smoked. From a health and even budget perspective, smoking – which can be irritating on the lungs – is not necessarily the best option to access the therapeutic benefits of cannabis. It can actually be as easy as reaching for a tin of mints, drawing on a pen sized vaporizer, taking a bath, sipping a cup of tea, or placing a few drops of tincture under your tongue.
Here are ten alternative ways to consume cannabis:
Ranging from discreet vape pens, to portable and desktop flower vaporizers, vaporizing heats cannabis to a much lower temperature than smoking so there is no combustion. This reduces 95% of smoke intake and greatly reduces any irritating effects. I’ve found Vaporizing to be one of the best ways to appreciate the unique scents and flavour profiles of strains. Vaping cannabis offers a slower release of THC into the bloodstream which means a more delayed onset than smoking but with longer lasting effects.
Is it psychoactive? Yes. With vaping and other non-body application methods below, you will likely experience euphoric effects unless you specifically choose options higher in CBD, such as a CBD vape pen or low THC strain like Pennywise, Cannatonic, or ACDC.
Cannabis products ingested orally take time to cross the blood brain barrier so the effects are delayed, but longer lasting, often between two and four hours. These days eating cannabis edibles does not mean eating an unmarked mystery brownie, which is like rolling the dice. Instead there are commercial food grade cannabis edibles with clearly measured and marked dosing instructions. Phew!
This is where tracking use comes in handy. For example, I may feel strong effects at 10 mg of THC for instance, and decide to adjust to 2.5 or 5 mg – more of a microdose. So reaching for that second, third or fourth 10 mg tasty might mean an unpleasant experience which could last for hours. So I start low, and go slow – that’s a cliche for very good reason – getting to know my sweet spot when it comes to edibles.
Taking cannabis capsules is akin to taking edibles in that it crosses the blood brain barrier for delayed but prolonged effects. Think of it like taking a daily vitamin, or keeping pain at bay when cramps hit, reaching for something natural to ease a headache, or taking the edge off in times of stress. Cannabis capsules, are usually dissolved into a carrier oil like coconut or MCT, and are a convenient way to get the results I want from cannabis.
Also similar to cannabis edibles, I’ve tried cannabis infused drinks including tea, kombucha (my favourite), soda (least favourite), and even infused water. You can find infused coffee, smoothie mixes, and more, or infuse drinks yourself with tinctures. Cannabis tea is a popular choice for chronic pain sufferers and often comes with complimentary herbs like lavender, lemon balm, chamomile, passion flower, mint, hibiscus.. time for some tea!
Products suggesting sublingual use are intended for quick absorption into the bloodstream via the mucous membrane under the tongue. This means faster acting effects compared to any of the oral ingestion methods. Products include tinctures, sprays, even dissolvable slips like Kinslips in California. There are also options preferred by people with epilepsy or extreme pain, such as highly concentrated “phoenix tears” for strong and immediate relief. I tried a few sublingual sprays in some of the rec states this year, and noticed closed to immediate effects. I look forward to trying the new minty sublingual spray called Elixr from Hydropothecary, which is the first licensed producer in Canada to come out with this kind of product.
A method I look forward to trying is juicing cannabis which is said to have many health benefits. Raw cannabis is packed with minerals and vitamins including folate, iron, calcium, vitamin C and vitamin K. Raw cannabis also provides fibres and healthy fats to a balanced diet. It contains a high amount of antioxidants like other dark leafy greens. And the raw acid form of cannabinoids such as cannabidiolic acid (CBDa) show great potential for health benefits. I look forward to trying cannabis juicing as a superfood addition to my morning green smoothies, without any psychoactive effects.
Though not as pretty as the glittery stickers from my childhood, transdermal patches are designed to absorb through the skin, slowly releasing the cannabinoids into the bloodstream. A patch can be placed discreetly under clothing for all over effects, and are great for targeted relief in one area. I once tried a CBD transdermal patch for sore muscles and I did feel the effects, thought it hurt quite a bit to remove, just likeit ripping off a bandaid!
Cannabis topicals work by delivering targeted and localized benefits by working into three layers of skin but not being absorbed into the bloodstream. So there is very little chance of creating the euphoria, or the ‘high’, often associated with cannabis. Using cannabis topicals on the skin has anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti spasmodic benefits just to name a few. Topicals are becoming increasingly popular for treating things such as pain – including menstrual cramps – and to help with faster muscle recovery. Cannabis topicals are also a great beauty staple with anti-ageing properties and is gaining popularity as a skincare ingredient.
Besides beauty products, cannabis topicals come in sizes and formulations ranging from small and concentrated (like salves or roll on oils) for targeted pain relief, to lotions, bath bombs, and sprays for all over body effects. I’ve sampled them from Canada to California and have found that my favourites usually contain simple but high quality ingredients, complimentary essential oils, and the right consistency to really penetrate the skin, like the Stimulating Body Spray by Apothecanna, and the face oil (smells like a spa!) by CannaLife Botanicals.
Anecdotal evidence shows that cannabis infused lubes have quite the variety of applications. When applied on women, the oil can pass through the mucus membrane which can heighten sensations, promote relaxation and awareness, and ease discomfort. (Note: most cannabis lubes are not compatible with condoms.) Beyond sex and intimacy, there are more than a few applications for infused lubricant (or cannabis infused organic coconut oil if you want to go the DIY route.) I have a friend who says using infused oil internally has greatly alleviated symptoms of endometriosis, and another who claims that infused lubricant has been a godsend in her menopausal years. I have tried and enjoyed the Foria Wellness version, and the CannaSutra personal lubricant by Miss Envy.
I first learned about cannabis suppositories when I met Matthew, owner of Foria Wellness, promoting his line’s new anal suppositories at the San Francisco Pride parade last year. Suppositories (both vaginal and anal) are a very effective method of administering cannabis for targeted internal treatments. The cannabis travels to and affects the nearby organs, and enters the bloodstream. A recent study suggested that cannabis suppositories can be two to four times more effective in delivering full plant benefits than through oral and smoking consumption methods. Up yours smoking!
The future of cannabis future is upon happening now, there is rapid innovation happening on all things cannabis. Far from the days of dank crushed buds in ziplock bags, we have choice when it comes to cannabis products that consistently deliver the effects we’re looking for, without ever having to reach for a lighter.