Among cannabis’ many benefits, one of it’s greatest is the ability to take it in multiple forms. Here, we explain 6 different methods of ingestion and the benefits – and challenges – of each.
Smoking is the most common way to ingest cannabis. During smoking, ground or whole plant material is combusted and the smoker inhales the fumes in order to feel its effects. A smoker might choose to roll their ground flower into a joint, blunt or spliff, or keep the flower whole and go with a pipe or bong. Because it’s straightforward and accessible, smoking is a great way for newbies to explore cannabis.
The effects from smoking kick in within seconds and last from 1-3 hours. But be warned: Smoking produces harmful carcinogens that are also inhaled by the smoker, which can cause respiratory and other issues long-term.
With a vaporizer, the oil derived from cannabis or the plant material itself is heated but not combusted. As a result the individual inhales vapor instead of smoke, which means no carcinogens. Vaporizers come in a variety of options, but vape pens have risen in popularity because they are generally more portable and discreet than smoking, and vape cartridges offer users the convenience of strain variety on-demand since they can be changed anytime. Like smoking, newbies might also appreciate the ease of vaping.
Vaping’s effects are usually felt within seconds and usually last for up to 2-3 hours. But be warned: All cannabis oils are not alike – some use harmful solvents during processing and the quality isn’t guaranteed, so do research or ask a budtender for recommendations.
Dabbing refers to the act of combusting a small amount of a highly concentrated dose of cannabis, or dab, and inhaling the fumes through a specially designed water pipe, called a dab rig. The cannabis oil, extract or concentrate the user dabs is packed with cannabinoids, which is helpful for patients seeking relief from serious illnesses and for more experienced cannasseurs with a higher tolerance. Dabbing is definitely not for newbies.
Dabbing’s effects are felt immediately and generally last slightly longer than smoking or vaping. But we warned: The concentration of THC in a dab is higher than with other forms of consumption, and can result in side effects like paranoia and nausea. And as with smoking, the user is introducing carcinogens into the body.
Edibles are food and drink that have been prepared using an ingredient infused with cannabis, such as oil or butter. The effects last longer than with other consumption methods and since they can be eaten anytime, an edible is a discreet way to ingest cannabis. Edibles are incredibly versatile and can include baked goods like cookies and brownies, beverages like tea and coffee, candies, tablets and capsules.
Effects are felt 15 minutes to a couple of hours after eating an edible, and can last anywhere from 3 to 24 hours depending on potency and user tolerance. But be warned: Users who aren’t used to the longer onset are often tempted to take another dose – this is the root of many an edible horror story. Always start small and wait at least 30-45 minutes before ingesting more.
A tincture is born when cannabis plant material is broken down in high-proof alcohol. Tinctures are liquid solutions typically administered by dropper and taken sublingually (under the tongue) for quick absorption into the bloodstream, added to a beverage and drunk, or simply taken orally and swallowed. A tincture is a great option for newbies and patients for whom accurate dosing is important.
The effects from a tincture are usually felt within 30 minutes, and can last between a few and several hours. But be warned: Tinctures are made from alcohol, which some cannassuers may prefer not to ingest.
Cannabis-infused salves, lotions, sprays and patches all fall under the category of topicals. When topicals are applied directly to the skin, the cannabinoids are absorbed without the psychoactive effects, so there’s no high. They offer another way to consume discreetly, and can be an effective way to treat localized pain and inflammation.
Topicals’ effects can take up to 2 hours to activate and may last up several hours, but the user can also apply as often as needed. But be warned: Those with sensitive skin will want to keep an eye out for parabens and other irritants.
The flexibility offered by the various methods of consumption enables patients and cannasseurs to choose their experiences based on preference or need. What’s your favorite way to consume cannabis?