Consuming Cannabis: Ingesting vs. Inhaling

Consuming Cannabis: Ingesting vs. Inhaling
May 6, 2017 summertreead

Basic parameters to consider when consuming cannabis:

 Methods of Consumption   |   THC and CBD   |   Indica and Sativa


Are you new to consuming cannabis? Trying to determine which strains might be best suited to your goals, and how they might affect you? This article covers the basics of cannabis and will give you a jumping off point, but it definitely isn’t the last word on the subject. Check out our Questions & Concerns page for more resources.
Consuming cannabis infographic: ingesting vs. inhaling

Methods of Consumption

There’s no need to smoke cannabis, and we never recommend that method of consumption to our patients. Marijuana can be inhaled by using a vaporizer to heat the dried flowers to the point that they release a vapour with active cannabinoids. Using a quality vaporizer ensures that the cannabis won’t be combusted, which could be harmful to the lungs. As you can see below, the effects experienced through ingesting and inhaling are very different. Ingesting a low dose of cannabis can give you longer sustained pain relief without the high peaks of psychoactivity that can be experienced through the inexact measurements of inhalation.

The Major Cannabinoids: THC vs. CBD

The cannabinoids are expressed as a percentage of the total weight of flower, anywhere from <1% to 30%. THC is the psychoactive chemical component, which also has anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antispasmodic, and neuroprotective properties. CBD is non-psychoactive and modulates the psychoactivity of THC, while also possessing analgesic, anticonvulsant, and anti-inflammatory effects. Strains may contain both THC and CBD in a multitude of ratios, but generally they fall into three categories: high THC, high CBD, or a balance of the two that generally falls in the low to mid-range of percentages.
The body has a series of regulatory mechanisms called the endocannabinoid system, which produces its own cannabinoids. This system consists of a complex network of receptors that are distributed throughout the body that support memory, digestion, immune response, appetite, pain, motor function, blood pressure, bone growth, and the protection of neural tissues. In healthy bodies, endocannabinoids are derived and from a diet that contains polyunsaturated fatty acids, like omega-3, 6 & 9, and supplied on-demand to regulate the nervous system. Some bodies have difficulty producing or regulating endocannabinoids, which is where the cannbinoids in cannabis can fill the gap.

The Species: Indica vs. Sativa

Indica and Sativa are two species of cannabis that tend to have higher cannabinoid content and ‘drug’ status, with the third species being ruderalis, commonly known as hemp. In general, Indicas are usually higher in THC and sedative effects (Indica = in da couch), while Sativas tend to have more CBD and be more uplifting in their effects. These effects are also due in part to the terpenes that vary from Indica to Sativa: Indica tends to have terpenes like linalool (the major terpene responsible for the scent of lavender) and myrcene (also found in hops), which are sedative scents; Sativa tends to have terpenes like limonene (common in citrus fruits) and beta-caryophyllene (found in black pepper), which are invigorating, uplifting scents. While this is the commonly observed experience, we do have patients that experience the opposite results, so when consuming cannabis it is key to start low and go slow, keeping a journal of strains and their effects on one’s particular system. Also, as I was saying, there has been much cross breeding between species, so you’ll often see strains labeled as Sativa-dominant, Indica-dominant, or hybrids, with purity being fairly rare.


Recommended reading list:

Cannabis Pharmacy: The Practical Guide to Medical Marijuana

The Medical Marijuana Dispensary: Understanding, Medicating, and Cooking with Cannabis

Handbook of Cannabis



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