When you read the word marijuana, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind?
Topical creams? Juice?
What about rectal suppositories?
Didn’t think so.
To this day, cannabis is commonly associated with smoking and potential negative effects. Even though research continues to show it’s used effectively as medicine.
Constant pop culture references don’t help this stigma, either.
Here in Canada, we’re fortunate to have a federally-endorsed and regulated medical cannabis initiative.
As a Health Canada-approved licensed producer, we often hear from people interested in medical cannabis who don’t want to smoke it.
There are now so many different ways to consume cannabis that you’ll never have to smoke it if you don’t want to.
From edibles to capsules, here’s a closer look.
Ever used an eye dropper with essential oils before?
A similar experience can be had with cannabis oils, using a dosing syringe.
Using only dried marijuana flowers and state-of-the-art extraction technology, oils are very concentrated. In fact, they are the most potent form of medical cannabis currently available in Canada.
Traditionally, oils were made at home by using a solvent such as alcohol to extract compounds from cannabis flowers.
But now, government-approved licensed producers are manufacturing cannabis oil with extraction machines and industry-leading technology.
Thankfully there’s no need to settle for a low percentage of medicine from cannabis in a common delivery method like smoking. Extraction isolates specific cannabinoids like THC and CBD, sometimes in percentages as high as 99.
So in addition to getting a very potent and therapeutic product, you also gain more control and consistency over dosage.
To be fully absorbed, extracted cannabinoids themselves require what is called a carrier oil, something like olive oil or MCT oil.
Cannabis oil can be taken under your tongue (sublingual) but also using other, alternative delivery methods — a few of which are listed below.
As you’ll see elsewhere in this article, there are a variety of ways to consume cannabis using your mouth.
But what about the other end? (Yes, it’s exactly what you’re thinking.)
Suppositories themselves aren’t anything new, but using a cannabis-infused version provides some fascinating effects.
First, cannabis suppositories can deliver up to 80 percent of the plant’s medicinal effects. Compare that to 35 percent orally and only 15 percent when smoking — so it’s maximum medicine with maximum relief.
That’s because cannabis administered rectally has much higher bioavailability — that is, the percentage of a substance absorbed into your bloodstream — than when it’s administered orally.
In fact, one study concluded that rectal formulation of cannabis was anywhere from two to four times more effective than oral formulation.
Second, rectal delivery will not give you a “head high” commonly associated with cannabis and has no known side effects.
This is because it avoids the first-pass effect, which is an interaction with your liver.
You see, your liver is what’s responsible for any “head high” associated with cannabis. This is because it metabolizes THC — the main psychoactive component in cannabis, and sends it to your brain — inducing euphoric effects.
With a cannabis suppository made with cannabis oil, its medicinal effects are delivered directly into your bloodstream through your cell walls via your endocannabinoid system.
Third, there are also vaginal suppositories for women that activate cannabinoid receptors in the pelvic region and calm muscles around the ovaries, cervix, and uterus — all without any psychotropic effects.
The more you know, right?
Cannabis-infused topicals can come in many shapes and forms, including lotions, patches, creams, balms, sprays, and even lubricants.
Absorbed through your skin for localized relief, topicals are another non-psychoactive way to deliver medical cannabis into your body.
Even if a topical contains cannabis oil with THC, you can still get the therapeutic effects without feeling euphoric or “high”.
That’s because most topicals won’t actually make it into your bloodstream, just your cannabinoid receptors.
Under the ACMPR in Canada, licensed producers of medical cannabis can’t currently manufacture or distribute topicals.
That being said, we’ve heard of many Canadians purchasing cannabis oil from their producer and then either making their own topicals or having someone help them do so.
Before doing this, please talk to your health care practitioner first.
When we think about cannabis-infused foods, brownies and cookies probably come to mind.
But in reality, the world of cannabis edibles is so much more diverse.
After all, if you’re using cannabis as medicine, eating sugar-filled brownies or cookies every day isn’t exactly the healthiest option (even if it might be the tastiest).
With so many recipes available, there’s really no reason to consume unhealthy foods when cooking with cannabis.
In Canada, the Wellness Soldier Cody Lindsay — a veteran who served overseas with the Canadian Forces — has made it his mission to educate the public on how to cook healthier with cannabis.
Think along the lines of cannabis-infused pesto, fish tacos, whiskey BBQ sauce and risotto (yum).
Considering cannabis can be added to pretty much any food that you’d make using butter or oil, you can really get creative with what you cook at home.
But be careful. Because of your body’s digestive process, it takes longer to feel the effect from cannabis edibles and there’s potential to have a much more psychoactive experience.
So as the old saying goes with dosing, start low and go slow.
Whether you’ve bought it at the grocery store or made your own at home, fruit and veggie juice is far from new.
But did you know that many people are juicing with cannabis?
Since juicing doesn’t require any heat, it’s a way to ingest cannabis and enjoy its benefits without any psychoactive effects.
That’s because in its raw form, cannabis contains THCA, a cannabinoid that when heated converts into THC, the commonly-known compound that’s associated with euphoric, mind-altering effects.
Juicing with cannabis, however, isn’t as simple as taking dried buds, throwing them in a blender with some veggies and calling it a day. Simply put, dried cannabis isn’t suitable for juicing.
Like vegetables, fresher is better for juicing cannabis and that means fresh, raw cannabis buds and leaves are what you should use.
Thankfully, recent updates to the regulations in Canada mean you can purchase fresh cannabis from some licensed producers.
Remember, since you’re ingesting cannabis in its raw form, use plant material that’s free of pesticides and other harmful contaminants.
To cut down any bitterness in the taste, try mixing in another vegetable juice like carrot juice.
For some medical cannabis patients, finding their recommended dose can be a challenge.
After all, most consumption methods require you to take a trial-and-error approach.
Well, except for one: capsules.
As the only form with a structured dose, it’s no secret that cannabis capsules are going to explode in popularity in the months and years ahead.
Interested in medical cannabis but intimidated by how to consume it? Capsules are a great solution and as familiar as a vitamin or prescription.
In addition to being more portable, capsules don’t require any preparation or cleanup, either — so they definitely top the list in terms of convenience.
Plus, it’s a format that medical professionals are not only more familiar with, but will be more comfortable prescribing since there’s more control overdosing.
In Canada, vaporizing has become the most popular method of using medical cannabis.
While vaporizing does use heat to extract active ingredients from cannabis, it’s quite different from smoking.
With smoking, cannabis gets so hot that it burns and because combustion occurs and smoke forms. As a result, this smoke can be hard for some people to inhale and also produces harmful carcinogens.
With vaporizing, you’re heating up cannabis at a much lower temperature. This allows you to extract the benefits of the plant in an easier-to-consume vapour rather than harsh smoke.
The only catch? You’ll just need to buy a vaporizer (which is easier than you think), ranging anywhere from $100 to $300 and beyond.
As you can see, consuming medical cannabis has evolved far beyond simply smoking a joint.
To sum things up, here’s a reason to try each consumption method.
Oils: Most potent form of medical cannabis available
Suppositories: Most potent non-oil consumption method, delivering roughly 80% of medicinal benefits
Topicals: Only method that doesn’t require you to ingest anything
Edibles: Incorporate your medical cannabis into some foods you already eat
Juice: Drinkable form usually combined with other healthy fruits or veggies
Capsules: Structured dose in a very familiar form
Vaporizing: Use less cannabis while extracting more medicine than smoking
What’s your preferred method of using medical cannabis?