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Which Intake Methods Provide The Best Cannabinoid Bioavailability?

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If you are thinking about getting your medical card (or you have just received your recommendation), you may be wondering about the type of cannabis you could choose. There are so many strains, thc concentrations, and ways to consume cannabis. It can be hard to figure out which one will work best for you.

Finding the most efficient method to take cannabis is a priority. You may be wondering which intake methods provide the best cannabinoid bioavailability. Not only do you want to optimize your potential symptom relief, but you also don’t want to waste time or money if certain ways of consuming medical marijuana are not going to work as well for you.

Cannabinoid pharmacokinetics is the science behind intake methods. There are some big differences, including advantages and disadvantages, depending on the way you take your medical cannabis. And you have to do a little self-study and research to learn whether smoking cannabis, oral ingestion or other methods provide the best results for you.

Many patients find that a combination of a variety of different intake methods can be effective. You may prefer one type for daytime use and another for later in the day, depending on your symptoms and the treatment plan you create with your doctor.

What Are Cannabinoids?

The word cannabinoid refers to every chemical substance, irrespective of origin or substance, that links the cannabinoid receptors of the brain and body and has similar effects as those produced by the Cannabis Sativa plant.  To patients using medical cannabis, cannabinoids are what help provide some relief for debilitating symptoms.

The cannabis plant produces between 80 and 100 cannabinoids and approximately 300 non-cannabinoid chemicals, where THC and CBD are two major types of cannabinoids. But there are many more minor cannabinoids that may provide wellness benefits.

The most common THC is delta-9, which induces psychoactive effects, whereas CBD is thought to have an anti-psychoactive effect that regulates the “high” caused by THC. Cannabidiol (CBD) is believed to have many other health benefits, such as helping with anxiety, pain, and insomnia symptoms. 

You may notice that strains of medical marijuana that have multiple minor cannabinoid content are more expensive. Our marijuana doctors at our Orlando office discuss this with patients on a regular basis. That is usually the case because of the potential benefits of “the entourage effect.” Some clinical studies have suggested that cannabinoids may work better together to enhance symptom relief.

What is Bioavailability?

According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, bioavailability refers to the degree to which drugs or other substances can be absorbed into a living system. Different metabolic factors influence the bioavailability of various intake methods.

Bioavailability applies to everything from the dietary nutrients and vitamins your body absorbs from food to supplements you may take on a daily basis. There are many circumstances where you are not absorbing all the potential benefits from the substances you consume. And that includes medical marijuana.

The science of bioavailability starts with understanding what methods you can use to increase the absorption of valuable vitamins, minerals, terpenes, and cannabinoids. So that you are optimizing the wellness benefits of using medical marijuana.

When you learn how important bioavailability is and how it can impact symptom management, you’ll start to look at medicinal marijuana use differently. And each trip to the dispensary may involve a deeper thought process to find the right strains (and intake methods) for your needs.

Maximizing the Absorption of Terpenes

In addition to cannabinoids and the potential wellness benefits they provide, there are also terpenes. And while many people are familiar with seeing terpene information when looking for different strains, not everyone understands how important they are.

Terpenes are present and naturally occurring in every plant. And the cannabis plant is no different. Terpenes have evolved to help plants thrive and stay healthy, and in some cases, terpenes can help fight off predators.

If you have ever tried aromatherapy, that is a great example of how terpenes can have a positive impact on our physical and mental health. In Japan, forest bathing is popular because people have learned that being outside around natural plants makes them feel better. That is another great example of terpenes in action.

So it is not surprising that cannabis (like other plants) can be loaded in terpenes. And many terpenes can provide wellness benefits for you. But the intake method or route you choose for your medical marijuana can also impact how much terpene content you receive.


Can Terpenes Make You High?

Terpenes alone will not “get you high.” But that is not to say that they do not have psychoactive effects. For example, the terpenes in lavender can help you feel relaxed. Natural terpenes in camomile can ease nausea and stomach upset. So terpenes do have well-documented medicinal value.

While terpenes don’t cause a psychoactive “high,” they can make you feel good. Some terpenes can help reduce feelings of anxiety. Other terpenes may assist with insomnia, muscle pain, migraines, and other symptoms. And combinations of different terpenes can also have unique benefits, thanks to the entourage effect.

Want to learn more about specific terpenes? Check out: “Why Are Cannabis Terpenes a Big Deal?” on our blog. It is a great place to start if you want to find target certain terpenes when making a decision on the strain of medical cannabis you want to buy.

In our article, we break down some of the most common terpenes. And we explain the potential wellness benefits provided by each terpene. You can use the infographics to learn more about terpene types and make a list of strains that have terpene content that may be useful to you.

What Intake Methods Provide the Highest Terpene Content?

There are some intake methods that rapidly deplete terpenes. Smokable cannabis, for example, can significantly reduce terpene content. Decarboxylating cannabis in a hot oven will almost eliminate all the terpene content in cannabis flower. Soaking flower in a hot water bath (to prepare the oil, for example) can reduce the terpene content by 50% in five minutes.

Dispensaries use special vacuum drying ovens and commercial extractors to preserve terpene content when processing cannabis into different products. Cold temperature processing (winterizing) can also help remove cannabinoids and terpenes from other cannabis extracts.

The routes that offer the most terpenes include:

It is important to note that cannabis concentrates, while they have a higher terpene content, also have very high THC concentrations. And that may not be appropriate or safe for everyone. Especially for patients who are taking one or more prescription medications. The higher the THC potency, the great the risk of a contraindication (conflict) with prescription drugs.

Cannabis concentrates are typically used by patients who have developed a tolerance to lower-THC medicinal cannabis. Or used for patients who are receiving end-of-life or compassionate care. Make sure to consult your physician or dispensary for more information.

How Do Cannabinoids Interact with the Endocannabinoid System?

The endocannabinoid system is a special communication system in the body and brain that monitors different fundamental functions. It comprises natural compounds called cannabinoids and the pathways that they interact with. Together, these components regulate various activities, such as sleep, appetite, memory, and mood. 

Cannabinoids produce results by interacting with specific receptors in different areas of the nervous system. In simpler words, cannabinoids are responsible for the communication of the cells – how they receive, send, or process messages. 

There have been some interesting medical studies about clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD). Researchers have theorized that low endocannabinoid levels in your body (ECS dysfunction) can lead to the development of health problems.

One study of patients over a ten-year research period tied CECD to the development of chronic diseases like migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, and fibromyalgia. Some of these conditions do not have a clear underlying cause. They’re also often resistant to treatment and sometimes occur alongside each other.

But supplementing your body with cannabinoids may, in theory, help reduce the risks of developing certain chronic health conditions. But more research is still needed to understand CECD.

Cannabinoids Can Help With Inflammation

In the human body, cannabinoids work to reduce inflammation. Research studies have reported that THC, CBD, and other secondary cannabinoids work together to address inflammation. And terpenes are also an important part of that.

Most chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, Crohn’s disease, and many more are believed to be caused by chronic inflammation. In the human body, inflammation can be caused by abnormal immune system reactions, persistent infections, and health conditions such as obesity. Inflammation can also be caused by pollution and exposure to chemicals in our daily lives.

When inflammation is not controlled, it can cause DNA damage. Abnormal or damaged cells develop, and that is one precursor to developing a variety of different cancers. Some recent clinical studies have suggested a link between anxiety, depression, and chronic inflammation. But researchers still are not sure whether inflammation contributes to mental health disorders or if the disorders elevate inflammation in the body.

The combination of cannabinoids and terpenes is still being studied. But what medical research is looking for are exact measurements of specific cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. And why some strains are more effective at addressing certain symptoms like pain, insomnia, depression, and more.

One day, we may have exact cannabis profiles to enable physicians to accurately prescribe certain strains for specific conditions. Or the technology to be able to suggest optimal cannabis strains based on a patient’s DNA.

But for now, it is a process of trying different strains and making note of the types of cannabis products that help the most. With some expert guidance from your marijuana doctor and the experts at your local medical dispensary.

What Does Bioavailability of Cannabinoids Mean?

Bioavailability refers to the rate and degree at which a drug is absorbed into the body’s system or becomes available at the physiological activity’s site. The bioavailability and absorption of cannabinoids into the body are becoming one of the most sought-after and researched areas for cannabis producers.

Previously, the focus was on homogenization to ensure that the active ingredients were properly distributed throughout the cannabis product. The focus is on creating galenic formulations that increase bioavailability with excipients from the plant and its roots. 

In plain English, what that means is that medical marijuana products that are highly bioavailable are created for that purpose. For patients, getting active ingredients throughout the body means all the difference. Because patients using medical marijuana are looking for some relief from their symptoms. And they would prefer, in most cases, for that relief to be fast-acting.

When you begin using cannabis to help with pain and other symptoms, it is important to choose routes that work for you. And provide immediate relief. Which can take time to research and discover by trying different strains and potencies.

What is Nano-Availability?

A nano is a micromolecule that has a high density. Nano-availability is an exciting and relatively new field in medicine. It makes the medicines better absorbed. And that includes medical marijuana.

Although it is a relatively new pharmacological advance, nanomedical technology is currently a target for all types of medicinal products. Among these targets were studies involving the use of drugs that have improved the effectiveness of many current drugs, as well as developing immunotherapeutic drugs.

Researchers say that nanotechnology has been used to increase the solubility of drugs primarily through a series of biological studies. In some states, nano-available cannabis edibles are already available.

Does CBD Help With Cannabinoid Absorption?

Let’s not forget CBD on the list of helpful cannabinoids. It is one of the best-recognized cannabinoids (aside from THC). And since CBD products have been federally sanctioned in 2018, more studies are underway to find out the true medicinal and healing potential of cannabidiol.

When it comes to bioavailability, you may be wondering if CBD has much of an impact. Some studies have shown that when THC and CBD are consumed orally, the bioavailability is approximately 4% to 20%.

When THC is absorbed through the digestive system, it converts to 11-OH-THC; this substance is up to five times more psychotropic than THC. Now you know why some people love (or hate) cannabis edibles.

Can CBD Increase Cannabinoid Bioavailability?

There is no clinical evidence to suggest that CBD helps improve cannabinoid absorption or bioavailability. Conversely, some patients may use medical strains that have cannabidiol content because cannabidiol can reduce psychoactive effects. And that can help patients reduce the effects of peak thc concentrations.

Patients who want to consume cannabis but do not want the dose delivery to cause uncomfortable impairment or psychoactive effects may choose to consume a CBD supplement daily. Or take a CBD capsule about one hour before using medical marijuana.

The highest level of bioavailability for cannabidiol (CBD) is in topical creams or ointments. Oral bioavailability for CBD is much lower, as cannabidiol is, in fact, an oil extract. Visualize salad dressing; the water and oil do not mix! And since the human body is mostly water, cannabidiol has to fight to penetrate cells. It is not water-soluble in its chemical makeup.

What is One Way to Increase the Bioavailability of Hemp and CBD That is Ingested?

If you want CBD, you must eat foods that contain high fats and avoid gummy products that contain too much sugar. In fatty acids, medium to lengthy triglycerides are rated at about a fourfold higher bioavailability than fatty acids and medium chains.

Unfortunately, that means that most confectionary-based cannabis gummies are not as bioavailable as other types of intake methods. Unless you have built a strong tolerance to cannabis after years of use, it is unlikely that bioavailability will greatly impact the potential for symptom relief.

girl thinking

Bioavailability Differs Depending on the Method of Intake

Different ways of consuming cannabis products will give the body different quantities of cannabinoids, which means there is a difference between smoking a blunt, joint, bong, or bowl compared to eating edible or applying CBD oil. The same concept applies when consuming or dabbing cannabis concentrates or using topicals like lotions or creams. 

When you consume a cannabis product, be it a CBD oil or a THC tincture, the main question is how much cannabinoid your body is taking in. If you consume 50 mg of CBD, you may think your body will benefit from the entire quantity of 50 mg, but that is not always the case. The bioavailability of the cannabinoid consumed will determine how much of that 50 mg your body uses.

Your body might only utilize as little as 20% or 10 mg of the 50 mg you ingested. The remaining mg is believed to be rejected as waste by the body. However, certain cannabinoids tend to bioaccumulate in the body based on metabolic factors and frequency. The tissue distribution and long-term effects of this phenomenon are to be further studied, but no severe side effects have been documented so far.

Can Certain Types of Food Enhance Cannabis Bioavailability?

An integral factor that increases the bioavailability of cannabis products is the food you consume. Research suggests that fatty acids, specifically saturated fats act as CBD and THC carriers, making it easier for these cannabinoids to reach their desired destination. This is the reason why a lot of recipes combine cannabis with coconut oil.

But did you know that there are many types of food products that can actually enhance cannabis bioavailability? In fact, in states where restaurants are licensed to provide cannabis-infused menus, the meal is often comprised of fruits, fish, and vegetables that can amplify the effects of cannabis.

Some of the foods that can enhance cannabis bioavailability include:

  • Fatty fish (like lake trout or salmon).
  • Avocadoes.
  • Dark chocolate.
  • Nuts.
  • Whole eggs.
  • Cheese.
  • Coconuts and coconut oil (or MCT supplements).
  • Unprocessed beef.
  • Shellfish.
  • Dairy products with 2% fat content or higher.

If you are a patient using medical marijuana and you want to experiment, try consuming some of the foods above with cannabis. But if you would like to reduce or minimize the psychoactive effects, now you know what foods to avoid.

Intake Methods that Provide the Best Cannabinoid Bioavailability 

There are five main methods of cannabis consumption, and different people opt for different ways depending on their preferences.  Some work better than others in terms of quickly activating the psychoactive effects of cannabis.

Cannabis Edibles

Research suggests that when cannabinoids are orally consumed, their bioavailability ranges between 4% and 20%, and the phenomenon is referred to as “first-pass metabolism.” This is where the drug’s concentration significantly degrades before it can finally reach the circulatory system.

Cannabinoids travel through the liver with minimal absorption, even if the consumer may experience solid psychoactive effects. When THC metabolizes in the digestive system through an oral route, it turns into 11 oh thc. This is four to five times more potent than THC.

Its strength explains why people who consume edibles report being extremely high because the effects are compounded when THC changes into 11 oh thc.

pot edibles

Popular Types of Cannabis Edibles

Depending on the state where you live, there may be ample types of cannabis edibles to choose from. When states began to legalize medical marijuana, many jurisdictions actually banned edible cannabis. However, in time, laws were relaxed to allow dispensaries to produce and sell popular cannabis edibles.

The standard edible products available at most medical dispensaries include:

  • Gummies.
  • Baked goods (cookies, squares, etc.)
  • Breakfast bars.
  • Mints, candies or lozenges.
  • Infused chips or crackers.
  • Non-Alcoholic beverages (seltzers, sodas, and juices).
  • Alcoholic beverages (wine, mixed drinks, and ales).

Some products, such as cannabis gummies and candies, have a long shelf life. But other types of cannabis edibles can quickly expire. And THC concentrations in cannabis-infused beverages also have a limited shelf life. But they are currently only available in states with legalized recreational cannabis.

One concern about cannabis edibles is that the packaging and product appearance can closely resemble candy. Thousands of children in the United States receive emergency medical care because of accidental cannabis poisoning.

In 2021, there were more than 3,000 cases of accidental consumption by children under the age of six. If you purchase edibles and you live with children, ensure that your products are safely secured.

Higher Potency Edibles Do Not Mean More Bioavailability

A stronger high does not always equal more medicinal benefits. Edibles, capsules, and tinctures generally have a lower bioavailability, but their psychoactive effects last longer than other consumption methods.

One reason why certain cannabis intake methods last longer are that the body is slower to absorb cannabinoids through the digestive system. It takes time for cannabis to be absorbed and for cannabinoids to travel through the central nervous system.

The rate of bioavailability of cannabinoids varies from person to person. It depends on factors such as sleep cycle, metabolism, food and drug interactions, gastrointestinal tract health, and the formula of the cannabis product. 

Because the effects of a cannabis edible can last up to six hours or longer, some patients prefer not to use them. And the psychoactive effects of edibles can be very different compared to other delivery methods. It takes longer for systemic circulation, and it is important to start low and go slow with edibles to avoid discomfort.

Tabletop Cannabis Vaporizers

One of the highly bioavailable intake methods that is not discussed often is the tabletop cannabis vaporizer. For some people, a tabletop vaporizer makes it much easier to take their medical marijuana. The process is very easy to use for patients with barriers to mobility.

This type of device looks something like a humidifier. It is plugged in, and cannabis can be added to a reservoir that is slowly heated. The ‘volcano’ style desktop or tabletop cannabis vaporizers can be used by inhaling cannabis smoke. Some people place a towel over their heads to concentrate the volume of smoke and reduce waste.

Some tabletop cannabis vaporizers have pipe rigs that attach to the top. They are extended flexible tubes from which the patient can inhale the smokeable cannabis. Some models have gone very high-tech, with programmable temperatures and durations.

You can set a timer and the temperature you want to incinerate your flower. Why is this important? Lower temperature incineration means you get more terpene content compared to traditional methods. It is easier to use, and the terpene content can be higher when using a tabletop cannabis vaporizer.

Tabletop Vaporizers for Hospice Care

If you are a caregiver and helping a patient who requires hospice care, the tabletop cannabis vaporizer is particularly useful. You can put the device on a bedside table where your loved one can easily reach it and use it when required.

Unlike other types of cannabis intake methods, no flame is required using this type of vaporizer. Instead, it uses a non-toxic ceramic heating element. That allows patients who have difficulty lifting or holding a cannabis pipe or pre-roll another option.

For patients who suffer from mobility restrictions, this type of intake method is not only safer and easier, it provides independence. So that patients can dose their medical marijuana as required or as directed by a marijuana doctor.

Oral Sublingual Route and Using Tinctures

If you prefer smokable cannabis or edibles, you’ve probably looked at tinctures and wondered what the difference is. Why would people choose a liquid oral dose instead of one of many different medical marijuana intake options?

The method is called sublingual uptake, and it is the second fastest way to absorb cannabinoids into your body. When it comes to the bioavailability of cannabinoids, tinctures perform very well. If you use them correctly.

Aside from being rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, tinctures have a number of other advantages. They are easy to use, and you can accurately measure and control your dose of medical marijuana. They also have a longer shelf life than many other types of cannabis products.

You may be following a treatment plan where your physician has indicated a maximum daily dosage. This is often due to concern over contraindications with prescription medication. And you should follow your physician’s recommendation and not exceed it, to prevent any conflicts with your prescription drugs.

If you are concerned about medications you are currently taking in conjunction with medical cannabis, schedule a follow-up appointment with DocMJ. Depending on your health conditions and prescription schedule, a physician may recommend taking your tincture at certain times of the day. This could help reduce or eliminate drug conflicts and adverse side effects.

tincture with pot leaf

Buccal or Oromucosal Intake

Similar to sublingual administration, buccal or oromucosal intake places cannabinoid tinctures inside the mouth but in different locations. Tinctures administered in this method can offer an advantage by avoiding the salivary gland.

When cannabis or cannabidiol tincture doses are placed under the tongue, it can stimulate the salivary gland to produce more saliva. That can dilute the tincture and impede absorption. Also, the salivary gland can trigger reflex swallowing, which can evacuate the oil before it has had sufficient time to be absorbed.

Some people find that applying tinctures to the gum areas or inside of the cheek is more effective. And they may experience better results with this method of oral administration of both cannabis and CBD. The oral ingestion methods are very similar, and you may want to experiment with both types of oral consumption to see what is more effective for you.

How Do You Use Cannabis Tinctures?

Your referring physician will have discussed the proper oral ingestion doses to help you manage your symptoms. And the dispensary can help you choose the right tincture in terms of secondary cannabinoid content and THC potency. But when you get home from the dispensary, how exactly do you use a tincture?

The right way! And that is to dispense the correct amount under your tongue. Then hold it, or pool the tincture under your tongue for about forty-five seconds to one minute. The blood vessels in your tongue are very close to the surface (that’s why you can see them).

When this method of using tinctures is followed, the cannabinoids are rapidly absorbed through those blood vessels and directly into the bloodstream. Patients will start feeling both the physiological and psychoactive effects of the cannabis tincture shortly after administering the recommended dose.

How Long Do Tinctures Take Before You Can Feel the Effects?

Most people begin feeling the effect of tinctures within 15-30 minutes. But there are individual circumstances where a tincture can take longer before you can feel the effects. And when you are trying out tinctures, don’t make the mistake of taking too much too quickly. Start slow and cautiously when figuring out your ideal dose.

If you have started using a new tincture (or potency), do not adjust your dose for at least one hour after taking your tincture. When you can accurately assess how well your medical cannabis tincture is actually working for you.

One thing that patients appreciate about tinctures (aside from the ease of use) is how long the psychoactive and physiological effects can last. And that is up to six hours of potential relief, as the cannabinoids work to moderate your symptoms.

Different Ways to Take Cannabis Tinctures

One of the great things about cannabis tinctures is the way you can administer your dose. Dispensing from a bottle, the cannabis oil (with natural extracts in some cases) can be applied directly under the tongue. But there are other delivery methods you could explore.

Some people use cannabis tinctures in their morning coffee. Or add it to juice or a smoothie for breakfast. You can also quickly make your own infused foods, such as cannabis butter, salad dressings, gravy, pasta sauces, and marinades. There are plenty of recipes online to help you alternate how you use your medical cannabis tincture.

If you plan to stick to sublingual uptake (oral administration), then you may want to explore a tincture that has a pleasant flavor. Often you can find tinctures with herbal extracts like peppermint or berry, which make the flavor more appealing.

However, if you plan to use your tincture to make infused foods, choose a tincture that has no flavor at all. That way, it will not change the way your beverage or food tastes. Flavorless tinctures can be a little harder to find, but they are out there. And you can use sites like Weedmaps to find a local dispensary that may be carrying the product you are looking for.

Cannabis Suppositories 

This might be the least popular method of ingesting cannabis, but one of the most effective. That is because the blood barrier is very thin where suppositories are inserted. Which means they can be rapidly absorbed into the localized area.

Both cannabis and cannabidiol (CBD) suppositories are available for patients to try. And they can be used as either rectal, urethral, or vaginal treatments for a variety of health conditions.

One of the interesting things about suppositories is that they are less likely to produce a “head high.” However, the physiological benefits of cannabis suppositories can still provide relief throughout the body for up to six hours.

When Do Patients Use Cannabis Suppositories?

There are various THC and CBD suppositories available in the market. Studies show that rectal and vaginal administration of cannabis products could prove to be very effective for those struggling with a variety of health issues.

The bioavailability of cannabis from rectal or vaginal suppositories is higher than many other types of delivery methods. Studies into human cannabinoid pharmacokinetics reveal that for many health conditions, suppositories should be the first choice for patients using medical cannabis.

If you are thinking about trying “kush for your tush,” here are some ways that patients are using cannabis and cannabidiol suppositories:

Gastrointestinal Disorders

Suppositories may be the least chosen consumption methods when it comes to using medical marijuana for gastrointestinal issues. But the way you consume cannabis can impact how quickly it is absorbed (bioavailability) and where it is absorbed first.

Roughly 11% of the global population has a gastrointestinal disorder. When diseases of the GI tract strike, they can cause painful stools, cramping, diarrhea, and constipation. Sometimes symptoms can also include the development of hemorrhoids and bleeding.

In the case of GI disorders such as Crohn’s disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and other conditions, applying cannabis suppositories can be surprisingly effective. That is because more of the beneficial cannabinoids are delivered in the bottom half of the body. Instead of losing some cannabinoids through the digestive process.

Patients who use cannabis suppositories may find that they can provide relief from pain, burning sensations, nausea, flatulence, and more. It may be a less common intake method compared to smoking cannabis, but for some patients, it can provide encouraging results.

Pain Relief

The base composition of most cannabis suppositories is both fat and water-soluble. That means suppositories can be rapidly absorbed. Certain strains of cannabis are believed to help minimize pain symptoms.

What kind of health conditions could a cannabis suppository help with? Applying THC concentrations in this method may help patients with spinal stenosis, nerve pain, colitis, pelvic pain, hernias, IBS, and Crohn’s disease. And that is because there are ample CB1 receptors around the pelvic area.

Abdominal Cramps

A variety of different medical issues can cause cramps. They can be related to female reproductive problems such as endometriosis, cervical or uterine cancer, and severe premenstrual pain.

Suppositories may help patients quickly reduce pain symptoms when they are absorbed, and cannabinoids are delivered through systemic circulation. Compared to smoking cannabis or other delivery methods, it can be more effective for relieving cramps.

Muscle Relaxation

Have you ever noticed that the majority of back pain starts lower in your body? In fact, muscle tension in the lower back or buttocks area can contribute to pain in the neck, shoulder, and midback areas.

Using a cannabis suppository may help deliver relief to the lower body and promote muscle relaxation. Cannabinoids can help reduce inflammation and may also help address symptoms of lactic acidosis. Or a build-up of lactic acid in the glute area.

Menopausal Symptoms

For women going through menopause, symptoms can be mild or severe. And symptoms of menopause can include vaginal atrophy, which is an uncomfortable tightening of the muscles in the vagina. A condition that can lead to sexual discomfort.

Some studies suggest cannabis and CBD suppositories may also help with symptoms of hot flashes. But more clinical trials are needed to determine if it is clinically effective or not.

Sexual Dysfunction

You may see cannabidiol (CBD) variants of vaginal suppositories advertised as “intimacy melts.” They are specifically formulated to relax the areas they are inserted into to make intercourse more pleasurable.

The female genital tract has a very high number of cannabinoid receptors. This means suppositories have the potential to create warming effects. Some women have shared that vaginal cannabis suppositories can also help stimulate natural lubrication. And create a relaxed mood that is more conducive to quality sex.

Currently, few doctors recommend them as there is no research to determine whether they are safe or beneficial for long-term use. But if vaginal dryness or pain during intercourse is a problem, you may want to talk to your gynecologist about using cannabidiol or cannabis suppositories.

Transdermal and Topical Cannabis Products

Transdermal and topical cannabis products are designed to help relieve inflammation and pain in the skin. Since they are easily repelled by water, they can easily travel throughout the aqueous layer. That means for localized absorption, cannabis topicals have good bioavailability.

Localized Versus Systemic Relief With Topical Cannabis

Since they are applied to a local area, creams, and lotions are not well absorbed in the rest of the body, meaning they are not “systematically” absorbed. Moreover, topical and transdermal methods do not induce any psychoactive effects when applied to the skin.

Creams, lotions, ointments, transdermal patches, and herbal poultices are the most commonly available cannabis-based topicals. And depending on the nature of your pain symptoms, topical cannabidiol (CBD) or cannabis (THC) creams may help.

cream on hand

How Cannabidiol (CBD) Topicals Work

A study done in 2016 assessed the effectiveness of transdermal CBD in minimizing inflammation and pain in arthritic rats. Doses of 3.1, 6.2, and 62.3 mg of CBD gel were applied to the rats, and then their blood plasma levels and synovial joint tissue thickening were evaluated.

The results determined that topical CBD in larger quantities improved symptoms of arthritis and that it has a strong medicinal potential for humans who struggle with the same conditions. 

Scientists hope that transdermal patches can minimize the adverse effects of cannabis that are observed when smoking. These patches are believed to bypass the first-pass metabolism of cannabinoids, thereby helping enhance the efficacy of this delivery method.

Anecdotally, most consumers experience longer-lasting and stronger muscle and joint pain relief when using transdermal patches compared to topical products. However, this entirely depends on the amount of CBD or THC in these products. 

In short, there is no single best way to consume a cannabis product that will produce the best results. That said, most CBD oils taken sublingually may get absorbed faster. Similarly, topicals, such as this pain relief cream containing 200 mg of CBD, could effectively treat a localized area.

Although the bioavailability of a cannabis product will depend on the amount of THC or CBD, it also depends on many other factors like metabolism, the type of foods you consume, and your sleep cycle. 

Smokable or Inhalable Cannabis

By far the most popular cannabis consumption methods, smokable or inhalable medical marijuana is the leading method of oral consumption. There are many reasons why some patients prefer it.

First, the flavor and experience of smokable cannabis is enjoyable for some. This oral consumption method requires fresh cannabis flower, a grinder, and the skill to be able to pack a cone or use rolling papers. But there are many different ways to use inhalable cannabis for medicinal purposes.

Is Smokable Cannabis More Bioavailable?

Smoking and vaporizing are the two main forms of consuming cannabis through inhalation and are quite similar. A 2018 study found that inhalation produces a THC bioavailability rate of around 31% and essentially depends on the intensity of the puff and how deeply the cannabis smoke has penetrated the lungs.

Although inhaling cannabinoids is the quickest way to introduce them to the body, cannabis that is not absorbed by the lungs is exhaled and discarded. The effects may be less efficient than other methods of delivery.

Moreover, smoking and vaping are generally not recommended by doctors or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  This particularly applies to patients who may have respiratory disorders, including asthma, emphysema, lung or esophageal cancer, or other conditions.

There are no long-term human studies that have determined smoking cannabis does not negatively impact lung health. One option for patients is to consider other intake methods, such as oral ingestion or edibles.

If a patient is diagnosed with severe respiratory disease, a marijuana doctor may not provide a recommendation for smokable cannabis in the interest of protecting the patient’s health. That does not mean that the patient may not qualify for a medical card, however. But the recommendation may restrict inhalable or smokable types of medical marijuana.

Methods of Using Smokable Medical Marijuana

How patients smoke cannabis is highly individualized. For some, the conventional method of “packing a bowl” is preferred. Others master the art of using rolling papers to create smokable joints. In some cases, patients may combine cannabis with hemp flower to increase the cannabidiol (CBD) content in their smoke.

The second most popular oral consumption method and way to consume cannabis is by using a device. This can be a glass pipe, bong, chillum (small pocket glass pipe), or a cannabis incinerating device. The high-tech version of a portable pipe allows patients to adjust the temperature settings and amount of smoke volume that is released.

Studies in cannabinoid pharmacokinetics reveal that smokable cannabis is moderately bioavailable. It can take anywhere from five to fifteen minutes before a patient may start to feel the physiological or psychoactive effects of smoked cannabis. But the peak thc concentrations may not be felt for 1-3 hours after inhalation.

Because peak thc concentrations and the effects can be delayed, patients using smokable medical marijuana should wait at least an hour before inhaling additional amounts. This can help reduce the risk of taking too much cannabis and feeling nauseous or uncomfortable.

Should You Try More Than One Intake Method?

Some patients who are exploring medical marijuana to help with symptom relief may hesitate to try more than one method. When you are learning how to use medical marijuana therapeutically, it’s best to take an open approach and vary your intake methods.

For example, if you suffer from chronic pain, you may choose a strain of cannabis that has cannabidiol (CBD) content. Cannabidiol can help reduce inflammation, which may help reduce symptoms of pain. There are many global clinical studies that suggest CBD can be very effective at reducing inflammation in the body.

When it comes to intake methods, many people start with tinctures. Sublingual uptake is one of the fastest ways to absorb cannabinoids into your bloodstream. That is because there is a thin blood surface barrier under the tongue.

When used correctly, tinctures are dispensed under the tongue and held there for about 60 seconds before swallowing. That allows for maximum absorption. Never swallow your tincture quickly without giving your body time to absorb the cannabinoids.

Some people prefer to take an edible after work for symptoms. One of the benefits of edibles (compared to other cannabis delivery methods) is that the onset is slower. It can take up to ninety (90) minutes before you start to feel the psychoactive or physiological effects of an edible. And those effects can also last longer, from 4-6 hours after you have consumed it.

Get Your Medical Marijuana Card Today with DocMJ 

Founded in 2016, DocMJ offers a platform with Florida’s largest and most experienced group of certified Medical Marijuana doctors who can give recommendations to qualified patients. We can also help you apply for medical cards online through a simplified application process.

Visit one of our Orlando marijuana doctors, or choose one of twenty-five convenient clinical locations in Florida. We also provide telemedicine medical card health evaluations in Texas and Ohio.

If you require assistance with the application process, contact us. We are here to help guide you through the process of getting a medical marijuana recommendation and becoming a registered patient.


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