A simple guide
To understanding cannabis products
Even as new technologies allow manufacturers to create numerous product types that deliver the benefits of cannabis, traditional flower smoking remains the most common and preferred method of consumption around the world.
Flower, also called “bud,” refers to the smokeable part of the cannabis plant that has gone through the cultivation, harvest, drying, and curing process. Flower continues to be a popular choice for its versatility, offering numerous methods of consumption, such as being smoked using a pipe or bong, or by rolling it into a joint or blunt.
Among the many benefits of smoking flower is its rapid onset. Flower’s high bioavailability means you’ll feel its effects almost instantaneously. Effects can last anywhere from one to three hours, varying from person to person.
While the majority of smokers around the world like to roll their flower into a joint to smoke, there are numerous ways to enjoy cannabis flower. These methods are dependent on the person’s preference, environment and given situation.
Rolling a Joint
This is the most common method of consuming flower, there are many benefits to rolling a joint. The only tools you need to roll a joint are rolling papers and your flower (a grinder, while helpful, is optional). Rolling papers are inexpensive and easy to purchase (available in most convenience stores).
Rolling a Blunt
While less common, a blunt is the same basic idea as a joint. A blunt is an emptied-out cigar wrapper that’s been filled with flower and resealed. For similar reasons as a joint, the benefit of rolling a blunt is that all you need is the blunt wrap (or tobacco leaves) and your flower (a grinder is optional). Most convenience stores sell cigars, allowing blunt making to be possible virtually anywhere. The only potential downside to a blunt is that you’re also consuming the tobacco in the cigar wrap.
Possibly the easiest, most straightforward way to consume flower is through the use of a pipe. Small, compact, and easy to use, pipes are handheld devices that are used to smoke flower. They require no power or water; simply break apart your flower, fill the bowl and light up. Ideal for traveling or discreet use, pipes are practical and reliable tools for cannabis consumers
Another common method of flower consumption is the use of a water pipe, or “bong.” Bongs are a filtration device structurally comprised of a chamber, which is partially filled with water, and a downstem that connects the water chamber and holds a bowl (which holds the cannabis). Bongs are ideal for calming the heat and harshness of inhaling smoke. The liquid in the water chamber helps filter particles from the smoke. As the smoke makes it way through the bong, the length of the pipe also aids in the cooling action.
Unlike other methods of cannabis consumption, flower doesn’t have a standard dosing structure. Potency is measured by the total concentration of cannabinoids (chemical compounds that act on our endocannabinoid system to stimulate psychoactive and physical effects) and is expressed in percentage of mg/g. For example, a menu item of Hardcore OG might read as 18.84% THC, which indicates that there are 188.40 milligrams of Tetrahydrocannabinol (an intoxicating cannabinoid) per gram of flower.
Edibles are food items made with cannabis flower or concentrates. Thanks to advances in the cannabis culinary arts and the emergence of distillate, you can find a wide selection of high-quality baked goods, beverages, and treats that provide the desired effects of cannabis.
The benefits of consuming cannabis-infused edibles is the ability to feel the effects of cannabis without having to smoke flower or vaporize concentrates. Consuming is easy and intuitive — we all know how to eat and drink.
The disadvantage of consuming cannabis-infused edibles is that they’re absorbed through the digestive system, which means the effects may take hours to set in and the potency of effects gradually increases. The effects may onset as quickly as 45 minutes or can take up to 3 hours to onset and the duration can last between 4 and 6 hours. It is possible to feel the effects as early as 20 minutes.
ONSET AND DURATION
Edibles are absorbed through the digestive system, which results in delayed onset as compared to inhalation and sublingual delivery (administered underneath the tongue). While it can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 3 hours to feel the effects, edibles provide a longer duration of effects when compared to other consumption methods.
WHAT IS A DOSE?
The potency of an edible is measured differently than cannabis flower or concentrate. Instead of stating the percentage of cannabinoid strength, the potency of an edible product is indicated by the milligram (mg) amount of cannabinoids contained in the product. An edibles package will typically state both the milligrams per serving and the milligrams in the entire package. For example, an entire chocolate bar may have 50 mg of THC. If the desired dose is 5 mg, the bar can be divided into ten 5-mg doses.
Edibles have a wide variety of CBD: THC ratios. Ratios with a higher concentration of CBD tend to be less intoxicating than edibles with no CBD. However, intoxication is entirely dependent on how much THC you consume. No matter what the edible contains, it’s recommended that the THC dose dictate how much is consumed.
FINDING THE RIGHT DOSE
Knowing the accurate dosage of an edible product and consuming at a measured pace is extremely important due to the delayed onset time and variable dosage options. The recommended dose for beginners is 1 to 5 mg of THC.
Beginners should start with an initial dose of 5 mg then wait 24 hours to evaluate the effects. Increase the dose by 2.5 or 5 mg every 24 hours until you feel the effects. This will be your minimum effective dose.
Because so many factors affect how your body might interact with cannabinoids found in edibles, dosing recommendations contain ranges rather than definitive quantities.
HOW EDIBLES WORK
Edibles enter the body through the mouth and are absorbed through the gut. The absorbed compounds are metabolized in the liver. THC is metabolized in the liver into a compound called 11-hydroxy-THC. This compound is more potent than THC, has a longer half-life and can be very sedating. It’s this mechanism in the liver that causes edibles to have a different effect in most people. This entire process can take between 45 and 180 minutes.
HOW EDIBLES ARE MADE
When it comes to anticipating the effects of edibles, it’s important to understand how they’re made. The ingredients used and the method of production have an impact on the resulting product, onset time and duration of effects.
Infused edibles found in the marketplace are made using hashish, cannabis distillate — an odorless and flavorless oil — or pure cannabinoid crystals, which are infused into a food product made using a fat, like butter or oil. It’s important to recognize what form of cannabis concentrate was used to create your edibles as they can yield different effects.
Decarboxylation plays a key role in determining the type of effects an edible may present. Decarboxylation is a process by which THCa, present in the raw form of cannabis, is slightly heated and changed into the psychoactive compound THC. The human body cannot convert THCA to THC.
Distillate is used for edibles that are meant to produce a psychoactive effect. They’re popular among commercial edible producers because the cannabinoids are completely decarboxylated during the distillate production process.
Crystalline is popular because it contains a single cannabinoid — usually CBD or THCA. Crystalline can be sprinkled on foods or blended with dry or wet ingredients during the cooking or baking process, while distillate can be blended with other moist ingredients or mixed directly into liquids. Should you decide to bake your edibles with THCA crystalline, decarboxylation will take place during cooking or baking and the THCA into the intoxicating THC.
Making Edibles at Home
Cannabis-infused butters and oils can be made from scratch at home using dry flower. The overall concept of infusing butters and fats with cannabis involves submerging the dry material in the desired carrier (fat) and gently heating it to slowly extract the cannabinoids from the plant material. The mixture must then be strained to remove any remaining plant material. The infused fat or oil can then be substituted at a 1:1 ratio in any food recipe.
It’s pretty easy to make homemade edibles, but can be very difficult to dose properly. For consistent dosing, effects, and taste use manufactured edibles and check the labels for cannabinoid contents to find what product suits your need.
From brownies to medicated muscle creams, you can find cannabis concentrates in hundreds of products.
Concentrates are products made from the cannabis plant that have been processed to keep only the most desirable plant compounds (primarily the cannabinoids and terpenes), while removing excess plant material and other impurities. Ounce for ounce, cannabis concentrates have a greater proportion of cannabinoids and terpenes when compared to natural cannabis flowers.
Concentrates can also help increase the potency of your flower. The next time you pack a bowl with cannabis flower, try sprinkling kief on top, or add drops of concentrate oil to cannabis flower before rolling your joint. Cannabis concentrate products can also be consumed on their own. For example, concentrates can be vaporized using a portable vaporizer or dab rig (this activity is referred to as “dabbing”). Dabbing has quickly become one of the most popular consumption methods in the market.
Concentrates let you experience cannabis in a multitude of ways; they come in a variety of textures and can be consumed using several different methods. The look and feel of a concentrate doesn’t necessarily indicate its level of quality (effects, flavor, potency); these are simply aesthetics that can help you keep track of your personal preferences.
One of the leading benefits of concentrates is the rapid onset time and the ability to yield a high more potent than consuming cannabis flower. Concentrates have a high bioavailability, meaning the effects you feel and experience, as well as the rate of absorption into your body, happen almost immediately. The effects of a cannabis concentrate can last anywhere from 1 to 3 hours, depending on the person.
WHAT ARE CONCENTRATES AND EXTRACTS?
Concentrates come in many forms and include the most desirable parts of something. For example, orange juice concentrate has the smell and taste of the orange fruit, but without the excess fluid, peel or pulp. The same is true for the cannabis plant: the aromas, flavors, and other desirable substances can be retained while removing the leaves, stems, and other unwanted materials.
Extracts are a specific type of concentrate that use solvents to draw out the desired substances of a plant, seed or fruit. For example, vanilla extract is produced by using alcohol as a solvent to pull out the desired flavor component, vanillin, from vanilla bean pods.
The cannabis plant has complex compounds, or chemical substances, that can be used in a multitude of products. These compounds affect the look, smell, flavor, and texture, as well as physiological or psychoactive effects (if any) of cannabis products. The most desirable cannabis compounds are found throughout the cannabis plant in small, sparkling structures called trichomes. A cannabis concentrate refers to any product created by the accumulation of the trichomes from the plant.
These frosty appendages coat the entire surface of the plant, especially the flower buds. Trichomes contain all the cannabinoids (THC, CBD, etc.) and terpenes that give different cannabis cultivars, or strains, their unique aromas and physical effects.
Compared to cannabis in raw plant form, cannabis concentrates offer a more potent high, quicker onset of action, and a wider range of consumption methods. Depending on your consumption preferences and tolerance level, the ideal dose can vary widely from person to person and even product to product.
Cannabis concentrates are diverse and used in a wide range of products. With a selection of options, you can fine-tune your cannabis experience and find the ideal combination of cannabinoids and terpenes that appeals to your taste and provides the most benefit.
Is there a difference between a concentrate and an extract?
All extracts are concentrates, but not all concentrates are extracts. While those terms are used interchangeably, the primary difference between a concentrate and an extract is how trichomes are collected. Extracts are a type of concentrate created using solvents (alcohol, carbon dioxide, etc.) that essentially wash the trichomes off the cannabis plant. Concentrates made without the use of solvents are produced using mechanical or physical means to remove and gather trichomes.
Butane Hash Oil (BHO), Rick Simpson Oil (RSO) and CO2 wax are examples of extracts; each of these comes in varying textures such as shatter, badder, budder, and crumble. Different extracts and the varying textures may yield different experiences from one product to another.
Rosin, dry sift and kief are examples of concentrates that are made without using solvents.
HOW TO TALK ABOUT CONCENTRATES
“Reduced Fat Homogenized Ultra-Pasteurized Milk” is also known as “2% milk,” but that may sound baffling until you’re familiar with the product and its name. Once you familiarize yourself with the terminology used with concentrates, the more comfortable you’ll feel when reviewing descriptions and labels. The product names can seem complex. For example, a product named “Hardcore OG Nug Run Shatter” may sound confusing. What do each of these words mean?
Producers and manufacturers use specific words and phrases to help you identify key characteristics and qualities of cannabis concentrates. Certain terms may be used on labels and descriptions on concentrate products to identify:
The type of cannabis plant materials used to make the concentrate
The processing techniques
The resulting textures
The intended consumption methods
Everything starts off with cannabis plant material. The cannabis plant’s flower buds, leaves, and stems are collectively referred to as the starting, or input material. The input material can alter the resulting cannabinoid and terpene profile of the cannabis concentrate. Additionally, the quality or grade of the input material also affects the potency and flavor of its resulting concentrates.
Cannabis concentrates are products created by the accumulation of trichomes (the gland that makes the cannabinoids and terpenes). There are a variety of ways to separate the trichomes from the starting material. Each of these processes needs its own specific materials and/or physical actions, or methods, in order to produce a concentrate.
Once the cannabinoids and terpenes have been removed from the plant material, the resulting solution can take a variety of forms. These forms allow patients and consumers to pick and choose their preferred texture of the concentrate product; they aren’t necessarily an indicator of how the concentrate will taste or affect an individual.
Concentrates are safe, yet potent. To consume a cannabis concentrate safely and effectively, you must have a specific setup with the appropriate equipment in order to properly activate the concentrated cannabinoids and terpenes.
TEXTURES AND CONSISTENCIES
Terms like shatter, badder, crumble, sugar, oil, and sauce refer to a concentrates’ appearance (texture, color, malleability). In other words, these terms simply inform us about the look and feel of the concentrate. For example, a concentrate product with the name “Nug Run Blue DreamShatter” tells you three things:
The strain of the cannabis plant used was “Blue Dream”
“Nug run” indicates that the plant material used to make the extract was dried and cured flower
The extract has a “shatter”-like consistency and texture
The following seven terms describe the most common concentrate textures found in the market.
Shatter, Budder, Badder, and Crumble
Shatter is known for its brittle, glass-like texture. It can also have a snap-and-pull consistency. (Imagine taffy candy being pulled really tight before snapping). Shatters usually have a golden yellow to bright amber color throughout.
Budder and Badder are oilier and softer in texture. (Think of a stick of butter or cake batter.) They’re malleable, easy to handle and have a sun yellow to bright orange coloring. The butter-like consistency allows the extract to be easily used as a spread on blunts or joints, or to be dabbed using a dab rig.
Crumble is a brittle version of budder or badder. As the name suggests, it has a crumbly-like honeycomb consistency. The color tends to be similar to budder or badder, but instead of having a glossy texture, they tend to have a matted shade of yellow.
Sugar, Sauce, and Crystalline
Sugar is a term used for any concentrate that has a similar consistency to wet, sappy sugar. They’re not uniform in nature and typically have colors ranging from a bright yellow to a deep amber.
Sauce is thicker, more viscous in texture and looks stickier. The color of sauce can range from deep amber to bright mustard. Sauce is similar to sugar in both its consistency and color, but has a more uniform and prominent crystalline structure.
Crystalline is a single, crystallized compound. Just as the name implies, THCa and CBD crystalline are white crystals that can vary in density and size from small rocks to powder.
A cannabis concentrate can be consumed in a variety of ways, from sprinkling it on a bowl or adding it to a joint for added potency, to vaporizing them using a dab rig or portable vape pen. The ideal method for consumption depends on the type and texture of the selected concentrate as well as the personal habits of the person consuming. When deciding which method will work best, first consider the tools you have at your disposal and the texture of the concentrate. Extracts like shatter and badder are malleable and easy to use in a dab rig, while powdery concentrates, such as kief and crumble, can be easily enjoyed by adding them to a more stable foundation like flower. Here are some of the most common methods for smoking or vaporizing concentrates.
Topping Your Flower
Adding powdered kief to your bowl, or wrapping wax around a joint, are the most cost-effective methods to using cannabis concentrates. These methods don’t require any of the expensive tools necessary for taking dabs, while still increasing the potency of your smoke and adding extra flavor from the concentrate.
The most popular way to consume cannabis concentrates is by vaporizing the concentrate using a “dab rig.” This method consists of heating a “nail” (made from either glass, ceramic, or titanium) and then applying the concentrate directly onto the hot surface, instantly turning it into a vapor for consumption. While there are many inexpensive ways of turning any water pipe into a dab rig, below is a list of items you’ll need for a dab rig:
Pre-filled Vape Pen
Vaping is the most discreet and portable option for consuming cannabis concentrates. The most common form of vaping is a pre-filled cartridge that attaches to a battery. The cartridge contains a heating element that comes in contact with the battery and heats the concentrate when activated. This battery-and-cartridge combination is collectively referred to as a vape pen. Standard vape pens are operated by pressing a button or, in the case of a buttonless pen, simply taking a drag from the mouthpiece of the cartridge. These pre-filled cartridges aren’t refillable and are to be discarded after the concentrate runs out, but the battery can be saved and reused many times.
Using a handheld vaporizer is another portable method to consume cannabis concentrates. With a vaporizer, you manually fill a chamber with any type of concentrate and attach the chamber to a battery. The chamber typically contains a heating coil that turns the concentrate into a vapor when the user presses a button. Unlike a dab rig, this method does not require any additional equipment, but still gives you the ability to pre-fill the chamber with any type of concentrate and use it on demand.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN EXTRACTION TYPES?
Concentrates are made one of two ways: physically separating the trichome from the plant or using liquid solvents.
During the physical separation process, trichome glands are removed from the cannabis starting material using a physical action, like shaking or pressing. Think of the trichome glands as fruit on a citrus tree: physical separation is similar to the shaking of a citrus tree to remove the fruit.
When creating dry sift, for example, cannabis is shaken through a series of screens in specific sizes to ensure only the trichome heads make it through to the final product. Rosin is created using a targeted combination of heat and pressure to squeeze the desired compounds out of the plant. The key concept of physical separation is that a direct physical action results in the expression of trichomes.
Liquid Solvent Extraction
All solvent extractions use the same basic workflow: a liquid solvent is used to separate the active compounds from the trichome gland to yield a solution. This solution must be further refined until nothing but the desired compounds remain.
Due to the volatility of these solvents, technicians typically use closed-loop extraction systems, which allow them to safely control elements like temperature and pressure in order to achieve the optimal result. Depending on the solvent selected, the resulting extract is put into a vacuum oven to ensure complete solvent removal prior to consumption.
HOW DO YOU MAKE DIFFERENT TEXTURES?
Different textures are the result of deliberate steps taken before or after the initial extraction process.
Shatter is one of the most versatile textures. In fact, many other textures, such as budder and crumble, start off as shatter. Shatter is known for its resemblance to brittle glass, which shatters on contact, but can also have a “snap and pull” consistency that gives it elastic-like properties. Shatter can be created using a variety of solvent extraction methods, the most popular of which include BHO, PHO, EHO, and CO2.
These textures are the result of agitating terpene-rich shatter into a more creamy consistency. To achieve this frosting-like texture, technicians whip the shatter under low and even temperatures to introduce and redistribute air molecules. The volume of these air molecules determines the density of the resulting texture.
Crumble is shatter that has been whipped, like badder and budder, and then purged in a vacuum oven at low temperatures to “dry” the concentrate while retaining its cannabinoid and terpene content.
Crystalline is a transparent or semi-transparent cannabis concentrate that may resemble coarse decorative sparkling sugar or kosher salt. Multiple methods can be used to produce crystalline, but they all follow the same basic principles of crystallization.
An example of crystallization is making rock candy. Rock candy is a flavored confection that’s produced when sugar (a chemical solid) is slowly added to boiling water (a liquid). The resulting solution cools a bit, then flavor and color is added. A prepared stick is lowered into the solution. Over time, crystals form and grow on the prepared stick, eventually yielding the desired product.
Crystallization is a process where a chemical solid is mixed with a liquid to create an initial solution. Any impurities are removed from the initial solution, and the extract is then mixed with another solvent under a different set of conditions to start the formation of pure crystals.
Distillates are made by exposing a winterized and decarboxylated extract to heat and vacuum, which promotes the separation of cannabinoids based on their different boiling points.
Cannabis vaporization is growing in popularity among people interested in consuming cannabis in an easy, discreet manner that’s healthier than traditional smoking methods. Both flower and concentrates can be vaporized using a wide range of devices.
The leading benefit for cannabis vaporization is that it’s a healthier alternative to smoking flower, as vapor doesn’t release the tar and carcinogens created during combustion (the process of burning flower).
Additionally, portable vaporizers allow for easy and discreet use as the cannabis vapor creates a less potent aroma. Portable vaporizers are easy to use and fit in your pocket. Like flower and concentrates, the onset time is rapid.
WHAT ARE VAPORIZERS?
The process of vaporization involves heating cannabis flower or concentrates to a temperature that turns the active compounds (cannabinoids and terpenes) into vapor. Vaporization is a healthier alternative to smoking as it occurs at temperatures that do not allow the flower to combust, which releases harmful tar and carcinogens.
There are many methods by which people vaporize cannabis. The three main types are tabletop vaporizers, portable vaporizers and vape pens.
Tabletop vaporizers are stationary temperature control units that require a solid surface upon which to sit. Tabletop vaporizers come in many varieties, but all include four main features:
A temperature dial to regulate the temperature
A healing element that heats the flower or concentrates
A heating chamber where you put the flower or concentrates
A mouthpiece attachment
Some tabletop vaporizers use a bag to collect the vapor, which is detached prior to inhalation, while others use a long tube that is attached to the heating chamber and allows the vapor to move directly from the heating chamber to the person using the vaporizer. Most tabletop vaporizers of this style are used to vaporize cannabis flower.
Based on function, e-nail (electric nail) dab rigs could also be considered tabletop vaporizers. This method allows people to vaporize concentrates using an electric nail. However, a reference to the term “vaporizer” generally applies to a device that vaporizes cannabis flowers.
Portable vaporizers are small, discreet vaporizers that operate in much the same way as tabletop vaporizers. Portable vaporizers include a chamber to hold the cannabis flower or concentrate, a heating element and a battery. Most portable vaporizers contain variable temperature control devices that are operated with the click of a button or turn of a small dial. This activates the battery, which heats the element and vaporizes the flower or concentrate contained within the chamber, sending it into the mouthpiece for inhalation.
Portable vaporizers can be used to consume many forms of concentrate including badder, budder, and shatter as well as flower in some cases. Before purchasing a portable vaporizer, consider the types of cannabis you intend to consume and look for one designed to accommodate that product.
Vape pens are a type of vaporizer designed specifically to vaporize cannabis distillates and oils. They are called pens because the design of the vape device closely resembles that of a traditional pen. A vape pen consists of two pieces: a battery and cartridge.
Vape batteries come in a variety of styles – button or buttonless, cylindrical or rectangular, large or small – there is a shape and style to fit many personal preferences.
Vape cartridges contain a mouthpiece, chamber and heating element, which is activated upon initiated contact with a vape battery. The chamber of a vape cartridge is filled with oil or distillate, which contains concentrated amounts of cannabis cannabinoids and terpenes.
WHAT’S IN A VAPE CARTRIDGE?
When choosing a vape cartridge, it’s important to know the type of oil contained within, whether and how it’s flavored and what cutting agents, if any, have been used to dilute the solution. This helps you anticipate the type of vaping experience to expect.
Vape cartridges are all filled with cannabis distillate that’s designed for optimal vaporization using a portable battery. During the distillation process, the cannabis oil is stripped of all flavor and aromatic compounds. At this point, it can be left in its raw form (flavorless/tasteless), it can be mixed with terpenes for extra flavor, or with some form of glycol (PG, VG, PEG) to give the vapor extra mouthfeel (thin versus thick, smooth versus chalky, dry versus buttery).
RAW VAPE CARTRIDGES
While all cartridges contain cannabinoids, not all cartridges contain terpenes. Terpenes are organic compounds that give plants their aroma and flavors. “Raw cartridges” are vape cartridges that do not contain any additional cutting agent or terpenes, just the pure cannabis distillate.
STRAIN-SPECIFIC & NATURAL TERPENE CARTRIDGES
The reintroduction of terpenes is common in distillate-filled cartridges, as the distillation process removes the natural plant terpenes and results in an odorless, flavorless viscous liquid. Some extractors have mastered a technique that allows them to remove the terpenes from the plant during the distillation process and reintroduce them prior to filling the vape cartridges. These cartridges are known as strain-specific vape cartridges that use cannabis-derived terpenes to retain the same aroma and flavor of the plant that the oil was derived from.
It’s also common for cartridges to be filled with naturally derived terpenes that create exotic flavors that smell and taste like fruits and candies. The reintroduction of terpenes after extraction allows manufacturers to create countless cannabinoid and terpene combinations to suit a variety of needs. These terpenes can also change the viscosity and color of the distillate in the cartridge.
Some vape cartridges contain cutting agents that are similar to those used in e-cigarettes to change the intensity of the vapor cloud and mouthfeel of the cartridge. The most common cutting agents include polyethylene glycol (PEG), propylene glycol (PG) and vegetable glycerin (VG).
Polyethylene glycol has many medical, commercial and industrial applications and is used as a cutting agent in vape liquids to maintain an evenly mixed product that produces some vapor cloud.
Propylene glycol is a binding agent that blends with solvents for use in food, hygiene, industrial and lab applications. It’s a common cutting agent in vape pen liquids due to its promotion of even draws.
Vegetable glycerin is used as a preservative in the food, pharmaceutical, bath and body and e-cigarette industries, among others. Vegetable glycerin is used in vape liquids to create large vapor clouds.
ALTERNATIVE CANNABIS PRODUCTS
In addition to the more traditional methods of consumption, people are seeing much success with pain-relieving topicals, capsules, balms, tinctures and more.
While many of these methods are straightforward – you swallow a capsule, rub balm or lotion on your skin – others have multiple uses. Tinctures, for example, can be both consumed under the tongue (sublingually), or rubbed directly on the affected area for fast pain relief. When in doubt, read the directions or ask someone at your local retail location.
WHAT KINDS OF NON SMOKABLE CANNABIS PRODUCTS ARE THERE?
In the rapidly evolving cannabis industry, new products are entering the market daily. Many of these new products are familiar to medical patients because their application has been in use for pharmaceutical purposes for decades.
Capsules are a simple way to accurately dose and easily consume cannabis oils. Taken like a vitamin, capsules enter the digestive tract, where they’re broken down and the cannabinoids contained within are released. Transdermal patches and inhalers are gaining popularity as they’re discreet methods that don’t contain the additional calories that often come with edibles.
The most common types of cannabis products that don’t quite fit into smoking, vaporizing or edible consumption categories include tinctures and topicals.
WHAT ARE TINCTURES?
By definition, a tincture is an herbal solution made with alcohol as the primary extraction solvent. In the cannabis product realm, the term tincture is being used to define concentrated liquid preparations that are meant to be applied topically or orally. Tinctures are versatile and allow for accurate dosing and titration.
Cannabis tinctures can be made from the raw cannabinoids THCA and CBDA or can be heated (a process known as decarboxylation) to convert the raw cannabinoids to THC and CBD. Most preparations are labeled with the main cannabinoids.
HOW DO TINCTURES WORK?
When applied sublingually, tinctures are absorbed through the body via blood vessels located under the tongue. This allows for relatively fast delivery directly into the bloodstream, where the cannabinoids can then be distributed to the cannabinoid receptors throughout the brain and body. Sublingual absorption provides onset as quickly as 15 minutes. Cannabinoids not absorbed under the tongue will travel with the carrier liquid through the digestive tract, where they’ll be absorbed like an edible — so, tinctures can present delayed onset of effects as well. When blended with food or drink, tinctures act in much the same way as edibles.
Alcohol tincture preparations can be absorbed in as few as 15 minutes while oil preparations have a general onset time between 30 minutes and three hours.
The appropriate dose of a tincture depends on a variety of factors, including a person’s individual endocannabinoid makeup and the desired effects they wish to receive. In tincture applications, a method called “self titration” is recommended to determine your optimal dosage. Titration essentially means working up to the desired effect, starting with a low dose and adding gradually until the desired effect is reached.
WHAT ARE TOPICALS?
A topical is a cannabis product, such as a lotion, balm, bath salts or a transdermal patch, meant to be applied directly to the affected area for symptom relief. Topicals provide localized effects to a specific area of the skin, joints, or muscles, and typically do not produce a psychoactive effect when used.
Topicals are made by infusing cannabis distillate or crystalline into a topically applied product, such as lotion.
HOW TOPICALS WORK
Lotions, balms, and transdermal patches are applied to the surface of the skin, allowing cannabinoids to penetrate the dermal and subdermal layers. These layers of the skin provide pathways for relief that allow the cannabinoids to meet and bind with receptors located in the skin and throughout the body. These receptors regulate how one experiences sensations like pain and discomfort.
Topicals are used for relief from symptoms of injuries and inflammatory conditions that result in bone, muscle, ligament, and tendon pain. To provide relief from inflammation in a localized area, balm is applied directly to the surface of the skin on the affected area. Transdermal patches are another option for those in search of localized relief and have shown promise in providing systemic pain relief through prolonged administration.
DOSAGE AND DURATION
The dosage and duration of topical use varies as this versatile category is used by consumers to alleviate many ailments, from sore muscles to inflammation. It’s important to read the labels on these products, as many topical preparations contain other natural ingredients. People with allergies should be vigilant about reading labels to avoid an allergic reaction.
Onset time for topicals can be almost instantaneous with some, while for others it can take up to an hour for a person to feel the effects. Some manufacturers have developed technology for enhanced bioavailability of cannabinoids — how quickly the body can absorb and feel the resulting effects. Products created with this type of technology have faster uptake times for immediate relief to the localized area. When in doubt, read the label. Duration of effects can vary depending on the ingredients, but in general, most people report 4 to 6 hours of relief with topical use.