How To Use Cannabis As A Medicine
Flower And Plant Material - Raw Juicing, Smoking, and Vaping
This section encompasses what is done with the full plant material. This includes the medicine-rich bud or flower, the usefulness of trim, and even what to do with the lesser used stems and roots:
The raw cannabis plant’s flowers, leaves, and stems may actually be picked fresh off the plant and be consumed. While trichomes can be found on the surface of the leaves, the flowers contain the highest concentration of these medicine rich crystals in a raw non-toxic acidic form.
What this means is that you can eat the plant (add it to a salad for example), or even juice the raw plant alongside other berries and fruit to receive certain medical effects possible with cannabis. When consuming the plant in the raw form, psychoactivity is vastly reduced. Even with the reduced psychoactivity, you will still be receiving the therapeutic effects from the raw cannabinoids and terpenoids. For example, THCA, the raw form of THC, still possesses the same anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and anti-spasmotic properties that THC does. The free documentary “LEAF - The Health Benefits of Juicing Cannabis” can be found on YouTube, and depicts Dr. William Courtney MD of Mendocino recommending juicing raw cannabis leaves to help manage a patient’s lupus and medication side effects. There are indeed many medical uses for this plant, and this is just scratching the surface.
It is also important to remember that combining fruits and vegetables with raw cannabis while juicing only helps to further and potentiate the therapeutic effects of each compound involved - not just those of the cannabis plant! This makes for a wide variety of healthy blends that may benefit the health of patients!
Dried and Cured Flower
Properly Dried and Cured bud is easily the most recognizable form of marijuana that is consumed. Cannabis that is grown in a clean controlled environment, free of harmful pesticides and plant growth regulators (PGRs) that has been verified with a lab test is suitable for medical use (though unfortunately not all bud and flower is regulated as much as it should). This is the bud that you will see on the shelves of cannabis clubs and dispensaries, and there are a number of recognizable ways to smoke or vaporize these flowers - some high tech, some fairly low tech.
Smoked - joint, blunt, pipe, bong, or other creative ways.
The iconic image of smoking marijuana is recognizable throughout the world. Whether it’s of Rastafarians blowing smoke clouds; Soldiers in Vietnam ‘shotgunning;’ Your average 20-30 something year old wook hitting joint crosses, tulip rolls, and blunts; or that grandpa in a wheelchair hitting his bong; the practice of smoking cannabis has been around for thousands of years for both medical and recreational purposes.
Essentially, ground up, shredded, or even hand crushed cannabis flower is put into a smoking apparatus and these can range from paper rolls, pipes, bongs, blunts (cigars that are hollowed out and filled with ground up herb instead), to even apples, bread conchitas, and more. The act of burning cannabis pyrolysis and decarboxylates the cannabinoids and terpenoids contained in the flower, to which they are inhaled and processed by the user’s lungs, which then activates CB1 receptors, especially in the brain. Note that 30-40% of these cannabinoid and terpenoid compounds are lost due to the combustion and burning process. Also note that medical professionals do not recommend mixing cannabis with tobacco for health reasons.
Vaporized - portable or tabletop
Vaporizing Dried and Cured flower is a little different than traditionally smoking marijuana. The primary difference is that while smoking involves touching a flame to the herb, which involves combustion; vaporizing involves heating the flower and medicine in an enclosed chamber at the right temperature so that considerably less of the chemical compounds in the plant are lost to combustion. Vaporizing is also less irritating to one’s lungs, and it is the growing method of consumption recommended by health professionals if smoking cannabis is going to be a major form of therapy for the user.
There are many different vaporizers on the market, ranging from table top Volcano Vaporizers, to handheld devices that look like inhalers, pens, or even ipods, to low tech boxes of wood such as the magic flight launch box. With this method of consumption, the herb and flower is placed in the vaporizing apparatus, the heating chamber is heated to a low temperature which releases the cannabinoids and terpenoids into a vapor cloud (no flame or combustion is involved resulting in only 10-20% cannabinoid and terpenoid loss or even less) and these vapors are inhaled to which again activates CB1 receptors throughout your body and especially your brain.
Note that vaporization also includes CO2 cartridges and dabbing, but that those are covered in the concentrate section.
Trim, Stems, and Roots
Although the bud and flowers are indeed the most desirable part of the plant for consumption or extracting, it is important to remember that the byproducts created by the production of cannabis flower are still viable from a medicinal sense.
Trim is going to be the next most valuable part of the plant. These leftover leaves will more than likely still have trichomes and terpenoids although in smaller concentrations than those found on the bud. This is useful for edible makers (cooking with actual bud can be really expensive) and concentrate makers (hash makers and blasters can turn this stuff into proverbial gold), or they can also be simply smoked (kind of like smoking bammer ditch weed…).
Stems and Roots have a much smaller niche demand but there are definitely those who believe In grounding up the stems and roots into a powder, making herbal remedies and concoctions, or even medicinal teas. There are indeed historical practices of boiling cannabis roots and using them in herbal medicines to be applied topically or ingested.
Last but not least, green minded growers can utilize harvested stems and roots in composts, mulches, and with re-fertilizing their soils.
Dosing the actual bud is a little tricky but easily explained. When cannabis flower is tested in a licensed lab, scientists can identify what the exact chemical compounds and constituents are in that bud. Most certified labs will report back verifiable amounts of cannabinoids, terpenoids, and flavonoids in percentages per gram. To simplify things, most clubs and cannabis products will only give the most prevalent compounds. Eg. You will sometimes see strains listed as follows: Sour Diesel (S) 22.3% THCA, 0.3% CBDA, .43% CBNA. or Blue Dream (I/S) 25.3% THCA, 0.23% CBDA, .43% CBNA.
What these 2 examples mean is this: for every gram of mass of that particular Sour Diesel Sample, 22.3% of that matter is THCA, 0.3% of that matter is CBDA, and .43% of it is CBNA. Using the other example, 1 Gram of Blue Dream breaks down to 25.3% being THCA, .23% of it being CBDA, and .43% of that gram being CBNA. The rest of the gram matter, the other percentages not listed will include other cannabinoids, terpenoids, flavonoids, and most abundantly, plant matter. Note that these examples do not really represent the profiles of these strains.
How do we convert that into milligrams of cannabinoids consumed?
Understanding the percentages above, the way to convert them into milligrams is easier and simpler than you might think. Simply move the decimal point over, remove the percent, and replace with milligrams.
Using the same examples above - that gram of Sour Diesel contains 223 mg of THCA, 3 mg of CBDA, and 4.3 mg of CBNA. The Blue Dream gram contains 253 mg of THCA, 2.3 mg of CBDA, and 4.3 mg of CBNA. Again, note that these examples do not really represent the profiles of these strains.
Remember that the initial compounds prior to being heated will more than likely come in an acidic form. Depending on how you heat the flower for the intention of inhalation, which will decarboxylate the flower and result in the active compounds such as THC, you will lose 30-40% of those cannabinoids to combustion and smoking, while vaporizing only loses 10-20%, sometimes less.
If this is your first time studying and understanding dosing actual flower buds, it is the author’s hope that these examples were made clear enough and that they make sense in your head. Plus it is hoped that this blows your mind so that you can now explain how cannabis percentages work with much enthusiasm.
Medical Application of Cannabis Flower
Contrary to what many may believe, smoking or vaping cannabis DOES INDEED HAVE MEDICAL VALUE! This has been evident with adult users of cannabis who have Epilepsy, MS, Fibromyalgia, and more. In fact this is perhaps the fastest method of consuming cannabis in order to feel the fastest relief, next to concentrate smoking or dabbing, (intravenous application would be the only faster method of applying the medicine) and provides the fast acting therapy for the following:
Pain Symptoms: Ocular Pain from Glaucoma, Joint Pain, Muscle Pain, Nerve Pain
Convulsions, Spasms, Full Blown Seizures, Parkinson’s Tremors
Depression, Mood Swings, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Anxiety (note that some strains may increase or induce anxiety; taking too much THC for an inexperienced user can also lead to this)
Headaches and Migraines
Anorexia or lack of appetite due medications, chemo (THC is an appetite stimulant)
+potential for much more!
Smoking cannabis does have its drawbacks. Carcinogenic tars are created when burning and
smoking flower, but this is nowhere near the amount created in tobacco and cigarettes. Additionally, smoking and even vaping can lead to lung irritation in sensitive users - this may be a contributing reason that smoking cannabis is not preferred by medical professionals, and worse, is grossly misunderstood.
Also note that cannabis smokers do like to experiment with the various psychoactive experiences associated with the multitude of available strains - these varied and tuned “experiences” can help nuanced problems as well. Many users who suffer from ADD or ADHD report that smoking certain strains such as Jack Herer help with focus and motivation; other lethargic users will look to energetic to help energize them for the day, even motivate some users with weight problems to work out or be more physically active. Conversely, many insomniacs swear by the lethargic effects of “heavy” strains such as Purples, Kushes, and Cookies just to name a few.
This is just scratching the surface as there are more possibilities that are only expanded upon by the awesome variety provided by cannabis and it’s many strains; suffice it to say, smoking cannabis, despite being associated with the recreational side of marijuana, is definitely a viable way of medically consuming cannabis which provides multifaceted health benefits and relief from numerous severe symptoms.
Recommended Flower Dosing
Keep in mind that every individual’s physiology and tolerance is going to be different, and there are a multitude of variables that may affect each user’s experience with cannabis, whether psychoactive or not. Self Titration is a method of an individual experimenting with a medicine with trial and error in order to figure out one’s proper dose. Unfortunately, without double blind clinical trials, there are no clinical recommendations for dosing that can be offered. The recommended doses listed below are based off of the experience from industry professionals including but not limited to Growers, Budtenders, Patients, and even Doctors. Note that onset of effects (psychoactive or not) from smoking/vaporizing cannabis occurs very quickly - usually within 5-10 seconds of inhalation. Duration of smoked cannabis is typically a 1-3 hours.
New User: 1-2 Puffs from a Joint, Bong, or Vaporizer.
Intermediate User: Half a Joint or Half a “Bowl”. ¼ g to ½ g of flower.
Experienced or Heavy Recreational Users will typically have varied doses. Some might already be high, not even joking.
This article and page continues further in the following subsections:
Written and Organized by
Cannabis Education and Research Director