Best Practices for Use of Flowers, Oils and Topicals
Category: Safety and Usage
From the perspective of an adjunctive therapy, cannabis products are some of the most effective treatment tools on the planet. The laundry list of options available to patients and adult recreational users – whole flowers, topicals, oils and capsules – make medicating with cannabis a simple prospect. But understanding how best to use these products can, admittedly, pose some challenges.
Like any other therapeutic practice, understanding the nuances of administration is something of a prerequisite to being able to properly treat a symptom or ailment. By extension of the fact that cannabis products are robust in nature, the question of how best to dose and use them is inherently complicated. Therefore, it’s important to not only get a grasp of what products are available, but of the best practices for using them.
The most popular means of consuming cannabis for medical purposes remains the inhalation of whole flowers. In short, this simply means smoking or vaporizing the dried buds from a mature female cannabis plant. Smoking is somewhat self-explanatory, yet still requires some thought, given the amount of options – papers, pipes, bongs and other devices and accessories – that can be used to achieve the end goal of decarboxylating the cannabinoids. When heated, the chemical components, both cannabinoids and terpenes, are activated and easily consumed to create an almost instantaneous effect on the human body and mind. For many recreational and even some medical patients, smoking continues to be a quick and easy way of consuming cannabis.
Vaporizing also produces a quick onset, and translates to an effective entry point into the vital parts of cannabis flowers. The one major difference between smoking and vaping, however, is health and safety. Vaping, as its colloquially known, allows buds to be decarboxylated without the use of fire and the inhalation of smoke. These important devices, some of which are even approved for medical use, heat cannabinoids at such high temperatures that the plant matter isn’t burned, and only the vital parts of the flowers are inhaled. From a medical perspective, this innovation has been to the cannabis industry what the advent of the printing press was to journalism – instant access to vital material. Because vaping has about a 90-second onset and reduces exposure to harmful byproducts by about 90 percent, it has become one of the most important advancements in the cannabis space.
Cannabis oil is one of the most diverse products in the category. Perhaps for that reason, it’s also one of the most complicated. What is cannabis oil? This question is common among new users, likely because there are so many different types of oil. The most obvious of these is edible cannabis oil. This product is absorbed by ingestion or sublingually (under the tongue) and either comes in a pure form or concentrated with other carrier oils like coconut oil and MCT oil. On the more sophisticated end of the oil discussion, hard and softshell capsules contain either an unadulterated product or a mix of cannabis oil and a carrier oil, and are becoming very popular because of their efficacy and the ability to microdose low volumes throughout the day.
Oil can also come in the form of a product that can be inhaled or vaped. Not to be confused with ingestible cannabis oil, these products are placed in pre-loaded pens and cartridges for slick and discreet consumption by inhalation. It’s important to remember that not all oil pens are, in fact, vaporizers. Many oil pens, both self and pre-loaded, still burn cannabis concentrates, rather than heat it to a degree where it can be vaporized. Others, still, are loaded by the proprietor with oils, shatter or ‘budder’, which are all forms of concentrated cannabis products, again not to be confused with edible oils!
One of the most popular new products on the cannabis market, topicals have opened many doors for the plant in recent years. Because topicals are non-abrasive and, for the most part, don’t give anyone who uses them a traditional buzz, they are being used more often with great results by novice patients. These topicals – a type of cannabis concentrate that has high levels of THC and CBD – are applied directly to the skin and have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial, antibacterial and antifungal properties. Known even to have antibiotic characteristics, topicals are used to treat nearly every type of skin condition: eczema, rosacea, psoriasis, and dry and cracked skin.
Unlike most cannabis products, which are either consumed by inhalation or ingestion, topicals work transdermally, meaning through the skin. Similar to many other concentrates, topicals are based in a carrier oil, often coconut oil, and combined with things like essential oils and vitamins. The combination of the cannabinoids and these substances are both a soothing and effective means of treating the various conditions mentioned above. Because this product doesn’t effectuate a traditional high, topicals can also be used by people who are reticent to adopt cannabis therapy due to a dislike of its psychoactive effects, and often the results are known to exceed even the strongest cynic’s expectations.
 “A consumer’s guide to cannabis basics.” https://www.theglobeandmail.com/cannabis/article-a-consumers-guide-to-cannabis-basics/
 “The benefits of vaping medical marijuana.” https://www.hellomd.com/health-wellness/59938f68b07666002d1dc2ea/the-benefits-of-vaping-medical-marijuana
 “What is cannabis oil and how does it work?” https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jun/19/what-is-cannabis-oil-and-how-does-it-work
 “Why cannabis topicals are so… topical.” https://naturalhealthservices.ca/why-cannabis-topicals-are-so-topical/