Rubbing It In (and 6 Other Ways to Use Cannabis)

byPerry Solomon, MD4 minutes

More and more scientific studies and clinical tests are substantiating the benefits of medical marijuana in alleviating the symptoms of numerous medical conditions. Due to its wide range of application, medical cannabis is now available in various forms, so patients can choose a method of ingestion that works best with their condition. The method of consumption primarily affects the time it takes to feel its effect, as well as the duration of its efficacy. Here's a guide that discusses the different methods of consuming this wonder plant.

Breathe it in [vape it]

If you want the benefits of marijuana without inhaling any of its toxic compounds (such as you might from smoking it), using a vaporizer is the best way to go. With this method, medical cannabis is heated at just the right temperature to extract its useful compounds with digital accuracy, so you get to inhale its vapor instead of its smoke. In addition, vaporizers also increase the potency of medical cannabis. Thus, you can have twice as much effect for half the amount of marijuana.

Even though this method is relatively new, it is fast becoming the preferred way to use cannabis for many. Scientific studies already support its beneficial effects compared to smoking. In 2010 study, Van Dam NT and Earleywine M. from the University of Albany recruited 20 cannabis users with at least 2 respiratory symptoms to investigate the effect of vaporized cannabis on the pulmonary function of the participants. Findings of the study reveal improved respiratory function in participants after a month's use of vaporized cannabis, suggesting the potential of this method of delivery in reducing the harmful risk it may have on the respiratory system.

Rub it in

Medical marijuana can also be applied topically on the skin surface in the form of salve, spray, cream, balm, oil, or lotion. Topical formulation provides anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and analgesic effects without delivering any of the psychoactive properties of cannabis. Topical cannabis is commonly used by patients suffering from arthritis, sunburns, tendonitis, joint pain, muscle soreness, and skin diseases.

Eat it

Edibles or foods that contain cannabis, are cooked using oils or butters derived from the plant. Most users who use this method of consumption report that the cannabis takes effect gradually and wears off longer. Eating edibles is usually recommended for patients with chronic pain or sleep disorder, as well as spasticity, because of its more pronounced effect on the body, rather than the mind. The downside of using this type of medical marijuana is that the dosage is never perfectly precise and with delayed onset of effects compared to inhaled cannabis, you may inadvertently consume more than necessary. In addition, what you already have in your digestive system (i.e medication and food you've eaten recently) may interact with THC to produce unpredictable effects on your body.

Ingestible Oils

This kind of cannabis product is a blend of edibles and concentrates. Ingestible oils are made by using an alcohol solvent to extract the therapeutic chemicals found in marijuana. Once the solvent evaporates, what will be left are these tar-like oils, which have high amount of cannabidiol (CBD) and traces of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC); thus, stripping the oil of the psychoactive substance of marijuana. The oil is placed in a capsule for easy ingestion.


If you want a fast-acting application with dosages you can easily control, tinctures are the one of the best method of using medical cannabis. Tinctures are concentrated form of medical marijuana, which are formulated in an alcohol solution and can be applied directly on your skin, mixed with food or beverages, or placed in small amounts under your tongue. Because of their potency, you need to be extra careful with their dosage. It's best to start with smaller doses, allowing some time to feel their effect, before adding more.

Drink it

Other parts of the cannabis plant like its stem, leaves, and buds can be brewed to make a medicinal beverage. The potency of the tea can vary depending on the amount of cannabis used. If you have just started making your concoction, use a small amount of marijuana at first before adding more to achieve a suitable dosage. In addition, you also need to add oil, butter, or alcohol to dissolve THC, as the compound is not water soluble. Like edibles, the effects of marijuana teas are slow-acting because the therapeutic compounds in cannabis first must be absorbed in your digestive tract. However, you can count on the effects lingering for up to four to eight hours after ingestion.

Aside from teas, many dispensaries have medicated coffee and sodas. These beverages are made by adding drops of tincture to the liquid, so that you can easily ingest medical cannabis while taking a sip of your favorite beverage.

Smoke it

Call it old-school, but smoking has been the most conventional way of consuming marijuana for many years. You can smoke cannabis using a pipe, rolling papers, water pipes, and in rare instances, it can be inhaled using hookahs. The advantage of smoking marijuana is that the plant's effect can be felt almost immediately. However, many medical organizations, including the American Lung Association, discourage this method of consumption, as it may have adverse effect on your lungs and increase your risk for respiratory disease.

If you do choose to smoke medical cannabis, it's best that you use a hand pipe that allows you to smoke consistent doses regularly. If you're using rolling paper, make sure you use a filter. In addition, for maximum efficacy with the least inhalation, it's better to use cannabis with higher THC potency and to exhale the smoke right after inhaling it deeply to keep its harmful compounds from coating your lungs.

Medical cannabis is now available in so many forms, it shouldn't be difficult for you to choose an option that suits your condition and preference.