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Published on November 17, 2023

Understanding the Different Methods of Consuming Medical Marijuana

Medical marijuana can help with the symptoms of a wide range of conditions and illnesses. However, it’s essential to understand the different ways you can consume marijuana to find what works best for you.

Smoking and vaping are two popular ways to consume marijuana, but they aren’t the only options. Tinctures and edibles are also available.


Smoking cannabis is a popular method of consuming medical marijuana, and it can be used to treat symptoms such as nausea, pain, anxiety, and depression. It also reduces muscle spasms in people with MS and other conditions. However, smoking medical marijuana can lead to side effects such as bronchitis and psychosis in predisposed individuals.

Marijuana contains more than 100 chemicals called cannabinoids. The two most well-known cannabinoids are THC and CBD. THC is the chemical that produces the “high” associated with marijuana use, while CBD has many of the same medicinal properties without the intoxicating effect. Because of this, many medical marijuana products contain both THC and CBD, but the amount of each varies from product to product.

Some states allow patients to purchase smokable medical marijuana at recreational dispensaries, but it’s important to note that these products are not regulated the same way that pharmaceutical medicines are. Until the federal government legalizes marijuana as medicine, it is illegal to take it across state lines. This means that if you are traveling and your doctor recommends medical marijuana, you should buy it after arriving at your destination or find another option.


Eating medical marijuana (also known as ingesting or edibles) is an alternative to smoking. Edibles include gummies and other chewable candies, baked goods like cookies, cakes, and brownies, as well as beverages like cannabis chocolates and root beer. The most common type of edible is a gummy, which is infused with THC and can be purchased at most dispensaries. Unlike tinctures or drops, edibles must be digested or “broken down” by the body before they enter the bloodstream. In some cases, it can take up to two hours for the cannabinoids to go into effect.

The exact onset time of an edible depends on several factors, including dosage, metabolism, and endocannabinoid system (ECS) tolerance levels. Consuming edibles can be a bit riskier for medical patients or recreational users. It’s important to start with a low dose and increase gradually as needed.

Among the benefits of edibles is that they are discreet and don’t produce any odor. This makes them an attractive option for people who want to avoid the stigma and lingering odors associated with smoking. Moreover, they are very effective for nausea and vomiting that accompany cancer treatments or menstrual cramps. THC can bind to CB1 and CB2 receptors in the brain to modify their function and influence the ECS.


Tinctures are alcohol-based medical marijuana products that can be used sublingually (under the tongue) or mixed into food or beverages. They typically contain high concentrations of THC and can be very potent. Tinctures are easy to use, require no preparation, and deliver a faster effect than edibles. They are very discreet and can be consumed anywhere without needing a device such as a vape pen.

To make a tincture, cannabis is ground into a fine powder and combined with an ethanol percentage between 25 and 60%, yielding a solution that contains trichomes, oils, cannabinoids, and terpenes. The tincture is then stored in small glass bottles with droppers for administration.

Unlike edibles, which must be digested and metabolized in the stomach and liver before entering the bloodstream, tinctures bypass this process by being absorbed directly under the tongue through osmosis. This allows for a quicker onset of effects and more precise dosing.

To administer a tincture, squeeze the dropper or syringe underneath your tongue and allow it to absorb. It may taste bitter or strong, and the alcohol content can cause a dry mouth feeling. To counter this, the tincture can be mixed with a liquid to reduce the flavor. If using a homemade tincture, it is important to keep the tincture in a dark place and not expose it to light to prevent degradation of the cannabis.


Suppositories have been used for decades to deliver medication to the body, including drugs and natural remedies like salves. Rectal suppositories appear beneficial for conditions that affect lower parts of the body, such as hemorrhoids and rectum inflammation. However, it doesn’t seem that suppositories help to deliver the same systemic effects of THC as smoking or edibles do. This is because the suppositories bypass the liver and gastrointestinal tract and are, therefore, less effective at activating cannabinoid receptors in the colon.

If you’re interested in trying cannabis suppositories, it is recommended to consult with a doctor. They can explain the potential benefits, risks, and interactions with other medications you’re taking. They can also help you find the right product for your needs and answer any questions.

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