Medical Cannabis 101
You’ve done your research. You think it’s time to try cannabis as medicine, but you’re unsure of what to do or what to try. We’re here to help.
You’ve done your research. You think it’s time to try cannabis as medicine, but you’re unsure of what to do or what to try. There are choices, more so than you can imagine, and it can be rather intimidating for the casual consumer and especially for the first-timer.
Start low, go slow
First, the obvious: Follow the law and your physician’s recommendation, if you have one. If not, you will need to take matters into your own hands, as people have done for centuries with cannabis. It’s extremely important to do your research. What works for one body doesn’t always work for the next. Fortunately, cannabis is famously non-toxic.
The experts recommend caution: Start low and go slow. Beyond that, each expert seems to have an opinion that differs from every other expert. It can be confusing. Hopefully, you’ll find this a helpful step in the right direction.
First, there are choices in how to consume. Chemotherapy or radiation patients may be suffering from nausea, so eating anything is the furthest thing from their mind. Many of those patients elect to smoke or vape.
The effects this way will be felt more quickly than with ingestion, which is perfect for reducing queasy feelings or immediate pain. Also, the effects will wear off faster, and that might be a good thing for those who suffer from periodic anxiety or who need to be able to drive or function at work later.
Smoking anything is not a good idea. Vaping is a less-toxic option that works well for many patients, though more clinical trials would help discern the long-term effects. But it delivers the effects of cannabis very similarly to smoking, without the combustion products.
Eat to Treat
Many medical cannabis users not only prefer to dose using edibles but need to do so in order to make their medicine more effective. While it takes longer for the effects to be felt, ingesting the herb offers a much longer period of relief. That’s important for those who suffer from chronic pain, seizures, frequent symptoms of PTSI (post-traumatic stress injury), and many other chronic conditions.
Since no documented lethal overdose of cannabis has ever occurred since the beginning of its use thousands of years ago, scientists consider it one of the safest medicines in existence. That doesn’t stop people who have consumed too much from having an unpleasant experience, if they don’t know what to expect and that it passes in a few hours. Again, to reiterate: Start with low doses, and be patient.
Absorbing cannabis through the digestive tract makes cannabis stronger. This is because, when cannabis is metabolized through the liver, the main active ingredient is converted into a far more potent form. It’s important to note, especially for new users, that taking too much at first is common, unnecessary, and totally avoidable. It happens because the onset of effects can take 90 minutes or longer, especially after a meal. It also happens when people don’t make sure they know what they are consuming. If you’re not sure, ask.
It’s a great idea to eat a meal and then consume your edible cannabis, especially in the beginning. Your digestive system will have other things to work on—in the same way that, if you drink a beer on a full stomach, it won’t affect you as much as on an empty stomach.
The effects can last eight hours or longer, which is what makes medibles so effective for folks with arthritis, fibromyalgia, neuropathy, and other chronic conditions. But, this also makes it more dangerous to operate machinery. Sudden, severe sleepiness can be an issue. So, if consuming edibles you’re better off with a taxi, Uber, or a designated driver. The herb is to save your life or improve the quality of it, right? Don’t take a chance with driving.
Another important factor is consistency. It’s important to know that the cookie you ate last time is the same dosage as the cookie you’re going to eat now…or biscuit, or chocolate brownie, etc. If the source is not the same, then the dosage is not likely to be the same, either.
One way to ensure that you’re getting the same thing consistently is to make it yourself. Doing this used to mean standing at the stove all day, stirring butter in a pot with ground cannabis. If the heat was a little off, or the cook didn’t keep stirring often enough, the extract would be at risk of ruin.
That was then; this is now. Modern civilization uses an appliance called a Botanical Extractor from MagicalButter.com. The self-contained unIt makes herbal extracts with the push of a button in an hour or two, right on the countertop. Then it washes itself. Digital processing makes the infusions very consistent, so you can control your dosage with confidence.
Let’s get hybrid
Once your delivery method is decided, you’ll want to choose the type of cannabis to consume. There are a lot of choices. Let’s start with the basics.
There are three main varieties of cannabis: indica, sativa, and ruderalis. Generally, all cannabis available today is hybrid; the choices are indica-dominant, sativa-dominant, and balanced hybrids (50/50). Ruderalis is rarer but may be included in a hybrid strain for its hardy growth tendency.
Indica plants are usually shorter, Christmas tree-shaped, and densely branched, with wider leaves. Indica usually produces a very relaxing, calming effect. Strains in this variety are often recommended for anxiety, PTSI, insomnia, and the like. Side effects can include couch lock (indica = “in da couch”), leaving the consumer with unchecked items on their to-do list.
Sativa plants grow taller, typically with less dense branching and longer, narrower leaves. They can grow over 20 feet high. Sativa strains are likely to provide an energetic and more cerebral high. Sativa’s euphoric intensity may not the best choice for those prone to anxiety. Alternatively, adding a CBD supplement will offset that effect and mellow the experience.
It’s important to note that these are general descriptions. Everybody is different. I have a friend who gets hyper and can’t sleep when he takes NyQuil, while a half-dose of that stuff knocks me out. In the same way, it’s important to remember that everyone will experience the effects of hybrid cannabis differently. Start low, and go slow.
There are hundreds of different strains and hybrids that have been designed for particular conditions and uses. There’s even a legendary strain in Colorado called “Charlotte’s Web” that is proving very useful for treating children who suffer from seizure disorders. This strain is very low in THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which has the psychoactive properties. But it’s very high in the non-psychoactive “medical miracle” compound CBD (cannabidiol). CBD is useful or curative in a vast variety of human ailments.
The characteristics and benefits of individual strains is a topic for another time. Fortunately, the internet has a plethora of sites dedicated to information about every strain available. It will take some time and experimentation to get the perfect strain and dosage. Go at your own pace, and have a fun journey toward improved health.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amber Boone considers writing the cornerstone of communication. She interviews MMA (mixed martial arts) athletes for CombatPress.com and opines on MMA at FightItOut.com. She’s passionate about helping folks tell their stories and making the world a better place, which includes working to win the freedom of Americans to partake of the herb. When not writing or playing beach volleyball, she can be found at her day job—for now. Follow Amber on Twitter @thruthetrees11.
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