The medical cannabis industry has flourished, thanks to changing laws across the United States. Currently, medical cannabis has been legalized in 33 states and the District of Columbia, opening the door for millions of people to access safer alternative treatment options for a wide variety of health conditions. Long associated with the smoking of dried and cured plant material, advances in extraction methods have led to a dizzying array of products. Those new to the medical cannabis realm may be confused about which products are suitable for which applications. In this guide to medical cannabis products, we’ll help to dispel some of that confusion.
Medical Cannabis Products: An Overview
Within the medical cannabis industry, researchers have unlocked new methods of extracting the chemical compounds that give marijuana its health-supporting effects. Producers are able to target certain chemical compounds in the extraction process, particularly the class of compounds known as cannabinoids. This group of active compounds includes the psychoactive chemical called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and the non-psychoactive compound known as cannabidiol, or CBD. While smoking the dried flowers (“buds”) remains a popular consumption method for many patients, concerns about inhaling smoke have led to the development of alternate delivery methods. Let’s explore the most common of these delivery methods below.
Tinctures and Creams and Vapes, Oh My!
Walking into a medical marijuana dispensary or retail store can be an overwhelming experience, even for seasoned patients who use cannabis to manage their health conditions. Store shelves are packed with literally hundreds of products, including forms that may be unfamiliar. Here are the major product categories, not including the more familiar dried and cured plant material:
- Tinctures – Perhaps the oldest of medical marijuana products, yet under-utilized and poorly understood by some patients are tinctures. Cannabis tinctures are preparations derived from the cannabis plant material dissolved in an alcohol carrier. The most common extraction solvent is ethanol, although other solvents may be used. Tinctures are used sublingually; drops of the solution are placed under the tongue, where they are absorbed into the bloodstream. A benefit of this administration method is that it tends to be very quick-acting, and they break cannabis into small, manageable doses, making them ideal for everyday use. Tinctures are ideal for those who suffer from gastrointestinal conditions like Crohn’s disease that may make edibles and other medical cannabis forms difficult to digest. Tinctures are also a great option for anyone who is looking to use cannabis as a means of bringing wellness into their life.
- Topicals – Topical cannabis products are applied directly to the skin and include products like facial oils, creams, salves, sprays, and body lotions. To make them, producers infuse cannabis plant material and extracts in a carrier such as lanolin or coconut oil. Topical cannabis products can be used to moisturize the skin, to help control acne, and for first aid purposes. Those patients with musculoskeletal pain, arthritis, joint sprains, or skin conditions can benefit from topical application of medical cannabis, an administration method which provides long-lasting relief.
- Vape Cartridges – Patients who enjoy smoking cannabis but are concerned about the potential harmful effects of smoke inhalation have flocked to a newer medical cannabis product on the market – vaping cartridges. These cartridges are pre-filled with concentrated cannabis oil or extracts known as waxes and have become a preferred administration method for thousands of patients. Vape cartridges are portable, easy to use, and highly-controllable dosage. Like edibles, vape cartridges are available in hundreds of concentrations and flavors, giving medical cannabis patients an incredible range of choices. This administration method is ideal for anywhere/anytime use, particularly for patients with active lifestyles but who need the relief provided by cannabis. An additional benefit of vaping is that they are fast-acting, and can provide immediate relief for the pain of a migraine or an anxiety attack.
- Full Extract Cannabis Oil (FECO) – Sometimes referred to as full-spectrum extracts, FECO products are derived from an advanced extraction method that captures all of the bioavailable chemical compounds in a given strain of cannabis. This can include the cannabinoids like CBD and THC, but also aromatic terpenes and other compounds that help to provide relief. FECO is typically ultra-concentrated, and is preferred for patients with severe symptoms, including certain forms of cancer. It is ideal for treating the pain and inflammation associated with a number of serious health conditions, and is administered orally or as a suppository.
- Edibles – here, the medical cannabis industry has thrived, creating hundreds of delicious edible products infused with the beneficial chemical compounds found in marijuana. Patients may choose from gummies, cookies, drinks, chocolate bars, and snacks, to name only a few of the many choices available on dispensary shelves. Some patients prefer edibles over smoking marijuana, especially those concerned with smoke inhalation or who may use supplemental oxygen and are concerned with the fire hazards associated with smoking. Edibles offer a discreet administration method, and provide a slower, almost time-released effect that can last for hours. Edibles are a great choice for those experiencing gastrointestinal disorders, nausea, chronic pain, and insomnia.
As with any medication, users of medical cannabis should consult with their healthcare professionals for specific recommendations on administration and dosage. Dispensary personnel are able to answer any questions about the extraction methods, concentrations, and applications of cannabis products. If you find that your local dispensary is not able to provide you with the answers that you need, there are additional resources specializing in critical care that can provide more in-depth answers. The medical cannabis industry continues to develop new products, offering patients a safer alternative to many pharmaceutical treatments and therapies. If you would like to learn more about the products discussed in today’s blog or you have any additional questions about medical cannabis, please contact us today for a no-obligation consultation. We’d be happy to help!