The most common method of ingesting cannabis in the United States is to smoke it in a joint (cigarette), a glass pipe or a type of water pipe known as a bong. Smoking is a quick and efficient way to deliver an optimum therapeutic dose of cannabinoids. This allows the patient to feel the effects almost immediately, and can stop as soon as the desired relief is achieved. The trade off is an increased risk of bronchitis or other respiratory irritation.
Rolling a joint, or making a cannabis cigarette, is a learned skill. Rolling papers are readily available at corner stores and gas stations, and come in a wide range of sizes, composition and flavors. Beginners are advised to start with larger sizes. Inexpensive cigarette rolling machines are also widely available for those with less than nimble fingers.
Cannaceutics, Inc. highly recommends vaporizers for the primary method of ingestion.
Vaporization is an effective way to deliver the therapeutic components of cannabis without the toxic byproducts of combustion. The herbal material is placed in the vaporization device and heated to a temperature of 180° to 200° C (356° to 392° F). This causes the essential oils to volatilize, or evaporate, into a pure vapor, which is then collected and inhaled. The resulting vapors contain no tars, hydrocarbons, benzene, carbon monoxide or other toxic pyrolytic gases and by products of combustion. Respiratory risks associated with smoked cannabis are eliminated.
In comparison to other drug delivery methods such as oral ingestion, vaporization offers the advantages of rapid onset of pharmacological effect, direct delivery into the bloodstream (via the lungs), and more precise titration such that the desired level is reached and not exceeded, enabling consistent and appropriate dosage.
At these lower temperatures, the psychoactive ingredients (cannabinoids) are released from the plant material while some of the other harmful chemicals are not. Because of the lower (sub-flammable) temperature, a vapor is released, rather than smoke.
Most smoking methods use a flame to heat the cannabis. This high temperature breaks down many cannabinoids before they can be consumed, wasting some of the active ingredients in the cannabis.
Medical cannabis users who find smoking through a joint or pipe harsh on their throat, lungs, and respiratory system should think about using a vaporizer.
THC, the most powerful medicinal compound in cannabis, is available by prescription from licensed physicians in the form of Marinol. Many patients who try this prescription discover that it is far too psychoactive. THC is only one of a handful of cannabis compounds that work together harmoniously. For example, it is known that Cannabidiol (CBD) has sedative effects that offset the stimulative effects of pure THC. That is in part, why pure THC pills are known to overpower the senses. In order to get the optimum medicinal benefits without unwanted side effects, all of the natural cannabis compounds should be taken together as nature intended.
Cannaceutics, Inc. will also have medical cannabis capsules available for purchase.
In many cultures people prefer to ingest cannabis by eating or drinking it. Eating medical cannabis is especially recommended for patients since it avoids the risks of bronchitis or lung irritations associated with inhaling smoke.
Two important facts about medical cannabis that must be kept in mind if you plan to eat it.
1) Some cannabinoids must be activated by heat. Eating it raw will not deliver the full therapeutic benefits. Many people however do eat raw cannabis and report they receive benefit from doing so.
2) Cannabinoids are soluble (dissolve) in fats and alcohol, but not water. The cannabinoids, or the therapeutically active components in medical cannabis, cannot be extracted by brewing a tea or soaking in water. They must be either suspended in a fat such as vegetable oil or butter, OR steeped in alcohol.
Medical cannabis can be prepared for cooking in two ways.
1) Pulverized into powder, sometimes referred to as cannaflour.
2) Extracted into a fat or oil, most commonly butter, called cannabutter.
“Cannabutter” is the common name for a butter that has been infused with the beneficial cannabinoids contained in medical cannabis. Cannabutter is not hard to make and for those who ingest their medicine by eating it, cannabutter is much more palatable than is the whole plant.
To make cannabutter, put a large kettle on to boil. Add a pound of butter. Bring the water-butter mixture to boil. The temperature will never go above 212° F — remember your high school science. This is warm enough to activate the cannabinoids but not so hot as to degrade them. You can boil this mixture all day long without fear, AS LONG AS you don’t let it boil dry.
As the water-butter mix gently simmers, stir in one ounce of medical cannabis. Allow the water-butter-medical cannabis mixture to continue to simmer at a gentle boil for two hours. Stir occasionally, washing any residues that accumulate on the sides of your kettle back into the liquid. You don’t have to hover over it, just check it occasionally and don’t let the pan boil dry.
After 2 hours, remove the kettle from heat. The cannabinoids should now be dissolved out of the plant material and into the butter. Strain the mixture, while still very hot through a strainer, a nylon stocking or a similar fine meshed filter. Set the liquid aside.
To recover as much of the butter as possible, return the plant material to the kettle and refill with water. Bring to boil. Stir briskly and then pour the second batch of liquid through the filter. Add the resulting liquid to the first pot of filtered water. You may now discard the plant material; it no longer contains the beneficial cannabinoids.
Allow liquid to cool. As it does, the butter will float to the top and form a solid layer on top of the water. Once fully cooled and the butter has solidified it may be gently skimmed off. The butter will most likely be greenish in color, that’s OK. Actually that’s good because it makes the cannabutter immediately recognizable which lessens the chances of accidental ingestion.
Store your cannabutter in a closed container in your refrigerator. It must be kept refrigerated to keep it from going rancid.
To test the strength of your cannabutter, spread a half teaspoon full on a cracker and try it out. It takes about an hour to reach its full effect. Be careful, it can sneak up on you. Do not attempt any complex, challenging or potentially dangerous tasks until you know how it will effect you.
Cannabutter may be substituted for regular butter in any recipe. It is especially good for making candy, cookies and brownies. The amount to use in any particular recipe comes down to a matter of learning from experience. The best approach is to start small and then use a steadily increasing amount in each subsequent recipe until you find the dosage that is most beneficial for relieving your particular complex of symptoms.
The same techniques, same principals, may be used to infuse any vegetable oil with cannabinoids. However, many people find butter the most convenient and versatile.
Medical cannabis flour can be cooked into any favorite recipe. However most people do not care for the taste so it’s important to chose recipes that will mask the flavor. Chocolate and tomato sauce are often used for that reason.
To prepare medical cannabis for cooking, the stems and seeds should be removed with a sift or kitchen strainer and the resulting powder ground to a flour like consistency. Only grind as much as you will use at any one time as the cannabinoids will quickly degrade and be lost once the medical cannabis has been finely ground up. Grinding does not make medical cannabis any more effective but it does make it more palatable. Save the stems to make cannabutter.
Add a cup or so of the medical cannabis flour to any recipe. Because of the great variability in cannabinoid ratios, potency and quality among the various cannabis strains, it will take some experimentation to determine the optimum amount of medical cannabis flour to add or portion size to consume.
Remember that it can take anywhere for one to three hours for eaten medical cannabis to deliver it’s active ingredients to the bloodstream of the patient. Give the first portion time before consuming additional portions.
An excellent option for the novice medical cannabis cook is to use a pre-packaged brownie mix. Simply follow the directions on the box and add your medical cannabis to the batter. You may also wish to add an extra table spoon of margarine or oil and an 1/8 cup of water.
Medical cannabis can be easily made into a suppository.
Begin with medical cannabis flour. For maximum efficacy in suppository form, medical cannabis needs to be pulverized to dust. Suppository kits, beeswax and molds are available in health food stores and online.
Caution, beeswax is flammable and the wax is HOT. The safest way to melt the beeswax is in a double boiler. If you must use a microwave use a low power setting, stop when the wax is half melted and then carefully stir to finish liquefying.
Once the beeswax has melted, gently stir in an equal measure of medical cannabis flour. The resulting 50:50 mixture should then be molded into shape while still warm. Roll into cylinders or pour into a mold and when cool wrap and store suppositories in waxed paper. Suppositories should be kept in a separate, clearly marked container inside your refrigerator.
Medical cannabis suppositories are well suited for patients who are unable to eat or smoke the medical cannabis.
Tinctures and Balms
Cannabinoids may be extracted into alcohol by steeping the plant material in a high proof alcohol for several days. This will produce a tincture in which a few drops are placed under the tongue. Seriously ill patients should be very cautious about consuming alcoholic beverages.
With the permission of the New Mexico Department of Health, Cannaceutics wishes to produce and have available to all qualified patients a variety of tinctures, balms, and cannabis edibles. Tinctures will be made with a food grade short carbon chain alcohol and balms will be created with THC suspended in polypropylene glycol.