The common question from all new cannabis users is: Should I inhale or eat cannabis? The answer is always swayed by the effects/relief desired. There are benefits from both methods of consumption ranging from timing, strength, and overall functionality.

Inhalation and absorption

Smoking/inhaling cannabis may not sound ideal to some, especially since we have seen the damage that smoking tobacco has done to the lungs. But did you know that inhaling cannabis is less carcinogenic than smoking tobacco? Especially if done through a cannabis vaporizer.

It was noted in a 2005 study “that with the development of vaporizers, that use the respiratory route for the delivery of carcinogen-free cannabis vapors, the carcinogenic potential of smoked cannabis has been largely eliminated

Yet, people are still nervous when it comes to inhaling cannabis, so we thought we could offer some input.

The only reason we are even mentioning inhaling cannabis is because it does help with acute, onset, and chronic conditions, along with hitting different receptors within the endocannabinoid system. For those reasons we can’t rule it out as a treatment option, but we can give you information, and healthier ways to inhale cannabis.

Smoking cannabis is commonly done with an apparatus like a glass pipe, water bong, or some form of rolling papers, and heating the flower with a lighter or flame. However, vaporizing the cannabis flower buds, which is done with a devise that is heated up to a temperature that only combusts the cannabinoids within the bud, and no other plant material, could be the healthiest way to inhale the cannabis flower. The vaporizing method minimizes the risk of carcinogen intake due to the reason that the cannabinoids are vaporizing, and no other plant material is combusting through this process. This is the process we recommend to patients.

Vaporizing cannabis concentrates is different than vaporizing cannabis flower buds. This process is done with a special apparatus that heats up to higher temperatures the concentrates require (commonly know as dabbing). There’s also cannabis concentrate vaporizer ‘pens’, or vape pen, that are convenient to use, and carry. It should be noted that not all forms of concentrates, or vape pens are the same, and some may have additives, or weren’t produced with the best quality or intentions. It is important to know what you are consuming. Everything from a licensed dispensary should be tested and transparent on their labeling.

What Happens When I Smoke/Vaporize Cannabis?

Cannabis, when heated to certain temperatures, goes through a decarboxylation process which converts THC-A to Δ9-THC, and that compound is inhaled then quickly exhaled. As the lungs expand the capillaries allow the THC and other cannabinoids to flow through the blood vessels, and hence flow through the blood, causing an almost instant effect. This can be beneficial for breakthrough pain, nausea, muscle spasms, eye pressure relief, and even those who are looking for fast relief in general. Inhalation method of consumption, while fast acting, is the shortest in duration of all methods of consumption, ranging from only 2 to 3 hour. The effects of the cannabis begin fading in strength, after reaching a peak about 15 minutes after inhalation.

Ingestion and absorption

Ingesting cannabis in the form of edibles, or tinctures offers different relief, and may take 60min-120min to feel the effects, depending on the person, metabolism, and other factors. The effects can last up to 4 to 6 hours and with some patients reporting long lasting relief for 8 hours+.

When ingested in the form of edibles, the cannabinoids pass through the digestive system and are distributed through the blood stream through the capillaries in the stomach, intestines, and is then released to the liver.

The liver begins to convert the chemical makeup of Δ9-THC into a 11-Hydroxy-THC. 11-hydroxy-THC is thought to be 2-3 times more potent than THC and could have significantly more significant psychoactive effects. Slow-and-low is the ideal way to go when it comes to avoiding the over-ingestion of THC. We recommend starting with a dosage of around 2 – 3 mg, waiting for an hour or two to see what effect it has, then consuming 2 – 3 mg more if needed. You can always eat more, but you can’t eat less.

Cannabis tinctures act in a similar way, however the absorption is not through the stomach, or intestines, it is absorbed sublingually. This method is one of the most ancient ways of consuming medication, and is faster acting than eating edibles, with results noticed within 15-30 minutes. Many patients we see use this method and are very pleased with the results. It is easier to dose, and have person control over the ratios you are consuming

Bio availability

The great debate of edibles vs. smoking does have scientific backing, known as bio availability. The bio availability is 4 times greater in ingested cannabis than its smoked counterpart having only 6-10 percent bio availability.

Which method is best for you?

Cannabis users worldwide must consider the purpose when choosing a method of consumption, some may look to one for quick onset and the other for longevity and strength. Activation of multiple receptors within the endocannabinoid system through various forms of consumption could bring more long-term relief, and preventative care. Our answer would be to utilize both methods, if that is an option. If not, then it depends on your desired results, and based off the information provided, it should be an easy choice.


David Yrigoyen is the founder of Natural Healing Care Center, and has been helping introduce people to cannabis and holistic medicine for over 12 years. David is a Cannabis Consultant and Cannabis Specialist at Natural Healing Care Center

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