Know Your Options

The Forms Of Consumption

There are various ways to consume medical marijuana, which is available in different forms. Each form has its own distinct set of benefits and effects for treating specific health ailments.

Flower

Flower is the dry form of medical marijuana. Under Pennsylvania state law, flower must be consumed through vaporization.

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Concentrates

When flower is pressed at high pressures, the concentrated elements within the plants can be extracted. The resulting concentrate can take on a variety of forms, all of which are consumed through vaporization. 

  • Oil - A thick, sticky liquid that can contain varying levels of THC 
  • Shatter - A smooth, solid, and transparent concentrate that typically shows higher THC levels.
  • Wax - An opaque, soft extracts that typically show lower THC levels
  • Budder - A creamy, butter-like concentrate that typically shows higher THC levels
  • Resin - A dark, gooey concentrate that typically shows higher THC levels
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Topicals

Topical forms of medical marijuana are used to treat localized, chronic pain. Topical applications come in a variety of forms. Medical marijuana can be used in balms, lotions, and patches and applied directly to the skin for treatment.

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Oral

Oral forms of medical marijuana can come as capsules, tinctures, and sprays. These forms are ideal for patients in need of quick and discrete treatment. 

  • Capsules - Also known as pills, contain oil from medical marijuana and are swallowed for consumption
  • Tinctures - Tinctures are medical marijuana in its liquid form and is typically applied under the tongue with a syringe 
  • Sprays - Tinctures are also made to spray on the tongue
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Which Method Of Consumption Is Right For You?

Topical Application

Unlike traditional consumption methods, topical medical marijuana use does not produce a psychoactive effect, which can be beneficial for those suffering from chronic pain who do not wish to experience the effects of THC. In its topical form, medical marijuana can be used in balms, lotions, and patches and applied directly to the skin for localized treatment.

Vaporization

Vaporizing, as it applies to medical marijuana, is the process of heating the dried plant or concentrate to a temperature just below its combustion point of 392°F. This method avoids overheating the product and can reduce the heat produced from the smoke, ultimately creating a cooling effect. Additionally, studies show that 95% of the THC is absorbed in the first few seconds of inhaling medical marijuana through a vaporizer; with that, this method is recommended for those looking for a fast-acting treatment.

Oral Consumption

Oral forms of medical marijuana can come as capsules, tinctures, and sprays. These forms are ideal for patients in need of a discrete treatment and who are sensitive to smoke altogether. Unlike the immediate treatment that comes with vaporizing, orally ingesting cannabis can take 30 minutes to an hour to reveal their full-effects. 

Tinctures are liquid solutions that are utilized by dropping the desired amount under the tongue and letting it absorb through the membranes in your mouth. Similarly, sprays can be applied directly on top of the tongue and also absorb through the same membranes as tinctures. 

Capsules, on the other hand, are pills filled with THC oil and are swallowed for treatment. The therapeutic effects of medical marijuana in capsules can take the longest to show up because it is absorbed through the body’s digestive system. Although delayed, the onset of effects will last longer due to the slower absorption rate of cannabinoids through the metabolic process in the digestive tract.

What Are Terpenes And How Do They Work?

Terpenes are a naturally occurring aromatic compound that can be found in almost every plant. In essence, they give each type of plant their own distinct smell. With over 40,000 identified types, terpenes are the largest class of organic compounds in our ecosystem.

Medical marijuana contains about 100 terpenes, and they are responsible for the different flavors and aromas between each strain. Research shows that in conjunction with cannabinoids, terpenes contribute greatly to the therapeutic elements of medical marijuana.

Which Terpenes Are Best For Treating Each Condition?

As of April 2020, Pennsylvania has 23 qualifying conditions that apply to the state’s medical marijuana program. According to a 2020 survey, the three most commonly cited conditions among medical marijuana patients in Pennsylvania were chronic pain (37%), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (24%), and Opioid-use Disorder (12%).

Terpenes For Chronic Pain And Opioid-Use Disorder

Beta-caryophyllene, a peppery terpene, is one of the most effective terpenes for treating chronic pain. Research suggests that it can provide instant relief, as it is the only known non-cannabinoid that can interact directly with cannabinoid receptors in the ECS.  There are several other terpenes you can look out for that have high anti-inflammatory properties for pain relief:

  • Beta-myrcene
  • Limonene
  • Alpha-pinene
  • Linalool

Terpenes for PTSD

Terpenes such as linalool, beta-caryophyllene, and limonene are known to help relieve the stresses and anxieties that are commonly associated with PTSD. For example, strains high in limonene content have been reported to ease paranoia and restlessness. Similarly to limonene, the terpene pinene is known to alleviate hyperventilation and promote restful sleep.

What Strains Are Best For Daytime Versus Nighttime Consumption?

Until recently, the standard answer to this question was to make the distinction between sativa and indica strains: indica plants are short, densely branched, and have wider leaves. But the main claim around indica plants is that they are sedative and optimal for pain relief. On the other hand, sativa plants are tall, loosely branched, and have long, narrow leaves. Generally, sativa strains have been known to be uplifting, stimulating, and recommended for daytime use. However, No statistical difference between sativa and indica was found for pain, mood, nausea, muscle spasms, seizures, ocular issues, insomnia, awareness, or neuropathy.

This brings us back to the most recent research discovering the entourage effect, the theory that medical marijuana’s compounds work better together than in isolation. This theory also suggests that the effects of medical marijuana are not contingent on whether they are indica or sativa plants; instead, effects are due to dominant terpenes and cannabinoids within the specific strain.

Ideal Daytime Strains

Due to its stimulating effects and ability to enhance moods, strains containing high levels of the terpene limonene are often chosen for daytime consumption.  Additionally, “sativa behaving” strains are commonly found with α-terpinolene or α-pinene as dominant terpenes.

Ideal Nighttime Strains

Sedation, in most common medical marijuana strains, is attributable to their myrcene content, a terpene with a strongly sedative effect.  Typically, most “indica behaving” strains are β-myrcene dominant with limonene or α-pinene as the second most abundant terpenes.