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What the Health-Minded Should Know About Using Cannabis

Photo of Various forms of Cannabis

With the increasing legalization of cannabis all over the world, more and more people are eager to use the plant, be it for recreational or medicinal purposes. Likewise, the stigma surrounding its use is gradually decreasing as well. Indeed, there is no better time to try consuming marijuana than now.

Some individuals likely have no qualms about taking the bud then and there. But if you are health-conscious, you may be having second thoughts. Is it really safe? Are there side effects you need to know about? What medicinal properties does it have? How do you even use marijuana? These are just some of the questions that may be sitting at the back of your mind.

Before learning about how to grow weed, you should familiarize yourself with this magical plant first, including how to use it and what to use it for. This way, you can make the most out of its recreational and therapeutic benefits once you have harvested the sticky, chunky flowers.

The Most Important Things to Know About Using Weed

Cannabis is an exceedingly complex plant, to say the least. For sure, a single article won’t be enough to encapsulate – or even touch on – all you need to know about it. That’s why we will only be focusing on the bare essentials that can help you get started on your marijuana consumption journey.

1. It Has Been Used Medicinally for Millennia

Although medical cannabis is a hot trend right now, the concept is hardly new. According to evidence, the ancient Chinese used cannabis for therapeutic purposes sometime in 2700 B.C. (Zuardi, 2006). Most commonly, it served as a treatment for rheumatic pain, malaria, constipation, and ailments relating to the female reproductive system. Along with wine, it was also often used as anaesthesia during surgical procedures. Finally, weed was a mainstay in ancient Indian medicine as well.

2. There Are Several Strains to Choose From

Marijuana is available in hundreds of strains. Each strain or cultivar has its own growth patterns and requirements, potencies, effects, flavours, and aromas, among others. For sure, you would be able to find out what matches your needs and preferences as both a cannabis grower and user.

Research suggests that there are currently over 700 strains in the market, with the numbers steadily increasing every day (Gloss, 2015). The strains belong to any of the three species of cannabis – Sativa, Indica, and Ruderalis – and can either be pure or hybrid varieties. 

3. Psychoactive and Non-Psychoactive Options Exist

Marijuana derives its psychotropic and medicinal properties from cannabinoids. These refer to the naturally occurring chemical compounds found in cannabis. Presently, over 113 cannabinoids have been extracted from the plant (Gülck & Møller, 2020). The two most popular compounds, without a doubt, are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

Each cannabinoid interacts with the body in different ways, thereby generating distinct mental and physical effects. THC is essentially responsible for the “high” associated with cannabis use, whereas CBD is non-psychotropic. Furthermore, THC may produce some adverse reactions, while CBD is fairly harmless and has little to no side effects.

4. It Comes in Different Forms

Marijuana is not only available as dried flowers. The raw material can also be processed into a variety of other forms, including hashish, oils, and tinctures, among many others. Each type of product has different consistencies, potencies, effects, flavours, and consumption methods.

Dried buds, for example, can be smoked, vaporized, or prepared into edibles. Meanwhile, hashish or hash are typically smoked, vaped, or dabbed (vaporized using a dab rig). Hash is also a purer, more concentrated type of cannabis, and can be 10 to 20 times more potent than regular buds.

5. It Can Be Consumed in a Variety of Ways

You probably already know this, but one of the best things about cannabis is that it is extremely flexible. That is, you are not limited to a single cultivar, product, or consumption method. You can experiment with the multitudes of options available to know which one best suits your needs and preferences. 

When it comes to administration methods, inhalation, oral, and sublingual are by far the most popular ones. They differ greatly depending on various factors, such as:

  • How long the effects kick in
  • How long the effects last
  • How the compounds are absorbed into the body (bioavailability)
  • What type of weed product you can use

Option 1: Inhalation

Inhalation is known for its rapid onset. You can expect the effects to take hold within a few seconds to a few minutes, reach their peak after 15 to 30 minutes, and begin to subside within 2 to 3 hours (Grotenhermen, 2003). It has around 30% bioavailability, which is the highest among the three methods (McGilveray, 2005). A high bioavailability simply means that you will need less amount to attain your desired effects.

There are three primary ways to inhale marijuana buds – smoking, vaping, and dabbing. If you are health-conscious and want to try inhalation, vaping is strongly recommended. The absence of smoke means that it produces fewer harmful by-products, reducing the likelihood of respiratory issues (Loflin & Earleywine, 2015).

Option 2: Oral

Oral ingestion is the go-to method for people who are not a fan of smoking. Aside from the lack of smoke, it is also convenient, affordable, and, depending on how the plant is prepared, delicious. You can take cannabis orally via edibles, drinkables, or capsules. 

This administration route is notorious for having a delayed onset, with the effects kicking in anywhere between 30 and 90 minutes upon intake (Grotenhermen, 2003). However, the effects are long-lasting and can linger for around 4 to 12 hours. Another important thing to note is that ingested marijuana has a low bioavailability of about 4% to 12%, which can trigger irregular and unpredictable highs.

Option 3: Sublingual

Sublingual refers to the application of cannabis oils and tinctures directly under the tongue. This method is quick, convenient, and effortless, making it ideal for those who are always on the go. Furthermore, it begins to work faster than the oral route. Typically, the effects would take hold within 15 to 45 minutes and last for up to 3 hours.

6. It Is Packed with Therapeutic Benefits

Marijuana is full of medicinal properties, thanks to its cornucopia of compounds such as cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. Studies show that this plant may be useful for managing the symptoms of various physical and mental health conditions (National Academies of Sciences, 2017). It includes:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorders
  • Psychotic disorders (including schizophrenia)
  • Sleep disorders
  • Chronic pain
  • Muscle spasticity
  • Chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting
  • HIV/AIDS-induced appetite and weight loss
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Epilepsy
  • Tourette syndrome

Despite the long history of cannabis as a therapeutic plant, its medicinal effects and mechanisms are not yet fully understood. Although current research is promising, experts are still looking into its long-term safety and efficacy. 

For these reasons, it is always best to seek a healthcare professional if you want to use marijuana medicinally, even if it is only as an adjunct treatment. You can discuss if this approach is right for you. If so, the two of you can work together for the ideal strain, administration method, dosage, and frequency and duration of use for maximum benefits and minimal side effects.

7. It Poses Some Detrimental Health and Social Effects

Weed is, first and foremost, a drug. And like any other drug, it can have harmful health and social consequences when consumed excessively and irresponsibly (Volkow et al., 2014).  This rings especially true when the plant is abused for prolonged periods and used during adolescence. It is important to note, however, that the detrimental effects of heavy cannabis intake are mostly attributed to THC – the plant’s main psychoactive compound. 

Adverse Effects of Short-Term Marijuana Use

  • Poor short-term memory
  • Impaired coordination, which may interfere with your driving abilities
  • Poor judgment and decision-making skills, increasing the risk of risky behaviours such as unprotected sexual activities
  • Paranoia and psychosis

Adverse Effects of Long-Term and/or Heavy Marijuana Use

  • Physical dependence and addiction
  • Altered brain development and function
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Low educational attainment
  • Increased likelihood of psychotic disorders (especially for those who are prone to developing this type of condition)
  • Lower life satisfaction and achievement
  • Symptoms of chronic bronchitis

Enjoy the Wonderful Benefits of Cannabis Use

Marijuana is a versatile plant that can be consumed in a variety of ways and used for different purposes. Whether you want to take it for recreational purposes or the relief of various conditions, you can certainly get something out of this hardworking plant.

However, don’t forget to use weed responsibly to make the most out of its benefits and reduce its harms, especially if you intend to use THC. This includes obtaining your cannabis product only from reputable sources, consuming moderately, and avoiding smoking. Of course, it is also vital to educate yourself about the plant, including its compounds, strains, dosing, and so on. Being well-informed can help you make smarter decisions that won’t compromise your health and well-being.


Citations

Gloss, D. (2015). An Overview of Products and Bias in Research. Neurotherapeutics, 12(4), 731–734. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13311-015-0370-x 

Grotenhermen, F. (2003). Pharmacokinetics and Pharmacodynamics of Cannabinoids. Clinical Pharmacokinetics, 42(4), 327–360. https://doi.org/10.2165/00003088-200342040-00003 

Gülck, T., & Møller, B. L. (2020). Phytocannabinoids: Origins and Biosynthesis. Trends in Plant Science, 25(10), 985–1004. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tplants.2020.05.005 

Loflin, M., & Earleywine, M. (2015). No smoke, no fire: What the initial literature suggests regarding vapourized cannabis and respiratory risk. Canadian journal of respiratory therapy : CJRT = Revue canadienne de la therapie respiratoire : RCTR, 51(1), 7–9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4456813/

McGilveray, I. J. (2005). Pharmacokinetics of Cannabinoids. Pain Research and Management, 10(Suppl A), 15A–22A. https://doi.org/10.1155/2005/242516 

National Academies of Sciences. (2017, January 12). Psychosocial. The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK425739/

Volkow, N. D., Baler, R. D., Compton, W. M., & Weiss, S. R. B. (2014). Adverse Health Effects of Marijuana Use. New England Journal of Medicine, 370(23), 2219–2227. https://doi.org/10.1056/nejmra1402309 

Zuardi, A. W. (2006). History of cannabis as a medicine: a review. Revista Brasileira De Psiquiatria, 28(2), 153–157. https://doi.org/10.1590/s1516-44462006000200015 


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