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Inhalation – by the lung

Inhalation has proven to be an efficient administration route. The inhaled vapor is quickly absorbed by the lungs. The immediate onset of action means it is the preferred choice for many patients.  The vapor contains cannabinoids and terpenes in consistent, measurable quantities. The speed of onset simplifies titration - the ability to achieve the correct dose without side effects - and achieve fast relief from symptoms. The amount of cannabinoids delivered depends on the depth of inhalation and breath-hold. While inhalation results in higher blood levels of cannabinoids, their effects compared to oral administration are shorter in duration.


Medical vaporizer

Given the risks from smoking, patients nowadays seek reliable, affordable and portable vaporizers for inhalation. Vaporizers are the logical choice for moderate to experienced and/or health-conscious cannabis consumers. A vaporizer steadily heats herbs to a temperature that is high enough to extract THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids, but the temperatures are too low for the potentially harmful toxins that are released during combustion. Essentially, vaporization minimizes the health risks associated with smoking. This improvement comes with an equally significant reduction in odor, which is generally the first acknowledgment of first-time vaporizer users.


Ultimately, smoking medicinal cannabis is harmful to patients’ health and is therefore not recommended. Toxic pyrolytic compounds are produced when the plant material is smoked (i.e. combustion). Typically cannabis flos is rolled into a ‘joint’ cigarette, and cannabinoids are inhaled as smoke into the lungs. The medicine enters into the bloodstream from the lungs. Smoking cannabis results a rapid onset of action. The effect is noticed within minutes. While smoking results in higher blood levels of cannabinoids, their effects compared to oral administration is shorter in duration. Furthermore, unless it is fully standardised, the amount of THC and CBD in cannabis flos can vary greatly between batches. The amount of THC delivered also depends on the depth of inhalation, puff volume and duration, and breath hold.

Oral - by the mounth

Oral preparations are familiar dose forms. They are similar to other medicines patients already take and are easy to administer. As a result, concentrated cannabis extracts are becoming increasingly popular.


Tinctures are a  liquid cannabis extract used by consumers looking for dosage control and fast-acting effects without the health risks associated with smoking. The extract is dissolved in an oil (e.g., olive, sunflower, peanut) to act as a carrier and ease administration. A single dose can be dispensed from a dropper and placed under the tongue. It is absorbed from the lining of the mouth (termed sublingual absorption) whereupon it enters the bloodstream. Sublingual delivery increases the total available dose. This means smaller doses are required for the same effect, compared to swallowing capsules or drinking tea.


These typically contain exacting concentrations of single cannabinoids (i.e. THC and CBD) dissolved in a carrier oil. The capsule is swallowed, breaks open, the drug is released and finally absorbed in the stomach and intestines. The rate (time) of absorption can be unpredictable, and varies depending on, for example, if food is present, and if the patient is mobile (able to exercise/walk freely). Interestingly, THC itself slows the rate of gastric emptying (from the stomach to intestine). Oral administration (by swallowing) results in slower onset of action, lower total blood concentration, and a longer duration of effects compared to inhalation. Total cannabinoid content is affected by liver metabolism and stomach contents. This means oral dosing can be less unreliable and unpredictable.


Eating or drinking cannabis provides significantly different effects from delivery methods that immediately enter the bloodstream, such as smoking or vaping. Edibles can be defined as any food that contains cannabis, whether or not the cannabinoids are bioavailable. Infused food and drinks can be made a variety of ways depending on the dish. Most often, edibles are infused with a staple infused ingredient high in fat — like butter or olive oil — that enable extraction of the plant’s therapeutic properties. Adding tinctures to dishes is another great option for dosage control and simplicity. Generally, cooking with cannabis flower can be difficult because of the complication associated with cannabinoid activation (including sensitive heating temperatures and times, and sufficient solvent fat).

Transdermal - by the skin

Transdermal patch

Transdermal patches are a great choice for those initially exploring medical cannabis. These patches work through a carrier called a permeation enhancer. They give the benefit of privacy as they are discreetly placed on any venous part of the body. There are no tell-tale odors or signs of usage. Transdermal patches are a perfect choice if you are seeking a measured, long-lasting dosage in a slow-release form. They are effective because they deliver cannabinoids directly into the bloodstream. Patients avoid spikes of reactions. Responses are measured and predictable