Beyond Smoking: Modes of Ingesting Medical Cannabis

Beyond Smoking: Modes of Ingesting Medical Cannabis

Updated on 4/24/2019, 3:56:22 PM

New options and forms of medicine are around the corner in Missouri with the medical marijuana program underway.  There’s no better time than the present to learn about the healing properties of the plant and to educate yourself about how and when to consume medicine for maximum healing effects while minimizing side effects.  

While some may not know of other ways to use cannabis besides smoking, the use of herbs and medicinal oils are commonly used in three ways:  By Inhalation, Orally (mucosal/SL and gut) and Topically.

Read on for more!


Inhalation (getting substances into our system through the respiratory tract)  is the quickest way to the brain and may provide the most immediate effects for certain conditions.

Average Onset Time:  0-5 minutes

Average Length of Effects: 1-3 hours

Examples: smoking, vaporizing, diffusing, breathing aromas

Inhaled herbs and aromatic compounds instantly enter the bloodstream through the lungs for immediate relief.  Smoking, the most commonly-used mechanism, provides ease of use and rapid onset, however, the ignited and combusted compounds released are likely to cause irritation to the respiratory tract.  

Vaping is another option, which involves using very low heat to only release the beneficial compounds without creating harmful combusted elements.   

For a clearer experience, we offer deep-breathing inhalation in our CBD-infused oxygen bar at Radiance Float + Wellness. Diffusers can be used to augment the effects of inhaled, oral or topical medical marijuana.  

Essential oils with favorable terpenes as seen in your strain of medical marijuana can be diffused for synergistic effects in treating your condition.

Orally (Mucosal/SL or GI):

We can vary the mode of ingestion to optimize duration and efficacy.  For extended coverage of relief, taking an oral preparation is perfect for discreetly medicating before and during the workday for intense, long-lasting relief.  The main ways into the system in the digestive system is via mucosal (thin mucous membranes) or via the gut (stomach to liver).

Average Onset Time: Mucosal (M)- 15-45 minutes

                                  Oral (O)- 30-120 minutes

Average Length of Effects: (M)- 2-4 hours

                                                 (O)- 6-8 hours

Examples:  (M)- Oils, tinctures, lozenges, suppository

                  (O)- Edibles, teas, capsules,

The mucosa in the GI tract (cheeks, gums, sublingual, rectal mucosa) has the advantage of quicker absorption into the system since “first-pass” metabolism doesn’t occur and therefore, will take effect more quickly.  More is absorbed in the mucosa instead of being lost to metabolism or poor digestion. When using sublingual (SL) preparations, I encourage holding it as long as you can; 2 minutes provides maximum absorption. More absorption means better efficacy and less waste.  

If taste or the intoxicating effects of THC are undesirable, you can still get benefits from a suppository, which is found to cause less intoxicating effects perhaps because it is farther from the brain. When an oil or tincture is placed in food or drink or immediately swallowed, they act as an “edible” would.  

The oral absorption refers to when the substance travels in the stomach, absorbs into the portal bloodstream from the intestines,  and then to the liver for processing before coursing around the body for effect! Infused foods will provide long-lasting benefits, after a delayed onset.  Anecdotal reports indicate stronger effects are seen if consumed with fatty foods and if consumed on an empty stomach. Many people report amazing benefits from sleep and pain control when using edibles at night.  


Our skin is our largest organ and CBD and medical marijuana is readily absorbed through the surface of the skin.  THC absorbed through this method will not be intoxicating.

Average Onset Time: 0-15 minutes

Average Length of Effects: 1-2 hours

Examples: lotions, oils, balms, salves, poultices, patches (designed to have extra duration)

This method is ideal for carrying in your purse or keeping handy at your desk during the work day.

How to Use: Apply topicals directly to where you are experiencing discomfort to relieve cramps and/or pain. Some topicals can even be applied to the temples for headaches.

Curious to learn more? Book your appointment with our doctors and ask us your questions!