Introduction: Plant Medicine
Since 1965, 40 percent of adults who have ever smoked have quit. In fact, 1.3 million people quit smoking each year in the U.S. Many people who want to transition from prescription medications to natural medicine can’t imagine moving toward medicinal marijuana. For many, the idea of using this alternative medicine conjures visions of smoke-filled rooms with joints, pipes and water bongs. Rest assured that if marijuana is being considered as a replacement for other types of medication, there are numerous choices that do not include the inhalation of smoke.
Because marijuana has been under the microscope and broken down to its chemical value and worth, horticulturists are able to identify the most useful compounds of the plant. Combinations of different strain plants are common when developing the medicinal properties into products that deliver the medicine. The medicinal agents can be delivered in many different ways.
Smoking the flower of the plant is widely popular, but does carry its own set of risks. The smoke is inhaled into the lungs and begins absorbing into the body almost immediately, making it the quickest way to feel the effects of the THC. The American Lung Association warns of the effects that smoke has on the lungs and is encouraging more research into different ways to consume the drug.
Vaporization is an alternative to smoking the flower, yet it’s still inhaled and has the same speedy delivery as smoking. With vaporization, known as vaping, the flowers of the plant are heated to a point that releases the beneficial chemicals, but are not heated to the point of catching fire and producing the harmful smoke that affects the lungs. Vaping is also used to consume pure THC oils and in a solid concentration called “wax” or “shatter”. This delivery method also limits most of the smell that is associated with marijuana smoke. For those who are still skeptical about inhaling these chemicals, there are still more ways to receive the benefits that cannabis has to offer.
There are dozens of edibles to choose from. Many dispensaries have their own brand of good-eats. Many dessert items are available, but there are also vegan options, teas, honey and beverages. Because the medicine is eaten and must be absorbed into the body through the digestive tract, the effects of cannabis are slow acting, and they can take up to an hour and a half for maximum benefit. Also, the medicine is being absorbed slowly and the benefits last longer than inhaling the drug.
Like doctors determining the dosage of medications for optimum benefit, marijuana dosages must be experimented with as well. Although a small four-ounce chocolate ice cream may not seem like a lot, some contain up to 40mg per container and is much too high of a dose for beginners who haven’t determined the best working dosage.
Many pharmaceutical companies include warnings of possible side effects in their advertising. Even as rare as they may be, death, different types of cancers or paralysis are just a few of the many dangerous and scary interactions and side effects that can occur with prescription drugs. People do not have to risk their lives and fear of having the embarrassing possible side effects, however, when trying marijuana as an alternative to prescriptions, even if they consume too much.
CBD oil is also an option for consuming the medicine. Coming in a variety of dosages, the oil is easily managed. It can be taken sublingually and has a rapid absorption rate. CBD oil doesn’t contain any THC, so it poses no risk and has no side effects.
When treating a disease, illness or condition, risks are taken. There must be a trial-and-error period when determining what dosage, and what product, has the best and highest good with the least number of side effects. A doctor may prescribe too little of a medication for a specific ailment only to find that the dosage was wrong for the patient. The doctor changes the dose and continues doing this until it’s been determined that the drug is working optimally for each specific individual. People can react differently to chemical compounds, and medicine being prescribed for a treatment could actually do more harm to the body than good.
Just like prescription drugs, the dosing of marijuana must be an individual trial-and-error process. The good news is that there are numerous options on how to take, or consume, the medicine in cannabis. The risks taken with marijuana aren’t the same as those read at high speed through the duration of a pharmaceutical commercial, some of which are just plain nasty. Thank goodness that nature is medicine.
Jeffrey Green, MA, is an educator, having taught in elementary, middle and high schools and at the college level. Currently, he is a freelance writer, reiki practitioner and a Light and Energy worker. On staff for Natural Awakenings, Green enjoys educating the public on all things positive and metaphysical.