Cannabis oil is fast and easy to use. But it’s best to start slow and look at all of your options.
We all come to medical cannabis in our own way. Once we arrive, one of the biggest benefits is the ease of use, and cannabis oil might be the easiest of all. A dose can be as fast and simple as a few drops under the tongue, it has long lasting therapeutic effects, and there is no extra equipment—unless you want to vapourize the oil.
The first step is finding the right oil for your medicinal needs. This starts with consulting your doctor or other healthcare professional who is familiar with prescribing medicinal cannabis. Yet even with a prescription in hand, finding the right type of oil product might take a little trial and error, as will getting to the right dosage, which we discuss below. There are quite a few variables at play in selecting oil, including the condition you hope to alleviate, the severity of your symptoms, the time of day of your doses, the way you choose to take the oil into your system, and your personal metabolism and tolerance.
The ABCs of CBD and THC
Cannabis oil is a concentrated extract of the cannabis plant. In general, the two active chemical compounds in oil (as well as in dried flower) are CBD and THC. Lesser known, CBD is quickly gaining notoriety for its use in relieving pain, nausea, inflammation, and in fighting insomnia and anxiety. CBD has no psychoactive effects; none of that feeling of being “high” that we typically associate with cannabis. The euphoric high comes from THC, and it also is popular for immune system regulation, muscle relaxation, as well as alleviating the symptoms of many of the same conditions as CBD.
Cannabis oil comes in many different concentrations with varying levels of CBD and THC, and the key is in consultation with your health care professional, finding the right balance for you. Some patients opt to use different oils for night and day. Not surprisingly, most want lower levels of THC in a daytime oil, and maybe even no THC, depending on their level of daytime activity.
Photo by Kelly Sikkema
Determining the dose
Getting to the right dose also takes exploration, and the answer is different for every patient. Firstly, there are three main ways to take the oil. On the one hand, you can swallow it, and in this case the oil is metabolized through the gastrointestinal tract and liver. The reality with this method is that it can take about an hour to take full effect, however, the effects do tend to last longer as it moves through your system, resulting in a time-release-like medicine.
On the other hand, you can take the oil sublingually (drops under your tongue with a syringe dropper). With certain types of cannabis oils you can vape it, which is another easy method where you take vapour into your lungs with a vapourizer. With these two methods, the oil is absorbed directly into your bloodstream so you feel the effects almost instantaneously. This is of obvious benefit for patients who want immediate relief. Of course, the sublingual approach is slightly more discreet.
Take it slow
If you are transitioning from dried flowers to oil for the first time and have received a prescription from a healthcare practitioner based on the weight of dried flowers, this presents another small challenge as you must convert the amount of dried cannabis prescribed in grams to an amount of oil expressed in milligrams.
There are online converters to help with this, but the truth is, just as with dried cannabis and any other medication, your optimum dosage is unique to you. It not only depends on all of the above, but also your own biology. Your genetics, your general health level and the severity of the condition you are managing all affect the dosage that’s right for your therapeutic needs.
Many patients say 0.1 to 0.2 ml is a reasonable place to start. Keep in mind that medicinal cannabis oil can remain in your system for up to 8 hours, so it’s a bad plan to decide about the effect, say, an hour after taking some oil and increasing your dose too soon.
The general rule of thumb with most things in life applies with cannabis oil, too: start low and go slow. And most importantly, always listen to the advice of your prescribing health practitioner.
Written by: John Bissell
John is a freelance writer and editor from Toronto.