Cannabinoids have become increasingly popular since the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized hemp that has 3% or less of Delta-9-THC. In fact, it is estimated that 1 in 7 adults use a cannabinoid-based product to support their health and wellness. There are many products available with cannabinoids and with various routes of administration to choose from.
Consumers can ingest cannabinoids orally or by way of inhalation, as well as topically apply them to benefit from cannabinoids. As consumers, navigating it all and finding what’s best for you can be overwhelming. Let’s take a deep dive into the various routes of administration offered and how they will affect the body to help you better choose the products that are right for you.
What are Cannabinoids?
Cannabinoids are compounds found within the hemp plant. When consumed, they interact with the endocannabinoid system, a system found in both humans and animals. The system has receptors throughout the brain and central nervous system, and when cannabinoids react with these different receptors, they produce different effects.
As consumers, it is crucial to understand how cannabinoids work with the body’s metabolism, or the pharmacokinetics of cannabinoids, to know the expected onset time of the products we are consuming. The absorbance of cannabinoids is influenced by many factors, such as drug lipophilicity, bioavailability, and tissue differences. Some routes have various advantages compared to others, but all can be beneficial to one’s health and wellness routine. Here are the three main routes of administration:
Inhalation of cannabinoids achieves the most rapid delivery of cannabinoids to the body, having an onset time of 5-10 minutes on average. Because of this quick delivery, inhalation is the more popular method of the three. It makes this route ideal for those looking to feel the effects immediately, and many chronic illness patients use inhalation as a way to combat breakthrough symptoms throughout the day. The effects can be felt 2 to 4 hours after inhalation dependent on the individual.
There are many ways to administer cannabinoids through the route of inhalation. Here are some of the most common ways:
- Whole Flower – Whole hemp and cannabis flower has an array of cannabinoids that can benefit consumers, including CBD, CBG, and CBN. It is the dried flowers and sugar leaves from mature hemp and cannabis plants and is most commonly ground down to smoke in a pipe.
- Prerolls – Prerolls are dried hemp flower that has been put into a cone-shaped paper, with a filter. They often contain one gram or less of dried flower.
- Hemp Cigarettes – Hemp cigarettes are dried flower that has been put into a cigarette-style tube with a filter attached. They are great for discreet use and offer smoking cessation for those who wish to quit traditional cigarettes.
- Vaporizers – Commonly known as vapes, these products administer cannabinoids through the inhalation of either cannabinoid extracts and oils or hemp flowers.
Oral administration of cannabinoids is a popular choice among consumers, as dosing is made easy and accurate. However, when ingesting cannabinoids orally the body only absorbs an average of 6% of the cannabinoids, due to them having an extensive first-pass metabolism. This is when a concentration of a drug, specifically when taken orally, is reduced before it reaches the systemic circulation, thus resulting in lower peak plasma concentrations. Orally ingested cannabinoids have the longest onset time to feel the effects, taking 60-180 minutes. They are favored among patients as the effects can last 6-8 hours, and they deliver a deep level of relaxation to the body when ingested.
Here are some of the most common ways to administer cannabinoids orally:
- Tinctures – Tinctures are cannabinoid extract that has been blended with a carrier oil, such as MCT oil or olive oil. They come in an array of flavors and make consistent dosing easy.
- Edibles – Edibles are foods that have been infused with cannabinoids. There are sweet and savory options available for consumers.
- Beverages – Cannabinoid beverages have become increasingly popular. They come in many varieties such as tea, coffee, kombucha, soft drinks, and non-alcoholic beer and wine.
When applying cannabinoids topically, the benefits are felt by the cannabinoids penetrating the skin and then entering the bloodstream. When administering cannabinoids topically they bypass the first pass metabolism, as does inhalation. However, absorption is dependent on the quality of formulation used, and if the compound does or doesn’t blend with water. If the compound fails to mix with water, it causes poor drug diffusion into the skin, and in turn, diminishes the absorption of cannabinoids. When using a topical one should feel the effects within 20 to 30 minutes.
Here are a few of the many ways cannabinoids can be applied topically:
- Bath Bombs – Cannabinoid bath bombs and bath salts typically are made with cannabinoid extracts or oils, in combination with essential oils and botanicals. Bath bombs work by dissolving into the water and soaking into the skin. They are a great way to help the body relax after a long day.
- Lotions – Cannabinoid-based lotions can offer relief from a variety of ailments such as inflammation, nerve pain, arthritis, migraines, and muscle cramps, depending on the formulation. Other topicals like creams and salves are also available.
- Patches – A cannabinoid patch is a small patch that sticks to the skin, and the cannabinoid is then absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream. It is an ideal way to target specific areas that may need relief.
When choosing a brand of cannabinoid-based products like Essentia Scientific, it is important to consider the pharmacokinetics of cannabinoids and the ways each route of administration impacts the body. When using cannabinoids for health and wellness, all routes of administration can be beneficial, and the route needed can vary depending on the time of day, and each individual’s goals with cannabinoids. It is best to always listen to your body, record how each product you try affects you, and in time you will learn exactly what you need to thrive with cannabinoids.