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Why edibles are the best way to consume cannabis right now, according to a medical marijuana doctor

Legal cannabis sales have spiked during the coronavirus pandemic.

Since COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that affects the lungs, experts are concerned that people who inhale cannabis through a vape, joint, pipe, or bong could be at a heightened risk for severe symptoms like pneumonia, as Insider previously reported.

But for those who can’t part with their cannabis habit because of its ability to relieve anxiety, insomnia, or chronic pain, consuming edible products rather inhaling the substance is the safest way to use cannabis right now, Dr. Rachna Patel, a medical marijuana physician, told Insider.

“It can be assumed to be safe to consume cannabis products in the form of edibles, in the form of tinctures, in the form topicals, given the risk and exposure that we have currently to COVID-19,” Patel said, because there is no evidence that suggests cannabis itself messes with a person’s immune or respiratory system.

Rather, it’s combustible and aerosolized cannabis people should worry about, because those two methods introduce carcinogens to the lungs.

Data suggests that people with underlying lung conditions, such as smokers, have a higher risk of COVID-19

Although research specific to cannabis use and COVID-19 risk is non-existent, lung health experts say they don’t need coronavirus-specific data to warn people that marijuana vapes, e-cigarettes, and other forms of smoking aren’t a good idea right now.

“From China and Italy, we see people who developed COVID-19 and had underlying lung disease, [they] have more complications and die more often,” Dr. Barry J. Make, a pulmonologist at National Jewish Health, previously told Insider. “So this is the perfect time to stop smoking.”

Preliminary CDC data has found that chronic lung diseases including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and emphysema, are common underlying conditions in patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in the US.

These types of lung-related pre-existing conditions are common among longtime smokers, Make said.

But food and drinks that are infused with cannabis, and tinctures, which are concentrated liquid extracts you dispense on your tongue, don’t produce smoke or aerosols and therefore remove the risk of lung disease.

If you want anxiety relief, look for a CBD-rich edible or tincture

If a person decides to replace their smoking or vaping with edible cannabis, Patel said that different concentrations of THC and CBD, the two main compounds in marijuana, have different benefits.

She said that strains with high concentrations of CBD, which doesn’t cause psychoactive effects, and low in psychoactive THC, offer relief from anxiety.

“You want to use a high-CBD product as opposed to a high-THC product because high amounts of THC can induce anxiety to the point where someone can feel paranoid,” Patel said.

For anxiety relief, Patel said choosing hemp-derived products, which come from hemp plants that are naturally higher in CBD than THC, are a better option than marijuana-derived tinctures and edibles that tend to have more THC than CBD.

Edibles higher in THC than CBD are best for people who have loss of appetite, nausea, or severe nerve pain, Patel said.

Edibles are better than tinctures for insomnia

For people who struggle with insomnia, the form of cannabis used is an important factor.

“For those who have trouble staying asleep, edibles are preferred over the sublingual use of tinctures because when you ingest some form of cannabis . it lasts longer in your system, like six to eight hours,” Patel said.

Tinctures, on the other hand, wear off after four to six hours.

When deciding your dosage, start small

Edible cannabis products come in a variety of forms and concentrations, and people react to dosages differently, so finding the right amount can be difficult.

According to Patel, edible novices should start with about 4.25 milligrams of CBD if they have mild levels of anxiety, and use even less if they need an edible high in THC.

“You want to be even more careful [with THC] because now you’re running the risk of the psychoactive effects and other side effects, physiological side effects, which are far more uncomfortable than the side effects of CBD,” Patel said.

Those side effects include anxiety, paranoia, heart palpitations, dizziness, hallucinations, nausea, and vomiting.

Patel said the proper dose depends on a person’s medical history, their reason for using cannabis, and their previous experience with the substance. People who have had gastric bypass surgery, for example, need to use a sublingual form of cannabis like a tincture because they won’t feel the effects of other edibles.

Since dosing is so individualized, starting with a small amount, seeing how it makes you feel, and adjusting from there is the best way to gauge what you need.

Patel said if you wake up feeling groggy or lethargic, feeling fatigued, or have diarrhea or headaches after using a cannabis edible, it means you should decrease your dose.

Combustible and aerosolized cannabis methods like vapes, joints, and pipes can harm the lungs, so eating the substance is a safer option.

Safest way to consume weed

Marijuana enthusiasts are some of the most creative people on the planet. It’s only right that some of that creative energy gets invested back into the field that inspired it—namely, cannabis consumption. Particularly in recent years, these practices have been developing rapidly to keep up with health trends that fitness-forward cannabis users are looking for.

While studies on the subject are still few and far between, marijuana’s medicinal and natural components are proven to have major health benefits. Consumers are now looking for practices that maximize these health benefits and minimize the potential dangers of cannabis use or side effects from smoking the herb.

Here are some proposed healthier ways to consume marijuana that may allow you to enjoy more responsibly and without the risks involved with other practices of cannabis consumption.

Tea

Marijuana tea is perfect for when you come home from work and simply want to sit down, watch TV and relax without encountering the negative effects of smoke inhalation. Extraction methods can be quite complicated, however, so we suggest you follow the easiest method available to make yourself a cup. If you’re looking for a quicker option, consider dissolving cannabutter into your tea or even coffee. You can make this butter/marijuana combo yourself by heating the herbal cannabis or resin along with butter on your stovetop, ensuring that no other chemicals are added to your concoction.

Of course, if you’re not looking to have a full high and just want a warm cup, you can also steep your herbs in hot water as you would normal tea leaves. This method ensures that no THC leaves the herb and you’re left with a drink that has little to no psychoactive effects.

Edibles

An alternative to smoking or vaporizing, consuming cannabis-infused foods is an increasingly popular trend among marijuana enthusiasts. For chronic pain sufferers, edibles can also provide longer lasting relief, making them a good option for patients.

Sometimes, though, you’ll want a break from high-calorie, marijuana-infused cookies. For health-conscious snackers, try purchasing marijuana-infused granola mixes made with dried fruits and kosher salts. Sprinkle this on your morning yogurt, bake some homemade granola bars or mix it into a salad for a healthy boost. You can also look for edibles company’s that value healthy choices, like Julie’s Natural Edibles. With legalization on the rise, there are more options to select from as a consumer, meaning you’re not stuck with boring brownies.

If you’re feeling brave, you can try whipping up your own edibles. This gives you the opportunity to select the ingredients you feel most comfortable with. Start with a recipe you love and substitute the fat (usually butter) with cannabutter. This way, you’ll know exactly what’s in your next snack and can also cater to any dietary restrictions you may have.

Topicals

Topicals are cannabis-infused balms or creams used primarily for localized pain relief and skin care. Unlike other methods of cannabis use, topicals don’t produce a high in their users. Instead, patients receive the therapeutic benefits of marijuana directly through their skin without worrying about damaging their lungs or consuming too high of a dose. The chemical compounds found in cannabis can affect CB1 and CB2 receptors located in hair follicles, sweat glands and nerve fiber bundles, giving topicals direct access without affecting the bloodstream or brain.

Some current treatment uses for topicals include burn treatment, skin elasticity improvement and even cancer treatment. Beyond more clinical uses, these THC-rich rubs are also being used to treat muscle soreness and inflammation in athletes, widening the spectrum of users of cannabis products.

Tinctures

A recently revived method of cannabis consumption involves the extraction of cannabis’ goodness using alcohol and whole cannabis plants (usually the flowers and trim leaves). The extracted liquid, called tincture, is ingested orally, usually with several drops of the liquid placed under the tongue. In this way, it’s rapidly absorbed into the arterial system and its effects are felt quickly. Tinctures can alternatively be mixed into teas or other beverages, but the absorption is slowed as it occurs in the GI tract.

If you’re not into the taste, you may be interested in trying a cannabis-infused honey tincture in your morning coffee or tea. Alternatively, you can dilute the potent liquid in water or juice. Because of how these tinctures are prepared, they often have limited psychoactive effects while delivering therapeutic results, making it a good way to start your day.

Juicing

For the health-conscious cannabis consumer, the recent trend of juicing presents a completely new way to enjoy the benefits of marijuana without having to deal with some potentially undesirable side effects. By blending up raw, fresh cannabis leaves with vegetable or fruit juice, individuals can enjoy a healthy, tasty treat on-the-go without worrying about the smoke associated with vaporizing or smoking a joint. Plus, juicing your cannabis means avoiding the THC released when marijuana is heated, allowing you to enjoy the flavor of the flower without getting high.

Vaporizing

Although the technology is still relatively new compared to traditional smoking methods, vaporizers appeal to the health-conscious consumer by allowing them to choose the temperature in which they essentially “cook” their marijuana. These temperatures allow you to enjoy specific components of the herb while avoiding toxins that are released if you burn it. 100% calorie and sugar-free, vaporizing cannabis is also said to eliminate up to 95 percent of smoke produced during combustion, protecting the lungs from the irritation that can lead to respiratory issues.

These devices can vaporize either concentrated cannabis wax, oil or dry herbs, but each has its own particular benefits. Waxes and oils are extremely potent, containing up to 60% more THC than marijuana buds, but there might still be residual fats, lipids and butane in wax if it is improperly purged. Instead, try oils, which are some of the most natural and safest concentrates available to use in your vaporizer.

These methods are great not only because they eliminate smoke, but they also allow you to have a variety of choices while controlling your dose. Added bonus? They can help nix any cigarette-related habits that smoking cannabis might be related to. Explore these methods to find the one—or two or three—that works best for you.

Looking for smoking alternatives? Try these options instead.