Organic Marijuana Methods of Intake

Methods of intake

Marijuana products can be consumed in various ways. Smoking Marijuana, with or without tobacco, is the most common method of intake. However, it is surely not the only - or the healthiest - one. An overview of the methods most commonly tried by medicinal users of Marijuana is given in Table 1.

It should be noted that for some methods of administration extensive scientific data is available (e.g. smoking, sublingual), while others have hardly been studied at all (raw juicing, edibles). For an overview of products with their most common administration forms, see Table 2.

Table 1 This table gives an overview of the most common administration forms of Marijuana and their pharmacological characteristics of effect onset, peak effect and effect duration. Note that the pharmacology given in this overview is mainly based on THC studies and does not necessarily represent other molecules in Marijuana products. We have not included results on transdermal studies, as there is too little information on the most commonly known cannabinoids THC and CBD.

Administration forms


Different administration methods

Effect onset

Peak effect

Effect duration


·         Inhalation of herbal Marijuana or extract with the use of a special vaporizing device (vaping)

·         Inhalation of THC-rich oil with the use of a dab rig (dabbing)

Instantly or within about 5 min [1,2, for review see 7]

20-30 minutes [1, for review see 3]

Around 3-4 hours [1, for review see 3 or 7]

Sublingual or oromucosal

·         Sublingual (under the tongue) administration, for example with tinctures or sprays

Note that the most pharmacological studies on oromucosal administration have been done with Sativex, a  spray containing THC and CBD

30-45 minutes,  moderate psychiatric effects [6]

between 3 and 4 hours post dose for for THC:CBD [6]

2.5 h [4] to 10.5 h [6] in healthy volunteers, and about 4 h in patients [5]


·         Preparing tea or cookies containing herbal Marijuana or extract (eating/drinking)

·         Ingesting concentrated extracts (Marijuana oil)

·         Ingesting unheated herbal Marijuana as a vegetable, or by juicing it (raw juicing)

Note that several edibles, except for capsules or tables that do not disintegrate in the mouth, can have partial oromucosal absorption when taken orally.

15 min [4] to 30 min [6] but can start as late as 2.5 h [6, for review, see 3], depending on the oral formulation and the effect measured

1-3 hours for THC [4, for review, see 3]; as well as 4.5 h [6] have been reported

4-8 h [4, for review see 3], whereas effects can last for 10.5 h [6]


Depending on the method of intake used, various changes to the original chemical profile of the plant material may occur. For instance, a common factor of most administration forms is a heating step, which is essential for a chemical conversion known as decarboxylation. THC and CBD are the two most well-known cannabinoids, but contrary to popular belief they are not actually present in fresh Marijuana plants: metabolically, the plant produces all its cannabinoids in a carboxylic acid form known as cannabinoid-acids. When sufficient heat is applied, for example when Marijuana is burned for smoking, baked for edibles, or boiled for tea, THC-acid (or THCA) quickly converts into THC, CBD-acid (or CBDA) turns into CBD, and so on for all other cannabinoids. The carboxylic acid group is thereby released in the form of carbon dioxide. It should be noted that cannabinoid-acids may have important medical properties of their own. For example, CBD-acid has promising anti-inflammatory effects, while THC-acid was found to have a potent effect on the human immune system.  

Although heat is needed for decarboxylation, overheating may lead to the formation of degradation products such as cannabinol (CBN; an oxidation product of THC) and delta-8-THC (Δ8-THC; an isomer of THC), both of which have potential pharmacological properties of their own (for a review of in vitro pharmacological properties, see chapter 6 of Pertwee, 2014). Volatile components such as the terpenes may easily evaporate , for example during the boiling of tea, or while evaporating an organic solvent during the preparation of a concentrated extract. 

Pharmacological implications of administration forms

As a result of the chemical conversions listed above, each administration form will essentially deliver a different subset of active constituents to the user. Moreover, each Marijuana preparation comes with its own efficiency of uptake (e.g. intestines, lungs, oral mucosa) and its own set of specific metabolites formed upon consumption. Particularly the difference between oral (ingested) and intrapulmonary (inhaled) preparations is of importance here. The main reason is that, inhaled cannabinoids and terpenes enter directly and virtually unaltered through the lungs into the bloodstream, whereas orally ingested compounds are significantly delayed and altered by the digestive system before it reaches the systemic circulation, also called first pass effect. The combination of all these factors may result in a different type and duration of effects for various administration forms, even when the same type and dose of Marijuana are used. In general, inhaling cannabinoids leads to higher cannabinoid plasma levels, more rapid onset of effect, and shorter total duration of effect, compared to ingesting cannabinoids.

Table 2 - Overview of production techniques, products and their most common administration forms. 

Production method


Main administration forms

Dried, herbal material

Flower, bud, flos

Intrapulmonary (vaping, smoking), Oral (eating, tea)

Dry processes

Kief or dry sift

Intrapulmonary (vaping, dabbing, smoking)

Dry processes

Dry-ice kief

Intrapulmonary (vaping, smoking)

Dry processes

Finger hash

Intrapulmonary (vaping, smoking)

Dry processes (can also be made from ice water extracted material)


Intrapulmonary (dabbing)

Ice water extraction

Bubble hash

Intrapulmonary (vaping, dabbing, smoking)

Solvent-based processes

Butane honey oil or butane hash oil (BHO)

Intrapulmonary (vaping, dabbing), oral

Solvent-based processes

Organic solvent extract

Intrapulmonary (vaping, dabbing), oral

Solvent-based processes

CO2 oil

Intrapulmonary (vaping, dabbing), oral