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Ways to use cannabis (for pain)

I use edibles (mostly) to get my cannabis – Mindy’s Gummies 5 mg CBD/5 mg THC, to be exact. This is one of many ways you can use cannabis. I am giving you my review of the different methods of taking cannabis.

Smoking

Smoking cannabis is the traditional way that most people took it for years. Smoking is one of the most “natural” ways to take cannabis, in that the weed is minimally processed. It is also one of the ways to access the greatest number of varieties or strains. Each variety feels different in the body and the mind, so this allows you to finely tune your cannabis therapy.

Smoking comes in several forms. Rolled cigarettes and cigars are popular. To take smaller doses a pipe – regular or water – is handy. But remember marijuana smoke is carcinogenic, but less so than tobacco smoke.

Effects come on fastest with smoking, but they also go away the fastest. It takes 10-15 minutes to feel the effects and you need to re-dose every half hour or so to maintain pain relief. This is not good for most pain control, unless your pain is spiky and doesn’t hit you often. I want a product that lasts as long as possible.

Additionally, smoking comes with all the lung problems. I smoked cigarettes for 18 years before I quit. Now, when I try to smoke anything I cough, wheeze, and have problems. So no smoking or vaping for me. If breathing is at all an issue with you or those around you, do not smoke the weed.

Vaping

I have problems with vaping or, more correctly, people who vape. I remember (unwillingly) riding in a car with someone vaping. She blew her smoke right in my face to prove that it was nothing but water vapor. Bad way to make a point, plus I got stuff more than water from smelling it.

Vaping does have several benefits over smoking. It does not contain the combustion that causes some of the problems with smoking. You are inhaling a vaporized version of a cannabis oil. There are ways to vape with crushed cannabis as well as dabbing or super-heating a resin.

Vaped cannabis does hit fast and leave fast like smoked cannabis. It still harms the lungs. And the oil it uses can have added ingredients (like vitamin E acetate) that are causing new sets of problems.

Tinctures and oils

Tinctures are mixtures of alcohol and water into which cannabis plants (or their constituent parts) are infused. Oils are similar, where cannabis oils are mixed into carrier oils.

These can be dosed through a dropper, a spray, or put into capsule form. Capsules tend to work well for pain management. You can use these oils and tinctures in baking or creating your own edibles. The most popular way is to mix the oil into oil or butter. You can also mix them into tea, water, or another drink.

Many people place oils and tinctures directly under the tongue to go quickly into the bloodstream. This placement allows the cannabis to affect you faster than taking edibles, but slower than smoking. It’s a good choice for those folks are not ready for how long edibles last. I generally place my edible gummies under my tongue, with the theory that some of the relief will happen faster,

Edibles

Edibles are one of the healthiest ways to take cannabis, as long as you do not take too much too fast. Edibles generally take two hours to start working and three to peak. The cannabis effects last 6-8 hours and provide full-body relief. This lasting effect is the largest reason I use edibles.

People do have problems navigating around this slow start. Folks tend to think that the weed is not working and take more before the dose kicks in and take too much. Overdose can involve paranoia, increased heart rate, and panic attacks – not fun. You have to trust the edibles maker that they contain the amount of cannabis they say they will. Start small, at about 2 mg of THC and initially give it about 4 hours between doses, so you can trace how it affects you. I take 5 mg of THC, once or twice a day. Check with your doctor if you go over 15 mg, because some people have bad side effects at higher doses.

Edibles come in many forms: gummies, drinks, chocolate, honey, butter, even ranch dip mix. You can even make your own, but know that cannabis needs to be heated to certain temperatures for certain times and do your research before you start. Decarboxylated is the technical term.

Topicals

Many pain-people get relief from topical application. They use cannabis salves or lotions to apply it directly where the pain is. This method is good for when your pain is limited to a small area. Topical application will not bring on a “high”. This is a good choice for those who want to avoid that side of marijuana entirely.

Unfortunately, I am not one of the folks who can get relief this way. And I am not the only one. have tried a number of creams and rubs and felt no relief at all for my pain. I did discover, on the side, that hemp oil is great for my dry skin – so I still use it that way.

Transdermal

Transdermal patches look promising at delivering a steady dose over time, however my store doesn’t sell these. Many of these seem to be tied up in the maze of deregulation and medicalization of cannabis, at least in Illinois where I live. I expect to see these more in the future as they maximize the cannabis you receive over time by getting it directly into the blood stream and delivering whole-body relief. It also minimizes the psychoactive effects of the drug.

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On headaches

One of the most annoying things about being in pain is that you are constantly on painkillers – many of us doped up to over the level that would actually be reasonable. So, when a little more pain piles on – like a headache – there often seems like no place to go. Take a Tylenol? I’m already on a very large dose. NSAIDS? No, problem stomach. Here are a few places I go when I need a painkilling boost for a headache. If you want to know more about headaches in general, I found a good source here.

Scent

I’ll start with smelling lavender oil – I keep some lavender essential oil diluted in sweet almond oil by my work seat. If the headache is just coming on, or is small, this can often do the trick. I also diffuse lavender (lavandula augustifolia) when I sleep. Scientific studies show that it induces relaxation and calms the nervous system. Scientists have even found it works for migraines.

Other people find rosemary or peppermint oil to help as well. Rosemary is full of antioxidants and relieves inflammation (the top cause of headaches) as well as raising alertness. Peppermint stops spasms and some studies say it may help headaches, but more studies need to be done before we know for certain,

Dark and quiet

If that doesn’t work, there are a couple of places I go. Generally dark and / or quiet help me calm down. A lot of headaches trigger the same part of the brain (the thalamus) that reacts to light and noise. Also breathing exercises when I try to pay total attention to my breathing in and out and what it feels like. If that’s not enough – a cold, wet cloth over the eyes will at least get me calmed down.

Tea

Image by Shae Davidson. Tank Girl and cats are also great for headaches.

I really like drinking herbal tea in general, so tea was a good place to find some remedies that work well for me. Chamomile is a strong choice for headaches, studied by both scientists and working herbalists, and found to work against migraines and other headaches. Chamomile is anti-inflammatory and protects the nerves. Take the tea as strong as you can – using as much chamomile and steeping as long as you can stand.

I add other ingredients to chamomile much of the time. My go-to headache and stress blend is chamomile with meadowsweet, lavender, and rose petals. Meadowsweet (Filipendula) has a long history of use for headaches, back to the Druids in Ireland. It contains salicylic acid like aspirin, but has substances that buffer the impact on the stomach. It works in a different way than chamomile, and pairs well with it.

The lavender is proven for relaxation and rose (Rosa) is another pain reliever. By mixing these four herbs together (in equal parts), I make a tea that eases pain that pops up on top of my regular pain. The tea doesn’t kill of all the pain, but often takes it back to a livable level.

Other tea ingredients that can work for headaches include willow bark (same ingredient as meadowsweet but doesn’t taste as nice), basil, ginger, catnip, feverfew, and fennel. Most of these herbs can also be infused in an oil to rub on your neck and temples, if you don’t want to drink the tea.

Conclusion

Focusing on headaches, I have a number of tools to use to tamp down additional pain that overrides my painkillers. Herbal scents and teas lead the batch, and lessening light and sound are great helps as well. None of these work like in the pre-pain days when I would just take an ibuprofen and a half an hour later the headache would be gone. But they all do work a little bit.

I have a different tea (turmeric ginger) that I use for body pains. I’ll share that recipe soon in an article that focuses on body pain relief.

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Through a fibromyalgia flare-up

I’ve just weathered a nasty fibro flare. It lasted about a week. But now, I am starting to get used to pulling out my tool kit and actually using it when flares happen. I still have to stop, think, and give myself permission and I look forward to the day when it is just automatic. Here’s how this one went.

I started feeling bad, and as soon as I felt bad, I gave myself permission to stop. I stopped doing things around the house. I stopped writing. I stopped everything that was on the supposed to list. This is very hard for me – that list is still big and lurking.

Instead, I gave myself permission to do whatever felt best to my battered body and mind. I took naps, I went to bed early or slept in late. I played video games, I watched TV. (YouTube plug here for Norwegian train videos. They mount a camera on the front of the train and you travel with it in real time. It’s amazingly soothing,)

I gave myself permission not to be able to read or write in large amounts. When I hurt my brain fog moves in. It is hard to read something like a novel where I have to focus and remember what happened from one reading to another. Luckily, I had a number of magazines arrive – and their articles are much more within my ability when I feel bad.

I picked back up my crochet. Every time I drop it for a while, I forget just how soothing the repetitive action is. I’m sure most other hand-work hobbies are the same from weaving beads to painting miniatures.

I gave myself permission to ask folks around me for stuff. I think it was mostly my husband filling my water bottle or getting me drinks. But we went over to my best friend’s house and I just sat in the comfy chair all day. I had my bag with crochet and my Kindle and they all brought conversation and activity to me – which feels really nice.

As I started to feel better, I began to take the little energy I had and use it to help others. 1) I cooked easy dinners for myself and my husband, 2) I started decorating a tree outside for the birds and the holiday, and 3) I went onto Quora to cheer on and advise people who were having problems with depression and school.

Now, I am mostly emerged from it. I am tired and sore all over – but not as bad as before. Now I am starting to turn to that list of things that needs done, but I’m still giving myself permission to go slowly. If I get a thing or two done in a day, then that’s fine.