Inhalation is the fastest-acting method of administration other than intravenous injection. When inhaled, the active ingredients of Cannabis pass directly into the bloodstream from the lungs. Peak blood levels are achieved within 5-20 minutes and the pharmacological activity is typically over within 3 hours.
Vaporizers are the preferred method for rapid relief of inhalation without the toxic and carcinogenic by-products of smoking. In a vaporizer, Cannabis heats to a point below combustion (390°F or 200°C) where the therapeutic ingredients are released in a mild, smokeless vapor that is readily absorbed by the lungs.
Oral administration is a slower-acting method because the active ingredients of Cannabis must pass through the gastrointestinal tract during digestion before entering the bloodstream. Pharmacological effects occur in 30-90 minutes. Oral administration also alters the chemistry of therapeutic ingredients by “first pass” metabolism in the digestive tract.
Sublingual forms are administered under the tongue and may be faster acting than edibles as the medicine is absorbed into the blood through the mucosal membrane in the mouth.
Topical forms are typically used as creams or lotions to treat localized pain and discomfort, delivering active ingredients to the bloodstream through the skin.