Healing with Cannabis tea: science vs internet myths
A simple Google search of Cannabis tea or Marijuana tea will convey to numerous blog and magazines that assert erroneous and potentially dangerous information.
The main issue for patients who intend to try the edible route of administration for their cannabis medicine is that, internet, along with the countless myths, remains the main resource of information due to cannabis restrictions in most Countries.
Cannabis tea has been sampled and carefully examined by the Department of Research and Education at Bedrocan BV, the official grower of medicinal cannabis in the Netherlands and main European provider to pharmacies and dispensaries.
In this article, their guidelines have been compared and contrasted with the main internet myths sources, in order to, hopefully, shed some light on an incredibly valuable and simple medication,cannabis tea.
Debunking internet myths
#1 Myth: Decarboxylation
The cannabinoid acid (THCA) turns into its natural counterpart by releasing carbon dioxide.
If you are interested in understanding the differences between cannabinoid acids and non, as well as their ability at binding cannabinoid receptors, read here.
The vast majority of recipies on the net persuade us to bring very high the water temperature for tea.
The average simmer time is given between 20 and 60 minutes (they suggest the formula of “higher the temperature and longer the brewing time, the better cannabis tea”)
It is sufficient to bring the water to boil and let the grind-up cannabis simmer for no longer than 15 minutes.
Studies have shown that an average cup of cannabis tea (recipie as adviced from the clinician) contains 5 times more THC-acid than THC.
This is clearly due to the lower heat applied by boiling water when compared to baking, vaporising or smoking.
On the contrary of what the majority of blogs out there are trying to sell you, Cannabis tea should therefore not just be considered as a weak administration form of THC (which it is), but rather as an entirely different medicine, because of the presence of high amounts of acidic cannabinoids.
(If you are a patient who requires high dosage of THC, we recommend you check into Cannabis extracts here)
For a long time cannabinoids-acids have been considered to be the “inactive” form of cannabinoids.
Now scientific evidences have established that also acidic cannabinoids have an important medicinal value.
- CBD-acid has a potent antimicrobial activity, as well as anti-inflammatory effects
- THC-acid was found to have a potent effect on the immune system.
- Acidic cannabinoids appear to slow the growth of certain cancers.
Prolonged boiling or oveheating, as suggested from WikiHow et similia, leads to denaturation of THC onto CBN, and evaporation of volatile compounds such as terpenes, which not only present the remarkable pleasant aroma, but are also the main source of healthy Vitamin A, β-caryophyllene and Alpha-pinene (just to mention a few). You can read more about terpenes in here.
Depending from the strain of cannabis, each has a different expression of terpenes, with a vast range of therapeutic value, such as bronchodilation, memory retention, muscle relaxant, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anxiolytic, cardioprotectant, antimicrobial, anti-tumoral and even dissolving gallstones (Limonene).
#2 Myth: Lipid-binding
Tea recipes all over the net sponsor a mixture of cannabis infused with fat (coconut oil, butter, diary) combined with tea leaves and water to make a chai or latte-type drink.
This is primarily due to the fact that THC binds to lipid (i.e. is a lipophillic molecule).
This approach can lead to a series of issues that the patient population needs to address, such as variability in uptake by the intestine, worsening of symptoms when taken for nausea, vomiting, high-cholesterol, diabetes.
The greatest problem with this approach is that by adding lipids almost all cannabinoids acids are extracted into their non-acid counterpart, making these type of teas very hard to dose safely, as well as abolishing the therapeutic effects of cannabinoids acids.
When a cannabis tea is prepared as a medication there are several factors to take into account. At contrary to a recreational or spiritual use, where the addition of a lipid (as for the ghee for the preparation of the Indian Bhang) is required in order to stimulate the psychoactive effects (the high), this is not suggestible for a cannabis medication.
First of all, the major disadvantage of a dairy source of fat, other than being hard to digest by itself, is the large variability of uptake by the intestine, because the type of food you eat can have a significant influence on the absorption of the active substances.
Also, the methods preparing cannabis tea with fats have not been tested under laboratory settings, (whilst water only have), leaving a question mark on whether such teas are safe to be consumed universally from all patient population who self-medicate with cannabis medications.
Most importantly, with the addition of lipids, it is very hard to predict THC extraction and dosage, making these type of tea unsafe for patients.
Patients should be careful not to accidentally overdose on cannabinoids. Especially to those who have no prior experience with cannabis, dizziness, nausea and disorientation can occur.
#3 Myth: Duration of effects
Accordingly to the net, the effects of a cannabis tea start after 45-60 minutes and will last up to 15 hours.
Clearly this is what happens when you follow misleading directions such as: ” Leave the stove on the highest heat setting and have the water violently boiling”, “The longer you are willing to wait it brewing, the more THC that will be extracted”.
Under laboratory standardized conditions the first effects have been observed between 30-90 minutes.
The maximum effects take place after 2-3 hours from consumption and should last to a max of 4-8 hours.
It is important to remember that should you need to add an extra dose, do so only after having reached the peak effect (at least after 3 hours).
This is important because the most unwanted side effects of cannabis may be prevented by starting with a low dose.
It is actually preferable to take several small doses a day that add up to a perfect result (matching your own personal needs), than to experiment with one single large dose that may turn up to be intoxicating rather than therapeutic.
Have patience and wait for the effects to appear; this can be frustrating in the case of acute symptoms such as strong pain, nausea and spasms, but it must be remembered that cannabis dosing varies person to person.
In order to establish how your medical condition benefits the best from cannabis tea, use the same low dose for the first 5 to 10 days and monitor the effects (positive or unwanted).
Finally, you can start to increase the dose slowly, without changing the dose suddenly, but always taking a few days in order to monitor the progress.
Cannabis tea for patients
The slow onset of effects, combined with a long duration, makes oral administration (cannabis tea) mainly suitable for treating chronic complaints that need a constant dose of cannabis throughout the day.
Cannabis tea is also highly suggested for aiding sleep, because its effect potentially last all night.
Patients are advised to prepare cannabis tea as follows:
- 1 gram of finely grind cannabis (quality control is advised!)
- 1 litre of boiling water
- Let simmer for 15 minutes
- Filter out solid parts by using a tea-strainer or filter paper
- Add an herbal tea to taste or drink as is
Keep in mind:
Dosing with oral cannabis medicine should be done carefully and slowly, because overdosing more easily occurs than with inhaled administration.
Recreational use and therapeutic use are very different, and preparations valid for the former are not necessarily good for medical use.
It would be best to consult always with your doctor, and if that is not possible due to your Country prohibition, make sure to access information that have been peer-reviewed from the scientific community.
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Hazekamp A, Ware MA, Muller-Vahl KR, Abrams D, Grotenhermen F (2013) The medicinal use of cannabis and cannabinoids; an international cross-sectional survey on administration forms.Journal of Psychoactive drugs, 45(3), 199-210.
Russ EB (2011) Taming THC: Potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. British Journal of Pharmacology, 163, 1344-1364