- Isolate: contains only isolated cannabinoids, only tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or cannabidiol (CBD)
- Full-spectrum: products containing the full range of the constituents of the cannabis plant in different concentrations. Typically, these are high in THC or CBD and have lower levels of the other minor phytocannabinoids. These products will tend to contain THC as they contain all of the naturally occurring cannabinoids.
- Broad-spectrum: products containing a range of cannabinoids and other cannabis constituents, but with no THC
Plant derived or Synthetic?
Plant-derived products are raw medicinal cannabis plant materials that have been produced in a controlled environment and allow for predictable cannabinoid content. These plants can be dried and cured and supplied as a dried flower. The medicinal compounds in the plant are vaporised by the patient.
Medicinal cannabis products in the form of dried flower are only prescribed to be vaporised by an ARTG approved vaporiser. These are medical devices that have met with the regulatory requirements of the TGA, they are subject to strict approval assessments but are also monitored closely after they have been approved for supply and included in the ARTG.
Plant-derived products can also come in the form of liquids (oils or tinctures), which are made by extracting cannabinoids from plant material by exposing it to solvents such ethanol or supercritical carbon dioxide. The liquid is typically taken orally with food.
Other sublingual methods of ingestion such as wafers or gummies also exist and more formulations are under development.
Other extracts are made into gels, lotions, creams or ointments for topical application onto the skin.
Finally, concentrated plant extracts are sometimes put into capsules that are swallowed much like any other medicine.
Plant-derived products vary in their level of phytocannabinoids. The most important two of these to consider are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Products tend to be formulated which contain mostly THC, mostly CBD or a combination of both. These products typically also contain lesser amounts of the other trace cannabinoids such as Cannabigerols (CBG), Cannabichromene (CBC), Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA),Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) and Cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) as well as other plant compounds.
Whole or ‘full-spectrum’ plant extracts are produced in a way that preserves the balance of all the different cannabinoids and terpenoids (other naturally occurring chemical compounds found in all classes of living things) in the plant. Other extracts are filtered and manufactured in a way that maximises the presence of one particular cannabinoid such as CBD.
There is ongoing research to determine if the therapeutic benefits of cannabinoids such as CBD, are improved when maintained in a full-spectrum extract. The ‘entourage effect’ is the notion that the pharmacological effects of cannabis are greater than the sum of individual cannabis chemical components.
Synthetically produced cannabinoids such as THC and CBD are produced in a laboratory using organic chemistry techniques. The THC, CBD and other cannabinoid molecules produced in this way are identical to those found in the plant. They have been registered as medicines with the Food and Drug Administration in the USA since the 1980s.
Oral plant-based products:
The majority of plant-based medicines currently supplied in Australia is in oil form which is taken orally. Other ingested forms include capsules and wafers.
Plant-based oils generally take 1-3 hours to start working and the effects can last 6-8 hours and up to 12 hours or longer in some cases. Individual variances in metabolism and food intake can affect the time of onset and duration of effect.
Oral preparations generally have a slower onset of action and longer duration of effect as compared to inhaled products so may be preferred in circumstances where longer symptom relief is required.
Capsules containing plant-based oil, wafers and oro-mucosal sprays that are sprayed into the mouth, under the tongue are also available.
Inhaled plant-based products:
Dried flowers can be dried and cured to produce a product that can be vaporised using a medical vaporiser to produce a therapeutic effect. Extracts containing purified plant-based extracts are also available for vaporisation.
Vaporisation is the process of heating plant-based medicines without burning and the active compounds are released into a vapour which is inhaled. After inhalation, THC enters the bloodstream quickly through the lung, with the effects achieved within 6 to 10 minutes after inhalation. In general, inhalation has a faster onset and produces a stronger psychoactive effect than ingestion. Effects of inhaled plant-based medicines generally last up to 6 hours with some residual effects up to 24 hours later.
Topical plant-based products:
Plant-based medicines in the form of a tincture, lotions, ointment or cream can be used topically. These products are applied directly to the skin and may be used to treat areas of pain and inflammation or a range of skin conditions.
In summary, medicinal cannabis in Australia is available in various forms, including oral formulations, topical applications, and inhalations, with different product categories such as isolates, full-spectrum, and broad-spectrum. Plant-derived products offer predictable cannabinoid content and can be vaporised, taken orally, or applied topically, while synthetic cannabinoids like THC and CBD are produced in a lab and registered as medicines. The choice of administration method depends on factors like onset time, duration of effect, and individual preferences.
To learn more about plant-based medicines or ask any questions, please contact our team on (03) 9077 2446 or email@example.com, or visit one of our dispensaries.