Flowers or extracts?
Published on : November 30, 2021

With the introduction of the Cannabis Act 2017, doctors were enabled to prescribe cannabis as medicine on a regular basis. While initially it was all about dried flowers, extracts are now increasingly being used. But what are the exact differences between these two different dosage forms of cannabis? In our blog post, we would like to present the most important findings, explain them and present a final conclusion. 

Flowers

The selection of the right flowers and the respective THC or CBD content is enormously important in order to be able to respond individually to the patient and the corresponding indication. Thus, there are flowers with high, low and balanced THC and CBD contents. The physician then decides, based on his patient’s data and needs, which strength and ratios to prescribe. 

The dispensary can dispense the dried flowers either crushed or uncrushed. However, normally, the flowers are handed out crushed, as this ensures proper handling of the flowers and better guarantees the correct dosage for the patient. If the flowers are given uncrushed, the patient can, with the help of a spice grinder, crush the flowers and then sift them through a size 2000 sieve. However, it should be noted that the flowers should not be ground too finely. As a guide, various sources recommend the size of rubbed marjoram, which you might know from your spice rack in the kitchen. 

In the case of flowers, there are two different ways to use them: the crushed flowers can either be prepared as a tea or inhaled with the help of a vaporizer. It is important to heat the flowers, as this step converts the cannabinoids into the more health-active form. When preparing as a tea, the crushed flowers must be simmered in boiling water for at least 15 minutes and finally strained. You can also heat the flowers in the oven at 140 degrees Celsius for 10 minutes, then pour hot water over them and let them steep covered for 15 minutes. In both methods it is recommended to add some fat (butter, coconut fat, cream), because THC is not soluble in water. However, the use as a tea is not often recommended, because it has some disadvantages. For example, it is difficult to determine the active ingredient content in tea, as the active ingredients are difficult to dissolve in water. In addition, the preparation is quite time-consuming since the flowers must be boiled in water for a long time to release active ingredients. The effect after drinking usually occurs after about 90 minutes.

If the flowers are placed in a vaporizer, it heats the flowers to at least 185 degrees Celsius and the steam is then inhaled. When inhaled through a vaporizer, the effect occurs faster (quickest) and stronger, usually after just a few moments. It has also been found that this method of application also produces faster and stronger results than smoking flowers. 

Extracts

A cannabis extract is obtained by extracting cannabinoids and terpenes from the cannabis plant. Extracts used for medicinal applications are oily solutions. Depending on the source material, these extracts can contain THC, CBD, and other substances such as terpenes from the plant. Thus, extracts can be produced in any concentrations and combinations to best meet the needs of patients. 

For medical use, there are two primary extraction processes, each with two steps: CO2 extraction and ethanol extraction. In CO2 extraction, which is more commonly used, the CO2 is converted into a liquid by the action of pressure and temperature. In the second step, “winterization,” ethanol is used to separate the pure cannabinoids and terpenes from byproducts to obtain a pure product. 

Ethanol extraction is usually faster to perform, but it changes the product because ethanol is more polar than CO2, which pulls chlorophyll, colors, and tannins from the cannabis, for example. It is also more difficult to remove all of the solvent again. In ethanol extraction, an activated carbon filtration process is used in the second step to remove inconsistencies. 

Full-spectrum extracts contain both THC and CBD, as well as other constituents of the plant, such as terpenes. Full-spectrum extracts are said to be more potent and, due to the other compounds present, have a broader effect than pure isolates. This is known in professional circles as the “entourage effect”. 

Unlike flowers, the dosage of extracts and the intended effect is easier and more reliable to determine. Extracts are usually taken orally and develop their effect after 30 to 90 minutes.

Conclusion

It can be concluded that the choice between flowers and extracts is very dependent on the indication and the patient. While the effect is faster and stronger when vaporizing or smoking flowers, it takes longer with extracts via oral intake, but can also be better and more accurately predicted. In addition, extracts have a higher bioavailability due to terpenes and other constituents of the plant, which leads to broader application and effect areas. For these reasons, physicians are increasingly turning to extracts in the treatment of patients.

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