Delivery Systems- How to give your body what it needs

Feb 15th 2014

This post will focus on the ways in which cannabis can be used to target specific needs via the body's most commonly found receptors - the endocannabinoid receptors.

There are four main routes of administration (delivery systems) for cannabis. The different methods or routes will cause varying effects on the user. The four main routes of administration include: sublingual/oral, ingestion, transdermal, and inhalation. Understanding the various routes and their effects is a great way of determining what is best for your body’s needs.


Sublingual administration is when cannabis oil is applied under the tongue or by the gum area. Within the lining of our mouths there are three areas that absorb cannabinoids: the mucosa lining inside the entire mouth, the area under the tongue, and the tongue itself.

Typically, this is done with a tincture or capsule but can also be done with cannabis products that melt away in the mouth. These will generally fulfill two routes of administration and can cause a longer affect. Overall, sublingual/oral administration is the most bio-available way of consuming cannabis and therefore one of the fastest and longest acting methods. The start time of activation generally occurs within 15 minutes of mucosal absorption and lasts 4-6 hours.


Ingestion is absorption through the intestinal tract which is then metabolized in the liver. This produces the longest lasting effect, around 6-8 hours. However, the onset of the effect is dependent on the metabolic process of the liver which can be anywhere from 45-90 minutes. This method is often used for patients seeking long term relief for chronic issues or looking to spend an extra chill day.


Absorption through the skin is called transdermal administration. Our skin is the largest organ of our body and covered with CB1 receptors that readily receive cannabinoids. However, this route is strictly local to the area of application and is therefore not going to enter the blood stream in quantities high enough to have cognitive effects. It is very effective in targeting local areas of muscle tension, inflammation, and psoriasis/eczema. Common infused topicals include lotions, balms, soaks, and patches.


This method involves absorption through the inhalation of combusted or vaporized cannabis. Because this method directly reaches the blood–brain barrier it is the fastest acting way of consuming cannabis. However it is also the shortest acting method, lasting about 30-120 minutes. This method is great for assisting with immediate ailments such as trouble falling asleep, anxiety, mood, appetite, headaches, and even memory.