Cannabis is not all about smoking, inhaling, or vaping

The other day, I received a referral to our medical cannabis clinic from one of the Pediatric Gastroenterology doctors at the children’s hospital, where I work as a Pediatric ICU doctor. They follow a 16-year-old female with chronic gastrointestinal (GI) issues, including nausea, weight loss, multiple Helicobacter Pylori infections, and sucrase/isomaltase deficiency (an enzyme deficiency that causes abdominal symptoms and requires medication supplementation).

Furthermore, she suffers from migraine-like headaches. The mother reached out to me asking about CBD for her daughter. She told me that she purchased CBD in the past and her daughter had taken the CBD, but it did not work. She also disclosed that her daughter has been smoking cannabis, and even though it is helping several of her symptoms and overall well-being, she wanted her daughter not to smoke.

These comments, issues, and questions bring up several confusing and stigmatizing views people have against cannabis, smoking, and the field of medical cannabis. Cannabis is not all about smoking or inhaling or vaping, let alone “getting high.” Cannabis is also not all about just CBD or just THC. At our clinic, we look at the patient and ask, “how is your ECS working and what do we need to do to help it work more efficiently?”

What is the ECS?

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a dynamic physiological system that all mammals have. It interacts with all our normal physiological systems and its goal is to keep homeostasis, balance.

How does cannabis work as a medicine?

We look at the individual medical marijuana patient and assess what may not be working well and what may be causing symptoms and disease. We look at individual cannabinoids like CBD, CBDA, THC, and CBG (to name a few) and we work with the patient (any age) to satisfy their goals.

Each patient may need cannabinoids in different amounts, may benefit from taking the plant medicine via different routes or methods of administration, and may need cannabinoids from different sources (different strains/chemovars or plants).

“I tried CBD and it didn’t work” / “What is the best form of cannabis to take?”

When a cannabis patient or parent states that they “tried CBD” and it did not work, there are a lot of reasons why this may be. Simply,

  • They may not be taking enough (enough quantity of the product)
  • They may not be taking it every day (which may be required to sustain a therapeutic level in the body)
  • And they may not be taking it via a route which is best for their unique system or goals.

Smoking is merely one way of taking cannabinoids into the body, and despite the stigma with smoking or vaping, this may be best for some patients. In fact, several patients with GI issues cannot take oils or tinctures because they cannot absorb the active ingredients with an ailing absorption system, or perhaps they cannot tolerate the taste. Inhaling, suppositories, or topical creams may be better routes for them to pursue.

The ECS has receptors all over the body. In fact, the GI tract has numerous receptors (mostly CB2), and cannabis can do wonders for these patients, many of whom have failed other medicines and therapies.


In the end, it is our goal to work with each patient, to understand their personal and unique aims, and to teach them about the ECS so that they can recognize that it plays a vital role in human physiology, despite its inappropriate absence from the standard of care practice of modern medicine. This takes time, real expertise, and patience.

Relief with Cannabis

If you are suffering from a few symptoms or have a disease and you are not getting relief, your ECS may need additional support. Our cannabis clinic has years of experience working with all types of patients including babies, children, teens, adults, and the elderly.


It’s not all about smoking, and there are many other methods of consuming that are worth consideration. We will take the time to listen and help. Cannabis is a wonderful plant and can be an addition to all modes of medical therapy, and the ECS is a wonderful system and exciting to learn and teach about.

Come visit our medical cannabis clinic and learn more about how cannabis might help you in your unique circumstances.

Thanks to Dr Eric Exelbert for this content.

Learn more about dr. Excelbert here.

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