Outside of the plant-based medical field, when thinking about plant-based medicines, most people will get an image inspired by television or movies of a person smoking the plant to get “high”. Naturally, this is a turn-off for many patients because, firstly, these films instill negative associations regarding how these people are seen in society and secondly, smoking is bad for you.
We have gathered some of the most frequently asked questions to help break some common myths and bring to light how alternative medicine is actually prescribed by doctors and used by patients. Below we endeavour to answer these questions in as much detail as possible so that you can feel comfortable and confident before seeking out this treatment.
How Can You Take Plant-Based Medicine?
As we touched on above, the smoking of plant-based medicine is never advised by doctors. In fact, doctors find great pleasure in successfully converting patients from the use of smoking to vaping; it is referred to as ‘harm minimization’. Smoking, in any form, releases toxic compounds which can damage the lungs and cause uncomfortable side effects such as coughing, sputum and bronchitis.
Instead, there are a variety of alternative ways that plant-based medicine can be used. The two primary methods are:
Most often, patients will receive a prescription for alternative medicines that can be taken orally. Oral solutions come in the form of capsules, oil drops and sprays.
Using a special device called a vaporiser, patients can inhale the vapour from the plant flower to get its effects. Unlike smoking, these devices heat the flower and release the cannabinoids into a vapour that patients simply inhale. This vapour “smoke” is not the result of burning the flower. Thus, it does not release toxic compounds as smoking does.
Topical creams, patches or gels can also be prescribed. These are for direct application and can have some therapeutic benefits, but they are not so commonly used.
What is the Most Common Way Doctors Recommend Taking Plant-Based Medicine?
Plant-based therapy doctors work closely with patients to understand their illness or ailments, as well as their medical history and current prescriptions. The means by which doctors recommend patients take alternative medicines will, depend on the clinical indication, as well as the preference of the patient.
Where possible, doctors want their patients to feel comfortable, both in the effects of the treatment as well as how it is taken. We mentioned above the two most common ways to use plant-based medicines. Below we will look at how these two ways of taking plant-based medicines work on the body to paint a picture of what scenarios may apply to which kind of treatment.
Oral treatments are any kind of plant-based medicine which is taken orally, absorbed in the stomach and slow-releasing. After an oral treatment has been taken, it can take somewhere between 30 and 90 minutes for any effects to be felt and then it has long-lasting therapeutic effects. The peak of the effects can be felt around two to four hours after being taken, and the total length of time where patients can still feel the treatment is up to eight hours. For this reason, many patients commence on a regime of morning and night doses, so as to last throughout the day as well as while they sleep.
Vaporised alternative medicine is absorbed differently from oral treatments. Inhaling vapour bypasses the digestive process, and instead, it is absorbed in the lungs. Because it is not metabolised in the same way through the stomach, it is absorbed much faster in the body, and the effects are felt very soon after use. The effects of vaporisation will typically be felt within 90 seconds and reach the full peak of the effect in just 15 to 30 minutes. The total time effects are felt from vaporisation is between two to four hours. Just as the effects release quickly, they will also pass quickly – when compared to oral treatments.
How is Plant-Based Therapy Different from Black Market products?
On the surface, some plant-based therapies and black market products seem the same. But that does not mean that recreational/illegal products are a good alternative to prescribed plant-based therapies. They may come from the same plant, but the means by which they are produced can make them very different by the time they reach the hands of the patient.
Both feature the same properties: cannabinoids. These naturally occurring chemicals are what have made it such an important plant in the sphere of plant-based medicine.
Where things really differ is in how they are produced. The Therapeutic Goods Association regulates medicinal plant-based therapies. They are responsible for overseeing strict guidelines that approved plant-based therapy cultivators have to follow. These cultivators grow the medicinal plants and produce all of the solutions, withdrawing specific compounds to provide regulation approved capsules, sprays, oils, vaporisable flowers and other solutions and doses.
Black market products, on the other hand, due to its illegal nature, are not grown under any regulations. This means that users rarely know how it is produced. There are many different kinds of plants, all producing different effects, and many growers of illegal poduct will use certain chemicals or growing methods to increase certain effects. This is not a positive alteration, and these growers are not skilled to understand how this impacts users. Furthermore, illegal product is most often sold to users in plant form, where it is expected it will be smoked. Which, as mentioned, can produce adverse reactions and side effects in the body.
Why Smoking Alternative Medicine is Not Recommended
The harmful effects of cigarette smoking are well known in Australia, and as a result, cigarettes have been heavily taxed and regulated. Smoking, in any form, has these extremely harmful side effects. That too goes for plant-based therapies.
Because of the many therapeutic benefits of alternative holistic health treatments, there is a tendency to forget that smoke in any form – including burning food in your kitchen – releases toxic compounds, irritants and carcinogens that can damage your lungs or worse. Plant-based treatments have significant benefits, but smoking remains harmful. Adding to the potential danger of smoking alternative medicines is how it is inhaled. Unlike when someone smokes a cigarette, plant-based medicine is often inhaled deeper and held for longer. This increases the exposure to tar, toxic compounds, irritants and carcinogens.
The negative consequences of smoke inhalation mean that no medical doctor would recommend it be used in this way.
How to Access Plant-Based Therapies in Australia
Since 2016, plant-based medicine has been regulated in Australia, with states all adopting their own controls on how patients can gain access. As of 2021, most states afford access to patients who have not found relief or results through other traditional, conventional lines of treatment.
Authorised organisations, such as Cannadoc, are then the means through which patients can obtain a legal plant-based medicine prescription. In some cases, GPs may be able to source legal alternative medicines. This applies to those that have gone through the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s Special Access Scheme. However, most GPs will simply refer patients to medical professionals that offer plant-based consultations, such as Cannadoc.
Patients seeking to explore integrated health solutions can do so via two potential paths:
- GP referral
Those who have a General Practitioner can simply request a referral to see a Cannadoc doctor. Patients can even supply our referral form to make the process easy for the GP to submit if they deem the patient to be eligible.
Those who do not have a regular GP, or do not feel supported by their GP for whatever reason, can complete an eligibility test to check they meet the criteria to be considered as a patient, which will then allow them to self-refer.
Who is Eligible for Plant-Based Therapies in Australia
There is no black and white answer to this question, unfortunately. Plant-based therapy is a treatment option for patients with which conventional medications have proven unsuccessful. In saying that, there is still criteria that needs to be met in order to be deemed eligible.
Every case is carefully assessed, full medical histories are completed, and a comprehensive understanding of all existing treatments – medications, vitamins and everything else – is compiled before any recommendations are made. This level of critical assessment is essential to ensure that any treatments are safe and provide optimal results.