Cannabis flower vs cannabis oil: how do they compare?

Cannabis flower vs cannabis oil: how do they compare?
April 16, 2024
3 min read

Medical cannabis in Australia comes in two primary forms — flower and oil. Flower is the dried buds of the cannabis plant (commonly known as weed or marijuana), whereas cannabis oil is an oil-based extract of the plant designed for oral use. There are many differences in the effects of flower and oil which result from the method of ingestion and the active ingredients they contain. In this article we will cover the difference between cannabis flower and oil that you need to keep in mind as a new medical cannabis patient.

Cannabis flower vs cannabis oil: how do they compare?

Differences in potency

If you’ve been prescribed both flower and oil, you may have compared the cost per mg of THC in these products and found that oil is more expensive. This may not be an accurate comparison as THC varies in strength depending on whether it is taken orally or inhaled. This depends on your doctor’s prescription, but as an example, a 10mg dose of oral THC oil may alleviate symptoms for up to 8 hours. However, a 10mg dose of THC in flower form may be too small to lead to symptom reduction.

This difference in potency of flower vs oil may be due to the action of 11-HO-THC, a byproduct of THC metabolism. When THC in cannabis oil is swallowed, the body needs to convert the THC to 11-HO-THC before it can take effect, changing its pharmacology. 11-HO-THC is more potent than THC itself, which may help explain the differences in potency between flower and oil.

Some patients may experience more variation in the potency of oil than flower, as individual variations in stomach enzymes result in differences in medication strength. Enzymes are proteins in our bodies that help to break down drugs and other molecules. If a patient lacks the enzyme required to convert the THC in cannabis oil to 11-HO-THC for example, then cannabis oil may not be effective. Some patients may possess higher levels of these enzymes than others, potentially experiencing abnormally intense effects from oil. This lack of consistency is partly why flower is the most common dosage form of medical cannabis.

Differences in onset and duration

Cannabis flower and oil also differ in their time to onset and duration. Cannabis oil takes around an hour to absorb via the stomach, whereas vaporised flower takes effect almost immediately. Once it begins to work, inhaled flower has a shorter duration of effects compared to oral oil – around 4 hours for flower, vs 8 hours for oil.

Differences in effect

Flower and oil also exhibit differences in terms of their subjective effects. This is due to several factors. Oil is said to be a more sedating, “stoning”, and mind-altering experience than flower. This may be due to the effect of 11-HO-THC. This may mean that patients find THC oil more suitable for nighttime use, whereas certain strains of flower may be more appropriate for daytime use. Unlike oil, flower can sometimes result in a functional, clearheaded, and stimulating effect.

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The role of terpenes in cannabis: flower vs oil

Like with flower, terpenes may be found in cannabis oil. A quality full-spectrum oil will contain cannabis terpenes which have been reintroduced to the oil during processing. Often, cheaper oils contain botanically derived terpenes which do not come from the cannabis plant. Isolate products like CBD isolate do not contain terpenes.

It is thought that the terpenes which may be present in cannabis oil are not absorbed by the body as effectively as with inhaled flower. Patients report that oils  commonly feel very similar to one another. This means that the terpene profile and indica/sativa classification of oil is less important than it is with flower. When considering a cannabis oil, it is more important to take into consideration its cannabinoids, carrier oil, and cost.

Which is more expensive: oil or flower?

Because oil is a processed form of cannabis, it is generally more expensive per mg of active ingredient. However, care must be taken when comparing the price of flower and oil products as oral and inhaled THC are not equivalent in terms of potency. Some patients may find oil products to be better value, although recent advances in the affordability of flower have resulted in it becoming the most popular dosage form for budget-conscious patients.

We hope this article has cleared up any confusion about the differences between cannabis flower and oil. If you have any more questions about your prescriptions and these dosage forms, be sure to ask your prescriber. 

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Please note that this blog was not written by a licensed medical practitioner and therefore is not providing medical advice. We do not endorse the use of cannabis or any other illicit drugs. Like any medication, cannabis has potential negative side effects and should only be used under the guidance of a qualified medical professional. For the latest information on cannabis prescription and use, please visit the TGA website. If you are considering cannabis as a treatment option, we encourage you to consult with a licensed healthcare professional.

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