With such a wide variety of cannabis strains and products at your disposal – not to mention the same strains cultivated by different growers – keeping track of each one is a feat for the human brain in and of itself. But as a medical cannabis patient, finding the right strain and dosage to treat your condition involves some trial and error. So, why not get your experiments down on paper?
A health and wellness journal is an important tool for first-time and seasoned medical cannabis patients alike. Tracking the effects, consumption, delivery methods, and strength of various products over time can help you fine-tune your medical experience and sniff out what works best. Need more convincing or tips on where to start? Here’s how to journal your way to optimal treatment.
Why Is a Journal So Important?
At the most basic level, a cannabis journal can track your likes and dislikes – but it can also reveal patterns. Perhaps you experience paranoia only on days you consume coffee, or cottonmouth after eating salty food. Without recording the details, these connections won’t necessarily present themselves as obvious. Sharing them with a Patient Advocate or a doctor can also reveal patterns you might have missed and further inform their recommendations.
It's not just for cannabis. Journaling in general can improve your overall health and wellness, too. Studies show a journal can help boost creativity, self-confidence, and even your IQ.
How to Get Started
The hardest part of keeping a journal, as most people know, is sticking to it. To make the commitment painless, keep it convenient and consistent. This means regulating four key points: what you take, when you take it, what you write, and when you write it.
Since so many personal and environmental factors can affect the outcome of a cannabis experiment (you may respond differently at various times of the day or after a meal, for example), it’s important to standardize all tests – that is, to use the same dosage and consumption method at the same time, every day, under the same conditions. This consistency will give you the most accurate and reliable comparison of results.
In terms of standardizing your journal, first think about your medium. Perhaps you’d prefer to write longhand, make quick memos on your phone, or use a journaling app like Budfolio. Next, consider what time of day you’d like to write and how long to spend on each entry. Finally, try to include the same information in each entry every day – even on days you don’t consume any cannabis – so you can compare conditions with and without medication.
So what should you be writing about? Here are useful items most patients can include:
- The basics: Start with the date, time, and amount of cannabis in grams or milligrams.
- Strain: Record the name of strain as well as indica, sativa, or hybrid. Include other identifiers, if any, such as the strain number, brand, and dispensary you purchased the product from.
- Form: Record the type of cannabis, whether a flower bud, concentrate or extract, tincture or spray, topical, or edible.
- Content: If known, note the percentages of CBD, THC, and CBN.
- Delivery method: Record exactly how you consume the cannabis. If inhaled, for example, was the cannabis smoked or vaporized?
- Motivational factors: List any motivations for taking your medicine at this time and the symptoms you want to treat.
- Setting: Note your location, your position (sitting, standing, or lying down), what you are doing, and who you are with. Were there any activities or circumstances leading up to taking your medicine?
- Food and water intake: Note anything else you recently consumed – including coffee, tea, or alcohol – and whether less or more than usual.
- Other medications: If you’re taking any supplements or medications besides cannabis, list those.
- Overall health: Record your sleep quality and physical activity. Fitness- and sleep-tracking apps, such as Sleep Cycle, can help.
- Mood: Observe your state of mind before and after use, and be sure to note anything out of the ordinary. If you’re experiencing anxiety, is the feeling especially pronounced? Have you noticed any hormone changes?
- Effects: Record therapeutic effects (physical, mental, social, and behavioral), negative effects (if any), and your likes and dislikes about the experience.
- Response time: Record this at four stages – when you first feel relief, the peak of relief, when the feeling starts to taper off, and when it’s gone.
You may not need to record everything on this list, and you may find more to add. Does music affect your experiences, for example? Just like your medication, your journal is yours to manage as you see fit, so feel free to modify as you go.
Either way, your journal doesn’t need to be complicated or drawn-out. Just a simple log kept for long enough to find the right strain, maybe only a few weeks, will be useful for you, your doctor, and your budtender. Once you have everything on paper, you can reflect on your treatment and anything that needs to change. The goal isn’t just deciding which product best relieves the symptoms of your health condition – ultimately, it’s making everything about the experience as comfortable as possible.