Edibles are a great option to administer medicine, but it’s important to know that the body responds differently to each mode of administration.
Consider these factors when taking edibles as opposed to smoking cannabis:
1) The effects of ingesting a cannabis infused edible takes longer to begin,
2) The effects can be stronger and more intense, and, 3) The effects can last longer.
The differences derive from how the body responds to cannabis when it is smoked as opposed to when it is ingested as an edible.
When smoking, THCA (non-psychoactive cannabinoid present in fresh bud) is immediately converted to THC when it is lit.
This process is called decarboxylation: (removing the (A) carboxylic acid from THC).
The THC is then absorbed in the smoke by the exposed blood vessels of the lungs. The effects of a puff can happen within minutes, even seconds.
Both smoking and taking edibles involve decarboxylation.
Edibles often have a manufacturing process when heat is applied with edibles before they are baked.
The effects of eating a cannabis infused edible take approximately 30-40 minutes to begin. This is because the medicine takes time to travel through the digestion process before entering the bloodstream.
The edible enters the stomach, is absorbed by the lining of the intestine, and then is shuttled to the liver where it’s metabolized.
When metabolizing an ingested edible, the liver converts THC to 11-Hydroxy-THC (11-OH-THC), which has greater affinity for the cannabinoid receptors and produces stronger effects.
This conversion by the liver of THC to 11-OH THC creates a stronger effect that can last 6-8 hours, as opposed to 2-3 when smoking.
When making an edible, cannabis flower is usually heated to about 220º F. This decarboxylates the THCA to THC. The decarboxylation produces the psychoactive “high”.
The process of heating cannabis is not necessary. THCA reduces pain and doesn’t create a “high”.
As patients report the desire to not get “high” when using cannabis, more and more products are being created that skip the decarboxylation process.
As well, CBD, an important molecule in the cannabis plant, is sometimes used instead of THC in order to reduce the high and still produce medicinal effects.