How do food products that contain cannabis (edibles) work? And what does an edible high feel like? Many people who are new to cannabis are asking these questions, and for good reason, because edibles generally have a longer and stronger effect than other consumption methods. We’ve brought together everything else you need to know for a positive experience with edibles in a guide.
It is indeed important to know how an edible might affect you and how long these effects will last. Such products therefore always bear a label that includes written warnings (such as “Don’t panic”), information on the recommended amount, how long before it takes effect and information on the composition of your edible.
What do edibles feel like?
The spectrum of cannabis effects is both large and varied. And it is highly personal. What might make one person totally spaced out, will barely have an effect on someone else. The interaction between the substance, the mind, the body and the environment of the user all play their part – a concept which is known as Set and Setting.
Having said that, the effects from consuming an edible can be quite different to smoking a joint. Edibles tend to focus more on physical effects that can result in a full-blown “couch-lock”. Another major difference lies in the onset and duration of the high. It can several hours for a brownie to kick in and the effect will last much longer than the effects of smoking or vaping.
This can make edibles ideal for patients, in particular patients experiencing chronic pains, or nausea. Many consumers, however, simply wish to see an immediate effect, regardless of whether they’re using the cannabis for medicinal reasons or as a stimulant. With cannabis edibles, the absorption process isn’t always time-efficient, but with a minimum of preparation, it can still be achieved: Plan in advance and ingest your edible with care, to achieve the desired effect.
How do edibles actually work?
Or more precisely: How do cannabinoids work? Your body processes cannabis in various ways, depending on the consumption method. The effects are pretty similar, differing in intensity and duration.
When you smoke cannabis, the smoke, which contains cannabinoids such as THC, goes straight into your lungs, where it encounters millions of alveoli covering the walls of the lungs. These alveoli absorb the cannabinoids and pass them into the bloodstream. They reach your brain within seconds and… ta-da! You get what you want.
When consuming edibles, there are two possible scenarios:
- When the cannabinoids are ingested directly and orally (especially sublingually, i.e. under the tongue) in more or less liquid form, they find their way straight into the bloodstream. This usually takes about 20 minutes.
- If the edible doesn’t dissolve in the mouth, it needs to be digested in order for your body to process it. More precisely, it needs to reach the small intestine and the liver.
As soon as it has arrived there, the fats in the edible are broken down and finally passed into the bloodstream to supply the body with nutrients, cannabinoids and other substances. This process can take 2 to 3 hours.
What types of edibles are there?
What edible is most suitable when? There is a big difference between 20 minutes and 2 hours, and this can also make the difference between whether you have a successful or a less successful day or night. You should therefore choose your edible carefully and for the precise experience you require.
1. Space cakes
“Space cakes” and other edibles consumed via the gastrointestinal tract are probably the most common type of edible. This includes all types of cakes, pretzels, cookies, biscuits and anything else that can otherwise be mixed, cooked or baked with cannabis (and not simply covered with it).
This type of edible has been valued by cannabis fans for decades. Is it due to the very easy production method or the fact that its own aroma can conceal the taste of cannabis perfectly, that some users prefer this disguised form? Whatever the case may be, this type of edible isn’t just very popular in the retail market, but also among average consumers who produce their own cannabis edibles.
These products take just as long to digest as other food products. The exact time depends on your individual metabolism: If it’s fast, you will notice the effect of a consumed edible after just one hour. If you have a slower metabolism, you may need to wait two to three hours before the desired effect kicks in.
2. Lollipops and other sublingual edibles
“Cannabis lollipops” and other sublingual edibles don’t show an immediate effect either, as you might expect from smoking, but they do act faster than the types of edibles described above. This includes lollipops and products consumed in a similar way, such as bonbons.
The main difference between these sublingual edibles and the edibles absorbed via the gastrointestinal tract lies in the fact that firstly, the cannabinoids are released directly into the mouth, from where they pass via the tissue into the bloodstream. However, no safe process exists for guaranteeing that a sublingual edible is ingested as efficiently as possible. What you can do, however, is ensure that it’s actually absorbed underneath the tongue. So make sure to give it enough time for dissolution.
Lastly, the efficiency of absorption depends on the technique used to add the cannabis to the edible, as well as its composition (whereby fats, alcohol and emulsifiers support the absorption process). Taking everything into account, the worst-case scenario is you won’t benefit as you might wish from the absorption via the roof of your mouth. But don’t get annoyed, but rather wait a little (a few hours) for the cannabinoids to reach your liver. Then you might still get what you wished for. And if you wish to experience an immediate medicinal effect without inhaling smoke, you can try vaporizing.
It should be pointed out here, however, that some edibles are also designed to be “hybrids”. This concerns those edibles that you can “suck” a little first, before they’re swallowed: chocolate, butter toffees, drinks etc. This way, you first take the cannabinoids orally whilst eating. Once they have been consumed, they still take the long route into the digestive system.
Why do edibles have such a strong effect?
The effects of a regular-strength edible are experienced more intensively than for any other type of cannabis absorption. The intensity of these effects largely depends on how much cannabis the edible contains and the form in which it occurs. If you want to have the best possible information about this specific parameter, we recommend asking your pharmacy, coffeeshop, dispensary or cookie-baking friend for it.
However, it isn’t just the dose that plays a role. Depending on the route of administration, cannabis is metabolised to different degrees in different parts of the body. In fact, when the main psychoactive cannabinoid THC finds its way into the human body through the stomach, it is metabolised into 11-Hydroxy-THC, which is considerably more effective.
11-Hydroxy-THC also has the property of working its way into the brain more easily and therefore producing a much stronger effect in consumers. The conversion rate is then particularly high when cannabis is eaten, but not when it’s smoked or vaporized. This is why edibles come first in terms of effectiveness!
The essential guide to consuming edibles
Warning: Off-the-shelf cannabis edibles can contain very high concentrations of THC. Even for regular consumers, they can prove excessively strong if consumed without sufficient information or hastily. Make sure that you check all points on this list prior to consumption!
- Read the label on your edible carefully
You probably aren’t used to reading labels on food products or other things you’ve bought. With edibles, on the other hand, it’s a general rule. The label contains information about the recommended amount and probably also about the strain of cannabis, the dose etc. If you have been given a home-made edible, ask your cookie-baking friend about it. Never underestimate the strength of the effects of edibles, even if you are an experienced user.
- No experiments on empty stomachs
Before enjoying an edible, consider eating a snack or even a meal. However, it is no longer recommended that you eat a lot whilst waiting for the edible to take effect. Depending on your individual metabolism, absorbed fats can enhance the effect (if you already have more experience with edibles, you can probably cross this point off the list).
As soon as you have decided on the quantity of edibles to be consumed, ingest it and wait at least 2 hours before consuming more. Bear in mind from the beginning that the consumption of edibles may be less effective at first. However, you shouldn’t consume any more until sufficient time has passed.
- Prepare for a strong effect
Cannabis consumption in the form of edibles results in a completely different experience than with a joint (see above). You might be better off staying at home or at least having a level-headed, trustworthy person with you if you do decide to go out.
Why do most unwanted side-effects of cannabis no longer occur in regular cannabis consumers? That of course is a question of the tolerance that regular consumers develop over time. However, effects such as paranoia or anxiety often disappear simply because they are undesirable to consumers. It’s a vicious circle: Someone takes cannabis for the first time with the worry that the unknown will become too powerful, which in turn results in precisely these anxieties and paranoia. If, on the other hand, you have a positive attitude, relax and remember that you’re surrounded by trustworthy friends, the cannabis will give you these positive feelings in return.
Are you an edibles expert? Do you know any other tips and tricks? Do you have any exciting memories of your first time consuming edibles? Tell us about it in the comments.
And don’t forget: Support novices by making sure they are able to enjoy their cannabis in a safe end friendly environment!
This article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult with your doctor or other licensed medical professional. Do not delay seeking medical advice or disregard medical advice due to something you have read on this website.