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Edibles are becoming more popular as more states across the U.S. start to legalize cannabis.
In fact, research from the industry data company, ArcView group, shows that the edibles market will hit $4.1 billion by 2022.
Popular edibles include caramels, chocolates, taffy, and mints. But consumers seem to prefer gummies most, according to BDSA, which found that infused gummies made up more than 80% of edible sales in states like California, Oregon and Colorado in 2020.
While legalization has allowed for more infusions to hit the market seemingly every day, humans have mixed cannabis into their food for centuries.
The History of Cannabis Edibles
Bhang, for example, has been prepared by Indians for almost half a millennium. In fact, it is still popular today. It is created by mixing a combination of cannabis, milk, yogurt, water, and species.
In addition to religious rituals and ceremonies, Bhang also plays a role in Ayurvedic medicine, reports Healthline. Ayurvedic medicine, which originated in India, connects the mind, body, and spirit. Bhang is mostly used in the practice for sleep, fever, headache, and appetite enhancement.
Modern Cannabis Edibles
While Bhang remains a popular way to consume cannabis, infused baked goods also started to become prevalent in America in the 20th century, thanks to the pot brownie.
According to Scientific American, Alice Toklas, the wife of novelist Gertrude Stein, coined the term “pot brownies” in 1954. She wrote a cookbook that contained various recipes on how to cook with cannabis. The Hashish fudge recipe was her most famous recipe.
Inhaling Versus Eating Cannabis
Edibles provide consumers with similar effects as smoking cannabis. However, the duration and bioavailability — the amount of THC absorbed in the body — is different.
According to research published in The American Society for Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics Journal, edibles take longer to affect users than smoking.
In that study, researchers gave 11 participants cannabis, which they either smoked, or ate in an edible form. Researchers found that edibles took extra time for the users to feel because the body had to first digest the cannabinoids. On the contrary, smoking entered the bloodstream of the subjects at once.
While it took more time for users who ate the edibles to feel the cannabinoids’ effects, the THC level in their system lasted longer than those who smoked.
Our bodies need to metabolize an edible in order to feel the effects of the cannabinoids it contains. When someone consumes cannabis-infused edibles, the digestive system carries the cannabinoids throughout the body. Our digestive system is made up of the stomach, small intestine, large intestine, liver, and pancreas.
During the process, the liver releases a protein called cytochrome. This metabolic enzyme allows the food to break down. The reaction of THC and cytochrome together forms a new substance in the body that does not occur if the cannabinoid is not present.
This reaction produces the new potent psychoactive substance, 11-OH-THC. Fat cells then carry it through the bloodstream and to the brain.
Based on RTI International Journal, the researcher’s experiment proved that 11-OH-THC is more intoxicating than THC. That said, cytochrome reacting with THC allows for a long-lasting effect.
Metabolism in the Mouth
Examples of sublingual edibles — or cannabinoids taken under the tongue— are oils, and tinctures. The main difference between the two sublingual edibles is the production process. While oils are extracted from the cannabis seeds and flowers, tinctures are extracted from the plant by using alcohol as the primary solvent.
Unlike other edibles which must pass through the digestive system before being absorbed, sublingual oils and tincture enter the bloodstream via the mucous membranes of the mouth.
The tongue and inner cheeks contain a dense concentration of capillaries in the mouth. According to the cannabis company, Dixie Elixirs, cannabinoids are delivered directly into the bloodstream immediately, making administration quick and easy.
The effects are much faster because there is no need for the digestive system to break down food molecules such as protein, fats, or carbohydrates.
Bioavailability is the rate at which the body absorbs cannabinoids and they take effect. It is vital to understand this because a user needs to be alert of how much he or she needs to consume to experience their desired effects.
According to a study in the journal of Pain Resolution Management, edibles have 4% to 12% of bioavailability when consumed. This means that of all the THC present in the edible, the user feels only 4% to 12% of its effects. Whereas smoking cannabis has a rate of 18% to 50%, making it about four to four and a half times more bioavailable.
Sublinguals, however, have a bioavailability rate of 4% to 20%.
How Long do Edibles Last?
One factor that influences how long the effects of edibles will last is the dose. Franjo Grotenheremen, the author of Pharmacokinetics and Pharmacodynamics of Cannabinoids, introduced other factors such as metabolism, weight, and diet intake that can vary from one person to another.
Typically, smoking cannabis releases cannabinoids like THC into the bloodstream, which reaches the brain in minutes. The potent effect that causes one to be high reaches its highest level of impact within 15 to 30 minutes and remains in the system for two to three hours.
On the other hand, Grotenheremen stated that cannabinoids in edibles take around 30 minutes to one hour to reach the brain. Effects can last up to 12 hours — or two to four times longer than smoked cannabis.
The edible experience tends to differ from other consumption methods. Edibles tend to take longer to take effect, but once they do, they last longer than smoking. Because of that, consumers need to wait for effects to set in before eating more. This will prevent users from experiencing an overwhelming high.
Some edibles can also be more potent than a typical joint. For example, the L.A. Times reports that an entire joint can contain 12 mg of THC. However a single cookie or gummy can contain 10 mg, 20 mg or more of THC, while a pack contains 100 mg+. It’s important to note that there are many micro-dosed edibles with 5 mg or less of THC available on the market. While a joint can contain more THC than one edible, users typically share it, or smoke it several sessions. Some edibles can be hard to resist, so users should be patient with effects, and consume edibles responsibly.