Why Do Edibles Hit Way Harder Than Smoking? Unraveling the Mystery Behind Cannabis Potency
Why Do Edibles Hit Way Harder Than Smoking? Unraveling the Mystery Behind Cannabis Potency
Cannabis has been used for both recreational and medicinal purposes for centuries. With its growing acceptance and legalization in many places, various consumption methods have emerged, including smoking, vaping, and edibles. If you’ve ever tried both smoking and consuming edibles, you might have noticed a significant difference in their effects. While smoking provides a more immediate high, edibles can hit way harder and take longer to kick in. In this blog, we will explore the science behind this phenomenon and understand why edibles can be much more potent than traditional smoking.
When THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is consumed, it undergoes metabolism in the liver, where it is converted into its active metabolite known as 11-hydroxy-THC (11-OH-THC).
After you consume THC through smoking, vaping, or ingestion of cannabis-infused products, it enters your bloodstream and is carried to the liver. In the liver, it undergoes a process called first-pass metabolism, during which an enzyme called cytochrome P450 (CYP450) converts THC into 11-hydroxy-THC.
11-hydroxy-THC is considered to be more potent than THC itself and can produce stronger effects when it crosses the blood-brain barrier and interacts with the brain’s cannabinoid receptors.
The conversion of THC to 11-hydroxy-THC is one reason why edibles (cannabis-infused food products) can have different and sometimes more intense effects compared to smoking or vaping cannabis, as the THC is processed by the liver before reaching the brain. This difference in metabolism and potency can lead to variations in the onset time and duration of effects between different methods of cannabis consumption.
- Understanding THC Metabolism: When THC is inhaled through smoking or vaping, it enters the body through the respiratory system. The smoke or vapor containing THC is absorbed by the lungs’ numerous tiny air sacs, called alveoli. These alveoli have a large surface area, which facilitates the rapid transfer of THC into the bloodstream.
Once in the bloodstream, THC quickly travels to the brain, where it interacts with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a complex network of receptors and neurotransmitters that plays a crucial role in maintaining various physiological processes, including mood, pain sensation, appetite, and memory. THC primarily binds to CB1 receptors in the brain, producing the characteristic euphoric “high” associated with cannabis use.
On the other hand, when THC is consumed in the form of edibles, it must pass through the digestive system before reaching the bloodstream. The edible, such as a cannabis-infused brownie or gummy, first enters the stomach. The stomach acid starts breaking down the edible, but most of the THC remains intact during this process.
From the stomach, the partially digested edible moves to the small intestine, where the majority of THC absorption occurs. Here, THC molecules are carried across the intestinal lining and into the portal vein, a blood vessel that leads directly to the liver.
The liver is a vital organ that performs various metabolic functions, including drug metabolism. When THC reaches the liver, it undergoes a process called first-pass metabolism. The primary enzyme responsible for this metabolism is cytochrome P450 (CYP450).
During first-pass metabolism, THC is converted into its active metabolite, 11-hydroxy-THC (11-OH-THC). This metabolite is significantly more potent than THC itself and has a different binding affinity to the brain’s cannabinoid receptors. As a result, the effects of 11-hydroxy-THC can be more intense and longer-lasting than those of THC.
After this conversion, both THC and 11-hydroxy-THC enter the general circulation and travel to the brain. Once in the brain, 11-hydroxy-THC binds to CB1 receptors more effectively than THC, contributing to the increased potency of edibles.
The entire process of digestion, liver metabolism, and transportation to the brain takes time, which leads to a delayed onset of effects when consuming edibles. The effects typically begin to be felt within 30 minutes to 2 hours after consuming an edible, depending on various factors such as individual metabolism, the content of the edible, and whether it was taken on an empty or full stomach.
Overall, the difference in THC metabolism between smoking and consuming edibles accounts for the variations in onset time, duration, and potency of the high experienced by cannabis users. It’s essential for individuals using edibles to be patient, cautious with dosing, and mindful of the delayed effects to avoid overconsumption and ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.
- The Liver’s Role: Edibles are processed in the digestive system and then absorbed into the bloodstream through the gastrointestinal tract. Before reaching the brain, THC passes through the liver, where it undergoes a process called first-pass metabolism. In the liver, an enzyme called cytochrome P450 (CYP450) converts THC into 11-hydroxy-THC (11-OH-THC), a more potent metabolite.
I. Digestion and Absorption: When you consume cannabis edibles, they first enter the digestive system. The edible may be in the form of a brownie, gummy, cookie, or any food infused with THC. Once ingested, the edible travels down the esophagus and enters the stomach. In the stomach, the edible is mixed with gastric juices, including stomach acid, to begin the process of breaking it down.
II. Intestinal Absorption: After partial digestion in the stomach, the edible moves into the small intestine. The small intestine is where the majority of nutrient absorption occurs in the body. It has a vast surface area lined with tiny finger-like projections called villi and microvilli. These structures increase the surface area available for nutrient absorption.
III. The Portal Vein and Liver: As the partially digested edible reaches the lining of the small intestine, THC and other cannabinoids are released. From here, they enter the portal vein, a blood vessel that carries the absorbed nutrients and compounds to the liver. The portal vein connects the gastrointestinal tract directly to the liver, allowing the liver to process and filter the absorbed substances before they reach the rest of the body.
IV. First-Pass Metabolism: Once THC enters the liver, it undergoes a process known as first-pass metabolism. The primary enzyme involved in this metabolic process is cytochrome P450 (CYP450). CYP450 enzymes play a crucial role in metabolizing various substances, including drugs and toxins.
V. Conversion to 11-Hydroxy-THC: In the liver, THC is metabolized by CYP450 enzymes into its active metabolite, 11-hydroxy-THC (11-OH-THC). This metabolite is more potent than THC itself and has a different chemical structure, which affects its interaction with the brain’s cannabinoid receptors.
VI. Binding to Cannabinoid Receptors: After the conversion to 11-hydroxy-THC, both THC and 11-OH-THC continue their journey through the bloodstream. They eventually reach the brain, where they interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS consists of cannabinoid receptors, primarily CB1 and CB2 receptors. THC and its metabolites, including 11-OH-THC, bind to these receptors, producing various physiological and psychoactive effects.
VII. Increased Potency of 11-Hydroxy-THC: The conversion of THC to 11-hydroxy-THC in the liver contributes to the increased potency of edibles compared to smoking or vaping cannabis. This is because 11-OH-THC has a higher affinity for CB1 receptors in the brain, leading to more pronounced and potentially longer-lasting effects.
VIII. Delayed Onset and Duration of Effects: Due to the additional steps involved in digestion, liver metabolism, and transportation to the brain, the effects of edibles take longer to be felt compared to smoking or vaping. The onset of effects typically ranges from 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on various factors such as individual metabolism, the content of the edible, and whether it was taken on an empty or full stomach. Additionally, the effects of edibles may last several hours due to the prolonged action of 11-hydroxy-THC in the body.
The liver plays a crucial role in metabolizing THC when consuming edibles. The process of first-pass metabolism leads to the conversion of THC into the more potent 11-hydroxy-THC, resulting in stronger and longer-lasting effects. Understanding this process helps users of cannabis edibles make informed decisions about dosing and timing to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.
- Potency of 11-Hydroxy-THC: Unlike THC, which can reach the brain relatively quickly, 11-hydroxy-THC takes more time to cross the blood-brain barrier. However, when it does, it binds more effectively to the brain’s cannabinoid receptors, resulting in a stronger and potentially longer-lasting high.
I. Metabolism of THC to 11-Hydroxy-THC: As mentioned earlier, when THC is ingested through edibles, it undergoes first-pass metabolism in the liver, where it is converted into 11-hydroxy-THC (11-OH-THC). This conversion occurs through enzymatic reactions mediated by cytochrome P450 enzymes.
II. Crossing the Blood-Brain Barrier: Unlike THC, which can rapidly cross the blood-brain barrier and reach the brain soon after being inhaled through smoking or vaping, 11-hydroxy-THC takes more time to pass this protective barrier. The blood-brain barrier is a semi-permeable membrane that separates the bloodstream from the brain tissue. It acts as a defense mechanism, preventing certain substances, including many drugs, from freely entering the brain.
III. Lipophilicity and Brain Penetration: The ability of a compound to cross the blood-brain barrier depends on its chemical properties. 11-hydroxy-THC is more lipophilic (fat-soluble) than THC, which means it can dissolve more easily in fats and oils. This enhanced lipophilicity allows 11-hydroxy-THC to traverse the blood-brain barrier more effectively than THC, despite the delayed onset.
IV. Binding Affinity to Cannabinoid Receptors: Once 11-hydroxy-THC reaches the brain and enters the central nervous system, it interacts with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a complex network of receptors and neurotransmitters involved in regulating various physiological processes. The primary receptors of the ECS are CB1 and CB2 receptors, with CB1 receptors being more abundant in the brain.
V. Increased Potency and Duration of Effects: 11-hydroxy-THC has a higher binding affinity to CB1 receptors in the brain compared to THC. This increased affinity allows 11-hydroxy-THC to bind more strongly and activate these receptors more effectively. As a result, the effects of 11-hydroxy-THC can be significantly stronger and more potent than those of THC, leading to a more intense and potentially longer-lasting high.
VI. Prolonged Duration of Action: The delayed onset and the increased potency of 11-hydroxy-THC contribute to the longer-lasting effects experienced with edibles compared to smoking or vaping. When THC is inhaled, its effects are relatively short-lived, as it is rapidly cleared from the body. However, 11-hydroxy-THC has a slower elimination rate, resulting in effects that can last for several hours after consuming edibles.
VII. Variability in Individual Response: It is essential to recognize that individual responses to cannabis and its components, including THC and 11-hydroxy-THC, can vary widely. Factors such as an individual’s metabolism, tolerance, and overall sensitivity to cannabinoids influence the intensity and duration of the effects experienced.
The potency of 11-hydroxy-THC arises from its ability to effectively cross the blood-brain barrier and bind strongly to CB1 receptors in the brain. This results in a more robust and potentially longer-lasting high when compared to the effects of THC alone. Understanding the differences between THC and 11-hydroxy-THC helps individuals using cannabis edibles make informed decisions about dosage and timing to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.
- Delayed Onset and Long-Lasting Effects: The metabolism of THC into 11-hydroxy-THC is a time-consuming process, leading to a delayed onset of effects when consuming edibles. It can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours for the effects to be felt, depending on factors such as individual metabolism, the content of the edible, and whether it was taken on an empty or full stomach. Additionally, due to the potency of 11-hydroxy-THC, the effects of edibles can last much longer compared to smoking.
I. Digestive Process and Liver Metabolism: When you consume cannabis edibles, the THC within the edible is absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract during digestion. Once the THC enters the bloodstream, it is transported to the liver. In the liver, THC undergoes first-pass metabolism, where it is converted into 11-hydroxy-THC (11-OH-THC) by the action of cytochrome P450 enzymes.
II. Delayed Onset of Effects: The process of digestion and liver metabolism takes time, leading to a delay in the onset of effects when consuming edibles. Unlike smoking or vaping, where THC reaches the brain relatively quickly, edibles can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours before the effects are felt. This delay can be attributed to the series of steps involved in breaking down the edible, absorption through the digestive system, and the liver’s conversion of THC into its more potent form, 11-hydroxy-THC.
III. Factors Affecting Onset Time: The time it takes for the effects of edibles to be felt can vary based on several factors. Individual metabolism plays a significant role, as people have different rates of digestion and absorption. The content of the edible, including the amount of THC and other cannabinoids, can also influence the onset time. Consuming edibles on an empty stomach may lead to faster absorption compared to consuming them with a meal.
IV. Long-Lasting Effects: The effects of edibles can last much longer compared to smoking or vaping cannabis. This is due to the unique properties of 11-hydroxy-THC, the metabolite formed during liver metabolism. 11-hydroxy-THC has a higher binding affinity to cannabinoid receptors in the brain, resulting in stronger and longer-lasting effects. Additionally, 11-hydroxy-THC is eliminated from the body at a slower rate compared to THC, contributing to the extended duration of action.
V. Potential for Overconsumption: The delayed onset of effects with edibles can lead some individuals to mistakenly believe that they haven’t consumed enough, leading them to take additional doses too soon. This can result in overconsumption and an intense high that may be uncomfortable or overwhelming. It is crucial for users to be patient and avoid the temptation to take more edibles before the effects are fully felt.
VI. Importance of Proper Dosing: Given the variability in individual responses and the prolonged effects of edibles, proper dosing is essential. Start with a low dosage, especially if you are new to edibles or have not consumed them in a while. Allow enough time for the effects to be felt before considering taking additional doses. Gradually increase the dosage if needed, based on your tolerance and experience.
The delayed onset and long-lasting effects of edibles are a result of the time-consuming process of metabolizing THC into 11-hydroxy-THC in the liver. Understanding these aspects of edibles is crucial for responsible consumption and ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience. Be patient, dose carefully, and be mindful of individual differences to fully appreciate the unique effects that edibles offer compared to other forms of cannabis consumption.
- Dosing Challenges: One of the reasons why edibles can sometimes lead to an overwhelming experience is the difficulty in accurately dosing THC. In contrast to smoking, where effects are felt almost instantly, users of edibles may consume more than intended while waiting for the effects to kick in. This lack of immediate feedback can result in an unexpectedly intense high.
- Variability in Effects: The potency and effects of edibles can vary widely from person to person due to differences in metabolism, tolerance, and individual body chemistry. It’s essential to start with a low dosage and be patient when consuming edibles to avoid unpleasant experiences.
Conclusion: At Green Gold Healing Herbal Apothecary, we want our customers to understand the significant difference in potency between edibles and smoking, attributed to the liver’s conversion of THC into 11-hydroxy-THC. As a reputable herbal apothecary, we take pride in offering cannabis edibles that provide a more powerful and longer-lasting high, while acknowledging the challenge of delayed onset and dosing complexities.
With our commitment to customer safety and satisfaction, we encourage cannabis users to be well-informed when making consumption choices. Understanding the unique effects of edibles can help you make responsible decisions and have a more enjoyable experience. Whether you prefer smoking, vaping, or edibles, we invite you to explore the diverse range of products we offer.
Visit our Green Gold Healing Herbal Apothecary located at 5148 Hwy 60 Dover, FL 33527, or explore our website at https://greengoldhealing.com/shop to discover our premium selection of cannabis-infused products and herbal remedies. Our knowledgeable staff is here to assist you in finding the perfect options that align with your preferences and needs.
Remember, responsible consumption and knowing your limits are essential aspects of a positive cannabis experience. We strive to provide our valued customers with safe and high-quality products, so you can confidently embark on your cannabis journey with us. Happy exploring!