Edibles are food products that contain cannabis. The many forms of edibles include baked goods, candies, chocolates, and beverages. People can purchase ready made edibles, or make their own, such as oils, butters, brownies, and ice creams.
Edible cannabis products (edibles for short) are products containing cannabinoids that you eat or drink. Cannabinoids are chemical compounds found in cannabis that can affect your mind and body when consumed. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is a cannabinoid that makes an individual euphoric and intoxicated (or high). CBD (cannabidiol) is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid that might have some therapeutic benefit, although more research is needed to confirm its potential medical use.
There is a wide range of edible cannabis products. Although some edible cannabis products might look like normal food items, they are not food and are not intended to provide any nutritional value.
Edible cannabis products provide an alternative method of cannabis consumption to smoking andvaping. If you are interested in trying edible cannabis, here are seven things you need to know.
As recreational marijuana continues to become legal in more states, people are raising more questions about the effects of the drug on overall health. Smoking marijuana is one thing, but what about edibles—or consuming the drug in foods like brownies, gummies, muffins, doughnuts and even peanut butter? Here’s what you need to know about how cannabis impacts your body when you consume it in food.
How Cannabis Affects Your Body
Tetrahydracannabinol (THC) is the chemical substance in cannabis that acts on specific parts of your brain. Whether ingested or smoked, THC causes the brain to release dopamine, a chemical that elicits the sensation of pleasure or relaxation. Yet, it can also cause mood changes, depression, suicidal thoughts, memory issues and even disrupted learning.
Once ingested, THC enters the bloodstream and into the brain, where it activates the hippocampus and orbitofrontal cortex. This can impact your ability to form new memories and impair your ability to process information.
Some immediate effects can include:
- Bloodshot eyes
- Increased heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Impaired memory
- Changes in mood
- Altered sense of time
- Difficulty problem-solving
“Basic cannabis intoxication involves inappropriate laughter, unsteady gait and red eyes. But higher-concentration THC products, including edibles and drops, can cause extreme effects,” says Patrick M. Lank, MD, emergency medicine physician and medical toxicologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Dr. Lank’s research interests include novel substances of abuse and critical care of patients following overdose.
The concentration of THC in cannabis has been increasing over the past few decades, leading to a rise in cases of THC overdose. An overdose can cause nausea, vomiting, palpitations and alterations in behavior such as psychosis.
In some states with legalized cannabis, one problem has been the limited public understanding of edible products, which are food products infused with cannabis.
“While inhaled cannabis may reach peak effect within minutes, ingested cannabis may take up to four hours. A person may eat a pot brownie and not feel anything, so they eat another brownie, assuming they didn’t eat enough the first time. But, now the first edible is kicking in, and everything is coming to a head at once,” explains Howard S. Kim, MD, MS, emergency medicine physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Dr. Kim has studied the early impact of medical and recreational cannabis legalization in Colorado.
Additionally, children may see edibles and confuse them with sweets or gummies, which can lead to accidental poisoning. To prevent this from happening, Dr. Lank advises storing products in a safe location and calling poison control immediately if they are ingested by a child.
WHAT ARE CANNABINOIDS?
There are many things, such as terpenes, that can impact a person’s experience with cannabis. The single most significant thing to know before you buy edibles is about cannabinoids, though. Cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD, are the natural components of cannabis that interact with the human body. THC is mostly popular among recreational customers who want to enjoy the psychoactive effects, while CBD is typically associated with a general sense of wellness.
Cannabinoids can bind with multiple different kinds of receptors in the human body, and this interaction is primarily governed by how the cannabinoids are consumed. For example, when you smoke cannabis flower or vaporize concentrates, the cannabinoids are absorbed through the lungs. This introduces the cannabinoids to your bloodstream almost immediately, which is why the effects of vaping cannabis or smoking cannabis are so sudden.
HOW DO EDIBLES WORK?
Part of the reason edibles hit so differently is because they’re processed by your digestive system instead of your lungs. Vaporized THC can reach the bloodstream through your lungs almost instantly, but it takes a while to digest an edible. After the edible breaks down in your stomach for a little bit, the cannabinoids are processed by the organs in your digestive system. It’s at this point that you start to feel the effects of edibles.
HOW LONG DO EDIBLES TAKE TO KICK IN?
Most people say it takes about an hour or so for edibles to kick in, but that timing can vary significantly. There are a couple of factors that play into that:
- How Recently You’ve Eaten – If you have a cannabis edible for dessert after a large meal, it will take longer for the edible to be processed by your digestive system. When you eat cannabis edibles on an empty stomach, your body may be able to interact with the cannabinoids more quickly.
- Your Body Chemistry – People’s bodies sometimes perform certain functions at different rates. The speed and efficiency of your digestive system will affect how quickly edibles kick in and how much they affect you.
If you talk to a budtender about edibles, they may tell you to “start low and go slow.” In other words, start with a small serving size of your cannabis edible, then give it plenty of time before you eat more. Be mindful of how you feel at certain times until you get a better idea of your typical experience with cannabis edibles.
HOW LONG DO EDIBLES LAST?
Just as edibles take longer to kick in, many people say the effects stick around for a longer time. Your body may not be finished processing all of the cannabinoids for a few hours after you eat the edible. Once the amount of cannabinoids in your bloodstream has peaked, the effects will decrease gradually for the next few hours.
The effects you feel have a lot to do with how much THC is still active in your body, and eating more will make the time longer. Your metabolism will play a significant role in this, too. If you follow the classic advice of “start low and go slow,” you’ll be able to figure out how long the effects of edibles typically last for you.
HOW LONG DO EDIBLES STAY GOOD?
Just like any other kind of food, edibles will eventually go bad. If you make your own baked goods, they’re probably going to start getting stale after a few days. Most professionally-made edibles will come with plenty of accurate information on the package. It’s much easier to determine how long you have before your edibles expire this way.
Health benefits of edibles
Edible cannabis products typically provide the same benefits as other forms of cannabis. People ingest them to achieve certain effects, such as relaxation, or to treat medical conditions, such as chronic pain.
The effects of edibles depend on the dose a person takes. Typically, the effects increase as the dose increases. However, consuming too much cannabis through edibles is easy to do, and it can cause adverse effects, such as nausea and vomiting.