Cannabis-infused foods, drinks, tinctures, and capsules are all noteworthy types of cannabis edibles. Edibles are easy to ingest and provide long-lasting effects for recreational or medicinal use. Compared to smoking, edibles are used to avoid the odor, smoke, and potential negative health effects of smoking.
Edibles are made from marijuana flower or concentrate and infused into any consumable imaginable. They’re delicious and can give users an intoxicating buzz, so what’s not to love? Horror stories abound of consumers eating too much of the edible and experiencing strong discomfort for many hours thereafter. These are rare cases, however.
Edible consumption has also gotten much easier over the years. However, users still must approach eating cannabis-infused edibles with caution, even after the first time. Before you or someone you know prepares to snack on a weed-infused treat, consider this helpful guide on potency, dosage, and other little-known facts regarding these new and exciting cannabis products.
What are Cannabis Edibles?
Cannabis edibles can be any cannabis-infused food or drink. These products usually contain activated cannabinoids like THC or CBD. In raw cannabis flower, THC and CBD exist in their acid forms, THCa and CBDa, respectively. The act of heating and activating cannabis’ chemical compounds is called decarboxylation. This chemical transformation turns the previously THCa and CBDa compounds into THC and CBD, respectively.
The most popular types of edibles contain THC and induce a plethora of effects. Users have reported feeling euphoria, increased appetite, relief from their minor aches and pains, and other stress-relieving effects. While they can provide a satisfying experience, taking too much can lead to minor side effects.
History of Edibles
The history of edibles dates back to ancient Chinese texts that described describing people consuming cannabis as a tea. It’s very possible they consumed cannabis long before, too. In 1500 BCE on the Indian subcontinent, people would consume an edible drink known as “bhang.” Bhang contained ground cannabis flower and leaves, milk, spices, ghee, and other herbs. This potent narcotic was used for spiritual and medicinal purposes.
Cannabis edibles made their way to Europe where scholars like Bartolomeo Platina incorporated cannabis in his first cookbook published in 1474. Cannabis edibles were so popular that they were commonly used for medicinal purposes in America. They were sold as tinctures and eventually other cannabis-infused foods. Many people credit Alice B. Toklas in renewing interest in cannabis edibles, with her publication of “The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook” including recipes for pot brownies.
Types of Edibles
Legalization of cannabis in some countries and U.S. states paved the way for an enormous amount of cannabis-infused products lining dispensary store shelves including sparkling drinks, sodas, desserts, brownies, cookies, pizza, cooking oils, candies, and so much more. Some of these products are healthier than others, but all pack quite a punch.
- Baked goods and munchies are a great option for people that want a filling snack and a high potency product. Baked goods and other solid products infuse cannabinoids into the oil or butter making it easier to be absorbed into the body.
- Candies and mints are small, but effective marijuana edibles that can be used to feel light effects without the paranoia and anxiety. They usually come in 5mg servings or less. THC or CBD candies and mints are used by many to relieve stress and quell anxious thoughts. For faster absorption, users can suck on the candy or mint and absorb it under the tongue for a few seconds.
- Caramels and chewable edibles are deceptively small, but may contain a high amount of THC. They may have as high as 100mg THC in every bite. For a less potent experience, users can cut the sweet treat into smaller doses.
- Chocolates, gummies, and other delectable snacks are also great food options to satisfy your hunger and have some cannabis. They can contain as little as 5mg per dose allowing users to take as many as needed.
- Cannabis-infused drinks are harder to divide into smaller doses due, even with a measuring cup. Consider cannabis-infused drinks like hard alcohol. Serving sizes can range, but many drinks’ single serving size is under one-third of the container.
- Tinctures are typically alcohol-infused extracts that can be placed under the tongue or into any food or drink. Tinctures can have high concentrations of cannabinoids and can last for months stored in a cool, dry, and dark place in an airtight and UV-protected container. Tinctures can have a syringe-style or dropper tool to make consumption and dosing easy.
- Capsules are small pills of THC or CBD that can be taken instead of regular cannabis-infused food or drink. Capsules are pre-measured making it easy to dose every time. Additionally, capsules don’t contain excess sugar or fat that some people want to avoid.
How are Edibles Made?
Before munching on a cannabis-infused edible, users should consider the edible production process. Most edibles are made with raw cannabis material or distillate. Distillate extraction uses a wide variety of solvents that strip the therapeutic cannabinoids from the cannabis plant and remove the unnecessary organic material like lipids and waxes. What’s left is a flavorless and odorless oil that’s perfect for infusing into food and drinks.
Distillates are favored because the cannabinoids are decarboxylated during the extraction process. During the process, heat transforms the non-intoxicating THCa into the intoxicating THC. Certain extraction processed can produce cannabinoid crystals that have almost 100% of the cannabinoid. These THCa and CBDa crystals can be added into any food or drink for a high-free experience. When infused into oils or butter, the crystals will convert into THC or CBD.
Ingestion vs. Inhalation
Cannabis-infused edibles provide a completely unique experience from any other consumption method. Traditionally, cannabis consumers packed glass pieces or rolled up a joint with cannabis flower after grinding it into smaller pieces. Smoking and inhaling cannabis provides quick-acting effects, usually within a few minutes. Edibles’ effects, however, can take a few hours to kick in.
Edibles’ effects can last hours, even until the next day compared to smoking’s effects that can last at most a couple of hours. Edibles can also provide users with a considerably stronger THC experience compared with inhalation through smoking or vaporization. Smoking and vaporizing can get users high, but edibles produce a more potent body high. For first-time users, cannabis edibles may be overwhelming.
Benefits of Cannabis Edibles
There are many reasons to go with edibles over other consumption methods in certain cases. Health-conscious consumers or individuals with a medical condition can opt out of smoking or vaporizing and choose cannabis edibles like brownies or cookies for a similar experience. Inhalation can introduce toxic substances into the respiratory tract. Edibles provide a smoke-free and long-lasting experience. Other edible consumption benefits include:
- Accurate dosage
- Long-lasting effects compared to other consumption methods
- More body-centered high
- No equipment needed
- Ability to make homemade edibles to exact specifications
Onset of Effects
With the inhalation of cannabis, effects can be apparent within 15 minutes. Cannabis edibles, however, require a longer waiting period before any mental or physical effects are felt. Some users may feel effects after 30 or 45 minutes, while others may feel a tinge of something a couple of hours after finishing the edible. The time it takes to experience effects depends on a person’s metabolism and other factors.
On an empty stomach, the effects of edibles can be more pronounced. Edible effects have a long activation wait period because food and drink have to make their way down into the body’s small intestine where they are metabolized. Users are advised to wait at least a couple hours or more before taking another dose of edibles.
Some people suggest waiting 6-8 hours between the first dose and the second dose if it’s a person’s first time. That can help people gauge the effects and slowly add or decrease doses to achieve the desired effects.
Duration of Effects
Although edibles take long to kick in, the effects are worth the wait. The effects of cannabis-infused food or drinks can last 6 hours or more. Of course, the dose consumed dictates the strength of the experience. If a person consumes a large edible dose, they may even feel effects well into the next day.
The effects of the edible typically peak within the first 3 to 4 hours after consumption. Users that consume a high-dose of an edible can feel drowsy and tired or experience slight headaches. These mild side effects can be considered a weed hangover and generally subside on their own.
How are Edibles Broken Down in the Body?
Marijuana edibles like pot brownies or cookies have gained a reputation for leaving consumers glued to their couch content with a plentiful selection of munchies and entertainment. Edibles have a seemingly higher potency because of the way these products are digested and metabolized in the body.
During inhalation, cannabis compounds are absorbed in the lungs where they enter the bloodstream and reach the central and peripheral nervous system. Inhaled cannabinoid compounds bind to cannabinoid receptors throughout the body. The effects of inhalation can peak between 30 to 45 minutes after consumption with an experience that lasts just a few hours.
When cannabis-infused products are eaten, they go through the digestive system in the stomach and intestinal tract. Once there, cannabis compounds are metabolized by enzymes in the liver. The liver converts THC into its metabolite, 11-OH-THC. 11-OH-THC has a higher bioavailability than THC. Some research suggests it can be 4 times more available in the body than THC. 11-OH-THC can be more potent, stay longer in the body, and produce some sedative effects.
Will Edibles Make You Sick?
Some users may search the web for answers to the lingering questions “will edibles make me sick?” or “will edibles get me too high?” It’s hard to tell what’s truth from myth online. It’s normal to be fearful of consuming weed-laced cookies or brownies, but when taken responsibly and appropriately, edibles can provide a fulfilling experience.
Ingesting too many cannabis edibles too soon can produce uncomfortable effects like paranoia, anxiety, drowsiness, altered sense of time, red eyes, dry mouth, and other mild side effects. The negative effects of taking too much on the first time will eventually subside in a few hours. Cannabis edibles with THC are the main types of edibles responsible for overwhelming intoxicating responses.
Keep in mind, the effects of edibles take a couple of hours to begin after ingestion. Many users will become impatient and take more than they originally intended and not wait to gauge the effects of a single dose. They unwittingly believe that the more eaten, the faster the onset of effects. Because edibles can contain a lot of THC in a single bite, they can lead to overconsumption.
Although it’s technically impossible to overdose fatally on cannabis-infused edibles, overconsumption can lead to a brief period of cognitive and motor impairment that may put people in dangerous situations. High doses of edibles will definitely impair a person’s ability to function properly in an emergency. It’s important to consume edibles in a safe environment with a group of trusted friends, if possible.
How Do You Come Down Off Edibles?
Individuals that happen to consume too much too soon must remember that the effects will subside over the next few hours. When users have had too much in a single sitting, panic may start to set in, especially for people who are new to cannabis. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you’re wondering “how do I come off edibles?”
- Stay calm and breathe deeply. The effects aren’t going to last forever, although it may seem so at the time. Do whatever it takes to make yourself comfortable and stay in a positive mindset.
- Stay hydrated. Overconsumption of marijuana can cause very red eyes and dry mouth. It can be hard to remember to take a sip of water, but staying refreshed can make you feel invigorated and thirst-quenched.
- Don’t drink alcohol if you’re trying to reduce the effects of THC. Alcohol can increase the concentration of THC in the bloodstream and add another layer of intoxication that can extend your bad trip.
- Eat something, if needed. Remember to maintain your regular meals, or as close to regular as possible. A day without eating and edibles can be a recipe for disaster. Snacks, fruits, and nuts can be a quick way to satiate your hunger and not feel faint.
- Relax, meditate, or sleep. Meditation can put you in a better mindset to handle any anxious thoughts running through your head. Napping or sleeping can also help relax your body and mind and pass the time as you come down from the high.
- Do some movement or go out on a walk, with help, of course. If you’re feeling too incapacitated, don’t put yourself in more danger by going outside unattended or driving anywhere. Getting fresh air, however, can relieve any claustrophobic feelings and reduce stress levels.
- Take your mind off the negative effects by putting on your favorite type of music, stepping in a warm bath, taking a shower, painting, or doing some yoga.
- Although more research is needed, preliminary studies suggest CBD can mitigate some of the effects of THC such as anxiety and paranoia.
- Some studies suggest that ibuprofen could reduce the effects of THC within a couple of hours.
How Much Edibles Should You Eat?
The ideal amount of edibles is different for everyone. One person may be seeking relief for a chronic pain condition, while another may be looking for a stress-relieving experience after work. Before taking the first bite from a cannabis edible, individuals should determine their tolerance to THC and any other cannabinoid.
In order to determine tolerance levels, users should start slow with minute amounts of the edible. For novice users, they may choose milligram levels between 1 and 5mg of THC. For a more accurate dose, start at a small dose and wait an hour or two to feel the effects, if any are felt. A comfortable and friendly environment can also make a big difference in edible experiences.
Individuals that have consumed cannabis before can take a slightly higher dose between 5 and 10mg THC and wait a couple of hours before consuming the next dose. If users want to feel more pronounced effects, they can take an additional dose after one or two hours. Daily cannabis users can even take 100mg and beyond, in some cases, for strong and long-lasting relief.
What are Edible Doses?
In a dispensary, cannabis flower is listed with its cannabinoid content as a percentage. Different cannabis cultivars, also known as strains, have varying THCa and CBDa concentrations that convert to THC and CBD when heated. The highest strains of flower will have between 20% and 30% THC levels, sometimes more. Edibles measure their potency differently.
Edibles measure potency in milligrams. Cannabis edible packaging will feature a label listing the number of cannabinoid milligrams in the product as well as serving sizes. For example, a cannabis chocolate bar can have 100mg THC. Users that only want to take a 10mg dose can cut the piece into 10 doses to make ten 10mg doses.
Besides THC-rich edibles, there are plenty of other products with varying CBD:THC ratios. Products may feature 1:1, 2:1, 4:1, 20:1, and other CBD:THC ratios, each with their own level of effects. Ratios with a higher level of CBD won’t be as psychotropic as edibles with high levels of THC and minimal CBD. CBD edibles without any THC won’t produce any intoxicating effects.
When taking CBD:THC edibles, the level of intoxication depends on the amount of THC consumed. Regardless of how much CBD the edible contains, the mental and physical effects will be based on THC. First-time users can benefit from trying out CBD-rich edibles before trying THC edibles.
How to Find the Right Edible Dose for You
Finding the right dose of edibles depends on personal preference and experience. There are many factors to consider when buying an edible including price, potency, quality, and taste. For individuals with a budget, cannabis-infused caramels or candies can provide a quick way to try edibles for an affordable price between $1 to $5. Higher potency and filling treats can cost between $10 and $20 and upwards. There is no perfect edible for everyone. It’s all about experimentation.
Individuals who aren’t familiar with smoking or eating cannabis should begin with very small amounts of THC-infused edibles, between 2 to 5mg. For stronger effects, users can take 5 to 10mg. For a completely buzzing experience, new users can take 10 to 15mg.
Moderate smokers and cannabis users can start off with 5 to 10mg THC for mild effects. 10 to 15mg THC will provide slightly stronger effects and 15 to 20mg THC will leave users properly stoned. Heavy or chronic cannabis users may want to start with edible doses between 10 to 15mg. For a medium dose, daily users should try 15 to 20mg, and for a heady response, they should go for 20 to 30mg THC.
Novice users are cautioned to take very small doses of THC edibles. Edibles or doses smaller than 5mg are considered microdoses. Microdosed edibles can help new users gauge how each dose affects them and decide if they want to add to their initial dose for stronger effects. Microdosing also helps some relieve their anxiety and boost their creativity due to the slight, almost unnoticeable, intoxicating response.
How to Make Cannabis Edibles
Cannabis edibles are made using cannabis-infused oils and butter. Cannabis cooks can use dry marijuana flower or concentrates at home and create a wide array of infusions. Cannabis compounds are fat-soluble. That means that they mix well with fats like butter, oil, and milk. Generally, cannabis is infused into these substances by mixing them and heating them under low heat for an extended period of time.
During the heating process, cannabis is activated and turned into THC or CBD. High temperatures can risk burning and evaporating cannabis compounds. Low heat helps preserve these compounds for consumption. Users recommend cooking with cannabis at temperatures below 340ºF. The heat extracts the cannabinoids into the fat carrier.
After a few hours, the cannabis material is strained from the fat leaving the cannabis-infused oil or butter. One of the more difficult parts of cooking with cannabis is knowing how much cannabis to use. Many cannabis cooks use a 1:1 ratio of cannabis and fat. For example, 1 cup of butter will require 1 gram of cannabis. 1 gram is 1,000mg of cannabis. Users can tweak the ratio as desired and must consider the THC percentage in their original cannabis strain to calculate how much weed they’ll need.
Due to the high probability of overconsumption, many states have enacted regulations on edibles. States have specifically instituted THC limits to reduce the number of emergency room visits. Some states have even restricted the types of edibles allowed for consumption. In Colorado, edibles are prohibited from being shaped like humans, animals, fruits, cartoons, or anything that can be mistaken for traditional candy.
In Oregon, edibles sold for recreational use are limited to 50mg THC per package. Medical marijuana dispensaries, however, don’t have limits on edible potency. California has a 100mg THC limit for adult use and edibles must have servings listed of no more than 10mg THC each.
Edible regulations are put in place to protect consumers and unwitting people who happen upon a delicious-looking food or drink. Edible packaging must have a warning label with clearly listed ingredients and milligram contents to help consumers dose appropriately.
Children and Pet Safety
Edible regulations can help reduce the cases of overconsumption but ultimately it’s up to consumers and brands to stay informed about the possible effects. For example, California’s poison control experienced 588 cases of minors who were accidentally exposed to cannabis in 2017. That was a steep increase from the year before that and experts believe the number will keep rising.
In order to protect kids and pets from accidental exposure to cannabis edibles or any other cannabis products, individuals should keep the products stored properly. Just like with alcoholic beverages, cannabis edibles should be stored on a high cabinet or locked drawer so that children and pets don’t accidentally happen upon them.
Consumers should keep their products in a childproof container away from their reach. Edibles should be kept in their original packaging to inform others that it is a marijuana-infused food. Unsuspecting people may believe it’s a regular food or drink without the original packaging. The packaging also provides users with dosing information, serving size, and ingredients.
Cannabis consumers have more edible choices than ever apart from brownies and cookies. Any food imaginable has been infused with different strains of cannabis to provide unique dining experiences. Some products have a strong cannabis aftertaste, while others do a good job of making the flavor. Depending on an individuals’ preference, cannabis edibles can be the best consumption method.
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