Cannabis and Food

24 May 2019

Why is an edible high different than smoking?

The delectable science behind 11-hydroxy-THC

By Mell Green

The many foods that have been innovated by cannabis infusion today clearly show that, cannabis consumption is evolving. But, if you’re inexperienced, you may want to delve deeper into what cannabis edibles have to offer. Can consuming edibles get you higher? Well, that all depends on the dose, your own metabolism and how they are administered. Yet, there’s still a fundamental difference between the high you get from smoking or vaping cannabis and eating cannabis laced goodies. In this article, we are going to explain the differences between the high you get with inhaled cannabis versus psychoactive snacks.

The work of THC in flowers vs. edibles

One key ingredient in cannabis is THC (delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol). This is the cannabinoid that gets you high through its interaction with certain neurotransmitters found in your brain.

When smoking cannabis, delta 9-THC journeys through the lung capillaries and into the bloodstream, finally making its last stop in the brain. Although the lungs filters some delta 9-THC, over fifty percent of what’s left of the cannabinoid will cross the blood-brain barrier, making you high.

On the other hand, the metabolic process of ingesting edibles is different. Delta 9-THC first travels through the stomach and then to the liver, where delta-THC gets metabolized and converted into a chemical called 11-Hydroxy-Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (usually referred to as 11-hydroxy-THC). The effect of 11-hydroxy-THC is said to be far more psychedelic than that of delta 9-THC and the key to understanding the difference in effects between edibles versus smoking.

The chemical structures of both Delta-9-THC and 11-Hydroxy-THC at Coffeeshop Guru

Why do we need decarboxylation for edibles?

To experience a high, cannabis must always be ‘activated’ or decarboxylated (science jargon for “heated”, resulting in the the loss of a carbon dioxide (CO2) molecule, converting THCA into it non-acidic form THC) before consumption can commence. This actually happens every time you put your flame up to a packed bowl or squeeze the button on your vaporizer. And when it does, the non-psychoactive compound THCA contained in dried cannabis (like the kind you buy at dispensaries) gets converted into THC and delivered directly to the bloodstream. So, just like smoking, decarboxylation is the only way edible lovers can get the most out of their cannabis before chowing down.

Cannabis edible cakes by The Spacetry and Amsterdam Genetics at Coffeeshop Guru
Delectable space cakes by Amsterdam Genetics Spacetry from Amsterdam. Image courtesy of Amsterdam Genetics Spacetry

The differences between smokables and edibles

Between smoking flowers and eating them, there’s a clear difference in their individual effects. If you’ve only ever smoked cannabis or only ever ingested it, you better believe there’s a big difference between the two highs.

Differences in absorption

In comparison to inhaling cannabis, why are cannabis edibles are so much more potent? As mentioned earlier, ingested THC gets metabolized by the gastrointestinal tract (GI) and liver (primarily through the cytochrome P450 system) where it is converted into 11-hydroxy-THC. This process results in a longer-lasting and more intense high, compared to inhaled THC, where Instead of traveling through the stomach and liver, THC travels directly to the brain. This explains why cannabis’ effect, when smoked, comes on fast.

Dosing difficulty

With smoking, if you don’t feel enough, you can take another hit or two. If you feel too much, you can stop and let the effects pass, making dosing a much easier task. As for edibles, they’re a little trickier. Everyone has a unique metabolism and digestion process, but it’s the initial delay of effects and relatively long onset that causes a person to go overboard ingesting THC. This can be overwhelming enough for people to turn away from edibles forever.

Effects and time frame

When you inhale cannabis — whether it be smoking or vaping — you receive a potent blast of cannabinoids almost instantly. However, when ingesting cannabis treats, smaller amounts of cannabinoids are delivered to the bloodstream over a longer period of time. Because of the particular way edibles get metabolized in the body, effects can take 1-2 hours to kick in and once they do, one best prepare for a several-hour stone. As for smoking cannabis, the effects typically peak within 20-30 minutes and diminish after 2-3 hours.

A beautiful cannabis infused pastry by The Spacetry from Amsterdam at Coffeeshop Guru
An other beautiful cannabis infused pastry by Amsterdam Genetics Spacetry.

All in All

There are far more than stereotypical recipes for edibles out there, other than your typical brownies and other baked things. These days, you can combine cannabis with whatever dish that comes to mind. Whatever you do, be mindful and try to remember these few things when it’s time to chow down some cannabis-laced treats.

Tip: where to find the best edibles in Amsterdam

While there are a lot of edibles available in Amsterdam, few compare to those from Amsterdam Genetics Spacetry (see what they did there – spacecake x pastry). The secret to their success? A Michelin star pastry chef and a passion for quality. It’s not surprising these artisan cannabis-infused treats won 1st place for Best Edibles at the Jack Herer Cup. From decadent brownies, moreish cakes, carefully crafted tartlets, and indulgent THC infused chocolate; these guys are really taking the edibles game to a new level. The only downside – they look to good too eat.

A pastry chef at Spacetry preparing a new batch of cannabis infused edibles Coffeeshop Guru
Image courtesy of Amsterdam Genetics Spacetry

You can keep up to date with Amsterdam Genetics Spacetry’s latest creations on Instagram.

Or, better yet, stop by any of these coffeeshops to pick up your own mouth-watering treat:

Boerejongens

Tweede Kamer

Ballonnetje

DNA

Relax

Regine

Takeaway (Haarlem)

Post author
Mell Green
Mell Green is an enthusiast of all things cannabis and writes content that represents some of the best things that we as a people can strive for: good health and happiness.
See more from Mell Green

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