An Introduction To Marijuana Edibles: What You Should Know About Ingesting Cannabis
With all the options available to medical marijuana patients today, many are choosing to explore methods of medicating beyond the traditional pipe or paper.
Marijuana infused products, commonly referred to as ‘edibles’, provide another option to patients who cannot, or choose not to smoke their cannabis. Edibles come in many different varieties, including tinctures (alcohol and glycerin based extractions), cooking oils, premade desserts, drinks, snack foods, candies, and even chewing gum. There are even some companies that offer a “medicated” meals-on-wheels service for patients that cannot physically leave the house.
Edibles Provide A Safe Alternative To Smoking
Many patients believe that ingesting their cannabis is a healthier alternative to inhaling it because there is no exposure to carbon-rich smoke. Some patients, such as those on supplemental oxygen, turn to edibles when smoking is no longer an option. For patients with eating and digestive disorders, edibles are not only a great source of nausea-reducing CBD, but also a vital source of essential nutrients and calories. The same is true for cancer patients suffering from nausea caused by their treatments, and expecting mothers dealing with hyperemesis (morning sickness). A few patients choose edibles because they are a more discreet way to medicate, while others simply prefer the longevity of effects when ingesting cannabis compared to the fast-acting effects of smoking.
What conditions are edibles most recommended for?
Because most edibles (with the exception of alcohol tincture) are exposed to some kind of heat during the cooking process, many of the inactive cannabinoids such as THC-a and CBD-a, are converted to THC, CBD and CBN. The cooking process, as well as the high levels of THC found in edibles, work together to create the perfect treatment for many disorders, including chronic pain, muscle inflammation and spasms, autoimmune disorders, nervous system disorders, insomnia, and nausea (provided the patient is well enough to ingest the medication).
While anyone can enjoy the benefits of edibles, patients suffering from crohn’s disease, an autoimmune disorder of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract that affects as many as 700,000 Americans, find this method of medicating extremely beneficial. Because Crohn’s Disease occurs in the GI tract, edibles distribute useful active and inactive cannabinoids at the root of the problem, instead of having to rely on the bloodstream to carry them from the lungs.
Will ingesting cannabis affect me differently than smoking?
Yes, without a doubt. However, exactly what effect edibles will have on you depends on several factors: the type and potency of the edibles you are using, your tolerance, your body chemistry, and even how much you’ve had to eat. Because the effects of eating an edible differ greatly from the effects of smoking, many first time users are caught off guard by the stronger potency and long-lasting effects.
Despite CBD’s anxiety relieving properties, many people experience a heightened sense of anxiety and paranoia when they initially ingest an edible. This is caused by various factors, but tends to mostly deal with fact that most people are not used to ingesting cannabis yet and have feelings of uncertainty, which leads to anxiety and paranoia. This seems to fade away the more you eat them, and get used to the effects.
You see, when you smoke marijuana you only receive a small amount of the cannabinoids in each hit, although it will be felt instantly. Where as, edibles tend to hit you much more slowly. This allows the cannabinoids to be released in waves, as they are processed by the stomach and digested.
Learning to Classify Edibles Correctly
Though there are untold varieties of edibles available on the market today, they can all be split into three basic categories: those geared towards gastrointestinal uptake (digested through stomach), those geared towards oral uptake (through saliva), and a few that fit into a hybrid category that targets both. The most common edibles are geared towards gastrointestinal absorption. Any edible where the cannabinoids are absorbed through the stomach, like a brownie, cookie, cashew bar, or crepe falls into this category. These edibles tend to take longer to activate within the body (sometimes as long as two hours), but produce a longer-lasting effect (up to eight hours of relief).
On the flipside, edibles geared towards oral uptake can affect a patient almost immediately, but tend to wear off faster (within two to three hours). Edibles that you hold in your mouth for an extended period of time like suckers, lozenges, or tincture, fall into this category. Some items, such as drinks and chocolates fall into a hybrid category, because they are designed to be absorbed in both the mouth and the stomach. These edibles are a middle ground between oral and intestinal absorption, offering fast-acting relief (patients usually feel this type of edible within a half hour) that can last for four hours or more.
How do I know which edible is best for me?
When selecting an edible, it is very important to pay attention to the potency of the product. This will help you determine how much of the product to eat, as many edibles are designed to be split into multiple doses. However, the exact potency of an edible can be tough for a patient to determine because the strength of an edible depends on the potency of the product used to infuse it.
“Just like the old saying goes, you get out of it what you put into it, and the same is true for edibles. ie. A candy bar that contains five grams of shake or poor quality bud is not necessarily going to be stronger than one that has two grams of primo bud.”
Some manufacturers list their products in strengths such as 10x, 20x etc. Although these numbers help a bit with dosages (typically 5X per dosage, so 20X is 3-4 doses) it is impossible to determine exactly how much cannabis is in one of these products without asking. Other edible companies label their products with the amount of cannabis that is infused in grams. The problem with this, is that unless you know how potent that gram of marijuana was, there is no way for you to tell how potent the edible will be. The same goes for manufacturers who test their products for total cannabinoid content and list the number in milligrams (mg). These numbers can be misleading because they completely disregard the individual bioactive compounds in the plant (THC-A, THCV, CBD, CBN, CBG, etc).
Nonetheless, 30-100mg of active cannabinoids is considered a daily dose by most patients (depending on your experience). 10-30mg is a good place to start if you are brand new to ingesting cannabis. However, only you can determine what dosage works best for you, and this often requires experimenting with different potencies and types of edibles. Long story short, look for edibles that use quality ingredients and use the numbers on the packaging as a rough guideline. Never hesitate to ask your budtender about a product, they will be more than happy to give you advice on edibles (they will know best because they have probably tried all of them).
Are there any health risks associated with consuming edibles?
Unfortunately, because there is no solid system in place to oversee edible or infused products production, patients must exercise caution when purchasing edibles. Most states require nothing more than a commercial cooking license to sell to a dispensary.
“Although edibles companies are supposed to operate out of commercial kitchens, following all health and safety regulations, there is no entity currently in place to assure compliance with these regulations.”
In addition, the quality of the cannabis that is used to infuse dispensary-bought edibles is nearly impossible to determine. Some companies use edibles as a way to dispose of marijuana that otherwise couldn’t be sold; like buds heavily laden with spider mites or mold. Because of this, it is very important to get your edibles from a trusted source.
Patients with severe allergies are advised to use extreme caution when selecting edibles, as the kitchen could be contaminated with trace amounts of nuts, gluten, lactose, or even pet dander. All we can do now is cross our fingers and pray that our edibles aren’t coming from the kitchen of a crazy cat lady!
Edibles Help Patients With Cancer & Other Debilitating Illnesses
Edibles offer patients one more wonderful way to get medicated. They can be extremely beneficial to cancer patients undergoing radiation, as well as those suffering from debilitating illnesses of the stomach, nervous system, or muscular system. Edibles are not only a great tasting, safer alternative to smoking, but also a great way for patients to introduce high levels of certain cannabinoids to the system. They are allowing patients to treat their illnesses with more efficiency than ever before.