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Quality medical cannabis products come in all shapes and sizes. Part of your medical cannabis journey is discovering which dosage form works best for you. If you are like thousands of other medical cannabis users, then you may find that edibles are your preferred form of consuming medical cannabis for pain, lowering inflammation, helping you sleep, and more. Here is the 411 on what edibles are, how the cannabis within them may differ from other products, and how you can best consume them for your unique needs.
Edibles Overview: What are They?
Edibles are forms of medical cannabis that come as food and beverages. These consumables have been infused with THC, CBD, or both in distillate form or “full-spectrum” whole plant form as cannabutter, rosin or oil used to create a food product or beverage. Gelatinous cubes (gummies) and cannabis hard lozenges are technically edibles too, although most institutions categorize them on their own since they absorb into the body in a slightly different way than other edibles.
Either way, medical cannabis edibles are a great alternative to tinctures, capsules, patches, and inhaled forms of cannabis for many people.
Health Benefits of Edibles
Cannabis edibles made from distillate are when THC or CBD (or any of the cannabinoids) are stripped down to their molecular forms using solvents and other chemicals to extract the cannabinoid from the plant flower. Distillates can contain both cannabinoids and terpenes. On the other hand, edibles made with full-spectrum cannabis oil or butter are made from whole plants in the form of cannabis oil, cannabutter, or a substance called “rosin.” Rosin is whole plant matter that has been compressed using heat.
There are advantages and disadvantages of both types. The whole cannabis plant contains hundreds of other phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals in addition to terpenes and cannabinoids. This means that when you consume full spectrum edibles, you are getting all that other good stuff for your body as well. On the other hand, full spectrum edibles can be hard to come by and, because they are using the whole plant, tend to have a little bit of that “weedy” taste that can be a turn-off for a lot of people.
Edibles that are made with distillate, on the other hand, are easier to find and more cost-effective. Distillates are nearly tasteless so they are able to be blended into a baked good, for example, with less weedy aftertaste. Of course, the downside is the chemical residue that may be left behind from the distillation process.
Whether you choose full spectrum or distillate-made edibles, the cannabinoids in it will definitely produce therapeutic effects by interacting with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in your body. People around the country use edibles for the following common conditions:
There is also preliminary evidence that suggests that cannabinoids in edible form can help in treating the side effects of both cancer and diabetes.
When Do Edibles Start Working and How Long Do They Last?
The effects of edibles, whether they contain just CBD or CBD and THC, are distillate or full-spectrum, will start to work within about 30 to 90 minutes after you consume it. The lag time is because edibles have to go through the digestive system before the cannabinoids can finally hit the bloodstream and be transported to the brain and all-around your body's ECS. This increases the amount of time it takes for effects to set in. The amount of time it takes for edibles to kick in is also affected by:
- Body fat percentage
- Age and sex
- Metabolism rate and level of physical activity
- THC concentration in the edible
- Frequency of consumption (Learn about taking a tolerance break here)
- Whether you have an empty stomach or not (consuming on an empty stomach or with high-fat foods can speed up the “kick in” time for the cannabinoids)
While it does take longer for edibles to take effect, the good news is that they tend to last a lot longer than other dosage forms. While effect times will vary based on the factors mentioned above, most people will feel them for about 5-7 hours, with peak effects happening at about three hours in. After about 6-7 hours, the effects should have subsided and you should be back to your usual self.
High concentrations or large doses of cannabis will also prolong the edible’s duration in your system. On the other hand, those with higher metabolism rates will remove THC sooner from their systems. THC and other cannabinoids are lipophilic, which means that they bind to fats. Therefore, those with higher body fat percentages will remove THC from their systems at a slower rate. Lastly, those with less tolerance to cannabis will tend to feel the effects sooner than those who consume it regularly.
It is always important to exercise patience when consuming cannabis-infused edibles. Remember that everyone’s endocannabinoid system is unique, and your body may take a longer time to appreciate the effects than others. It is easy to overconsume when it comes to edibles because of the delayed effects. Doing so, however, may lead to unwanted side effects, as you will see below.
As a side note, keep in mind that THC may last in the system for up to one week. The plasma half-life of THC is 24h-32h, and it takes about five half-lives to eliminate the THC from the system. Even though you may not still be feeling the effects a few days or even a week after consuming an edible, you may still fail a drug test because the THC is still likely to be in your system until it has been completely eliminated.
The recommended dosage of edibles will vary from one product to the next. This is because the concentration of THC may vary between products. It is essential to determine the concentration of each edible before you consume it. If you prepare the edible yourself, you can take the total concentration of the THC as stated on the package and divide it according to the number of servings that have been produced. A good dosage to aim for when you are just starting out is 2.5mg to 5mg. If you feel that you may be extra sensitive, start out with 1.25 mg.
One consensus report suggested the following dosages of cannabis for treating pain:
- A dose of 5 mg CBD twice daily titrated by 10 mg every 2 to 3 days until the patient reaches their goals. The maximum is 40 mg/day.
- A dose of 2.5 mg THC daily is titrated by 2.5 mg every 2 to 7 days until the patient reaches a maximum daily dose of 40 mg/day of THC.
- A dose of THC/CBD mixture at 2.5–5 mg of each taken once or twice daily and titrated by 2.5–5 mg of each cannabinoid every 2 to 3 days until the patient reaches their goals, aiming for a maximum THC dose of 40 mg/day.
Edibles dosage are also affected by a person’s unique characteristics and tolerance levels for cannabis. The trick is to always start with the lowest possible dosage and titrate to an effective and well-tolerated level.
Effects and Side Effects of Edibles
The effects of edibles are similar to those of other cannabis products, only that it takes a longer time for the effects to kick in. If you consume a CBD-infused edible, you should expect to feel relaxed and medicated. THC-infused edibles will produce the typical cannabis high but will also provide therapeutic effects.
Like we said above, it is easy to overdo cannabis edibles because you may not feel the effects right away. Some side effects you may have to deal with if you have taken too much THC in particular in an edible include:
- Poor concentration
- Increased heart rate
- Muscle spasms
- Slurred speech
- Short-term memory loss
- Panic attacks
CBD infused edibles may cause the following side effects:
- Low blood pressure
- GI disturbances
Finally, if you have eaten too much, you can do a few things to “bring down the high.” CBD is a natural antidote for THC. It will block the binding sites for THC on endocannabinoid receptors, and this will help to counter the effects of THC, especially the euphoric feeling which can cause panic and anxiety in some people.
Do Edibles Expire?
Just like any other food, edibles are perishable, especially when they involve baked treats that have eggs. While the cannabinoids may degrade slowly over time, the other ingredients used to make edibles may not last for more than 3-5 days. Infused beverages may last for a longer time. It is always important to confirm the expiration date before purchasing any cannabis edible.
What About Edibles in the State of Utah?
Edibles such as cookies, candies, brownies, and infused beverages are unfortunately not legal in Utah. Legal Utah cannabis products include capsules, tinctures, tablets, transdermal patches, wax, flower, and gelatinous cubes. If you live in the Beehive state and would like to know your options other than edibles, our certified pharmacists are always here to help you. They are trained in both pharmaceutical medicine and cannabis and will be able to advise you on drug interactions as well as recommend the best course of action for your unique health needs. Book a consultation and talk to an advisor within 24 hours by clicking Here.
If you live in another state that does have legal cannabis edibles, why not give them a try for your pain, sleep issues, inflammation, and more? Thousands of people are already using them and new “cannabis-infused culinary creations” are being developed all the time.
Just remember that edibles will last in your system for quite a while, up to 7 hours, depending on your metabolism, body fat percentage, level of physical activity, the concentration of THC, and your overall tolerance. Always exercise caution when consuming cannabis edibles, keeping in mind that the effects are often more robust and durable than any other modality.
And if you live in the state of Utah and want to know what your options are besides edibles, be sure to reach out to one of our Ph-D level pharmacists today.
1. Bhaskar, A., Bell, A., Boivin, M. et al. Consensus recommendations on dosing and administration of medical cannabis to treat chronic pain: results of a modified Delphi process. J Cannabis Res 3, 22 (2021).
2. Niesink, R. J., & van Laar, M. W. (2013). Does Cannabidiol Protect Against Adverse Psychological Effects of THC?. Frontiers in psychiatry, 4, 130.
3. Chakravarti, B., Ravi, J., & Ganju, R. K. (2014). Cannabinoids as therapeutic agents in cancer: current status and future implications. Oncotarget, 5(15), 5852–5872.