There are so many ways to consume cannabis these days.
Though lighting up a joint is the good old-fashioned way, you can also vape it, apply it on your skin, under the tongue, and eat it! But if you’ve ever had a space brownie in the past, you know that the hit of edibles is far different from any other way of consuming cannabis.
There’s a kind of mystery to consuming edibles: you don’t really know exactly when you’re going to get hit; it can be anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour later. Now when you do, the feeling truly is quite special. In most cases, edibles hit much stronger, and it can affect the entire body as well as your mind.
So what makes us feel this way when we eat edibles?
11-hydroxy-THC has a role to play in all this.
When you smoke cannabis, its tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content goes through decarboxylation upon heating, after which it’s converted into delta-9-THC. Then it gets absorbed by the lungs, travels through the bloodstream, then goes to the brain as well as the rest of the body. But when you eat cannabis, it will go directly to your bloodstream where it takes time to be absorbed, followed by the liver, other parts of the body, and finally in the digestive system where it’s broken down even further.
This process involves converting delta-9-THC into 11-hydroxy-THC. Chemically speaking, the slight change between the formulas of these two compounds results in a dramatically different experience for the cannabis consumer.
11-hydroxy-THC is a metabolic byproduct of THC, produced when THC breaks down in the gastrointestinal tract and the liver. The presence of various metabolic enzymes break down the THC resulting in less active THC than the original molecule, but with 11-hydroxy-THC, it’s so much more potent than THC, which is its progenitor.
Nick Jikomes, lead researchers for Leafly, explains further: “The issue isn’t that weed is metabolized differently, it’s that it’s gonna get metabolized to different degrees in different parts of the body, depending on the route of administration,” he says. “The real difference between edibles and smoking or vaping is that with edibles, a much larger fraction of Delta-9-THC makes it to the liver first. There it gets converted to 11-hydroxy-THC,” he says. “So in other words, if you smoke or vape, the ratio of 11-hydroxy-1THC to delta-9-THC is quite low, and if you take an edible it’s much higher.”
Benefits of 11-Hydroxy-THC
Though the research on 11-hydroxy-THC is few and far in between, it is the main reason, next to the medicinal benefits of cannabis, why some consumers prefer consuming their weed in edibles.
It’s responsible for making the high of edibles last much longer. Though edibles take notoriously long to start working, they do last much longer, anywhere from 3 up to 8 hours. On the other hand, when you smoke up, it will only last 2 hours or even less. Patients who suffer from chronic pain, depression, insomnia or other conditions that require long-lasting relief need reliable medication that lasts long. And this is why edibles are such an important way of consuming – not just for fun- but for medical reasons too.
Additionally, edibles and other cannabis-infused foods have a stronger hit. You don’t need much to feel long-lasting relief.
How To Maximize The Power Of 11-Hydroxy-THC
There are some key things to keep in mind when consuming edibles especially for medical reasons. For one, remember that not all edibles will produce 11-hydroxy-THC equally since various edible products contain different levels of THC.
THC begins as THCA, which itself has its own therapeutic benefits though it isn’t psychoactive until it converts to THC. THCA also does not break down into 11-hydroxy-THC; in order for THC to convert into the 11-hydroxy-THC, it needs to undergo decarboxylation where it will convert into delta-9-THC first. This can only occur within certain temperature ranges.
For this reason, you always need to decarboxylate when you are making your own edibles because it’s the only way to get the beneficial effects of 11-hydroxy-THC. On the other hand, when you buy edibles, make sure that it’s made from THC or CBD. This isn’t difficult since most edibles in the market are made from THC and already went through the decarboxylation process.
When you start consuming, it’s also good to remember that you need to control your dose when you start out. Delicious edibles make it far too easy to consume too much for what you actually need or the hit that you want, and when you consider the fact that it can take up to two hours for the onset, some people have the misconception that the edible is not working and end up taking too much before the first dose has had a chance to kick in. This is not going to do you any good – it’s the quickest way to ruin your trip and end up feeling horrible instead.
You’ll appreciate edibles – and 11-hydroxy-THC for that reason – if you always begin with a low dose. If you’re new to edibles, start with 2.5mg of THC and work your way up gradually, over the course of a few days or weeks. There is no set dose that will work the same way for each person, but starting low will at least reduce the risk of having a bad trip. When the edibles begin to kick in once you have found the right dose, you already have a good baseline from where you can reach the ideal dosage for your individual needs.