Edibles Impact On Your Brain

14 May 2021
What is the effect of edibles on the brain?
14 May 2021
7 min read
Edibles Impact On Your Brain

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  • 1. How cannabinoids are absorbed when smoking
  • 2. How cannabinoids are absorbed when consuming edibles
  • 2. a. Other ways to consume cannabis
  • 3. Are edibles stronger?
  • 3. a. Are edibles healthier than smoking cannabis?
  • 4. In conclusion

As cannabis consumption grows exponentially, many consumers have access to different ways of consumption methods such as edibles or concentrates; As you may know, there are many factors that have an influence on the experience you will have like THC and CBD levels but one of the biggest factors is how you consume it, meaning that the consumption method will affect how high you feel and for how long. Edibles may hit you stronger and the effect may last longer than other consumption methods so read along to know how they affect you and avoid bad experiences.

1. How Cannabinoids Are Absorbed When Smoking

Smoking cannabis is the most common form of cannabis consumption and probably the fastest way to feel the effects. This happens because the THCA molecule, for example, is too big and doesn’t "fit" into the receptors but when smoking you’re actually changing the chemical compounds (aka cannabinoids) through heating, reaching around 800°C and converting, for example, THCA to Delta-9-THC (aka THC) which are smaller molecules.

Due to the molecules being smaller they will be easier to absorb so the cannabinoids will travel faster from the lungs to your brain, this is why the cannabinoids will be in your blood within the first couple of minutes after inhaling and you feel the effects within the first 10min after consumption.


Edibles impact on your brain: smoking cannabis

Smoking effects and processing times.

Now, the availability of the cannabinoids after smoking cannabis can range between 2% and 56% and there are a lot of factors that can affect this such as inhalation volume, amount, duration and interval between puffs, this means that when smoking you’re actually not consuming all the cannabinoids and terpenes in your cannabis flower. But when consuming edibles you need to decarboxylate the cannabis to around 150°C so the cannabinoids available and the way they’re absorbed is actually different.

2. How Cannabinoids Are Absorbed When Consuming Edibles

Unlike smoking, the cannabinoids in infused foods and beverages are already decarboxylated so there’s no need to heat up the plant material. When consuming cannabis orally, the edible goes through the mouth, down the digestive system and the cannabinoids get absorbed in the small intestine. Once they are absorbed in the intestine, the cannabinoids make their way to the liver and enter your circulation. 


Edibles impact on your brain: eating cannabis

Edibles effects and processing times.

Due to the longer distance that the cannabinoids need to travel in the body when comparing to smoking for example, the absorption of cannabinoids when consuming edibles takes longer; After consuming edibles, the cannabinoids will be in the blood after 30-60min and you will feel the effects 1-2 hours after consumption which can last from 4-8 hours. It’s suspected that due to already being decarbed, a small amount of cannabinoids can be absorbed in the cheeks, gums, lips, and tongue (aka the oral cavity) but there isn’t much information about it so despite being highly likely, it has not been confirmed yet.

The availability of cannabinoids after consuming edibles is approximately 10-20%, meaning that only 10-20% of the cannabinoids will eventually reach your bloodstream and because it also takes longer to feel the effect, most inexperienced consumers tend to take a larger dose and this usually leads to undesirably strong effects.

Other ways to consume cannabis

Smoking and edibles are not the only ways to consume cannabis, nowadays you can find several cannabis-infused products that provide different effects due to the cannabinoid content and the way the cannabinoids are absorbed, so in case you’re interested, here are the other methods for cannabis consumption.

Different Cannabis Consumption Methods


Example Absorption 
Via inhalation Smoking, vaporizing Lungs
Via oral route Edibles Small intestine
Via oromucosal or sublingual route Sprays, tinctures Mouth and tongue
Through the skin Transdermal patches, topicals Skin


Apart from the difference in cannabinoid availability percentages, there are also two major factors that can affect how strong and how long the effects are:

  • Inter-individual availability

Inter-individual availability refers to the difference in the effect between different individuals that have ingested the same substance. This means that, for example, consuming 100mg of THC might be fine for you but might be too much for another person, resulting in undesirable effects. The factors that influence this are age, gender, weight, diseases and many others which will affect the effectiveness and tolerance to certain substances.

  • Intra-individual availability

On the other hand, intra-individual availability refers to the different effects you might experience when taking the same amount of the same substance; Most consumers might think that a joining is a joint and the effects will always be somewhat similar, but this is not true.

You might experience a different effect when smoking a joint with the same strain and same amount of flower because the effect can be influenced by different factors such as whether you’ve consumed cannabis with or without food in your stomach, the time of the day, or how you’re feeling at the time of consumption.

Now, intra and inter-individual availability also apply to edibles, and the effect may differ based on the factors mentioned but almost all cannabis consumers agree that edibles can be much, much stronger and take much longer to feel the effects when compared to other methods...but why?

3. Are Edibles Stronger? 

As mentioned before, when consuming edibles the high takes longer to take effect because the edibles take their time to reach your stomach and they’re absorbed more slowly but the effect is usually stronger and lasts longer when compared to other consumption methods such as smoking.  This happens because, when eating cannabis, the cannabinoids are first metabolized by the liver before they enter your bloodstream and it’s in the liver where, for example, Delta-9-THC also becomes 11-OH-THC, which is a more potent compound that can bind to your brain more rapidly.


Edibles impact on your brain: metbolization of edibles

Metabolization of edibles.

This means that with the same amount of cannabis you will actually get higher when consuming edibles, because the metabolization of THC ends up creating both Delta-9-THC and 11-OH-THC which, as mentioned, is a stronger compound and due to having more psychotropic types of cannabinoids binding to your neurons, the high will be stronger and last longer. Have in mind that this may also occur with CBD but there isn’t much research at the moment so it hasn’t been confirmed yet.

Are edibles healthier than smoking cannabis? 

Consuming edibles is actually healthier than smoking cannabis but not because of the different compounds that are created but due to the smoke itself. When eating an edible you’re not inhaling toxic chemicals, meaning that there are no cancer-causing molecules entering your body such as carbon monoxide, and other bronchial irritants, and tumor initiators which ends up being healthier for your lungs and body.

The only downside is that if you don’t live in a place where cannabis is legal, you may have to make the edibles yourself or buy them from a friend and it may be hard to control the amount of cannabinoids you’re actually ingesting because due to the dosage varying significantly.


Edibles impact on your brain: are edibles healthier?

Edibles are considered to be healthier due to not needing to inhale smoke to consume them.

This means that it’s much more difficult to get the effects you desire and it’s much easier to consume more than what you’re comfortable with but, luckily for you, consuming a high dose won’t be lethal, toxic, or cause serious long-term damage other than being too high for too long.

Just remember that this doesn't take into account the possibility of a psychotic breakdown that some people who are predisposed to having these type of issues may experience when consuming large doses of psychoactive substances.

It's extremely important that you consume any substances, including cannabis, with responsibility. Edibles are healthier when consumed in moderate doses but consuming too much at once may result in serious problems, especially if you're not used to it.

4. In Conclusion

Despite edibles being actually healthier than smoking cannabis, they can be much stronger and you may end up having a bad experience due to the 11-OH-THC that is formed when THC is metabolized by the liver so you should be really careful and only buy edibles from trusted vendors or preferably a legal cannabis dispensary. This way you guarantee that the edibles will be dosed as they should; You can always make your own edibles but make sure that you’re dosing them correctly because there’s a huge difference between 10mg and 100mg of THC, so be extra careful and, if possible, ask for help from a friend that has a little bit of experience.

If you’re an avid edible consumer feel free to share your tips with fellow consumers in the comment section below!


This content is for educational purposes only. The information provided is derived from research gathered from external sources.

External References

  1. Pharmacology and effects of cannabis: A brief review. - C. Heather Ashton
  2. Chemistry, Metabolism, and Toxicology of Cannabis: Clinical Implications. - Priyamvada Sharma, Pratima Murthy and M.M. Srinivas Bharath.
  3. Dopamine challenge reveals neuroadaptive changes in marijuana abusers. - Bertha K. Madras