Edibles are a popular way to use cannabis. But, edibles don’t work for everyone. Have you ever eaten an edible and felt nothing? Was it too strong for you? Both can happen, and an explanation is coming. Multiple factors from dosage to purity and your body’s own chemistry all play a role in whether or not edibles will work for you. You also have to take into account what type of edible you’re selecting. We’ll cover it all and make it easy to understand.
A Little Thing Called Bioavailability
We’re not going to throw a word like this at you and not tell you what it means. The definition of bioavailability in simple terms is – the amount of a substance that actually becomes available/usable to your body. The scientific definition, according to Merck Manual, is: “Bioavailability refers to the extent and rate at which the active moiety (drug or metabolite) enters systemic circulation, thereby accessing the site of action.”
When it comes to pharmaceuticals, their bioavailability is calculated via clinical trials and studies. From here, appropriate doses are determined based on how much the body will actually receive.
This is a big factor when it comes to edibles. Different types of edibles have different bioavailability levels. For example, beverages and hard candies will have a higher bioavailability than a baked good. Different edibles have different absorption rates. Every person’s body has an individual metabolism. These two factors are big players in bioavailability.
Here are some of the absorption rates of common edibles:
- Baked goods, crackers, cookies (foods in this category – solid foods) – 4-12%
- Hard candies, beverages, lozenges and some gummies – 50-75%
This means that if you have a cannabis cookie and it contains 10 mg of THC, and you consume the entire cookie – your body is only getting 0.4 mg – 1.2 mg of THC. If you have a 30 mg cookie or brownie, your body is only getting a maximum of 3.6 mg of THC and other cannabinoids. For most, this just isn’t enough to even make a difference. So, this is why you may not feel anything at all if you have some type of baked good, bread or other solid cannabis edible.
Edibles that you actually have to chew and require digestion have a lower bioavailability because there is a longer process of getting the cannabinoids to your bloodstream. First you have the digestion process itself. Then you have to factor in the multiple organs that the cannabinoids have to travel through to get to your bloodstream. The longer it has to go in to reach your bloodstream, the more of the cannabinoids you are going to lose.
If you’ve ever had a hard candy, lozenge or beverage that nearly incapacitated you – it’s because it has a higher bioavailability than other types of edibles. It is very important to pay attention to the number of servings in cannabis beverages and the total number of milligrams of THC as well. Most cannabis beverages are designed to be more than one serving. If you’ve picked one up that’s 100 mg THC in the entire container and down the whole thing – you’re getting 50 mg – 75 mg of THC and well – for most people that’s just too much at one time.
Non-solid edibles (beverages, candies, lozenges and tinctures) enter the bloodstream faster since sublingual glands in your mouth (mostly under your tongue) start to absorb the contents of the liquid. It’s a rather quick absorption method.
THC Purity and Potency
Purity and potency are other factors in whether an edible may or may not work for you. It’s important to make sure that the THC or cannabis extracted liquid used to make the edible comes from a company that has third-party testing completed. You’ll want to go to that manufacturer’s website and look at their lab test results.
Make sure the manufacturer has a separate lab results sheet for THC oil or cannabis oil. Look specifically for the volume of the sample. Then look to see how much THC was actually in that sample. Ensure that all other sections of that lab report pass. You’ll want to look for <LOQ – this means less than the limit or level of quantification. If something is under the LOQ that a lab must test for, it’ll be marked as <, N/A or some other indicator. A limit or level of quantification is the smallest amount of a compound or substance that a lab can or does look for in a substance. You can also think of it <LOQ as a limit of detection.
You will also notice something called an action level on lab reports. Action levels are amounts of a chemical that has been deemed unsafe. You want every section of the test to have results that are under action levels.
Do you know your personal tolerance? Tinctures are a great way to determine what is too much. Edibles aren’t the best test for this.
If you use cannabis flower and go through 7 grams or more a week, you likely have a decent tolerance, so a 10 mg edible probably isn’t going to do anything for you unless it’s mostly absorbed sublingually.
If you are a microdoser, you likely have a lower tolerance. This means that a 10 mg edible might work just fine for you.
Those that use cannabis concentrates more frequently likely have higher tolerances in general. Cannabis concentrates have much higher potencies. Since the vapors from concentrates are inhaled, they also have a higher bioavailability since the cannabinoids can enter your bloodstream through your lungs. Inhaled cannabinoids have a bioavailability of 34% – 56%. Why such a large range? The size of the hit, the potency and how long you hold it in are all factors.
You and a friend can have the same portion size of an edible and have two entirely different experiences. One of you might not feel anything while the other is sitting there laughing at everything.
How fast your body processes food is a factor. For some, a faster metabolism might mean that the cannabinoids metabolize faster through your body so you might not feel the effects strongly, for an extended period of time or even at all. Those with slower metabolisms are more likely to lose more of the have the cannabinoids in their bodies a little longer. It’s not known whether this plays a role explicitly in the strength of the effects of bioavailability of edibles.
Tips for Safe Edibles Use
It’s true that edibles work wonders for some and do nothing for others. From the factors in play that we mentioned above, it’ll be easier for you to gauge if edibles are right for you or not. They aren’t cheap, and the more THC and/or CBD they have in them – the more expensive they are.
Here are some tips for having the most positive edibles experience possible:
- Be mindful of the serving size
- Pay attention to the total milligrams in the entire package
- Look for the dose per serving
- Know your tolerance
- Keep the type of edible being consumed in mind (liquids and candies will hit you harder and faster)
- Start small – if you are new to edibles, it’s best to start with half of the suggested serving size. While you aren’t getting every milligram of cannabinoids mentioned in that dose, it’s important to really understand what your body needs and can handle.
- Wait at least 90 minutes before consuming another serving – edibles typically take 45 minutes to an hour to take effect unless it is a liquid or sublingual edible (beverages, lozenges, hard candies, etc.). Liquid and sublingual edibles can start to show effects within minutes. Other edibles require digestion and distribution. If you have a serving and don’t feel anything in 30 minutes, your body hasn’t fully digested the edible yet.
- Don’t use another cannabis product while waiting for the effects to kick in, including CBD. CBD might lessen the intensity or effects of THC, which might make you think that you don’t feel anything at all. Using another cannabis product while waiting for the effects of the edible to kick in might leave you having a very unpleasant experience since the combination of THC from both sources might be too much and might leave you feeling overwhelmingly high.
- Always make sure your edibles are kept where your children and pets cannot reach them!
We hope that this guide, and these tips, help you better understand how edibles work and why they might not work for you. It doesn’t mean that they’ll never work, but now that you know what the factors in how edibles work in the body are, it might be easier for you to understand how much THC and other cannabinoids your body really needs.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out!