Before we get into talking about edibles vs. smoking marijuana, let’s first take a minute to understand how marijuana works in your brain and body.
The science behind this also plays a large role in how you are affected by edibles and smoking.
How Marijuana Works in Your Brain & Body
Marijuana is a plant. When that plant produces buds, those buds can be clipped and used for many purchases. You can smoke the plant, eat the plant, apply the plant topically, etc…
The use of marijuana brings many biochemical benefits. Within the body is a series of complex biological systems which are required to maintain physiological function. These systems maintain immunity, digestion, sleep regulation, and brain function among others. They also play a part in modulating health. One of the systems is called the endocannabinoid system or ECS.
This system is comprised of G protein-coupled receptors and endocannabinoids which bind to them. It is the ECS which is responsible for maintaining standard cerebral function and physiological function. Human clinical trials indicate that stimulating the ECS can bring beneficial health benefits with very few side effects.
When the ECS system, and specifically the cannabinoid receptors, are blocked it results in things such as diarrhea, nausea, stress, depression, anxiety, and higher suicide risk. Cannabis, the active ingredient found in marijuana, has been used historically to treat diseases such as epilepsy. Ibn al-Badri, the medieval Arab writer, documented the use of a cannabis concentrate to treat neurodegenerative disorders.
British neurologists later in the nineteenth century including W.B. O’Shaughnessy confirmed the use to treat spastic and neurodegenerative disorders. Today modern science knows why.
These diseases are affected by the death of brain cells and inflammation of the neurons. Cannabis stimulates receptors in the ECS and decreases the inflammation that is otherwise tantamount to brain cell death. For many neurodegenerative diseases, excessive glutamate receptor activity damages cells until they die, but cannabis functions as a potent antioxidant which reduces the excessive glutamate receptor activity and mitigates the risk of cell death.
As of late, there are over thirty thousand scientific studies pertaining to cannabinoids, with over one hundred published studies reviewing the effect of cannabis-based medicines can have on myriad disorders, including simpler issues like sleeping disorders and anxiety. The collective data generated therein suggests that the use of cannabis brings positive interactions with the ECS, and improves appetite, sleep quality, pain, tremors, and spasms.
The History of Cannabis Edibles
In modern America, we think of edibles and we think pot brownies. However, edible cannabis has been around as far back as the 10th century where it as made into a popular drink in India called Bhang. This is a drink made with milk, clarified butter, pulverized marijuana, and spices. This was meant as a sleep aid at the time, or a way to enhance appetite. In 1474 a publication in Europe detailed a recipe for making “Cannabis Nectar”.
As far as U.S. history goes, marijuana wasn’t a recreational drug until the 1910’s. Until that time, its uses remained purely medicinal. Throughout history, there were recipes for non-baked edibles where you mixed the marijuana with other spices and made cakes or balls with them. Yes, heat is traditionally used to activate the drug, but you can still reap benefits from the raw form, it just will not taste as good.
The 1970’s and 1980’s brought space cakes and cookies to coffee houses throughout America. The booming marijuana business today though has taken a simple brownie and made a litany of other options for users. Pizza sauce, gummy candies, caramel, lip balm, body lotions, peanut butter, tea—these are just a few of the many options you can find today.
One company Catapult Coffee has even made weed laced coffee packaged to work with as K-cups. Kiva, a company in California, made chocolate bars that have breakable pieces like a Hershey’s bar so that you can break off single doses. Cannabis Creamery has made ice cream laced with cannabis while Canna Cola has made soda and lemonade products. The legal market has made edibles appear just about everywhere.
Consider this: Cannabis is an herb and when cooking or baking, herbs can be used in a variety of ways. Hapa Sushi out of Colorado has paired weed with their sushi rolls. Sweet Mary Jane is one cookbook that focuses on cannabis recipes. There is almost no end in sight.
Which gives the stronger high – Edibles or Smoke?
The term “stronger” is a bit misleading because it is inaccurate to call either of them “stronger”. While it does depend heavily upon the strain you are using, they are simply two different experiences.
It would be the same as asking someone whether wine or beer is stronger. The answer here too, depends on the level of alcohol in the drinks themselves.
On top of this, each person has a vastly different tolerance for each substance, due to factors like:
- body chemistry
- stomach contents at the time of ingestion
- and more…
There are two main strains of marijuana: Sativa and Indica. Strains of Sativa tend to produce a more cerebral high. Strains of Indica produce what is usually called a “body” high.
Now, Indica strains produce a stronger body high but they take longer to go into effect. Once they go into effect, they tend to last longer.
When it comes to edibles, ultimately, the amount of THC contained within the edible you eat has the largest effect on your high. While the same can be said about the THC content of marijuana strains, with edibles the effect is magnified.
Often times, consuming an entire edible is too much for most people. With a recommended dosage being around 15-30mg of THC content.
Edible highs last about 2-6 hours, typically in the 4 hour range. Though they can last longer if you take a larger dosage of THC. Generally speaking, the high from eating an edible is more of a body high than a head high, and you will experience a significantly amplified experience compared with smoking.
For more information on edibles like the best types of edibles, how to make them, and how much to take, check out our Edibles Guide for Stoners.
Which is Healthier? (Relatively Speaking)
Edibles arguably are healthier because there is no smoke going into your lungs. Edibles can take almost any form, from spaghetti to popcorn.
The amount of edible foods laced with marijuana on the market is impressive. You, at home, can make almost anything like mashed potatoes to get high. So, it is not just sugar-filled cookies that might reap negative benefits on your body.
Which is More Expensive
The cost of marijuana is going to based on so many things. It first depends on the area. You can buy expensive weed and expensive edibles, but overall, weed is priced slightly higher in the market, due to the fact that edibles can be made from byproducts of weed.
Of course, if you are buying edibles from the store, like the caramel sauce or pizza sauce, the prices might be higher than what you are paying right now for regular pizza sauce or caramel sauce in which case, your overall costs might go up.
If you live in Colorado and are eating out at Hapa Sushi more often now than before because of the weed pairings, your costs might go up.
How Does Each Make You Feel?
Edibles make you slow and sleepy generally speaking. Edibles, when you eat them, will take longer to kick in, whereas with weed you feel it immediately but then it only lasts for 30 minutes to an hour at most. Edibles, by comparison, last much longer, on average 4 hours.
Every experience is going to be different. Each person will react differently. You and your friend could consume the same edible and after, one of you might fall asleep in a lawn chair while the other climbs trees and cuts down firewood with aplomb. The experience will be objective and unfortunately, there is no way to Google an answer to a personalized feeling.
Which High Lasts Longer?
The high for the edibles will last longer. The golden rule for cannabis users is to start with a smaller dose and be patient. The metabolizing process takes much longer and can last much longer do you want to start off with a small amount if you have never done it before and then be patient.
This is not something that you try to rush. Ingesting edibles will give you 10-20% of THC into your blood plasma but inhaling cannabis will give you 50-60% which happens really fast for 10 minutes and then dissipates for the next thirty.
How is THC Absorbed for Each
THC is absorbed through the alveoli of the lungs if you smoke it, or through the gut lining when you eat it. Either way, it gets into your bloodstream.
More precisely, when you consume cannabis in the edible form, the THC is metabolized by your liver and then converted into 11-hydroxy-THC. This is a metabolite that crosses through the blood-brain barrier really well.
This is what gives you that more intense high. If you inhale the cannabis, it cannot just pass through the stomach and liver. It just passes directly to your brain instead. For that reason, the effects are faster, but they also diminish faster too.
Do Edibles Feel Different Than Smoking?
Yes, very. Edibles are, again, a stronger body high. You are much more relaxed, most of the time, in some cases lethargic. Smoking, by comparison, will give a different feel depending on the strain used.
If you go into any pot clinic or store, you can ask the people working there to explain the different feelings that you get from various strains, edibles, etc…
How Long Do the Effects of Edibles Last?
This is, again, contingent upon a plethora of things. Again, like drinking, the effects are going to last based on your tolerance levels (if you have ever used marijuana before, the effects will be short-lived compared to someone who is eating their first cookie—similar to drinking), which are governed by the amount of use, your diet, the size of the edible, the amount of marijuana used, and many other factors.
Typically, the effects edibles can last for anywhere from 2-6 hours, depending on the milligram dosage of THC contained, and the personal factors we have already listed above.
Do Your Eyes Get Red if You Eat an Edible?
Yes. You are still getting high, just without inhaling the drug. The THC is still entering your system and causing the same effects, including red eyes.
Do Edibles Give You the Munchies?
Like many marijuana products, edibles can give you the munchies. Food should satiate you, so it is easy to assume that eating an edible would do the same. However, foods do not always satiate you and nor do munchies. It cannot be stressed enough that it is contingent entirely on the strain and how the edible was made, as well as the ratios when you cooked it.
This is all part of the experience and requires a lot of experimentation. The best to figure out which things you personally like is to try many until you find what you enjoy the most in a safe and legal fashion. You may try one particular strain and it may not result in munchies, or it might. Safe and legal consumption is the only real way to answer this question definitively for yourself.
Which Edibles Should I Try?
There are plenty of ways to try edibles for the first time. Care by Design has 1:1 Gel Caps which seem to be a wonderful dessert.
These are actually meant to relieve pain for a long time, and they come in many strength so you have complete control over your pain medication. The oil used for these tabs is extracted using CO2 and the bottles are all tested for quality before they are released.
Another option is a coconut oil infused with cannabis, by Zendo. This is a versatile option similar to cannabutter which does not have the tang that most marijuana edibles have. It is a staple ingredient for many households, so why not have it in cannabis form?
For a faster snack, try the Lord Jones Natural Fruit Gumdrops. These are small gumdrops that contain 10 milligrams each so they are perfect for beginners. They have five ingredients in them so they are much healthier. You can enjoy peach flavor, apricot, wild strawberry, lemon, blood orange, blueberry, mango, or passion fruit.
If you want a big bang dessert, from Moxi 701’s Red Velvet Cake Jar. This red velvet cake is widely regarded for its taste and effectiveness.