The Straight Dope: Are Cannabis Edibles good for you?

Have we been all wrong about the benefits of Cannabis and Cannabis Edibles? Who would have thought that the Cannabis plant, the use of which was once considered a scourge on society, has subsequently been rediscovered to have such incredible health effects such as prolonging life, fighting cancer and controlling weight?

Since time immemorial, the use of the Cannabis plant has permeated human history. Weather it was by the Oracle of Delphi or by shamans and healers, it’s uses have ranged form the spiritual to the medicinal. Historically, Cannabis and in fact most botanicals, formed an essential part of our the cultural, ceremonial and healing tool kit for thousands, if not millions of years.

Interestingly, despite all the advances we think we have made as a species, that has not changed at all. In fact, we could say that we have actually lost more knowledge than we have gained, particularly in recent generations of industrialisation, urbanization and deforestation. The ancient ways have disappeared with the cultures and their elders who carried the knowledge and passed it on to successive generations for millennia.

Alas, despite this grave error in human history, all is not lost. We seem to have an innate ability to seek what we need from the natural world and use it accordingly. This has never been more evident than in the modern era during the time of the widespread criminalisation of Marijuana cultivation and use. Despite this, most people (and their nana) have still used Marijuana at one time or another in their lives. In fact, this unique plant has only been outlawed since the 1920s which coincided with the Temperance movement overtaking America, the primary focus of which was prevent legal consumption of alcohol in the USA. Alcohol use was actually a much more severe social problem in the us than what cannabis ever was. Of course, we all know how that worked out. Firstly, banning booze didn’t stop the consumption of alcohol. It inadvertently created an entire underground world network dominated by gangsters, speak-easy’s and unregulated-strength bathtub gin. The result was that people still consumed alcohol and got drunk, but it was always a gamble because you never knew what you were going to get. Sound familiar?

Much in the same way as we no longer associate alcohol consumption with a whisky-soaked pistol-touting society, we so too have begun to see the advantages of cannabis consumption that are a far cry from Cheech and Chong or the anti-war flower-child movement of the swinging 60s. In fact, actually smoking marijuana in this day and age is probably the least likely way that you are going to find the majority of people consuming it. Welcome to the mind-expanding world of marijuana edibles.

What Are Marijuana Edibles?

A variety of edibles are available in the market today, and they can be broadly classified into a few main categories as follows:

Baked goods

Probably the most commonly known cannabis edible is the brownie commonly known as ‘space cakes’, however, they can take the form of any regular kind of baked-good such as biscuits, macaroons or even pretzels.

Baked goods are intended for gastrointestinal absorption. They include all edibles where the marijuana will be ingested into the stomach and absorbed into the body through the stomach linings. Most of the edibles you will find in this category include cookies, brownies, and more colourful creations such as medicated banana bread.

Sweets

Arguably the most easily accessed and transported variety of marijuana edibles are those considered to be sweets. These include products such as gummies, lozenges, and suckers. These sweets are the perfect starting place for someone interested in trying out cannabis edibles for the first time as the sensory experience is one that we are all very familiar with. In addition, as there is already such a wide variety of cannabis sweets available, there is definitely going to be a flavour, texture and strength that is suitable for a novice to more experienced user.

Drinks and Liqueurs

Drinks are intended for oral uptake and they have the advantage of taking effects almost immediately, though they also tend to wear off very quickly. This category also includes the edibles which you hold in your mouth for a given amount of time. It is this category that is predicted to see the most advancement and growth in the future years as the levels of legalisation and methods of consumption advance very quickly around the world. It is perfectly possible for you to be able to go down to the local for a pint of beer or a pint of cannabis infused beverage right along side one another. One amazing upside of this may also be that marijuana is not known to have any negative effects relating to over consumption, so you will be able to say goodbye to hangovers once and for all.

Oils and Butters

The final category includes oils, butter, and liqueurs. This category is rather hybrid since marijuana in the products can be absorbed either in the mouth or in the stomach. This kind of extraction is the most commonly found in savoury marijuana cooking which has been elevated to Michelin level quality with recipes such as Marijuana infused Truffle Oil Cheese Soufflé or Rib-Eye with Weed Chimichurri.

A Brief History of Marijuana Use and The Evolution of Cannabis Edibles

Documented use of use of marijuana dates back at least 5,000 years, is said to have been an ingredient in the Holy anointing oil referenced in the original Hebrew version of Exodus. The ancient Egyptians reportedly used marijuana to treat Glaucoma as well as general inflammation. Chinese emperor Fu Shi called cannabis a popular medicine in 2,900 BC, and the Chinese had identified more than 100 medicinal uses for marijuana by 100 AD.

The history behind Marijuana edibles is a fascinating one. Historians have traced modern-day edibles back to 1500 BC in India, where people prepared a beverage known as Bhang by combining ground buds and leaves from the Cannabis plant with ghee (clarified butter) and spices. It was used as an anti-phlegmatic and aesthetic. Bhang is still used in India even today as it is an essential part in the process of many spiritual practices of the region. Ancient Indians may have also used cannabis as a purported cure for leprosy and dysentery as well as to cure fever, encourage sleep, and improve judgment and cognition. It was also thought to prolong life!

As time went on, cannabis climbed in popularity across Europe, spurring the 15th-century Italian scholar Bartolomeo Platina to publish the very first cookbook, On Honourable Pleasure and Health (1474), which featured a cannabis edible recipe that read:

…to make cannabis yourself more commonly used as flax for thread, use a mallet to crush clods collected after a good harvest. Add cannabis to nard oil in an iron pot, crush together over some heat and liquefy into a health drink of cannabis nectar. Carefully treat food and divide for the stomach and the head…

Edibles remained part of cooking around the globe, but it took the legendary Alice B. Toklas, an expatriate living in Paris with her partner, Gertrude Stein, to be credited with the creation of hashish fudge. Her friends, including Ernest Hemingway, Henri Matisse, and Pablo Picasso, were undoubtedly treated to her creations which featured in the 1954 volume of, The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook.

The Straight Dope: Are Cannabis Edibles good for you?

How Are Cannabis Edibles Different from Other Types of Cannabis Consumption?

The main difference between consuming edibles and other forms of cannabis is in how the body processes the active ingredients. It has been reported that when cannabis extract is ingested, it can produce effects that are similar to those experienced when cannabis flower is smoked or vaped.

When cannabis is inhaled, its active ingredients, known as cannabinoids, are absorbed by the blood in the lungs and moves quickly to the brain, producing an almost immediate effect, possibly within minutes. However, when cannabis is digested, the effects will likely be delayed by anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours or more depending on the many factors, such as your weight, sex, one’s natural metabolism or what other foods one has consumed prior to ingesting the edible.

The Straight Dope: Are Cannabis Edibles good for you?

Why Are Cannabis Edibles Preferable to Smoking Marijuana?

As most people know, Marijuana can be smoked as a cigarette (called a joint or blunts) or through a pipe or bong, it is now also very commonplace to see the use of vaping as an alternative to traditional smoking. Anyone has tried these methods of consumption may know that they can produce a thick and dense smoke that can often be met with a coughing reaction by the user. Moreover, these methods of consumption tend to be more reliant on having the necessary tools to facilitate consumption such as lighter, papers etc., which can act as a hindrance. However, perhaps the most undesired quality of smoking marijuana is the permeating smell that the smoke can produce. As a result, it can be difficult to consume it discretely which may be desirable for some people.

In contrast, Edibles do not come with any of these barriers to consumption. They can be pre-prepared or purchased ready made which means that consumption can be as easy as simply opening a packet.

The Straight Dope: Are Cannabis Edibles good for you?

What Exactly Is Marijuana Anyway?

The term cannabis or marijuana is really a broad generalisation of a variety of plant which is indigenous to numerous regions around the world. Each region tends to produce a plant which will fall into a sub-category or strain, identical to other widely found plants, each often producing a variation of effect when consumed.

There are in fact three distinct types of marijuana plants: Sativa, Indica, and Hybrid Strains. The plants of cannabis Indica and cannabis Sativa have been around since the the dawn of time, and hybrid strains are a new introduction. Hybrid indicates the mixing of seeds from different geographic locations around the world.

A much-revered pastime in cannabis culture is to perfect the growing, harvesting and yield of the plant as well as to experiment with the various flavours that can be produced. This pursuit has been raised to a level of connoisseurship with the educated palate being able to identify the characteristics of a plant due to its flavour, texture and effects on the user. It should be mentioned that most of the marijuana offered is a now a mix of Sativa and Indica.

Indica

The origin is believed to come from the Hindu “Kush” region close to Afghanistan. Anyone who knows anything about marijuana knows that Kush is considered to be strong. In this area of Pakistan and Afghanistan, the strain developed thick coats of resin as a means of protecting themselves against the harsh climatic conditions present. Characteristics of Indica include flowering time, yields, the geography of where seeds came from, as well as the various flavours. Some of the Hybrid names given to plants derived from this strain are the well-known Purple Haze and Northern Lights.

The Indica strain noted for its relaxing effect with a focus on cerebral exploration and open mindedness. It can be associated with a more spiritual pursuit of philosophical thinking and contemplation.

Sativa

Sativa plant is mostly indigenous to the South American region and has adapted to the favourable growing conditions of a warmer and more humid climate. As a result, it is not uncommon to see plants in this strain grow up to 20 feet high possess a narrow structure with loose branches.

In contrast to the Indica strain, the Sativa strain is known to have a more energizing effect on the consumer. Recreationally, it would be recommended to be used in the morning or afternoon when there is a creative task at hand. It is mostly associated with assisting with depression and exhaustion as the effects of Sativa are said to be uplifting and allow you to bring your creative side out.

Some of the more popular flavours of the Sativa strain include Sour Diesel and Lemon Haze.

Hybrids

There are many variables for the two ancient strains which are where hybrid comes in. The seeds of many geographical areas are cross germinated to balance marijuana with both strains. This offers the marijuana user a balance between the two characteristics of each Indica or Sativa, so you get the best of both worlds. Well known hybrid strains are AK 47 and OG Kush.

The Straight Dope: Are Cannabis Edibles good for you?

How Does Marijuana Work?

As the legal use of hemp and other cannabis products grows, consumers are becoming more curious about their options. This includes cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), two natural compounds found in plants of the cannabis genus.

There is understandably a lot of confusion surrounding what is going on with marijuana, especially in this dynamic time of changing levels of legalisation and the distinction between medical and recreational use. When you look into it, it is actually very simple. There are over 80 active chemicals found in cannabis, known as cannabinoids. These include the famous CBD (Cannabidiol) and THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol).

CBD can be extracted from hemp or cannabis. Hemp and cannabis come from the cannabis sativa plant. Legal hemp must contain 0.3 percent THC or less. CBD is sold in the form of gels, gummies, oils, supplements, extracts, and more.

THC is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis that produces the high sensation. Both compounds interact with your body’s endocannabinoid system, but despite their similar chemical structures, CBD and THC don’t have the same effects. CBD is psychoactive, just not in the same manner as THC is, but it doesn’t produce the high associated with THC. THC binds with the cannabinoid 1 (cb1) receptors in the brain. It produces a high or sense of euphoria. CBD binds very weakly, if at all, to cb1 receptors. CBD needs THC to bind to the cb1 receptor and, in turn, can help reduce some of the unwanted psychoactive effects of THC, such as euphoria or sedation.

CDB

Cannabidiol is a chemical in the cannabis plant generally known as hemp. It is present in both the male and female plants, which are primarily used as an agricultural product revered for its fibres.

As the modern exploration into the medical uses of Cannabidiol have advanced, it has been identified as a treatment most commonly used for seizure disorders such as epilepsy. However, its uses also extend to anxiety, pain, a muscle disorder (dystonia), Parkinson’s disease and Crohn’s disease. It is also known to help with depression.

Cannabidiol has effects on the brain. The exact cause of these effects is not clear. However, cannabidiol seems to prevent the breakdown of a chemical in the brain that affects pain, mood, and mental function. From a psychiatric point of view, CBD use has also been linked to preventing the breakdown of this chemical and increasing its levels in the blood seems to reduce psychotic symptoms associated with conditions such as schizophrenia.

THC

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s psychological effects. It acts much like the cannabinoid chemicals made naturally by the body.

THC is one of many compounds found in the resin secreted by glands of the marijuana plant. More of these glands are found around the reproductive organs of the plant than on any other area of the plant. For this reason is is predominantly found in its highest concentrations in the female unfertilised plant and The highest concentrations of THC are found in the dried flowers, or buds.

Marijuana’s strength is correlated to the amount of THC it contains and the effects on the user depend on the strength or potency of the THC. Different strains will contain different levels of THC. In general, the THC content in marijuana has been increasing since the 1970s, when it contained roughly 10% THC. In 2015, as reported by live science, researchers from the American Chemical Society found levels of THC at roughly 30%.

The Straight Dope: Are Cannabis Edibles good for you?

The Use of Marijuana in The Medical Arena

Marijuana use in the medical arena has been found to have beneficial effects in a wide range of previously deemed untreatable ailments. It has also been found to be helpful in a range of areas that were treated with harsh and highly addictive opiate-based options. These following are a few:

Anxiety

A 2019 study reports that more than 79% of people with anxiety or sleep problems who took CBD experienced a decrease in anxiety throughout the study.

A further study on teenagers with social anxiety supports the findings of CBD significantly decreasing anxiety levels.

Anti-Seizure Effects (Epilepsy)

CBD has also demonstrated anti-seizure effects, which suggests it could be a potential treatment for Epilepsy. A 2017 study cites evidence for the use of CBD to improve seizure control in those with specific epilepsy syndromes. Edibles may be one way to ingest marijuana to reduce seizures. However, more research is necessary before people with epilepsy consider treating the condition with cannabis.

Hepatitis C

The treatment for hepatitis c has numerous side effects that include nausea, fatigue, depression, and muscle aches. These can last for months for some hepatitis c sufferers. Cannabis can help reduce the side effects caused by the treatment while making it more effective at the same time.

Treatment for Glaucoma

Glaucoma leads to additional pressure on the eyeball which is painful for individuals with the disorder. Cannabis can help reduce the pressure applied to the eyeball providing some temporary relief to individuals with glaucoma.

Autism Treatment

Cannabis is known to calm users down and control their mood. It can help children with autism that experience frequent violent mood swings control it.

Pain Management

CBD may also work as a pain reliever, as well as having anti-inflammatory properties. This makes it a popular treatment among those who experience chronic pain. Research suggests that medical cannabis patients with chronic pain report improved pain management when they consume marijuana products.

Conditions that people treat with edibles and other forms of medicinal marijuana include:

  • Arthritis
  • Cancer Pain
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Neuropathic Pain
  • Muscle Spasm Control

Doctors may also recommend medicinal cannabis for muscle spasm treatment. Research from 2013 indicates that people experience significant improvement in muscle spasticity and other types of pain when they take marijuana.

An oral preparation derived from marijuana is available to treat muscle spasticity and pain. Other forms of edibles may have similar effects, although research in this area is lacking.

The Straight Dope: Are Cannabis Edibles good for you?

Everyday Health Benefits of Using Marijuana

You dont necessarily need to be diagnosed with a medical condition to take advantage of the health benefits of Cannabis. Here is a list of just of a few of the areas that have been reported to see improvement with the use of Marijuana:

Relief of Chronic Pain

There are hundreds of chemical compounds in cannabis, many of which are cannabinoids. Cannabinoids have been linked to providing relief of chronic pain due to their chemical makeup. Which is why cannabis’ by-product such as medical cannabis is commonly used for chronic pain relief.

Improves Lung Capacity

Unlike smoking cigarettes, when smoking cannabis in the form of cannabis your lungs aren’t harmed. A study found that cannabis helps increase the capacity of the lungs rather than cause any harm to it.

Control Weight

If you look around, you will notice that the avid cannabis user is usually not overweight. That is because cannabis is linked to aiding your body in regulating insulin while managing caloric intake efficiently.

Regulate and Prevent Diabetes

With its impact on insulin, it only makes sense that cannabis can help regulate and prevent diabetes. Research conducted by the american alliance for medical cannabis (aamc) has linked cannabis to stabilize blood sugars, lower blood pressure, and improve blood circulation.

Fight Cancer

One of the biggest medical benefits of cannabis is its link to fighting cancer. There is a good amount of evidence that shows cannabinoids can help fight cancer or at least certain types of it.

Helps Treat Depression

Depression is fairly widespread without most people even knowing they have it. The endocannabinoid compounds in cannabis can help in stabilizing moods which can ease depression.

Mend Bones

Cannabidiol has been linked to helping heal broken bones, quickening the process. According to bone research laboratory in Tel Aviv, it also helps strengthen the bone in the process of healing. This makes it tougher for the bone to break in the future.

Helps with ADHD/ADD

Individuals with ADHD and ADD have trouble focusing on tasks at hand and as a result they tend to have problems with cognitive performance and concentration. Cannabis has shown promise in promoting focus and helping individuals with ADHD/ADD. It is also considered a much safer alternative to current options available Adderall and Ritalin.

Alleviate Anxiety

While cannabis is commonly known to cause anxiety, there is a way around that. Taken in monitored dosage and in the proper way, cannabis can help alleviate anxiety and calm users down.

Treats Inflammatory Bowel Diseases

Individuals with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis can find some relief with the use of cannabis. THC and cannabidiol are known to help enhance immune response while also interact with cells that play a vital role in the functioning of the gut. Cannabis helps block off bacteria and other compounds that cause inflammation in the intestines.

The Straight Dope: Are Cannabis Edibles good for you?

The Difference between Medical and Recreational Marijuana: THC and CBD Levels

The main difference between medical cannabis and recreational cannabis is the cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content. Recreational marijuana has more THC content than the medicinal marijuana which contains predominantly CBD. While THC is medicinally beneficial, its psychoactive nature is often not desired by users who are exclusively seeking health benefits.

The good news is that if you’re interested in medical cannabis, you don’t need to consume cannabis with a high THC level. There are a wide variety of products legally available everywhere that contain CBD and interestingly, you can also legally purchase traditional marijuana buds to use for medical purposes. These strains offer all the benefits of CBD coupled with the traditional sensation of consuming marijuana as a smoked or cooked product, but without the legal complexity of getting high.

How Can I Make Cannabis Edibles for Myself?

Making cannabis edibles at home could not be easier. In addition, you can find a wide range of edible recipes online. The best starting place would arguably be with a cannabutter which is explained further below. All you need is a slow cooker, butter and some high CBD weed.

Cannabutter

This is a great one to start out with because it can be the building block for almost anything. Unless you’re vegan, butter is in more foods than you probably know.

Here’s how to make it:

  • melt butter in a slow cooker / crock pot and add a little water to keep the butter from burning
  • add your ground, decarboxylated weed and simmer for 2-3 hours on the low setting, depending on the desired effects, you can select a flower with a high CBD content over a high THC content.
  • strain the butter into a jar (for example, you can use a funnel with cheesecloth to catch the ground-up weed)
  • Label and refrigerate the jar of cannabutter for future use!

You now have a perfect ingredient for many edible recipes!

The Straight Dope: Are Cannabis Edibles good for you?

What Are Some Alternatives to Cannabutter?

The reason butter is primarily used to infuse cannabis into edibles is that when heated, a high-fat material (such as butter) more easily extracts cannabinoids from decarboxylated plant matter. However, butter isn’t the only fat in the kitchen, and many dairy-free cannabis chefs have created alternatives.

Cannabis Coconut Oil

You’ll need a slow-cooker for this recipe, but it makes a delicious, dairy-free alternative to butter. Coconut oil may also have other health benefits, including promoting weight loss, boosting immune system function, and regulating metabolism.

Pre Made Marijuana Edibles

There are a wide range of pre-made CBD and THC dominant edibles available. Check the list below of available products below!

Cannabis Tourism

As more and more places around the world legalize the use of marijuana, entrepreneurs in the cannabis community are rolling out painting classes, extravagant tours, cooking demonstrations, and a whole host of other marijuana-infused experiences, making some cities must-stops for cannabis enthusiasts. Regardless of your other hobbies, there’s a cannabis destination that is a good fit for you.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Barcelona, Spain

Coachella valley, California USA

Westmoreland, Jamaica

The Straight Dope: Are Cannabis Edibles good for you?

FAQ of Cannabis Edibles Consumption

Whether you’re trying cannabis edibles for the first time or you’re an experienced consumer, it’s okay to be curious about the process. Here are a few frequently asked questions about cannabis edibles:

How do I determine the right serving size?

There’s no “standard” serving size as far as edibles are concerned. Every user responds differently, and everyone has a different tolerance to the CBD and THC content. The best way to make edibles is to establish a baseline and go up or down from there. With any pre-packaged products you will be ensured of a regulated dosage per unit so you will know in advance if 1 or 2 units is required for you to obtain the desired effect.

How long does it take to feel the effects of an edible?

The answer depends on several factors, but for most consumers who are consuming recreationally, the effects of THC-infused edibles may take anywhere from a half-hour to 90 minutes to appear. As THC levels differ from strain to strain, the concentration in the variety used is a determining factor as a more concentrated level will be felt more quickly. As previously explained, the method of absorption will also play a role in how the body metabolises the compounds. THC lollipops, gum, and hard candies are taken sublingually, which shows effects sooner than absorption via digestion as with cookies.

What are the best strains for using to make edibles?

Well, this is a tough one! There are hundreds of great strains out there and they all contribute different benefits and different setbacks. As the organic element of the various strains remains more or less the same, it will come down to personal preference and desired outcome for each user to find the perfect combination of flavour and CBD/THC content.

Can I get addicted to Marijuana?

Technically you can get addicted to anything. Food, sex, whatever it is that makes us feel a certain way that we keep seeking. In terms of similar ‘intoxicants’ other retail options such as alcohol, tobacco, even gambling are seen as being ‘addictive’ so too is fast food or shopping! That list does not even touch on the plethora of prescription drugs available from your doctor that are often opiate-based, making them among the most addictive options available. Most of these prescription options also come along with a raft of other undesirable side effects on the user, which can all be avoided by opting for a natural alternative such as marijuana.

Can I take too much?

The short answer is no. Even if you do consume way too much marijuana, it is not even recommended by the medical establishment that you are taken to ER! You simply need to wait it out while your body metabolises the compounds. Luckily, in most cases this coincides with a good old sleep if the marijuana has a high THC level!

The Straight Dope: Are Cannabis Edibles good for you?

A word of Warning about Cannabis Edibles

One point to really drive home is that you need to act responsibly where marijuana, medical or recreational is concerned. This means if you are a parent, keep it out of reach of any kids! It makes sense as  you have to keep any kind of cleaning product or medicine out of reach of kids anyway, but the additional risk here is that a gummy bear is a lot more enticing to a child than a dishwasher tablet… maybe if you are a parent, rely on alternative forms of edible consumption such as an oil, or keep them literally under lock and key in a safe box.

Moreover, if you are new to marijuana edibles, even as an experienced marijuana smoker it is a different way of consuming it and you need to start out slowly to get a base line of how you respond. This is particularly true if you are taking an edible with a relatively high THC content. Make sure you wait until you feel something. Don’t double down after consuming one for the first time thinking that they are not having an effect, as it will affect you! The time it takes will depend on many factors like your metabolism and what you have previously eaten etc.

Lastly and most obviously, you need to double check the legality of consumption in the area in which you live. Having said that, the laws are changing so rapidly these days, countries are falling like dominos to legalise cannabis consumption, as most of the western world has medical use in place already with widespread recreational use to follow closely behind.

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