By Janelle Lassalle
Edibles have rapidly grown in popularity with both recreational and medical users over the past few years. It’s easy to see why: after all, edibles allow you to consume cannabis discreetly and on-the-go. And because there’s no smoke involved, edibles are also a great way for the canna-curious to try different strains.
Since edibles became legal, many different types of these cannabis-infused treats have entered the market. In this blog, we’ll explore the different kinds of edibles you may encounter as well as what makes each unique.
The most common type of edible you’ll encounter are food-based edibles. These include both sweet and savoury items. A wide range of products fall under this category, including brownies, cookies, chocolate bars, taffies, hard candies, gummies, and infused products like honey.
Most food-based edibles are made using cannabutter or oil and list the potency on the packaging. Edibles can take anywhere from 30 minutes to over four hours for the full effects to kick in.
Consuming edibles subjects your cannabis to something called the “first pass effect” [*]. This is the breakdown of cannabinoids by your liver, a process that results in reduced potency.
Another type of edible is a cannabis-infused drink. This can include just about any kind of beverage you can imagine from tea to coffee to lemonade.
Edible drinks can work in a few different ways. One method of action is sublingual. Sublingual absorption happens when the cannabinoids found in your beverage are directly absorbed into your bloodstream via mucosal membranes under your tongue [*]. This method of consumption can produce potentially faster effects than traditional edibles.
Other types of edible drinks are now being made for even faster onset times. These include drinks that utilize technology to make cannabinoids water soluble (micro or nano emulsions).
A commonly used edible for medicinal purposes is a tincture. A tincture is a concentrated liquid herbal extract. It can be taken by placing the correct amount of tincture under the tongue (or directly on the tongue, in some cases) and holding it there for at least a minute.
Make sure you keep dosage in mind when consuming, as tinctures can be extremely potent. General onset time is 15-45 minutes, with effects lasting up to 6 hours.
A new type of edible to appear on the market is a dissolvable powder. These powders utilize advances in technology to make cannabinoids water soluble. Water solubility increases the bioavailability, potency and onset time of cannabinoids [*]. As such, dissolvable powders are a great choice for patients seeking versatile edible options.
Understanding Types of Edibles
Categorizing edibles can be tricky. Here are a few different ways you can think about the different types of edibles:
Type of fat
Cannabis is a hydrophobic molecule. This means that it’s not water soluble [*].
As hydrophobic molecule cannabis does, however, have a great affinity for fats. This affinity means that cannabis is more effective when consumed with certain fats [*].
Some consumers swear by products made with coconut or MCT (medium chain triglyceride) oil as ideal carrier oils.
The main types of fats you’ll encounter in edibles are oils (canola, vegetables, olive oil, coconut) or cannabutter/ghee.
The ratio and types of cannabinoids used in your edible will have a large impact in terms of its effect. Categories of edibles include THC-only edibles, CBD-only edibles, and edibles that combine the two. You may also be wondering about the differences between CBD and hemp. CBD and hemp are the same thing. The only thing that distinguishes the two is their THC content as hemp must contain no more than 0.3% THC.
Indica vs. sativa
‘Indica’ and ‘Sativa’ are two of the most common species of the cannabis plant [*]. While there are many chemotypes of the plant, such as THC-dominant, CBD-dominant, and even hybrids of indica and sativa cultivars, some research indicates that each species can potentially cause different effects, along with its terpene and cannabinoid content [*].
Full spectrum vs. isolate
The final caveat to consider when considering categorizing edible types is whether your edible is a full spectrum or isolate product.
The term ‘full spectrum’ indicates that all of the cannabinoids and other potentially therapeutic compounds (terpenes, flavonoids, etc.) have been preserved in the final product. Full spectrum edibles may also contain small amounts of minor cannabinoids like CBG, CBN or CBC.
You might also see the term ‘broad spectrum’. Broad spectrum products contain all of the plant’s cannabinoids except for the intoxicating THC.
Edibles can also be made with isolates, purified forms of a lone cannabinoid. Isolates are the most refined versions of cannabis available, and as such they provide less therapeutic benefit than full spectrum oils [*].
An edible is any food or drink that’s been infused with cannabinoids, generally THC or CBD. Many different versions of edibles can be found at dispensaries or online. These include food-based edibles, edible drinks, tinctures and dissolvable powders.
Edibles can be classified based on several factors including type of fat, cannabinoid/terpene content and full spectrum vs. isolate.
The effects of cannabis vary greatly from person to person. As such a little trial and error—and plenty of patience—is always best when consuming edibles.