In a nutshell: Both concentrates and edibles are effective methods of medicating with cannabis. The decision you should make is based on what type of high you’re looking for, and how long it will take to get there.
If you don’t want to smoke it, you might want to use edibles. They are a more intimate method of medicating. As discussed in another post, the benefits of edibles include
- Ease of dosage control (you can eat as much or as little as you want)
- No respiratory irritation from smoke
The downside is that it takes longer to feel the effects of an edible. It takes about an hour so you have to plan and make sure not to overeat.
Cannabis Concentrates & Edibles
Concentrates like oils, tinctures, or hashish will more quickly provide a more robust experience. A concentrate can be used like any other pipe-able cannabis product. It can be used in a pipe or bong, a topical remedy, or medicated bath. Concentrates are great for those who know how much they need. They’re quite potent, so you don’t want to eat an entire edible else you pass out from the sheer mass of THC.
There is no right or wrong choice in terms of what form of cannabis you choose to medicate with. Whatever fits your lifestyle and gives you the best results for you is the right product for you. If you’re still on the fence about which method is best, this guide will help you decide based on some key considerations when choosing between brownies and budder.
Are you in a hurry or want to maintain complete control over your dosage?
Go for concentrates. Can’t stand the taste of cannabis but still need relief from an ailment? Choose edibles. Know yourself well enough to understand how much you can handle and have the time to let it kick in? Edibles will do the trick.
THC-A vs. THC (Delta 9 Tetrahydrocannabinol): Two Different Chemicals, Similar Effects
I have been a medical cannabis patient for years, and the most common question I get from other patients is, “What’s the difference between concentrates and edibles?” The answer lies in understanding the differences between two primary cannabinoids, THC-A and Delta 9 Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
The two chemicals found in marijuana plants have similar effects when used medicinally. Yet there are some distinct differences worth noting as you decide between edibles or concentrates:
1) The Process of Decarboxylation:
THC and THC-A are present in the plant in their carboxylated forms (meaning they exist as precursor molecules with an extra CO2 molecule attached). The only way to enjoy cannabis is to decarboxylate these molecules by heating them. The process of decarboxylation is what turns a raw bud into a joint, bong hit, or vaporizer cloud.
If you choose to ingest your medicine directly by eating it, decarboxylation is the reaction that occurs as the raw cannabis cooks and metabolizes in your stomach acid. So whether you’re cooking with cannabis or digesting it, you’re sure to experience some degree of effects.
Suppose you choose to smoke or vaporize your medicine.
Decarboxylation occurs because the heat of the flame or pen’s internal heating element converts the THC-A to its active counterpart, THC. When using non-combustion methods, like tinctures and edibles, an external heat source (like in a crockpot) is required to decarboxylate the THC-A into THC.
Once inside your body, THC and THC-A undergo metabolism before they reach your brain and produce effects. The difference lies in how this conversion takes place.
THC-A must first be converted by the liver into 11-hydroxy-THC before the effects of THC are felt. Because of this extra step, patients will experience a more powerful psychoactive impact than if they had just smoked or vaped their medicine. The upside is that sufferers from conditions linked with liver diseases, such as Hepatitis C and fibromyalgia, may have fewer adverse side effects because the liver acts as a filtering agent.
On the other hand, THC has no conversion necessary and produces its effects immediately after being inhaled or consumed. This may be why patients who use THC-A products like hashish have reported feeling “higher” than if they had used traditional consumption methods like smoking or vaping.
3) Duration of Effects:
The duration of effects is where THC-A shines as an alternative treatment option for patients who are sensitive to the psychoactive effects of THC and those looking to avoid the “high.” Because THC-A converts into 11-hydroxy-THC in your liver before reaching the brain, the impact of THC-A is felt almost immediately after ingestion.
Contrary to popular belief, this is good for cannabis patients who want or need relief without feeling “high.” THC also starts kicking in within minutes after inhalation. Still, its dynamic effects usually last shorter than THC-A (I think the difference between an hour and two).
4) Duration of Relief:
THC-A products like tinctures, cannabis oil, and edibles produce effects that last longer than if you had smoked or vaped your medicine. The duration of relief is because when patients use these products, they can consume larger doses without getting high.
Since the liver converts THC-A into 11-hydroxy-THC, patients receive a supercharged dose that lasts longer than your standard inhaled dose. The downside is that these products take longer to feel the effects because decarboxylation occurs slowly as cannabinoids travel through your digestive system.
For more information on THC and THC-A, please read The Difference between Hemp and Marijuana.
For more information on how edibles work for patients who do not want the “high” effect, please read: Why Edibles are an Option for Patients Who Don’t Want to Get High.