Quick Guide to Cannabis Edibles
Quick Guide to Cannabis Edibles
Cannabis edibles are a great way to incorporate the positive benefits of CBD and THC without inhaling cannabis smoke or vapor. They come in a wide variety of delivery methods, flavors, and dosages that make it easy to customize your cannabis consumption.
That being said, the wide range of edible cannabis products that are available in areas with legalized cannabis can be overwhelming. To help guide you through the basics, we’ve put together this quick guide that explains exactly what edibles are and touches on the main types of cannabis preparations, as well as how to navigate dosage.
One important note before we dive in and before you take your first bite is that cannabis can interfere with certain medications especially those for depression and anxiety as well as blood thinners. Always consult with your doctor before adding cannabis to your routine if you take any regular medication which could be affected by it.
What are Cannabis Edibles?
Cannabis edibles are any food or drink that has had cannabis infused into the recipe through the use of a distillate, extract, or infusion. These different types of cannabis enhancing materials are used based on the specific type of edible that is being created.
In addition to offering an alternative way to consume cannabis besides smoking, edibles also tend to be a better option for those using cannabis to combat nausea, boost appetit, and relieve chronic pain as ingestions often results in stronger, longer-lasting, more body-centered experience.
How are Edibles Made?
Most cannabis edibles follow similar recipes to the original treats except that one of the ingredients, usually butter, oil, or other fat, is infused with cannabis. But first, the cannabis needs to be decarboxylated, which is a fancy way of saying slowly heated, in order to activate the THC and cannabinoids.
There are methods for making your own edibles that we’ll get into later on, but the most reliable dosage and flavor is going to come from dispensary products.
Generally, the edibles you get from a dispensary, especially those that are specifically designed for medical cannabis users, are going to be made with high-quality cannabis distillate, or cannabinoid crystals for CBD heavy edibles.
Distillates are odorless and flavorless oils that carry concentrated levels of cannabinoids that impart the beneficial and psychoactive effects associated with cannabis. They are created through a process of molecular distillation, similar to the way alcohol is distilled, where the extracted material is heated until it vaporizes. This is the part where the THC becomes activated through decarboxylation.
The evaporated and now activated substance is then decondensed and harvested. Even though cannabis distillates have already been decarboxylated, they still need an extra step of care before they are ready to cook with.
In order to provide better absorption, which results in a more potent edible experience, it’s important to bind the cannabinoids to a fat like butter or cooking oil. This also makes it easier to work with edible recipes as butter and oil are common inclusions in most baked goods, chocolate bars, gummies, and other food products.
The advantage of using distillates is that they are ordorless, flavorless, and can be added to recipes where certain or any cannabis taste or aroma would clash with the intended flavor of the product. The downside is the process for extracting distillates is not something the average person is going to want or be able to do at home, so if you prefer a distillate-based edible, your best bet is your local dispensary.
Cannabis extract, also referred to as tincture, is the most common form of infusion used in cannabis beverages. Instead of binding with fats, extracts are alcohol-based, making them ideal for use in cannabis drinks.
The process of creating extracts begins with the decarboxylation of the cannabis flower. The activated cannabis is then mixed with high-proof alcohol, sealed, and set aside to let time and physics do their thing. After a few weeks, the tincture is strained to filter out any bits of flower, leaving the final cannabis extract.
In addition to their use in cannabis-infused beverages, extracts can also be used on their own in a number of ways including vaping and sublingual ingestion, a common method for medical marijuana users looking to experience the medicinal effects of cannabis as an anti-convulsant, pain reliever, inflammation reducer, and appetite encourager.
Similar to the way distillates are bonded with a fat like butter or oil, infusions simply skip the distillate phase and bond the cannabinoids directly into the carrier substance. If you were going to attempt to make edibles at home, this is probably the way you want to do it.
The first step, as always, is decarboxylation. You can do this on your own with a cookie sheet of flower in the oven for 30-40 minutes at 240v F. For more tips on how to decarboxylate your own cannabis and make an infusion the old school way, check out this article from Highsnobiety.
If baking weed in your oven isn’t a great option for you, there are a variety of cannabis infusion devices that make the decarboxylation and infusion process a breeze. Devices range in price from rudimentary units as cheap as $30 all the way up to over $400 for the most advanced models.
Regardless of the method you use, one important thing to keep in mind is the fat content of the carrier you are using. Butter and oil with the highest fat content possible will offer a greater absorption rate and make for significantly more potent edibles.
How to Deal with Dosage
One of the more difficult aspects of edible creation and use is the dosage. Because the cannabinoids are being ingested instead of inhaled, and because the concentrations of THC will be higher the effects will be stronger and more prolonged.
If your edibles just contain CBD then you really don’t have anything to worry about, there’s really no such thing as too much CBD as it’s not psychoactive.
If you’re getting your edibles from a dispensary there will be dosage information on the packaging, though this doesn’t always make it clear how much you should have at one time, especially since edible dosage is not measured by the percent of THC present but by the amount of THC in milligrams that is present.
Another important thing to consider when looking at dosage is the serving size. You might buy a package with 2 cookies inside but the serving size and dosage is based off of a single cookie. When in doubt, ask your budtender, but generally, if you stick to a few key principles, you should be okay.
The first is to establish the goal of the edible: are you using it during the day to relieve pain and keep nausea at bay, or do you want it to put you to sleep at night? If you’re not sure how an edible will affect you, take it in the evening just in case.
Start with small doses and wait at least 2 hours until you take any more. While you might not be able to tell when you’ve not taken enough, you will definitely know when you’ve had too much and that’s not a fun place to be, so take it slow.