When you think of cannabis edibles, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Is it those questionable hash brownies passed around the college dorm back in the day? Or a plate of cookies. Chocolates or gummies?
Today, marijuana edibles have grown to include a whole host of healthy choices. Many of the chocolates boast fair trade and organic ingredients. You can find gluten-free and low-sugar baked goods. Some gummies are naturally sweetened with fruit juices. And you’ve even got cannabis-infused savory foods like crackers and jerky to choose from.
Why were there so many sweets crowding dispensary shelves in the not-so-distant past?
“When we started in 2009, we were producing more savory products, but unfortunately the dispensaries weren’t into refrigeration, so products were limited to high-sugar content [which tend not to spoil],” recalls Elyse Gordon of Better Baked, LLC. She points out that these days you can find healthier ingredients and cleaner sources of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) extractions for infused products.
Elyse says cannabis, in general, has helped her reduce joint inflammation, eased her anxiety and is an effective sleep aid. Although she isn’t a big edibles consumer herself, when she does partake, she likes to make a meal and layer cannabis in with a dressing, sauce or infused bread.
Lisa Tollner, co-founder of Sensi Products, maker of Sensi Chew, says that the inspiration for her company related to family members struggling with health issues and chronic pain.
“The more I looked into alternatives to pharmaceutical drugs, the more I noticed cannabis medicine as a new frontier. I saw so many different types of people from many walks of life strolling into dispensaries—from older patients to younger patients—some who looked very visibly sick, and I thought ‘Wow, they're really finding relief here.’ From there, I began experimenting with edibles.”
Lisa adds, “We want to develop products that help people live happier, healthier lives, and give consumers an alternative to traditional pharmaceuticals and their sometimes-pesky side effects.”
Not all edibles need to be foods infused with THC or CBD. Some alternative forms of edibles—or ingestibles—can be less problematic in terms of irritable or unhealthy ingredients. They can also help deliver a more consistent dose. Depending on where you live, you may want to look into:
Beverages including tea, coffee, soda, juice and even CBD water
Tablets or tablinguals
My own edibles experience started and ended in college with that infamous brownie in the dorm—the kind that led to having way too much of a psychoactive effect. Having revisited cannabis to manage pain and help me sleep through the night, I’m really taken with the wide variety of edible offerings. I’ve found that small, 5 mg mints are a nice, low-dose option as is a low-dose cannabis-infused tea with THC or CBD.
“The primary reason for a soft gel cap is its convenience. Pills are easy to travel with, while edibles are sometimes unable to tolerate fluctuations in temperature and condition,” says Lisa. “For those new to cannabis, ingesting capsules provides a familiar experience, which makes it less intimidating.”
Lisa explains that both capsules and edibles contain medicine, but the difference is mainly in how it’s processed in the body.
“When you take a soft gel, it’s absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract and can take an hour or more to take effect. Depending on the individual and their metabolism, the experience can last from four to eight hours. If a caramel is administered sublingually, it reaches the bloodstream in approximately 20 to 25 minutes.”
Sensi Products also offers Sensi Chew chocolates that are a low-calorie, low-sugar treat with CBD. “The soft gels and caramels are very similar in the end result that they provide to the user. They're both anti-inflammatory, assist in the management of pain and anxiety, and are non-psychoactive. It all boils down to preference in consumption method and speed of onset.”
But not all experts think that the newer ingestible products that isolate THC or CBD are ideal.
“I typically recommend that folks look for whole-plant cannabis products versus cannabinoid isolates, due to the entourage effect of having multiple cannabinoids working together,” explains Janice Newell Bissex, M.S., R.D.N., and owner of Jannabis Wellness, a company that educates about safe cannabis consumption. “However, there are some instances where having a convenient source of THC or CBD might work for some people.”
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Janice recommends that people choose edibles that “provide some good nutrition, with a good source of fiber, protein, vitamins and healthy fats.” She has created her own homemade edibles with minimal sugar and ingredients like nuts, nut butters, fruits, vegetables, oats, ground flaxseed and whole grains.
“If someone has an intolerance to certain ingredients, like wheat, caffeine or dairy, it’s important to find an edible that doesn’t contain those ingredients,” she says.
Janice points out that certain terpenes in cannabis may be responsible for some of the medical benefits, so look for the additional ingredients added in the edibles you consume.
Pairing cannabis with another source of a medicinal terpene may amplify cannabis’s effect. Lavender contains the terpene linalool that’s also found in cannabis. Linalool is thought to promote relaxation and strengthen the immune system.
Including a fat and protein source with an edible can extend the effect, Janice explains. “Even eating a handful of nuts will help to potentially extend the effect of the cannabis or CBD.”
“Remember that edibles affect you by body weight and your own personal endocannabinoid system’s reaction to cannabis,” says Elyse. “Until you’re sure how your body will react, remember: If you don’t know, go slow. You can never take back what you ate, so it’s always wiser to begin small and start to add more after approximately 40 minutes, if you’re not feeling the reaction you want.”
Says Lisa, “Cannabis is not for everyone, but it has continued to show health benefits for a lot of people in a spectrum of health conditions, and we're looking forward to seeing more people find holistic relief.“
Photo credit: Brooke Lark