You may have experienced this before: You eat a cannabis edible, but it feels like nothing’s happening. Then you eat some more and still nothing. Now a third edible goes down the hatch, and you wait patiently. All of a sudden, all three edibles hit you at once. You spend a few miserable hours uncomfortably high, just waiting to feel normal again.
Cannabis edibles can take an hour or more to deliver their effects. This lag time has trapped many a cannabis newcomer into eating far more than they’d planned when they think the edibles aren’t working. You may know someone—or be someone—who swore off cannabis edibles because of a bad experience like this.
But now, some cannabis entrepreneurs have harnessed a pharmaceutical process called nanoemulsion. Nanoemulsion can help create cannabis edibles that take effect in as little as 15 to 20 minutes. Discreet and quick acting, these edibles could bring fast relief for a medical condition.
They also take the delay and guesswork out of how and when marijuana edibles affect the consumer. This could help make cannabis consumption as mainstream as having a few glasses of wine at a party.
The cannabis edibles market has come a long way since the early days of homemade brownies infused with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Now, it’s possible to eat your cannabis in foods ranging from trail mix to gourmet chocolates to honey.
Cannabis edibles appeal to those who don’t want to smoke or vape cannabis, but still want a potent dose of cannabinoids. Many consumers find that having to commit a lengthy amount of time to a cannabis experience—that can potentially be unpredictable, too—can be inconvenient and frustrating.
When you smoke or vape cannabis, cannabinoids enter the bloodstream almost immediately through the capillaries in the lungs. This is why most people are able to feel the plant’s effects within minutes.
But edibles take a different route to deliver their effect. When you eat a marijuana edible, you consume the cannabinoids along with a number of other ingredients. And they’re all processed together through the stomach and the rest of the digestive system. Consumption of the other ingredients coupled with the digestive process (plus what may already be in your stomach) mean that the cannabinoids’ effects can be unpredictable in timing and strength.
Another issue with marijuana edibles is that cannabinoids are fat soluble, or lipophilic, which means they must be dissolved in fats in order to become bioavailable. This is why cannabis cooking typically involves cannabis-infused butter or other kinds of oils such as coconut or olive. Combining cannabis with fat helps the intestines transport cannabinoids into the liver and from there to the bloodstream.
All this takes time. But the emerging technology of nanoemulsion creates a dramatic shortcut by taking advantage of cannabis’s affinity for fat.
Nanoemulsion takes advantage of nanotechnology, a branch of technology that conducts operations on the nanoscale. Or in other words, dimensions measured in nanometers. One nanometer is one billionth of a meter.
And if you’re not used to working in the metric system, one inch is 25,400,000 nanometers long. This kind of scale allows nanotechnology specialists to work on the level of atoms and molecules, including the molecules in substances such as prescription drugs and the cannabinoids in cannabis.
Nanoemulsion delivers a variety of pharmaceuticals, including some cancer medications and vaccines. Nanoemulsions can make medications more bioavailable and reduce the side effects and toxicity that can accompany powerful drugs. Nanoemulsion technology combines:
Because of their miniscule size, nanoemulsions can quickly penetrate the skin and other tissues. This causes the medication to be delivered quickly at full strength while bypassing the digestive system and other kinds of processing by the body.
If nanoemulsion technology can deliver pharmaceuticals safer and more efficiently, can it work for cannabis, too? In 2015, Colorado cannabis entrepreneur Peter Barsoom, founder of the cannabis edible company 1906, asked this question. The result is a line of cannabis edibles developed with nanoemulsions of THC and/or cannabidiol (CBD), which promise to deliver its effect in 20 minutes or less.
Since then, a number of other cannabis businesses have begun to explore the potential of nanoemulsions in cannabis products of various kinds. As awareness grows about the benefits of nanoemulsion technology for both medical and recreational cannabis consumers, expect to see more rapid delivery products hitting the market.
These new products reflect the fact that nanoemulsion technology and cannabis seem made for each other. The oils that are required in a marijuana edible for the cannabinoids to become bioavailable are among those most commonly used to create nanoemulsions. And because nanoemulsions can deliver their full potency so quickly, cannabis experts think rapid delivery edibles could lead to a cultural shift in the way people view—and consume—cannabis.
Smoking and vaping are obvious ways to consume marijuana, but in some social situations neither of these is appropriate or welcome. Conventional edibles are a less obtrusive way to consume cannabis, but it can take far too long to feel their effects.
With rapid delivery edibles though, the effect is very similar to consuming alcohol, which could make taking these kinds of edibles similar to having a few glasses of wine at dinner. For those who are taking cannabis for medical purposes, rapid delivery edibles can also make it easier to get a standard dose of the right cannabinoid combination and make it easy to microdose for desired effects.
The market for cannabis edibles is growing fast, as people search for ways to take cannabis discreetly in social settings and get quick relief from a variety of health conditions. And now, nanoemulsion technology makes it possible to add rapid release cannabinoids to food products of all kinds. This should be welcome news for those who want a pleasant, THC-powered social high as well as for folks who need quick relief with CBD from a medical condition.
The use of cannabis nanoemulsions goes beyond edibles, too. Because nanoparticles are so small, they can be easily absorbed through the skin. This makes it possible to boost the response time for topical cannabis products such as creams and ointments.
In all of these situations, nanotechnology plus marijuana’s well-known affinity for fats of all kinds make it possible for tiny particles to pack a big punch—and to deliver cannabinoids for health and wellness in a fraction of the usual time.
Photo credit: NordWood Themes