Many patients and recreational consumers are aware that they can either inhale their cannabis — via smoke or vapor — or eat it in baked goods and even regular meals.
Both consumption methods provide users with medicinal benefits and a certain degree of psychoactivity. However, this is where the similarities between cannabis edibles and flowers end.
In fact, these two products are much different in terms of onset time, potency, peak, and duration of effects.
Inhalation produces the fastest onset of all available methods. The effects of inhaled cannabis take hold in up to 2.5 minutes. Ingestion, on the other hand, has a longer onset, requiring a minimum of 45 minutes up to 2 hours to be noticed.
But then again, the high from cannabis edibles can last for up to 6 hours, whereas the effects of inhaled weed wear off after around 2-3 hours.
In this guide, we’ll highlight the most important differences between cannabis edibles and flowers. But before we do that, let’s have a brief overview of these two consumption methods.
What Are Cannabis Flowers?
Cannabis flowers are the resinous part of the female cannabis plant. Their buds are coated in crystal-like resin formed from trichomes, which is where the majority of active substances are secreted.
In simple terms, trichomes hold both cannabinoids — such as THC and CBD — as well as terpenes, the aromatic compounds in plants.
Cannabis flowers may contain anywhere between 5% and 35% THC. Most cannabis strains — excluding hemp — are low in CBD, although there are strains specifically bred for a higher CBD content
How Are Cannabis Flowers Prepared Before Consumption?
Raw cannabis flowers contain acidic forms of both THC and CBD — these are THCA and CBDA.
In their acidic form, these cannabinoids cannot produce their active effects. THCA won’t make you high, just as CBDA won’t make you experience the benefits unique to CBD.
Cannabinoids become activated through the process known as decarboxylation — another fancy term for heating up weed flowers.
Before the flowers make it to the dispensary’s shelves in tightly sealed jars, they need to be dried and cured.
Only then can we talk about a finished cannabis product.
Drying begins when the plants are cut down. Then, growers trim away any extra fan leaves from the plant’s stalks, hanging the weed on a rack afterwards.
The ideal conditions for drying cannabis should involve relatively low humidity and dim light. You can hang your flowers anywhere as long as you can provide proper air circulation and keep the plants away from sharp light.
The process of drying can take about 10 days, provided that the drying room is at around 70 degrees F and the humidity ranges between 45–55%.
People have been curing their food and beverages for as long as the history of mankind goes. The aim of curing cannabis is pretty much the same — to preserve it and make it suitable for long-term storage.
Otherwise, your weed would be devoured by mold over time.
Not only that, but curing cannabis flowers also increases their cannabinoid content and draws the most out of any particular strain’s aromas and flavors.
In short, curing is the icing on the cake when it comes to making consumable cannabis flowers. This process can actually make or break the quality of the final product.
How Do You Consume Cannabis Flowers?
There’s a plethora of ways to consume cannabis flowers, but in this section, we’ll cover the most common ones.
In a Joint/Blunt/Spliff
A joint is the most iconic way to inhale cannabis flowers. It includes dried and finely ground buds that are rolled into some kind of paper — usually made from hemp fiber or cellulose.
People often confuse joints with blunts and spliffs. Let’s make sure you’re not one of those people.
Joints are packed with nothing but pure cannabis. There’s no tobacco, no herbal blends, no additives whatsoever. It’s just the weed, rolling papers, and a cardboard tip to help the user hold the joint.
Blunts are similar to joints, but they use a tobacco leaf or an empty cigar tube to pack the ground flowers into. Blunts are usually bigger than joints and can hold more weed, which makes them perfect for group sessions. However, a blunt is also every cannabis purist’s nightmare due to the presence of tobacco.
Spliffs, in turn, use a combination of weed and tobacco (or other additives) in a rolling paper — they’re more popular in Europe than in America.
In a Pipe/Bong
Pipes and bongs are special devices for smoking weed. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and designs, but the most popular models are made out of borosilicate glass.
Glass is a superior material because it provides users with the purest taste of their inhaled herbs.
Pipes are great if you want to skip the whole prep work and rolling stuff. They are also highly portable — you can take them virtually whenever you want.
Bongs, on the other hand, are better for social settings, as they can pack more weed and are much larger than pipes. They also offer water filtration that cools the smoke at the same time.
In a Vaporizer
Vaporization is a smokeless consumption method that only produces cannabinoid-reach vapor. Va
What Are Cannabis Edibles?
Cannabis edibles are exactly what they sound — food infused with cannabis.
Today’s market holds an abundance of different forms of edibles, including cookies, gummies, chocolate bars, hard candy, chewing gum, lollipops, honey sticks, brownies, and more.
Better yet, you can make your own cannabis edibles at home.
All you need is fat.
How Are Cannabis Edibles Made?
This is where both edibles and flowers cross each other. In order to make cannabis edibles, you need flowers and some sort of fat — you can use olive oil, butter, ghee, or coconut oil.
The key is to slowly infuse the THC from cannabis into the fatty base using low heat. That’s how cannabis cooking fats are made.
Why use fat?
Because THC is fat-soluble, meaning it dissolves in fats. If you tried to eat raw cannabis, nothing would happen because you would only ingest its inactive compounds whose oral bioavailability is extremely low.
Before making your cannabis infusion, you need to decarboxylate the weed. This can be done in the oven for about 40 minutes. Decarboxylation transforms THCA into THC so it can work its psychoactive effects once in the bloodstream.
The best thing about cannabis edibles is that you convert virtually any recipe that calls for some sort of fat into a weed-infused one. All you need to do is substitute a part of regular butter with your herbal infusion — and follow the recipe.
Ingest or Inhale? Differences Between Cannabis Edibles and Flowers
If you’re wondering whether you should ingest or inhale your weed, knowing the key differences between these two routes of administration should quickly end your dilemma.
1. THC Absorption
Cannabis edibles are typically much stronger than smoked or vaporized cannabis. That’s because THC gets metabolized by the liver and converts into 11-hydroxy-THC. This active metabolite is particularly potent and super effective at crossing the blood-brain barrier.
This results in a more intense high.
Inhaled THC travels through the oral airways to the lungs. From there, it reaches the bloodstream, where it travels to the cannabinoid receptors in the brain. THC doesn’t get converted in the process, so the high is less potent but comes on faster.
2. Onset Time
Speaking of which, the effects of inhaled cannabis can be perceived within minutes after inhalation. It usually doesn’t take more than 2.5 minutes to feel the first stage of the high.
With edibles, it’s a bit of a different story. Since the THC needs to be metabolized by the liver, the effects have a slower onset. As mentioned, edibles may need about 30 minutes to 2 hours to kick in.
3. Type of High
This is another significant difference between cannabis edibles and flowers. Inhaled cannabis acts faster, but the high is weaker and it comes on gradually — one puff after another. As long as users keep their dosage in moderation, the side-effects are nearly nonexistent.
Most often, cannabis consumers report light to moderate euphoria, appetite boost, elevated mood, and tension relief.
Edibles kick much harder than cannabis flowers. That’s interesting because ingesting edibles delivers only 10 to 20% of THC and other cannabinoids to the bloodstream, whereas the absorption rate of inhaled weed is closer to 60%. Still, the aforementioned presence of 11-hydroxy-THC makes the high from edibles more potent than any other route of administration.
4. Duration of Effects
The duration of inhaled cannabis flowers is relatively short. The effects tend to peak within 10 minutes and start to decrease from there over the next 60 minutes, up to 2 hours.
Despite their slower onset time, cannabis edibles last much longer than flowers. On top of stronger body effects coupled with an almost psychedelic cerebral high in large doses, edibles are known to last for about 6 hours — although we’ve read stories about people coming to emergency rooms after being high for 10 hours.
Which brings us to the next point.
5. Dosing Strategies
Edibles are definitely more difficult to dose. Due to their delayed onset, many people tend to underestimate their potency.
The quote “These edibles ain’t shit” has become almost legendary in the cannabis community.
However, people who repeat this quote often change their mind after taking one edible too many. That’s because the effects of both doses will start to pile up at some point, as the THC is released gradually when consumed that way.
When you don’t feel anything after the first 30 minutes, stay patient. The cookie you’ve just eaten may kick in after extra 10 minutes, giving you the high of your lifetime, but without any negative side effects.
Going overboard with edibles may lead to elevated anxiety, paranoia, rapid heart rate, confusion, loss of coordination, and extreme sedation.
This isn’t a problem with cannabis flowers. Since the effects are noticeable within minutes, you can inhale two times and wait for a few minutes until you begin to feel something. Once there, you can decide whether this type of effects suits you or you’re looking for more potent effects. Just take another hit or two and reassess how you feel.
6. Health Aspects
Smoking anything is basically wrong, so it would be safe to assume the same for cannabis. However, research in this subject has shown interesting results. Namely, it appears that regular marijuana smokers have better spirometry results (tests for lung function) than tobacco smokers and — here comes the best part — non-smokers.
Another study found that heavy marijuana smokers are actually at a lower risk of suffering from lung cancer than tobacco users despite the vividly higher amounts of tar in marijuana smoke.
Still, ingesting edibles is a healthier option than inhaling flowers (especially through smoking), because it doesn’t exercise your lungs that often, not to mention that edibles are more than just sweets. In fact, you can infuse cannabis into plenty of healthy meals.
When you buy cannabis edibles from a regulated market, you can rest assured that the products you’re about to order have gone through meticulous testing in 3rd-party laboratories.
This is to ensure that each batch of product comes with the same total potency and milligrams of THC per serving.
In unregulated markets, buying cannabis edibles is like playing a Russian roulette. If you can’t find any edibles in your local dispensary, it’s better to buy them online rather than rely on your friend’s freshly baked goods.
The labeling of cannabis flowers is much less problematic. Even if you grow your own weed, you know that your strain can’t go beyond its genetic capabilities — you just smoke to the point when you can feel the benefits of the herb without the side-effects of consuming too much THC at a time.
Summarizing the Differences Between Cannabis Edibles and Flowers
As you can see, cannabis edibles and flowers are much different, although they both provide users with medical benefits and a certain degree of psychoactivity.
If you’re new to cannabis, we recommend starting from inhaling dried buds because they are less potent than edibles, have a shorter duration time, and are easier to dose.
Then you can switch to edibles if you are patient enough and know your THC tolerance levels.
Just remember not to rush for another dose until you feel the effects from the first bite that you’ve taken. Sometimes, a little goes a long way — and this couldn’t be more accurate for cannabis-infused food.
How do you like your weed? Are you Team Ingest or Team Inhale?