What Happens to Edibles When You Eat Them and Why are Edibles So Strong?

What Happens to Edibles When You Eat Them and Why are Edibles So Strong?

Ever wonder what happens to edibles when you eat them and why edibles seem to hit you harder than smoking or vaping? Let’s explore the real reason why.

By Sophia Schivone

Ever wonder what happens to edibles when you eat them and why edibles seem to hit you harder than smoking or vaping? The key difference lies in how your body processes THC when ingested. When you consume THC through edibles, your liver converts approximately half of the activated THC into 11-hydroxy-THC (11-OH-THC). This transformation significantly amplifies the effects, making edibles feel much stronger.

The Science Behind Edibles

Cannabis can be enjoyed in so many ways, but edibles stand out for their potency and prolonged effects. Unlike smoking or vaping, where THC is absorbed directly into the bloodstream, edibles undergo a complex metabolic journey. They are notorious for their unpredictability, as the high takes longer to set in, which can lead to accidental overconsumption.

The Power of 11-Hydroxy-THC

11-hydroxy-THC isn’t present in the cannabis plant itself; it’s a metabolite produced by your liver after consuming THC. When THC is ingested, it travels through the digestive system to the liver, where it is metabolized into 11-OH-THC and 11-carboxy-THC (11-COOH-THC). Research suggests that 11-hydroxy-THC is up to four times more potent than THC, contributing to the intense effects of edibles.

This metabolite crosses the blood-brain barrier more effectively, leading to a more pronounced high. In contrast, inhaled THC bypasses the liver, traveling directly to the brain, resulting in a quicker but less intense experience. This is why edibles are stronger than smoking flower or vaping.

Benefits of Edibles

Edibles offer longer-lasting effects compared to other methods of consumption. They take about 60-120 minutes to kick in but can last anywhere from 6 to 30 hours but differs on the person and how much is consumed. This makes edibles ideal for prolonged relief, especially for conditions like insomnia. Additionally, edibles avoid the lung irritation associated with smoking.

Tips for Effective Consumption

Eating a meal before consuming edibles can enhance their effects. The liver’s initial metabolism, known as the first-pass effect, can sometimes diminish the impact of the edible. By eating beforehand, you can increase cannabinoid concentration and extend the duration of effects, though this may also delay the onset. Always practice mindfulness before consuming edibles. Read more on conscious cannabis use in our mindfulness blog here.

How Your Body Processes THC

Smoking remains the most popular way to consume cannabis due to its rapid effects. THC is absorbed through the lungs and quickly reaches the brain. Conversely, edibles must navigate through the digestive system and liver before entering the bloodstream, resulting in a slower but often more intense experience.

The Potent Metabolite: 11-Hydroxy-THC

The journey of THC through the digestive system results in the creation of 11-hydroxy-THC. Unlike many metabolic byproducts that are less active, 11-hydroxy-THC is more potent. Studies show that this metabolite induces a faster and more intense psychoactive experience compared to THC itself.

Ensuring Safe and Enjoyable Edible Use

Edibles provide a discreet and healthier alternative to smoking, but their intense effects can be off-putting for new users. Accurate dosing and reliable potency information are crucial for a safe experience. This is why it’s always a good idea to start with small doses and work your way up as needed. Make sure to practice mindfulness to ensure safe and enjoyable edible use. Afraid you will get too high from an edible? Read our blog on how to lessen the effects here and again, always start small and consult your budtender or doctor for accurate recommendations based on your needs.

Potential Downsides of Edibles

Edibles come with challenges, primarily in dosage control and delayed onset. The long latency period can lead to overconsumption, causing unwanted effects like paranoia and impaired motor skills. It’s essential to start with a low dose and wait several hours before consuming more to avoid these issues.


Edibles offer a unique and potent way to experience cannabis, thanks to the liver’s conversion of THC into the powerful 11-hydroxy-THC. Understanding this process can help users appreciate the intense and prolonged effects of edibles, ensuring a safer and more enjoyable experience. Shop our delicious gels now!

By Sophia Schivone