When it comes to ingesting cannabis, there is no one-size-fits-all for the experience and effects, with the production of 11-hydroxy-THC being what sets cannabis edibles, specifically, apart.
In other words, as many cannabis users likely already know, the ingestion method for how one consumes marijuana can make all the difference for dictating the onset time, potency and duration of their experience.
This diversity is why you can expect profoundly different effects from smoking, dabbing, or ingesting cannabis-infused edibles in the context of this article.
As we’ll go on to discover, if you keep reading, 11-hydroxy-metabolite, also known as 11-hydroxy-THC or 11-OH-THC, is the primary element that distinguishes the potent and powerful effects that edibles produce from other, more conventional ingestion methods.
That said, what is 11-hydroxy-THC, how does it differ from the more familiar Delta-9 THC, and what is the secret behind the hard-hitting effects of marijuana edibles? Today, we will explain all this and more.
With this in mind, let’s get started.
What is 11-Hydroxy-Metabolite?
As we’ve already established, 11-hydroxy-metabolite goes by many names, including 11-hydroxy-THC and 11-OH-THC. However, they’re all used to describe the same thing.
To delve deeper into this compound in the context of cannabis, we’ll need to provide a brief overview of the concept of pharmacokinetics.
Pharmacokinetics describes the various transfers and journeys that chemicals perform throughout the human body, eventually becoming metabolized.
As we mentioned above, the method in which one consumes cannabis can greatly influence the set and concentration of specific cannabinoids present in the cannabis plant.
This variation can significantly influence the particular product’s potency and the effects the user will experience.
For example, if one were to utilize more traditional consumption methods, such as smoking, the cannabinoids and other properties are inhaled through the lungs where they later enter the bloodstream, then travel to the brain, and, finally, spread to the rest of the body.
Opposingly, suppose one were to ingest a marijuana edible. In that case, the cannabinoids are instead directly absorbed by the blood, which then transports them to the liver and the rest of the body, where they are further metabolized in the digestive system.
This difference is crucial when determining why the effects of these different items are so profoundly unique. When you ingest edible marijuana products, your body converts the tetrahydrocannabinol THC into a different compound, 11-hydroxy-metabolite, producing effects that are significantly more intense.
Essentially, 11-OH-THC is a metabolic byproduct created when the THC in an edible passes through the liver and gastrointestinal tract. As with other foods, the body naturally contains metabolic enzymes that alter and break down the various compounds. Typically, the resulting metabolic byproducts produced by this process are less active than the original organic molecule.
However, with 11-hydroxy-THC, this is not the case. In fact, it is actually more potent than its predecessor, THC.
THC vs 11-Hydroxy-THC – What’s the Difference?
When considering the various properties of cannabis products, THC, also known as tetrahydrocannabinol, δ9 tetrahydrocannabinol or Delta-9 THC, is usually one of the first to come to mind.
Tetrahydrocannabinol is the cannabis compound responsible for producing the psychoactive effects of marijuana.
That said, it’s its natural and inactive form, THCA, that’s actually present in the plant.
To convert THCA to THC, you must perform the process of decarboxylation. They can do so by exposing the Delta-9 THC to heat. Typically, this task is performed through the act of smoking or vaping.
In other words, if the THCA does not undergo decarboxylation, it will not be converted to THC and will thus produce no psychoactive effects.
As we highlighted previously, 11-OH-THC is far stronger than standard Delta-9 THC. Part of this is because, when smoking or vaping, the ratio of 11-hydroxy-THC to regular THC is relatively low.
However, if one were to ingest a cannabis edible, more THC will initially travel to the liver, where it’s converted to 11-OH-THC, thereby making the 11-0H-THC to THC ratio much higher.
In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled research study published in Therapeutic Drug Monitoring, a journal devoted to therapeutic drug monitoring and clinical toxicology, subjects were requested to take 1mg of each intravenously.
Those administered the 11-OH-THC felt the effects immediately, with maximum effects after just two to three minutes following ingestion.
After three rounds of the 1mg THC and 11-OH-THC administration, the evidence showed that, at equal amounts, 11-OH-THC had significantly stronger effects with a faster onset time than its cannabis counterpart tetrahydrocannabinol.
So, why is distinguishing the differences between these two cannabinoids important? There are two primary rationales to consider.
The Effects are Distinct & Different
When performing more conventional cannabis ingestion methods, such as smoking or vaping, the effects are more fast-acting and present more immediately.
This swiftness is due to the millions of alveoli present in the lungs, making it efficient and easy for the chemical compounds to enter the body, prompting a more speedy experience.
In the context of 11-OH-THC, the expectation surrounding effects are less predictable, namely, because there are so many different types of edibles, including tinctures, gummies, baking goods, drinks, etc. In this way, determining or predicting the experience is more challenging, as it may differ from one user to the next.
Individuals’ characteristics such as the user’s weight, metabolism, age, tolerance level, and other physiological elements can play a significant role in how long the effects of 11-OH-THC will last or whether they will be pleasurable or more adverse.
In other words, they could last up to four hours or more and be entirely enjoyable or be a less than favourable experience.
The Onset Time
When smoking or vaporizing, as we described earlier, the onset time is quick. Users can expect a range of two hours, at most, to feel the cannabis-related effects.
This duration for both onset and how long the effects will last is drastically different for ingesting edibles. With edible cannabis, the effects can take anywhere from 30 minutes to more than two hours to set in, with no predictable way to determine when, precisely, this will happen.
That said, once the 11-hydroxy-THC finally reaches the brain, the psychoactive effects can last upwards of 8 hours. This element, in particular, is crucial to keep in mind.
Why do Edibles Hit Harder?
As we’ve explained previously, smoking cannabis allows the THC to directly enter the bloodstream, albeit in a less efficient way. Since THC is oil-soluble, it doesn’t disintegrate in the watery human bloodstream. All this means is that cannabis users aren’t necessarily experiencing the full potential for how potent THC can genuinely be through these more conventional methods.
Alternatively, when the body ingests a marijuana edible, the THC instead journeys through the gastrointestinal and digestive tracts before making its way to the liver. In the liver, like with any other food item, the body continues the process and breaks it down by adding more enzymes.
This process results in creating complex compounds known as metabolites, with 11-OH-THC being one such example.
The process of converting THC to 11-OH-THC starts in the stomach but, as we described above, is mostly performed by the liver. The 11-OH-THC is then transferred into the bloodstream from the liver, where it must travel further to the blood-brain barrier before the effects finally become noticeable to the user.
However, the duration for how long this takes will vary significantly and depend on the specific metabolism of the individual user ingesting the edible. That said, the typical gauge is anywhere between 30 minutes to over 2 hours.
11-OH-THC is thus more water-soluble than regular THC, making it much easier to cross the blood-brain barrier.
Once it’s metabolized, it can actually make its way into your brain faster and be distributed quicker throughout the body.
Even though the initial onset time may be longer, the effects of an edible compared to if you were to smoke cannabis or other traditional consumption methods will last longer and feel stronger.
The endocannabinoid system then uses both 11-OH-THC and δ9 THC and metabolizes them further into 11-Nor-9-carboxy-THC, or THC-COOH. This compound is a dormant form of THC deposited in the body’s fat. It can remain in this state for several weeks before being excreted in urine.
Typically, this compound is what is targeted in urine-based drug testing and analysis.
11-Hydroxy-THC Puts the Potency in Pot Edibles
When it comes to consumption methods, a wide range of factors could influence the administration of the effects and how long they will last, including a person’s weight, metabolism, age, tolerance level and more.
Since marijuana edibles lead to the creation of 11-hydroxy-THC, which is far more potent than standard THC, it ultimately comes down to the desired experience for the individual user.
With this in mind, if one did choose to ingest edibles, it is crucial to read the label and understand the dose. Additionally, remember that these products take longer to take effect, and adjust the dose accordingly.
Practicing these safe habits is one of the most effective methods for avoiding adverse effects such as suffering a green out.
That said, edibles also offer a discreet, smoke-free alternative that provides a convenient and practical method for ingestion.