As the popularity of cannabis-infused edibles continues to rise, and CBD gains recognition for its potential health benefits, it's important to understand how these two components interact when consumed together. In this blog, we will explore the complex relationship between edibles and CBD, including how CBD may affect the effects of THC in edibles, potential benefits and risks of combining CBD with edibles, and the latest research on this intriguing topic.
How THC Edibles Work
Before we dive into how CBD and edibles interact with each other, let’s first cover how edibles work. THC edibles work by delivering the psychoactive compound delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to the body through ingestion. Unlike smoking or vaping, which involve inhaling THC into the lungs, edibles are consumed orally and processed by the digestive system.
When you consume an edible, such as a THC-infused brownie, cookie, or gummy, the THC is absorbed through the lining of the stomach and intestines. From there, it enters the bloodstream and is carried throughout the body, including the brain. Once in the brain, THC interacts with cannabinoid receptors, specifically the CB1 receptors, which are part of the endocannabinoid system. THC’s interaction with the CB1 receptors is what gives the psychoactive effects traditionally associated with consuming cannabis.
Recent Study on CBD & Edibles
A recent study published in JAMA Network Open indicates that consuming CBD in high doses through edibles may actually increase the intoxicating and adverse effects of THC. Conducted by researchers from the University of Washington and the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, the study found that individuals who consumed brownies containing high doses of CBD reported stronger subjective effects compared to those who consumed brownies made from a THC-dominant strain, even though both types of edibles contained the same amount of THC.
This finding may seem to contradict previous research that suggested CBD acts as a buffer for THC's acute effects. However, the researchers behind this new study believe that the discrepancy could be attributed to the fact that their study specifically examined edible cannabis products, whereas most other research has focused on inhalable cannabis or other methods of administration.
Details of CBD Edible Study
For the study, 18 participants took part in three experimental sessions, each separated by at least one week. During each session, participants were given a brownie made with either a THC-dominant extract, a CBD-dominant extract, or a placebo with no cannabis compounds. The THC doses in each brownie were around 20 milligrams (mg), while the CBD-dominant brownies contained an additional 640 mg of CBD.
To test the effects of the brownies participants completed questions from a standardized Drug Effect Questionnaire (DEQ) before and at regular intervals up to 24 hours after consuming the brownies, rating various effects on a 0-to-100 scale. They also underwent computerized tasks to assess cognitive performance and memory, while their vital signs were monitored.
The findings revealed that participants consistently reported greater increases in drug effects after consuming the high-CBD brownie, compared to the THC brownie, despite both containing the same amount of THC. Participants also reported higher ratings of unpleasant drug effects, feeling sick, dry eyes, and difficulties in performing routine tasks after consuming the high-CBD brownie. Additionally, their heart rates increased slightly and their performance in computer tasks was lower compared to the other groups.
Lead author Austin Zamarripa, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, stated, "Overall, we saw stronger subjective drug effects, greater impairment of cognitive and psychomotor ability, and greater increase in heart rate when the same dose of THC was given in a high CBD cannabis extract, compared with a high THC extract with no CBD."
So, Does CBD Make THC Edibles Stronger?
Before the recent study was conducted, most of the information regarding THC and CBD suggested using CBD helped mitigate the adverse effects of THC consumption. For instance, a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study conducted by researchers at University College London found that individuals who consumed cannabis strains high in CBD experienced less disruption in brain activity compared to those who consumed strains with low CBD content but an equivalent amount of THC.
Similarly, an animal study carried out by researchers at Western University in Canada revealed that CBD could mitigate some of the negative psychiatric effects associated with THC by modulating what is known as the extracellular-signal regulated kinase (ERK) pathway.
However, the data from this most recent study suggests quite the opposite.
In order to assess the levels of THC in the body participants were required to give blood samples before and after brownie consumption. Specifically the researchers were looking at the maximum concentrations of THC and its active metabolite 11-OH-THC in the blood of participants.
Through these samples, it was discovered that the levels of THC in the participants' blood samples reached nearly double the concentration after consuming the high-CBD brownie compared to the brownies made from the THC-dominant extract. Additionally, the peak level of 11-OH-THC, the metabolite of THC known for its potent intoxicating effects, was an astonishing ten times higher in the high-CBD brownie group.
These results suggest that ingesting large amounts of CBD orally in tandem with THC can affect the normal metabolism of THC in the body, which can then lead to an increased and more intense high with a higher potential for adverse effects.
So, do the findings of this new clinical trial contradict the results of these prior studies? Not necessarily. According to the authors' explanation, the metabolism of edible cannabis products differs significantly from inhalable cannabis or cannabinoid infusions used in other studies. Edibles undergo first-pass metabolism in the intestine and liver before entering circulation, unlike other administration routes. This distinction could be a crucial factor, as suggested by the researchers.
CBD Edibles, To Eat Or Not To Eat?
While more research is still needed, the study by researchers from the University of Washington and the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine suggests that when eating THC and CBD together you’re in for a wilder time than anticipated.
This new discovery may be exciting for seasoned smokers looking for a harder hit from their edibles, but what about those who do not have a high tolerance? For those we suggest starting small with your edible ingestion and always check the label for levels of THC and CBD in the product you will be consuming. We also recommend trying CBD on its own before combining it with any of your favorite THC products.
For those looking to try out CBD, whether or not to combine it with THC, we at E1011 Labs offer our elon® device and stelo™ flower pods. The CBD-filled stelo™ come prepacked and fit snugly into the top of the elon® device, making it a convenient plug and play experience. Our variety of flavors add even more to the experience by allowing users to choose a flavor fit for their mood or situation.
In conclusion, as the understanding of CBD and THC interactions continues to evolve, it is crucial to approach edibles with caution and carefully consider dosage to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. Further research in this area will undoubtedly deepen our understanding of how CBD influences the potency of edibles and contribute to more informed decision-making regarding cannabis consumption.