When ever you ingest cannabis in any way, your body will start to absorb the cannabinoids. Let’s find out how this happens when your smoke, eat, vape or use medical marijuana in any way.
I am using the word “inhale” as a blanket term that should cover vaping, smoking, using wax or dry herb. Basically, if your inhaling THC in any form, your lungs are the first phase of absorption. So, what happens when you inhale, smoke or vape weed.
When THC and the other active cannabinoids found in marijuana enters your lungs, the journey begins. Your inner lungs have millions of tiny pockets called “Alveoli“. The purpose of these tiny pockets is to catch oxygen or any other gases that are inhaled.
The Alveoli pockets are surrounded by tiny blood vessels called capillaries. This is the point where the THC and other compounds are transfered from the lungs to the blood stream and eventually THC will be stored in body fat.
- When smoked (inhaled) THC enters the blood stream within five minutes
- Smoking Marijuana results in higher absorption into blood
- Peak blood THC levels within minutes
- Effects may last for an hour or more
Marijuana edibles are becoming increasingly common. Edibles are a clean and easy way to get a controlled dose of THC. Edibles are orderless, require no special equipment and simple to carry around.
You may not realize it, but your body is absorbing THC from edibles before you even swallow
Thats right, just chewing on edible Marijuana is all it takes to start introducing THC into your blood stream. Saliva contains an enzyme (salivary amylase) that starts digestion. If chewed long enough, saliva carrying THC will transfer it into the blood stream through the capillaries in the mouth.
Then you swallow and the edible travels into your stomach. At this point it’s just like anything else you eat. You stomach makes use of Gastric juices that are highly corrosive and may even contain hydrochloric acid. These juices are able to break down foods to the molecular level. Making it possible for nutrients and in this case THC, to pass into your blood stream.
- After eating, it can take about 30 minutes for THC to enter the blood stream
- Lower absorption levels in blood
- Can take hours to reach peak THC levels in blood when eaten
- The effects can also last hours
Other forms of Medical Marijuana Consumption
There are cases when smoking or ingestion may not be the best option. For these reasons other method have been developed. One of these methods are tropicals or lotions.
Marijuana topical creams and lotions are usually used to treat certain parts of the body. Topical are also a good way to relive ailments without the risk of “getting high”. But don’t be mistaken, you may still get a buzz and even if you don’t, THC will still enter your blood stream.
THC tropicals are usually prescribed to treat pain, relive muscle tension and increase sensitivity.
Even thought you probably don’t give it any though, it’s important to realize the skin is an organ. It serves quite a few functions, two of which is protection and absorption. It protects you from direct exposure to your environment and absorbs moisture and oils.
Anything that makes contact with your skin can be absorbed into your body. That means everything from water to oxygen. Just like the previous examples, your skin also make contact with capillaries creating an entry point to the blood stream.
- Tropicals mostly take effect on area applied
- Very low amount is absorption into bloodstream
- The effects can also last hours
How Marijuana Travels Through the Body
First, Marijuana its self doesn’t actually travel through your body, the cannabinoids and metabolites do. Also, you may have noticed a common theme above. Any form of consumption leads to THC entering the bloodstream.
Think of the blood stream as a highway for your body. Once THC and other cannabinoids are able to pass into the blood, it freely travels through out your body. Once fully metabolized, THC-COOH is then stored in fat cells. This can be a major concern it you need to detox THC from your body.
The THC Receptors
OK, so now we know how cannabinoids enter and travel through your body using the blood stream. Now lets look at how your body takes in these cannabinoids.
Believe it or not, the Endocannabinoid system is a very recent discovery. As of now there are only two known receptors in the body that make up this system. But there may be more receptors that may have not yet been discovered.
CB1 Receptor: This receptor is at the highest density in the brain, but is also found through out the neural system. That includes the spine and nervous system. This receptor is responsible for the psychological effects of THC.
CB2 Receptor: Also found in regions of the brain, but more widely spread though out the entire body. This includes tissues, immune system, gastrointestinal system and nervous system.
These receptors are the reason weed can get you high. These endocannabinoid receptors are also what makes marijuana such an effective medication.
- Endocannabinoids Receptors: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18426493
- CB2 Immune system response: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3226756/