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How Does Your Liver Process Cannabis?

Many cannabis users don’t think about what goes on inside their body after they consume their edibles. Most of them focus on the effects that they get out of their intake instead. However, there are actually a lot complex physiological interactions that happen once an edible infused with CBD oil or THC oil enters your digestive system.

Understanding these interactions, as well as their subsequent effects, is crucial if you want to become a responsible cannabis user.

Chemical Breakdown of Cannabis

Cannabis is composed of more than 500 chemicals, 109 of these falls under the category of cannabinoids – the chemical that’s tied directly to the effects that cannabis has on the brain. One of the primary cannabinoids is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), known for its abundance and psychoactive attributes.

Humans have natural receptors in the brain and central nervous system that interact with these cannabinoids. Interestingly, our bodies have their own naturally occurring cannabinoids which can produce similar effects. Endogenous cannabinoids such as anandamide can give a person a wave of euphoria, most commonly experienced by joggers who feel it as a “runner’s high”.

The receptors that THC binds itself to is known as the endocannabinoid system and can benefit from the same effects that cannabis brings in terms of health and enjoyment. It is essentially composed of specialized signaling chemicals, receptors, and metabolic enzymes that break down cannabinoids once they enter the system.

These same receptors that we have in our brain and immune cells are what specifically act on plant cannabinoids like cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. It doesn’t mean that the human body was designed to have a symbiotic relationship with cannabis. Since the human body already has a means of producing its own natural cannabinoids, it just means we have a system in place that can experience the same effects as those provided by plant cannabinoids like THC.

While the effects of THC in cannabis can wear off within a few hours, the actual chemicals tend to stay in the body a bit longer. 

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What Happens in the Liver?

Compared to smoking, marijuana edibles usually take a longer time before its effects can be felt. This can take anywhere from thirty minutes to two hours and even more. This is because the liver still has to process the THC and break it down into a smaller metabolite called 11-hydroxy-THC before its psychoactive effects can be felt.

The composition of 11-hydroxy-THC allows it to readily cross the blood brain barrier, which acts as a filtering membrane in the brain. This allows the THC to affect the body in a more holistic manner and last longer compared to inhaling it.

There are times that the liver is able to break down the THC completely to the point that the edible no longer has any effect. This is known as the “first pass effect” and is also dependent on a person’s metabolism.

Cannabis users who want to feel the effects are advised to have a meal prior to consuming the edibles. However, doing so will also lengthen the time for the cannabis’ effect to kick in since the digestive system still has to process everything. As it stands, much of the effects of cannabis edibles also rely on a person’s own metabolism.

In any case, learning how the body processes cannabis is a good way to educate yourself if you plan to become a regular user. By understanding how things work in relation to your body, you can properly gauge usage factors like dosing and consumption frequency. Armed with the proper knowledge is always the right way to go in becoming a responsible cannabis user.

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