Science You Can Eat - How and Why Edibles Work (and Sometimes Don't)
This article is a condensed transcription of episode 092 of the Periodic effects Cannabis Business and Science Podcast with special guest Emma Chasen, cannabis consultant and educator. To listen to the episode audio, click here.
Wayne Schwind, Host: This is a science focused episode we recorded on April 29 2019 with Emma Chasen, back for another science of cannabis episode. Always love having Emma on.
A couple of things that we cover in this episode, we start off by talking about THC; THC-A, Delta-9-THC, 11-Hydroxy-THC, all the different forms of THC that occur, the conversions that happen, how they happen, smoking versus vaping versus edibles, the highs, a different experience, bioavailability, all those things. Then we transition to talk more about terpenes in edibles and smoking and how they affect the body and when they're metabolized. Sublingual - how do the terpenes play in to the high and the experience. I learned some new stuff about terpenes in this episode, always learn new things when talking with Emma and then we close out with I think one of the most important parts is how do we communicate this information to the consumer. That part's really around, you know for budtenders in communicating the science of cannabis.
You know, this was an hour long episode mostly just on THC conversions, half of it and then some on terpenes. Obviously we can't go that deep with consumers. They're in the store for five, maybe 10 minutes, Emma really breaks down some great ways to simplify the conversation and guide a consumer along explaining the science of cannabis to them what would be actually interested, they would be interested in, could find useful in a really great way and I think this would be really, really helpful especially for budtenders, having those daily conversations with customers.
Wayne: Joining us again is Emma Chasen, another science of cannabis episode. I think this is number 12 in the series, so thanks for joining us again today, Emma. I love having you on ready to learn something new.
Emma Chasen, Guest: Yes, thank you so much for having me Wayne, it is always such a pleasure.
Wayne: Yeah. Well, let's start off with you know, give the listeners well I'll do a little bit overview of what we're going to cover in the intro so listeners will kind of know what we're going to walk through. But let's start off with some of the points that you brought up. And I think today we're really going to focus on THC, maybe a little bit with terpenes, how it's consumed, and what science and what the conversion processes happen in the body and how that affects the high or the experience. So starting off you mentioned the hydroxylation and oxidation of THC through the consumption methods. Do you want to talk a little bit more about that and then I had a question on top of that, or is one of those are those the same as decarboxylation that you do for edibles to get the Delta-9-THC? Is there something different with those two methods with those two words?
Emma: So hydroxylation and oxidation of THC are not the same as decarboxylation. So decarboxylation, just to review, is removing a carboxyl group which is a carbon and oxygen, an oxygen and a hydrogen, and that carboxyl group makes THC an acid and so in its raw form THC exists as THC-A or THC acid because it has that carboxyl group when you heat it at a certain temperature over time you remove that carboxyl group from that compound and then you get Delta-9-THC. When we consume Delta-9-THC whether through its inhalation or oral ingestion, it does undergo a hydroxylation reaction and most of us are very aware of this hydroxylation reaction, only when looking at the consumption method of oral ingestion and talked about it a lot and there is a lot of literature on like, blogs on the internet per se that when you do consume an edible the Delta-9-THC undergoes a process in your liver where it turns into 11-Hydroxy-THC. 11-Hydroxy-THC being the analyte that is much smaller than delta-9, so it can more easily penetrate into the brain through the blood brain barrier. And it also has a higher binding efficiency for your CB-1 receptors, which translates to a much greater psychotropic activity and so that is why edibles have such a psychotropically intense experience, why they deliver an experience that is rather intense for a longer period of time than inhalation.
But what we don't talk about is that Delta-9 also undergoes that hydroxylation reaction and turns into 11-Hydroxy-THC when you inhale; so when you inhale whether you are smoking or inhaling with a vaporization device, you are inhaling the Delta-9-THC as heat will decarboxylate the THC-A in that moment, but then when you inhale 90% of the THC in in your blood is circulated in plasma and the rest in in blood cells. So when we think about bioavailability and when we take these different markers of THC, we're measuring it in the plasma just to let everybody know. And what we see after inhalation is that Delta-9-THC is detectable in plasma in seconds, so within seconds after inhalation you'll see Delta-9-THC in plasma but really peak concentration of the Delta-9-THC in the plasma is it is attained within three to 10 minutes so it's rather quick and max Delta-9-THC plasma concentration is observed at approximately eight minutes after smoking 11-Hydroxy-THC concentration peaks at around 15 minutes after smoking.
So again, Delta-9 is undergoing this hydroxylation reaction even when you inhale even as it's circulating through the body in the plasma, and then it undergoes another reaction, an oxidation reaction that turns THC into 11-nor-9-carboxy-THC. And this 11-nor-9-carboxy THC is quote unquote inactive - it does not have any psychotropic effects, and it's actually the analyte of THC that drug tests test for, so if you've ever take in a urine analysis? The analysis is testing for that specific analyte of THC, because it is the inactive form. It's the form that kind of hangs around in your body for a relatively long time after consuming. And what we see with smoking or inhaling is that the 11-nor-9-carboxy-THC peaks at around 81 minutes. So that means that for most people, after an hour and 20 minutes after smoking or inhalation, you'll pretty much level out into a normal kind of state, you won't have much psychotropic activity after that. And of course, this does depend on the depth of inhalation, the concentration of THC, all of that kind of stuff, how much you're smoking, how consistently you're smoking, etc. As far as bioavailability through inhalation, THC bioavailability for heavy users is around 23 to 27%, where it drops significantly to around 10 to 14% for occasional users, and a lot of that THC is also lost through pyrolysis. So through that combustion reaction, a good amount of THC is lost as well. So that's what smoking and inhalation now when we go to oral ingestion, it does something a little bit different. So like I said, when I started talking about this, most of us know that when we consume it, Delta-9-THC undergoes a process through the liver where it turns into this 11-Hydroxy-THC. And that is still very true. Maximum Delta-9-THC plasma concentration after oral ingestion, you typically see that within one to two hours, which is that kind of latent active time and that's because the THC does have to go through the liver. So especially if it is suspended in fat, which most cannabinoids are most edibles employ a fat infusion, then your compounds will have to undergo first pass metabolism through the liver. And this is where the liver wastes out a lot of the compounds, a lot of the THC and therefore, liver metabolism just reduced that bioavailability marker by about four to 12%. And so if you're a heavy user, and you get 23 to 27% THC bioavailability through inhalation, well that's going to be reduced by around four to 12% if you're going to be ingesting it orally, but it kind of makes up for that because a higher concentration of that delta-9-THC is turned into 11-hydroxy-THC through the liver. So a much higher concentration of that 11-Hydroxy-THC is produced after ingestion as compared to inhalation. So we're still having this hydroxylation reaction in both consumption methods. However, you're just getting more of that 11-Hydroxy-THC through ingestion, and that's again why the experience is more intense for edibles. Following the assimilation via the blood, meaning following Delta-9's and 11-Hydroxy-THC's penetration into the bloodstream and carried around through plasma all over the body, then the THC rapidly penetrates into fat tissues, and highly vascular, vascularized tissues as well, including brain and muscle. And this then results in a rapid decrease in the plasma concentration because those compounds are really penetrating into the fatty tissues and into the brain. And then this tissue distribution, so THC being in these tissues is then followed by a slow redistribution of it from the deep fat deposits back into the bloodstream. So with ingestion, that is a, that's also something that happens more frequently than inhalation where THC is really penetrating into these tissues sticking around in the tissues for a while. And then after a certain period of time dependent on everybody's unique chemistry and, and metabolic rate, then the THC will slowly go back into the bloodstream and into the plasma once again. But that form of THC will be largely the 11-nor-9-carboxy analyte that again, is rather inactive and that can stick around in your body for quite some time, leading people to have positive drug test sometimes, even after they've abstain from cannabis for a while.
Wayne: Yeah, that's interesting. I didn't know about the 11-nor-9-carboxy being the one they test for and also another conversion that happens as the inert and inactive version. How does, so I've you know, we've talked before about eating the edible and the 11-Hydroxy conversion that happens and how that seems to be more potent or more psychoactive. And so that happens through the metabolism in the liver. How does it happen when smoking? How do you get 11-Hydroxy while smoking when there's no, that metabolism process isn't happening in the liver - is there a different way it converts or something else going on?
Emma: So our body is still metabolizing it, but just in a different way. And so with liver metabolism, that's where you get the much higher concentration of the 11-Hydroxy. But the analyte of Delta-9-THC is still being metabolized as it's circulating in the plasma, because it is a foreign compound. And so our body is still trying to like change it and figure out what it is and get it to a point where we're wasting it out ultimately. But and so it does undergo hydroxylation reaction while circulating through the plasma, yeah.
Wayne: Okay, fascinating. Do we have any idea of what percentage 11-Hydroxy is created when eating versus what percentage is created when smoking?
Emma: Hmm, we don't have a good kind of like universal conversion percentage. From what I've seen, just the research does point to a much higher concentration of 11-Hydroxy produced and again, it will be dependent on each person's unique chemistry and metabolic rate and physiology and etc, etc. to really determine that rate of conversion for each person.
Wayne: Yeah, yeah, I find the bioavailability interesting when it's so you know, higher for smoking and lower for an edible or eating, but you see more of that 11-Hydroxy created, maybe making up for that decrease bioavailability. Do you know or can you kind of explain the listeners, and if we know anything around this, what it is about 11-Hydroxy being more effective - if that's the right word - compared to Delta-9 and how it interacts with our body and the differences there?
Emma: Definitely. So to start the 11-Hydroxy-THC analyte is much smaller than the Delta-9-THC analyte. And so when we think about those compounds crossing our blood brain barrier and coming up against this channel of resistance that is based on how big the compounds are, the bigger the size, the greater the resistance those compounds will meet when trying to enter into the brain, well then 11-Hydroxy being the smaller compound will have a much easier time crossing that blood brain barrier and getting into the brain. So already, you're just going to have a more efficient process of that particular analyte, the 11-Hydroxy, just penetrating into the brain. And then when we talk about phytocannabinoids in our Endocannabinoid Receptor System, the phytocannabinoids actually have very low affinity for our Endocannabinoid receptors. And so THC while it does bind to the CB-1 receptor, Delta-9-THC in particular, it doesn't really love to bind to the CB-1 receptor, it's not something where it's like, it has such high affinity for it. Whereas 11-Hydroxy-THC comparatively to Delta-9 has a much higher affinity for these receptors, meaning that it will go and bind to the much quicker than Delta-9 would, and so even if you have a smaller amount of 11-Hydroxy-THC compared to Delta-9, it may still create a more intense psychotropic experience because that smaller amount will more effectively engage with those CB-1 receptors to initiate the signaling pathways to cause that cerebral high.
Wayne: Yeah, we've always kind of known that with edibles, that they can create a stronger high, but almost a different high, I wonder if, you know the, it's more - has more affinity to bind, which means it could be more either bioavailability or more potent. But would the 11-Hydroxy versus Delta-9 bind differently? Or is that high from 11-Hydroxy different in some way compared to Delta-9? Or does it just bind more, so it has more of an effect that way?
Emma: It does bind more, which means that it just it likes to bind to the receptors more. I'm not sure if it if there has been research done that really measures the difference in effect. I mean, it's also hard because these types of reports are so subjective to the actual consumer. And so when you're looking to measure experience, you need that aggregate anecdotal data that does require those subjective consumer reports. You can also and should also run tests that require kind of a level of scientific rigor where you are looking at this one particular analyte and measuring its responses but still, to really translate that into experience you need the combination of the aggregate anecdotal, which again can get subjective and is so specific to everybody because everybody's Endocannabinoid Receptor System is so unique.
Wayne: Yeah, yeah. When it comes to smoking and vaping are those both going to be similar in how the THC is converted to the Delta-9 and then how it gets changed to 11-Hydroxy in the plasma or in the system when you're smoking the flower versus vaping concentrated extract?
Emma: Yes, so that particular hydroxylation and oxidation reaction will be very similar because it is, just looking at it through the pathway, the consumption method of inhalation, which is common to both smoking and vaporizing. I think that with smoking, you may lose some more THC than you would with vaporization, especially vaporization of flower if it's contained in a kind of convection heating model. You'll want to make sure that your temperature is high enough where you are decarboxylating those acidic compounds as much as possible, you are activating them. However, if the hydroxylation and oxidation pathways will be the same, the concentrations just may differ, where you just may get more THC from a vaporization device, whether it be flower or oil because of course the oil will have a higher concentration of THC to start. So you will get a higher concentration of THC then delivered to your bloodstream, vaporization of flower because the flower is contained in convection heating, you won't lose so many of those compounds to pyrolysis and then the combustion reaction, of course, you may lose a lot more of those volatile compounds, including some THC, just because of that combustion reaction.
Wayne: Right, ok. Is - knowing that the 11-Hydroxy is created when smoking, is that something new that was discovered recently? Or has this been known for a while? And then I want to ask another question on that - Is there anything a consumer can do while smoking that may help increase how much is converted to 11-Hydroxy; eat something, smoke something else with it, anything like that?
Emma: So the study that I am citing in particular around these Hydroxylation oxidation reactions is from 2012. So we've known this for a little while, and really where I've seen this information come to the best use is when kind of talking people down from a really intense experience, too intense of a psychotropic experience. Maybe they smoke too much THC or they consumed too much THC through oral ingestion. I recently had it be the case where my little sister who, she is in New York, she like hit her friend's dab pen and texted me and she was like, "Oh, my God Emma I'm so high, please help me. Like I, I need help. I don't know what to do." And so I started talking to her. And what I found really helps when people are having this experience is to kind of give them an idea of what's happening in their body. So we're really like, ground them in their body and say, “okay, your heart rate is super high. Your heart's beating so fast, because THC is opening up all those blood vessels, getting the blood rushing.” “You are having this anxious, paranoid experience because THC is binding to your receptors in your brain and making you feel this way.” And another thing that I told her was that well, how long has it been since you last hit it? And she was like, probably around like 15 minutes or something. And I was like, “Okay, well, your 11-Hydroxy-THC, the form of THC that makes you super high, is peaking right now. And so you just need to get past this hump, and then you will feel yourself calm down”. And by just giving her that knowledge, she was able to put herself more in control of her experience, and have that relieved moment where it was like, "Okay, okay, I'm at the highest that I'll be right now, and we will taper down off of that." So that's really where I've seen this information be that come into play when, when talking consumers through a really uncomfortable experience. I don't know if there is anything that one can do to increase the concentration of 11-Hydroxy that is produced. I mean, I know that just like any metabolic reaction, it is catalyzed by an enzyme. And so I'm not sure what that is for the Delta-9 to 11-Hydroxy conversion, what, what that reaction needs in order to have it go, but if you can isolate whatever it is that that reaction is dependent upon, whether it be an enzyme or heat or whatever it may be, and then administer that, co-administer that with Delta-9-THC, then theoretically, you could increase the concentration of 11-Hydroxy-THC.
Wayne: Yeah, I'm so fascinated by both of those, as we learn more about other minor cannabinoids and how those can influence the effects, to learn more about Delta-9 verses 11-Hydroxy, and will it almost be viewed as two different things to look at, or if it is just that 11-Hydroxy binds better, or if it's making this high experience different in some kind of way. Because it does seem to feel, to be some difference between an edible experience versus smoking. Some of the times but again, there's different strains and different expected, both can be different. Is there anything on that, for the edibles that does - when you consume an edible, does 100% of the Delta-9 get converted to 11-Hydroxy? Or is there both of those existing in the edible experience and would there be any value in trying to have more Delta-9 than the 11-Hydroxy in an edible?
Emma: So both of them do exist after liver metabolism. And so no, not all of the Delta-9 gets converted into 11-Hydroxy, a much higher concentration does but you still will have some Delta-9 that will penetrate through the digestive tract into the bloodstream and then into the tissues as well. The therapeutic value of increasing the concentration of Delta-9-THC as opposed to 11-Hydroxy-THC through oral ingestion, I think would be for the consumers who do not want such an intense psychotropic experience but could benefit from cannabinoid therapy and medicine but they don't want to inhale any hot smoke or vapor and they also want like a deep penetration into the bloodstream and the circulating tissues, and so oral ingestion then is favorable for that case. However, it does give quite a psychotropic reaction and so employing some method where you're either bypassing liver metabolism entirely, which would be nano-encapsulation or nano-emulsification of delta-9-THC to increase the amount of delta-9 that penetrates into the bloodstream as compared to 11-Hydroxy is a way to go, or doing something else creating some other kind of product formulation that will allow the compounds to go through the liver. However, you won't see such a high rate of conversion into 11-Hydroxy-THC. I think that that's absolutely coming. I think that with cannabis, it's really exciting, as we're seeing more research come out, new product formulations are coming out on the scene. Really looking at the combinations of different cannabinoids and terpenes to optimize the therapeutic action and the experience for many different consumers, and one such consumer base does want the ability to orally ingest THC without feeling much psychotropic activity and they want the active form of THC they want that Delta-9, they don't want just THC-A, and so finding innovative ways to do that, I think is, is an exciting part of this industry.
Wayne: Yeah, yeah. Two different customer groups or, or needs there. What about sublingually, when we absorb under the tongue or something like that? Is it basically all, mostly all Delta-9 then that you would be getting in the body and maybe a little bit of 11-Hydroxy similar to smoking? Versus when you consume sublingually under the tongue and through the mucus glands?
Emma: Yes. So we think that through sublingual consumption that you will see a similar conversion rate from Delta-9 into 11-Hydroxy into 11-nor-9-carboxy as you would through inhalation, as you would through smoking. And that's why you can have in a more immediate onset of effects, but it will not be as intense from a high standpoint as an oral ingestion.
Wayne: Got it, Okay, that's interesting. And one other thing on this, you mentioned the bioavailability when smoking 23 to 27% for heavy users, but almost half of that 10 to 14% for normal users. Why is there such a difference in the bioavailability for those two different user groups?
Emma: I think that one, with heavy users, those people, that base, understands at this point how to consume THC and they'll consume a lot more of it, meaning they'll hold it really deep in their lungs and hold it in there before fully blowing out, that they will generally consume varieties with higher concentrations of THC. So they just have more experience actually knowing how to consume the plant. And, and really I think that the main factor there is length and depth of inhalation, so how much they're inhaling and how they're holding it in. But there's also something to be said that with heavy users, they are their bodies are primed for metabolism of these compounds, of these phytocannabinoids, because they can consume them all the time. And so I think that the body is just more prepared to uptake these compounds. And it's a phenomenon that we see with people who are just starting to smoke cannabis, that they may not feel anything for the first few times, right? And I, I believe that's because the body needs to be primed. The endocannabinoid system needs to kind of be woken up to these compounds, in order to most effectively engage with them. Whereas with heavy users, well, the body is definitely woken up to these phytocannabinoids and they understand what to do with them at this point. And so you do see a higher rate of uptake by the body.
Wayne: Got it. Okay. Interesting. I want to switch over to some questions we got from a listener and they're mostly focused around edibles. And I think these will be interesting. We talked a little bit about the THC stuff we just talked about, and then maybe how terpenes or even CBD comes into these. The first question she asked was, can edibles really produce an uplifting or sedate of effect once THC has been converted to the 11-Hydroxy-THC? And she said her experience she says, I think they all act like hybrids to her. Unless a person takes too much then she either feels paranoid or sleepy. So she's kind of says that she thinks all edibles have a very similar experience more like a hybrid. But is there anything around that or studies that we know of edibles can be more uplifting effects versus relaxing or sedating?
Emma: Sure, So, this is - one, it's important to note that since we just had this conversation that 11-Hydroxy-THC, you will have that experience with that analyte whether you are smoking, inhaling, vaporizing, or ingesting, ingesting, so it's not the 11-Hydroxy that will deliver a kind of consistent experience for all edibles, because it's not exclusive to edibles, which we now know. What we're then talking about are really the bioavailability of terpenes, because terpenes are the compounds that are thought to be responsible for the more nuanced effects that are produced by different cannabis varieties. And so with edibles and oral ingestion, we can say, “Well, okay, how many terpenes are actually making it into the blood plasma to cause a certain effect?” And there have been studies done on this where, through the more like scientific rigor, individual terpenes were tested for blood plasma levels after consumption, just like THC or CBD, would to measure bioavailability. And what they found was that there were not many terpenes that made it through into the plasma. There were some like larger, heavier terpenes that did have more resilience and did make it through. However, a lot of them did not. This is not to say, though, that the terpenes are not having any action on receptors or factors before they enter into the blood plasma, especially in the digestive tract. So during digestion, and during liver metabolism, there are a lot of enzymes that play, there are a lot of physiological factors that go into that metabolic process of digestion. And terpenes may be having some type of effect on those factors, before they're even able to make it into the bloodstream. It's also important to note that terpenes do show up in sweat. So they're going somewhere, they're going somewhere, and then they're coming out that way. And so I don't think that at this point, we have enough conclusive scientific evidence to write off the difference in experience, the difference in edible experience. Also, it gets, again, tricky when you look to measure this kind of experience in humans, we have to do at this point, anecdotal self reporting, which is subjective, because we cannot do human clinical trials. And so when we do this kind of subjective reporting, you will see many people who feel like they are having an uplifting experience or a relaxing experience, it's really hard to measure if that's a placebo, or not. At this point. I can say from my personal experience, I definitely had edibles where I have felt way more uplifted versus way more relaxed and sedated. I don't think that it was a placebo effect for me, because I also consistently would have those experiences with this particular company that did do strain-specific edibles. However, that is just my personal experience. And that does not hold up in the realm of science, right? We can't extrapolate that and say, "Well, now all strain-specific edibles, yes, they will absolutely give different experiences." It's definitely worth researching further, because there is a lot to be elucidated around the way in which these compounds interact with each other before they do even get into the bloodstream, particularly with oral ingestion. And so at this point, like I said, we don't have enough scientific evidence to say, yes, these edibles, these strain-specific edibles, do actually cause a different set of effects based on the compounds because the terpenes do XY and Z. But we also don't have enough conclusive scientific evidence to say no, that edibles universally give the same experience, and they don't actually have any nuance of effects. And that's just where we're at right now.
Wayne: Yeah, and I like how you said it nuanced effects, not like black and white effects, like a sleeping pill, or, you know, cocaine as a bad example, to have that kind of extreme uplifting versus sedating. It's not like that. It's very nuanced, and has a lot to do with your current state. where you're at, if you're tired already, are you already feeling kind of up and positive? There's probably an interesting, yeah, a nice way to look at it.
Emma: Exactly. And it is hard when we talk about cannabis in this kind of dichotomy, because I don't think that relaxing and uplifting really do those experiences justice in the sense of like, being able to describe them; of course, you will have your extremes where it's like, "Whoa, I like really need to like move or go on a hike or clean the house". And then you'll also have the opposite extreme where it's like "I can, I cannot lift myself up off the couch". But there's a lot in the middle there that is just more of a shift in perception. And the way that I described in myself as almost like a zooming out or zooming in - where I either get like really focused on something or I have more like a zoom out perspective, where I can like connect more the dots in my brain for whatever it is I'm thinking about. And then of course, you have like, chatty, or silly, or quiet, or self aware. I mean, there's so many ways that we can describe these experiences, they're so unique to the person like you mentioned, they're so dependent on the situational awareness on your mental, emotional, physical health states while you consume, where you consume, who you're with. That, it's a, it's really hard to measure and then statistically analyze and extrapolate to the entire population.
Wayne: Yeah, yeah. I like that too, the zoomed in versus zoomed out. I have noticed that with different products where I can get hyper focused on something very specific and do that for a few hours versus have this experience of just big picture abstract thinking but have a problem or trouble trying to like be very focused with the attention. So I have noticed that, that's I've never heard anyone describe it that way, though. I like that, what about sublingual versus ingesting the edible around terpenes and the effects? Is there more availability sublingually potentially?
Emma: I can't say this for certain as I have not come across a scientific study that looks at the bioavailability of terpenes sublingually versus oral ingestion, specifically in the context of cannabis. But I would theorize or hypothesize that yes, terpenes would be able to penetrate into the bloodstream more effectively, especially because terpenes again, are quite small compounds and they really easily penetrate through our mucous membranes as well as the blood brain barrier. And so I, I would think that again, the bioavailability of those compounds is more similar to an inhalation especially vaporizing flower at low temperature inhalation because when we talk about combustion, or dabbing or anything like that, I mean that like super high heat will definitely destroy a lot of terpenes. And so by consuming terpenes sublingually, you're not applying any heat to them and therefore, they will be able to or should be able to, there should be a higher concentration of them when they are crossing the mucous membrane there. So I would think that again, it's only hypothesis is I haven't seen any scientific research to corroborate this, but I would think that terpenes would be more bioavailable through the sublingual method as compared to oral ingestion.
Wayne: Okay. And then she also, she followed up and asked from the consumers perspective, what should a consumer ask to get a product that is, you know, quotations uplifting versus sedating. Besides just reading an "S" or an "I" on the label, I think she, she probably meant sativa or indica so maybe we can briefly hit on that. And then she said, should they be asking their budtenders about the extraction method used to infuse an edible and/or if the terpenes are added back in?
Emma: Hmm, yes. So, I'll answer the first question first. So when a consumer is looking to really get a targeted experience, whether it be more uplifting or more sedating, they need to ask about terpenes. Terpenes are the compounds that we think, at this point, are responsible for delivering those unique set of nuanced effects and experiences. And so if you are seeking something that is more euphoric, joyful, that will give a more social silly effect then look to, or ask for, the terpenes that are more citrus and pine in aroma, and you don't even need to remember their names their names for reference are Limonene and Pinene, but you just need to remember their smell and ask the budtender for that smell. So citrus and pine, do you have anything that smells like citrus or pine. If the shop has terpene results, awesome. Ask them for Limonene or Pinene. Or even if you don't remember those names, you can still ask them for citrus or pine and they should be able to point to you to those terpenes with actual results to back it up which is exciting. On the opposite end of the on the spectrum if you want somebody to help with sleep then asked for varieties that smell more like hay, or spicy pepper or even Linalool which is the terpene found in lavender. It'll give a more like floral but still earthy aroma. So anything that smells kind of like that like sweet grape, tropical fruit, earthy dirty aroma is something that you want when you are trying to select for a more sedating experience. With edibles, if you want something that is more uplifting or relaxing or is designed for a more targeted experience, then ask one, strain specificity. So many edible companies will do some form of strain specificity. So ask your budtender if they carry any edibles that do that. Otherwise ask for any edibles that do really try to target for a certain experience. A lot of times those edibles will share that information on their package. I know Wayne that you do that with Periodic edibles, which is great. And so the consumer can really easily kind of look at the package and be able to tell "Okay, this edible company is trying to market to a certain experience as compared to this other one that isn't" and then really, the overarching theme with cannabis and cannabis products that I encourage everybody to adopt integrate is experiment with yourself - just try it out, take a tiny little bit, and make sure that you're in a like a space with people that you trust and that you're comfortable in, you don't have anywhere to be necessarily and you could just have that experience with yourself and see how it makes you feel. If it doesn't make you feel the way that you want it to, then you never have to consume it again. Or you could do a dose increase or decrease until you find the optimal dose that does give you that targeted experience. And then take that information back to your budtender, especially if you have a budtender that you trust, go back to them and share with them your experience - even if it was out of line of what you wanted or what they predicted for you, still share that with them because that will help them gather that much more information about you so that they can make a better prediction for you moving forward, better recommendation for you moving forward.
Wayne: That makes sense. How much do you think minor cannabinoids will, you know you said terpenes really can be responsible for these nuanced effects. Do you think as we discover and more strains have other minor cannabinoids in them, those will also be able to have these different effects, nuanced effects like the terpenes do?
Emma: Definitely. Oh definitely, especially in combination with other terpenes and major cannabinoids. So for example, THCV and Limonene and CBD give really like potent anorexic effects, meaning that they really suppress the appetite, more so than any one of them could do on its own. Right. And then there's also Linalool and THCA and CBD which really increases the anti-convulsant potential of a variety, and so it helps to relax the body, it helps to give a much deeper muscle relaxing effect. So those kind of synergisms will absolutely start to come into play more and more. And again, I think the future of cannabis product formulation is in this kind of designing of and optimizing of the Ensemble Effect is really elevating concentrations of THCV, CBG, CBC with other terpenes to produce a really targeted therapeutic experience.
Wayne: Yeah, yeah. Exciting. Yeah, so many options there. And then the minor cannabinoids, do you think they will have a bigger result on effects over the terpenes potentially, or certain ones might?
Emma: I think they absolutely could. Yeah, I think that my prediction is that the next like superstar cannabinoid, so like CBD I consider the superstar right now, I think that CBG is going to really come into play as the like next superstar cannabinoid for all of its amazing therapeutic potential, specifically, in regards to its ability to manage digestive disorders and its ability to have a really potent anti-anxiety, anti-depressant effect. I think that we're going to see a lot more of that coming on to the scene. And because these cannabinoids can and do interact with our Endocannabinoid Receptor System and all so again, have these synergistic effects with other major cannabinoids as well as terpenes, I think that an elevated concentration of knows could really influence the overall experience.
Wayne: Yeah, yeah. And then I want to now switch over to how either, this could be looked at either way, how a budtender can communicate this information to customers, especially new customers that are just coming into cannabis or just learning about the science. And I guess it could be thought of as, how can customers look at products when they want to purchase something? And that was something else she asked in her question is, you know, we almost just had a 30 minute conversation on THC alone and the different conversions and things that happen. Obviously, every budtender and customer can't have that long of a conversation. How do you recommend budtenders have the conversation around science and cannabis with consumers?
Emma: Great question. I teach workshops that I've been developing for a while now on this topic, because it's so important, right? We learn all of this information on the fundamentals of cannabis science, it's really exciting, we get to nerd out on it a lot. Most of, most people who are in the industry love it, because we want to learn more. But then we have these, these retail transactions with customers who do want reliable scientific information specifically around the experience of the product that they will purchase. And yet it has to be done in like 10 minutes or less. And it takes a level of finesse to get there. The way that I have done it myself, and the way that I teach, is to really ask specific questions. So that one, you can assess where your customer's at - do they want an educational experience? Do they want to stay in there with you for half an hour? Or do they want something quick and easy? Like a pre roll and just like get out and go? Or do they want to fall somewhere in the middle where they're interested in learning more but they don't necessarily want to be there for 30 minutes. And so the one of the first questions that I'd ask to a customer is - what kind of experience are you looking for? Do you want something that is going to be more uplifting? Do you want something that's going to be more sedating? To just try to assess where your customers at with that, then they'll give you their answer. And then you make your product recommendation based on the cannabinoid and terpene content of the specific product. And of course, you'll make that product recommendation also around what they actually want to consume. And so that's another question that you'll need to ask well, do you want to smoke flower? Are you interested in edibles? What product area are you interested in? Because that will also determine how much information you share and what kind of information you share. But the main, the main point is to make sure that you are basing your prediction for their experience on the cannabinoid and if you have available the terpene potency and ratio of this specific product.
Now I also recommend frequently checking in with your customer. So if you pull out let's say they're interested in smoking flower, you pull out a cannabis variety that has some more Limonene and Pinene because they wanted something more giggly, social chatty, and you're talking to them about the cannabinoid concentration and the terpene concentration. Well, they may not know what cannabinoids and terpenes are, and so before I would even dive into that kind of information, I would ask my customer, “Are you familiar with cannabinoids and terpenes?” and you give them the opportunity to say yes or no. If they say no, then ask them well would you like to learn more about them? So you're putting their experience in their hands. They are in control of their experience. If they don't know about cannabinoids and terpenes but also they don't care to know, then they'll say “No, no, I don't know about cannabinoids and terpenes." No, I don't really care to learn, I trust you.” Or if they say “yes, I would like to learn more”, keep it brief. Cannabinoids are the main class of compounds found in cannabis. They will really drive the experience. Your major cannabinoids are THC and CBD in this particular variety, you're going to have 24% THC, 1% CBD that will give a generally intense psychotropic reaction so you're going to want to make sure that you're dosing appropriately for yourself, do you know your dose? If they don't know their dose, then ask them again, well would you like to learn about strategies for microdosing? Really, again, keeping them in control of their experience is the number one goal - making sure that they have exactly the experience that they want. So frequently checking in with them, asking them questions. Now, when it comes to terpenes, terpenes are the aromatic compounds found all plants, they give plants their smell, they're also abundantly found in cannabis. And in cannabis, they're thought to really be responsible for the different nuances of experience that different varieties can provide, for example, Limonene is a terpene that's found in this particular variety that you're interested in. It's also found in the rinds of citrus fruits, and in many, many household cleaning products. So think when you smell a citrus fruit in the morning, or when you're like spending a Sunday afternoon deep cleaning your house, you generally feel a sense of uplifting energy, it feels exhilarating, it feels euphoric, it may even feel joyful. That's Limonene doing its job, it'll do the same thing when you smoke it in cannabis. So just keeping it really brief, really accessible, and constantly checking in with your customer to make sure that they're on the same page you; that you haven't just rattled off a ton of information to them without their permission, and now they're lost and overwhelmed and don't know what's up and what's down. That's the most important thing is keeping your definitions really short, really accessible, using analogies to describe different compounds and effects - I find that to be particularly helpful when talking about terpenes with people. So again, you can build a bridge to something that they're comfortable with, that they can relate to. And you're not just throwing out these words - Limonene, Pinene, Linalool, beta-Caryophyllene - that they've never heard before, and yet they've interacted with almost on a daily basis. And checking in with them constantly even after you may have gone like a, let's say, you explain that terpene spiel that I just said, you can even ask afterwards, “does that make sense to you? Like, do you - does that make sense?” That way, they can have the opportunity to be like “No, actually, I'm lost.” You can backtrack and help them. Or they have the opportunity again to say “Yes, that makes sense.” Cool. And so that's really what it's about. It's finding that balance of being able to deliver this information that is important for them to know and understand in a really easy, quick, digestible manner, and then also making sure that they are getting the experience that they want, by asking frequent questions, and really making sure that they're in control of their own experience every step of the way.
Wayne: Yeah, I love that permission checking piece at each kind of point, because I think that's where I've struggled, I think budtenders do is they get on the, into the science, and then they start, you know, on a rant basically, and you can get too deep where then the customer feels overwhelmed. But checking along that entire conversation at every step forward makes a lot of sense. And then I think that what you said making the customer feel in control of that conversation and influencing it in the direction they want, is really going to create a customer that has a great experience at your store and most likely is going to want to come back to the store.
Emma: Exactly, I mean, all that we talked about today, right like the Delta-9 into 11-Hydroxy into 11-nor-9-carboxy and the bioavailability points and metabolic conversions - like your customer, your novice customer does not need to know that. You do not need to share that with them unless they are very interested and want to learn more and make it clear that they want to learn more. But really this information is for budtenders to be able to make better predictions to customers regarding experience, you do not need to fully explain to them and flesh out every single scientific point and learning opportunity that you've had that have led you to that prediction. You just need to give them the basics and, and even then make sure they want it. I mean, there may be people who just are like, I want to come in, I want to grab my pre roll, what do you have that has, that will give me like the most sedating effect in your pre rolls? And you tell them uh, well I have this Grape Kush, it has a high level of Myrcene. Here you go. And that may be that - that's all they may want, and then they'll purchase it and get out. You never want to knowledge shame. You never want to inundate people with so much information that they are just completely overwhelmed. Again, they have to be in control of their own experience.
Wayne: If a customer were to come in and say, and I'm guessing a lot of budtenders have this conversation still, you know, "I want your strongest Sativa”, or “I want your strongest Indica." How do you guide that conversation?
Emma: So this brings up more of that knowledge shaming that I mentioned. So we never, ever want to knowledge shame. I know that you all know behind the counter, if somebody comes in and they're like, I want your strongest Sativa that you have, you pretty much know what they mean. And so there is no need for you to say, "Well, no, no, no, Sativa and Indica actually do not correlate to consistent experience. So you're wrong. Let me tell you why you're wrong." And then like go on the full history of like Linnaeus and Lamarck and yada yada yada? Again, you do not need to share that with them. That information is for you to make a better prediction of experience for your customer so that you don't rely on the Indica/Sativa distinction to make a prediction for a customer because it, it has a high likelihood of being wrong.
Wayne: Yeah, yeah.
Emma: But, you still don't want to reinforce the concept that Sativa equals super uplifting all the time. And so how I've, again and how I teach on how to manage this type of interaction is by - Okay, a customer comes in and says “I want your heaviest Indica” well, or “heaviest Sativa”. Then you can say, "Well, what kind of, what kind of particular experience are you looking for? Do you want to be like really focused and get a lot of work done? Do you want to go on a hike? Do you want to go out dancing, like Sativa is very general umbrella term, that means uplifting, but it has many, again, nuances underneath that umbrella. So really ask the question to your customer to elucidate more specifics about what they do want to actually experience. And then, and then we'll move into more language around their experience. They'll say, "Well, I want to go out dancing with friends." And they may even reiterate, so I need your heaviest Sativa, your like, the thing that's going to make me most energized. And again, you can say okay, cool, so you know more about their experience now. And you can pull out a variety of cultivar that has maybe let's say some Terpinolene, has some Terpinolene, has some THC, let them smell it and say, "Okay, well, I'm pulling out this Super Silver Haze for you, because it has 23% THC. And it has this compound in it called Terpinolene that, especially when you consume it with THC, it gives a really, really kind of like speedy energy, so perfect for dancing for concerts.” Ask them if they've ever had Super Silver Haze before. If they say no, then make sure to advise on dosing strategies because Terpinolene can get a little wonky if it is consumed in high concentrations, and then have them go on their way if they choose to purchase it. At no point did you ever say Sativa - you never needed to include the language of Sativa. In fact, you had a little educational moment where you even mentioned the terpene, Terpinolene, that was in a variety, which was why you were recommended it to that customer. And the idea here is to have that person go to her concert, smoke that weed and get exactly the experience that she wanted. So then she comes back to you, and the next time maybe she doesn't say, “Oh I want your heaviest Sativa” but she says “oh, I want that thing that you gave me that had that other thing in it, Terpino-something.” And there you have just planted the little seed of removing the idea of being only stuck in the Indica/Sativa dichotomy and instead expanding that into cannabinoid and terpene conversation - into a conversation that is rooted more in experience, which is the goal. If you were to say, right off the bat when that customer came in, "No, no, no, Sativa is wrong, you're wrong." That customer would have shut down, people hate being told that they're wrong. And it's not, it's not a way to open up a dialogue for, for this kind of ongoing education. It's not, it will just shut people down. And so instead, you need to work with your customers, you need to work with the language that you're giving, that they're giving you and help to gently guide them out of that language because they just don't know any better. That's what they've been told is the vernacular to describe experience in the cannabis community. And it still is largely, but as we know, there's so much more than that. And again, your job as a budtender, is to make sure that you're not using that distinction to predict experience. And just by doing that job, you will help to really convert a lot of the people who still solely rely on Indica/Sativa because they don't know any better.
Wayne: Yeah, yeah. I love that perspective to keep that conversation dialogue open. And I think you're exactly right. As soon as you tell someone they're wrong and they have any of that kind of feeling, defensiveness turns on immediately, and they probably don't have full trust with you yet. So they get a little, there's confusion there and the conversation stops. If we were to take that even a little further and the customer were to come back and say I really liked that terpene you told me about, Terpinolene. So I'd like another Sativa strain that has Terpinolene in it, because it - what if they make the connection that Sativa equals Terpinolene or certain terpenes - do you know what I mean?
Emma: Mm-hmm. I think that's fine. I think that's a first step in the road of really beginning to understand the complexity of the cannabis matrix. And so if they want to correlate that, okay, Sativa is - I want another Sativa with that terpene in it. Well, at least they are correlating an uplifting experience to that terpene because that's what Sativa means to them. And it does not mean the cannabis species that was first identified by Carl Linnaeus and that only is associated with a certain plant morphology, right? Sativa to them means an uplifting experience. They're just using that word in place of uplifting. And again, we don't need to change that for them. That's their vernacular, that's cool, they can use that. They are looking to budtenders to get the experience that they're trying to communicate that they want. They're just using language that we know is not exactly right. It's not language that we could ever use as industry professionals, as budtenders to then predict a consistent solid experience for the consumer. And that's where it is most important for budtenders to have this understanding. that Sativa and Indica does not correlate to consistent experience so that they can make better predictions for customers, even if those customers are still using those terms to describe experience, if that makes sense.
Wayne: Yeah, that's where the kind of mastery comes from, for the budtenders to learn this at this deep level, but then able to - which I think you do so well - is able to simplify it to present it to the consumer in that way where you're presenting the new information and asking those questions along the way, I think that's great.
Emma: Yeah, exactly.
Wayne: Yeah, thank you for that. I think that will help a lot of budtenders -
Wayne: The last question I wanted to ask, I believe we covered this in the past, but I had someone else ask me about it recently. And I couldn't find it - we've done almost 12 episodes now. When eating edibles, you talked a little bit about first time consumers smoking and maybe not feeling the effects. One, because their system may not be primed for the cannabinoids. Two, maybe they're not holding the draw, or holding it in as long like a heavy normal user would. What about on the edible side? Edibles, a customer said or a budtender said a customer came in, was trying edibles and didn't have any effects on them. Is there something specific we know why edibles might just not work for certain people, like they don't experience any effects?
Emma: (It’s) dependent on metabolic rate and liver metabolism of each person's chemistry, so that definitely plays a huge factor into it. And I've also had conversations with people who at 200, 300, 400 milligrams do not feel anything when they, when they orally ingest, of THC that is. And this is a phenomenon that we see that really I think comes back to cannabis as a medicinal plant, as a botanical medicine that has such a huge dose range. So when we talk about allopathic medicine, and from the pharmaceutical model that we're also used to I mean, you take an ibuprofen, right, and most people have the certain same set of effects in a dose window between 200 and 400 milligrams of ibuprofen. Some people go a little bit above that, need to get up to 800 milligrams, some people only need 50 milligrams to experience an effect. And that's a relatively small range of dose, it may seem like a lot when you're talking about 50 to 800. But it's actually small. And that's where we get into universal standard doses. So much of what the FDA can actually approve, in terms of medicine, it has to have a universal standard dose where generally the population, 90+ percent of the population will experience the same set of effects within this 200 milligram dose range, right? When we talk about cannabis, and specifically THC, I mean, people experience therapeutic effects at 4 milligrams of THC. Other people experience therapeutic effects at 4000 milligrams of THC. And so 4 to 4000 milligrams is an incredibly large dose range. That's huge. That's a huge window. And therefore, I mean, that's why cannabis does not have the degree of consistency and predictability that pharmaceuticals could have, because of that dose range. And therefore those people who do have these experiences of, "Well, I'm eating hundreds of milligrams of THC and not experiencing anything", it may just be because they're part of the population that needs such a high dose to have any kind of set of effects. And that may be because of metabolic rate, it may be because of their ECS tone, it may be because of their liver function. I mean, it could be so many different things. And because each person has such a unique, ever-changing ECS and physiological constitution, it's really hard to identify that one thing or those few things that are responsible for that dose.
Wayne: Yeah, is that rare? That group of the population that, you know, maybe does have effects from edibles, but is in such a high range. So when they're consuming a couple hundred milligrams and not feeling it, they think they just don't work at all, is that a really small percentage that has that high of a - I don't know if you'd call it tolerance, is the right word?
Emma: Oh, I think that it's definitely smaller than the percentage of the population that does experience effects from THC, especially when orally ingested between like 5 and 20 milligrams mark. Generally, most people will experience some kind of effects between 5 and 20 milligrams of THC. And then of course, you have your more sensitive people that only need like one to two milligrams, or two and a half milligrams of THC. And then your really tolerant people that need thousands of milligrams of THC. I have not seen any kind of statistical analysis done on like really delineating the percentages of that population. There was a large scientific report that came out that we were actually just chatting about before recording, that showed that most population and it was aggregate anecdotal evidence, and so it collected over 19,000 self reported subjective consumer reports from around 3300 people. And what the research found was that most people experienced a therapeutic effect from smoking cannabis flower in the range of 10 to 19% of THC. However, it did not go into depth of inhalation, how much these people were dosing throughout the day, length of inhalation, etc. So that we still don't know, but at least it's, it's pointing to some kind of concentration range, which is a starting point. Right, all information at this point is good information in my opinion. We just need more of it to get to those specifics.
Wayne: Okay. Yeah, that makes sense. Um, well, thanks for coming on today Emma, I think we've covered a lot there and a lot of new topics as well. Is there anywhere you want to send people, maybe tell him about the website, the podcast that you and Lee from HiFi do, anything else you got going on or coming up, that you want people to check out?
Emma: Sure. So please check out my website and also if you do want to learn more about the specific ways to talk to customers around cannabis and you want to learn more about the fundamentals of cannabis science, product info, consumption methods, that I believe is necessary for the budtender population to know, then check out my workshops online eminent.teachable.com, the program is going through quite a large update and we will be migrating to a different LMS, online learning system with more engaging videos and, and different quizzes and downloadable sheets, etc. So that's coming this summer. But if you want to see what kind of information I teach on and how I teach it, then the program is live as it exists in this form right now - again, that's eminent.teachable.com. I also do do a radio show that then gets uploaded as a podcast through XRAY.FM. It's called This Is Cannabis, I host it with Lee Henderson. And we interview many people in the Oregon cannabis scene, as well as discuss some science and culture beats. So definitely check that out. And then as always, if you are new to Periodic effects, dig through these science episodes, there's so much information here that is really great again, especially if you are in this budtender community.
Wayne: Yeah, yeah, thank you. Yeah, for listeners, if they haven't - episode 50 and 51 we did with Emma. We tried to make as kind of a 101 starting point. But I feel like we've done so many episodes, and we have all this content. I'm trying to think of a way to put it on one page or condense it or tie the episodes together. But there's so much, it's difficult to put it all together. But yeah, go check out those past ones. There's a lot of valuable stuff in there from Emma. And thanks for coming on Emma. It's always a pleasure.
Emma: Of course. Thanks so much Wayne. Always love, love chatting with you.
Wayne: All right, that was the episode with Emma, hopefully learned a few new things in that one. I definitely did. Really enjoyed that conversation. And so grateful Emma shared with us at the end there how to have this conversation around the science cannabis. I think that was really useful. Go check out her website. She has more, you know, trainings, episodes, and stuff that she does around these topics and conversations. I think she mentioned it at the end there eminent.teachable.com if you want to learn more, see what else she's got going on.