Cannabis in Your System: Inhaling vs Ingesting

Have you ever wondered about the effects of smoking vs edibles in your body? The two different ways of ingesting cannabis act very differently on your body and can produce vastly different experiences. We'll break down the pros and cons of each, as well as the right dose to start with if it's your first time getting high. In this article, we’ll explore why the different methods of ingestion produce different effects, what dose to look for if it’s your first time getting high, and whether edibles are healthier than smoking.

As one of the best edibles dispensaries in the San Francisco Bay Area, we’ve curated our offerings with you in mind. We only bring you the finest quality edibles, from boutique to established brands, all laser-focused on providing superior flavors and effects. You can easily browse our tailored products and order edibles online. 

The Difference Between Smoking vs Edibles

Many people enjoy eating edibles rather than smoking. Not only do edibles provide a discreet way to enjoy cannabis, but they come in so many delicious formats, from gummies to cookies to drinks. On the other hand, edibles provide a slower onset compared to smoking cannabis. The effects of edibles can last longer, which can provide additional benefits, such as pain relief, to some. 

There is no "right" way to enjoy cannabis. Both smoking and edibles have their specific benefits and drawbacks and can produce a different type of effect—the choice is really about finding what you like the best. Let's take a deeper look at how smoking vs edibles affect your body so you can plan your experience.

How Smoking Works

The main psychoactive compound in cannabis is THC, or Tetrahydrocannabinol. But do you know that it has to be in the correct molecular form to affect our brain's chemistry? It's like how a lock needs a particular key.

THC can refer to two different compounds: THCa, a different form of THC, which attaches to the cannabinoid receptor CB1 in our body and is responsible for the euphoric effects.

Eating the raw form of cannabis is not going to get you intoxicated because the molecule on the raw cannabis plant is actually THCa or Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid, another cannabinoid. It does not attach to CB1 receptors and so does not alter perception. Heat then expedites this conversion in a  process known as decarboxylation.

When we apply heat (approximately 1400 degrees Fahrenheit), aka smoking cannabis, THCa  is converted to Delta-9 THC, which will then make it accessible to the brain's chemistry.

Once Delta-9 THC is inhaled, it travels from the nasal cavity to the lungs, eventually entering the bloodstream. Blood then circulates through the body and carries the THC directly to the brain. When THC crosses the blood-brain barrier, it binds with the brain cannabinoid receptors and activates the electrical signals. 

Photo: Pure Beauty babies

How Edibles Work

Now we know that we can't just straight-up eat a nug of cannabis and change our brain chemistry. Then, how do edibles work?

It goes back to converting THCa to Delta-9 THC. THC still needs heat to decarboxylate (lose carbon atoms). When making edibles, connoisseurs essentially bake the cannabis to approximately 220 degrees Fahrenheit to decarboxylate it and get it to the right chemical form. 

But even then, the THC still needs to be in the right form for the body to unlock its properties via digestion. THC is a lipophilic compound, which means that instead of water dissolving it, only other lipids (like oil or butter) can do the trick. The THC must be dissolved in oil or butter to be ingested orally. Once the stomach breaks down the edible into its component parts, the THC goes to the liver where it is converted into a different, stronger form of THC, or known as 11-Hydroxy THC or sometimes written 11-OH-THC. 11-Hydroxy THC is much more reactive and sedative.

Even when you smoke cannabis, your liver takes Delta-9 THC and processes it into 11-hydroxy-THC (but in a small quantity). You get way more 11-OH-THC when you consume edibles.

Photo: Wyld raspberry gummies

How Sublinguals Work

Sublingual cannabis, on the other hand, is not being absorbed in the same way as edibles. Instead of being absorbed through the digestive system, it's absorbed through mucosal membranes located under the tongue, inside of the cheeks, and on the gums.

There's a dense concentration of capillaries under the tongue and around the mouth, so when you consume sublingually, the cannabis is delivered directly to the bloodstream. 

Because it doesn't pass through your digestive system and doesn't interact with digestive enzymes or fluids, consuming sublingually provides a pure Delta-9 THC experience, which feels just like smoking or vaping.

How Does Smoking vs Edibles Affect the Buzz

The method of consumption will affect the experience by delivering certain chemical forms of THC to your brain. When smoking and consuming sublingually, Delta-9 THC is delivered. When ingesting edibles, you get 11-OH-THC. 

Smoking Produces an Almost Immediate Reaction

Because our blood flows to the brain quickly, you will feel the effects approximately a few minutes after the first inhalation. The duration lasts approximately 4–6 hours, with the “peak” being around the 2 or 3 hour mark. 

Our body has a natural endocannabinoid system, which is responsible for sending out neurotransmitters or the brain’s natural chemical messenger to the rest of the body. Each neurotransmitter is like a key fitting into the “lock” of the brain’s specific receptors. If the molecule doesn’t fit, neurons won’t fire a message to other neurons. THC is a molecular “fit” to the receptor CB1

When THC attaches itself to CB1, neurons get the message to stop sending other neurotransmitters. This disrupts the normal flow of information in the brain, resulting in an altered state of consciousness. 

Photo: Pure Beauty

Edibles Produce Gradual Onset (Usually!)

The onset of the effects of edibles is much slower than smoking because of the circuitous route the THC takes to get to the brain. The effects set in after approximately 30 minutes (or up to two hours), and the duration lasts 6–12 hours or longer. The intensity of the effects is greater with edibles than smoking.

On the other hand, drinking cannabis-infused beverages are rising in popularity for the shortened waiting period. Since they enter the bloodstream both through the digestive system sublingually, the onset of effects is faster. 

Although 30 minutes is an average mark to feel the effects of edibles, it all depends on your unique metabolism. Factors impacting how quickly and strongly the effects are felt include what you have eaten that day and when, your natural metabolism and hormones, as well as your weight and your tolerance for cannabis. What happens for one person may not happen for another. 

That’s why we always recommend to start low and go slow. Start with a low dose (>2mg) if you are a beginner and wait at least two hours before taking more. Patience is key when you’re consuming edibles. 

Photo: Cann

Are Edibles Healthier Than Smoking?

This is a rather tricky question. Healthy is a subjective term, and how you ingest cannabis will depend on your unique body chemistry.

Some of the most concerning risks related to smoking come with buying cannabis from the illicit market. You never knew what the growers used to treat the plants—pesticides, fungicides, artificial fertilizers that leave residues on the flower that were certainly not made for humans to smoke. Thankfully, with legalization you have insight into who grew your cannabis and their practices. What’s more is that all cannabis for sale via a dispensary is very strictly tested for these items as well as heavy metals and other compounds dangerous to human health. While smoking cannabis has been largely deemed safe, smoke can irritate some people’s lungs, and some just don’t like the smell and taste.

Consuming flower via a vaping device like a Pax 2 can alleviate a lot of the irritation and smell and taste of smoke. Many who use vaporizers can get a better sense of the rich aroma profile of the flower. The device heats the air around the flower to approximately 400 degrees, which is enough for the chemical conversion of THCa to THC. It essentially vaporizes the cannabinoids but does not combust (turn to smoke). 

Photo: Pax 2

On the other hand, edibles take a relatively long time to metabolize. Many come in gummies or other candies, and you may not want to consume sugar or sweets. However, tinctures come in oil or alcohol and can offer healthier alternatives to consume cannabis orally.  If you pick up a weed brownie at a friend’s house you may not know exactly how much THC is in it (depending on who your friends are! If you come to our house, everything will be labeled!).  However, all products we sell go through rigorous quality control and each batch is tested, so you can be confident that you know exactly what you're getting when you buy edibles online from us

So are edibles healthier than smoking? The short answer is—it depends. Health can be viewed holistically and what matters to each person is different. At Sava, we strive to give you a personalized experience as well as discreet edible delivery. 

The Right Cannabis Dose for Beginners

If it's your first time getting high, a little will go a very long way. Each person's body chemistry is like a fingerprint, unique to that specific person. There is no one "right" dose of cannabis for beginners, but here are some tips for you. 

Inhale once or twice for smoking or vaping and observe the effects for about twenty minutes before smoking more. If you need pre-rolled joints, we have you covered. We even carry mini pre-rolls, in both uplifting and relaxing strains. (Whoever thought that a joint could be so cute?)

Photo: Pure Beauty babies

For edibles novices, try a dose of 1–2mg THC. This is usually a half or a quarter of a gummy or candy piece—read the label to find the exact cannabinoid content. Our products list the specific dosing for each individual edible as well as the total THC content per package, so make sure to double-check before use—even on something you’ve had before because sometime brands change their formulations.

For example, if there are 10 gummies with 2mg THC per piece, there will be 20mg THC in the whole package. When you buy edibles online with Sava, you can be sure of the exact dose labeled on the package, which can also be found under the Dosing & Psychoactivity section on our product pages. 

Talk to Our Cannabis Connoisseurs for the Best Online Order Experience

Smoking vs edibles? We say, "Why not both?" Tasting the different varieties of edibles and herbs is almost as fun as the after-effects. 

Whichever you prefer, cannabis is a versatile plant that can help relieve anxiety, stress, and pain. It can uplift general feelings of well-being and promote mental balance.

We have a wide variety of strains to match your mood or desired effect, whether that is calming, creative, productive, relaxed, or energetic. Our tailored selection brings you the finest of locally sourced cannabis curated with your lifestyle in mind. We're proud to carry a variety of high-quality brands including women- and BIPOC-owned that focus on well-being, so you can live your best life. 

If you're searching for cannabis for beginners, our online edibles dispensary has plenty of low-dose options. We also carry full-spectrum, gourmet CBD and THC gummiescannabis candy, and cannabis-infused drinks. We make edible delivery safe, secure, and discreet to bring you the best of our California green. 

Order edibles online, give us a call at 415-993-9973, or shoot us an email at if you have cannabis questions or are wondering what strain or products best fit your needs. We're open Monday through Friday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM PST and are ready to help.