Cannabis: Inhaling vs Ingesting

It is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that is the primary psychoactive component of marijuana (cannabis). The brain’s cannabinoid receptor system is activated by the interaction between THC and cannabinoid receptors. Many marijuana-related products contain THC in varying concentrations, such as raw plant materials, infused edibles, and potent cannabis extractions.

The psychoactive effects of this highly coveted cannabinoid are the same no matter how it is processed prior to use.

Cannabis can be consumed in a variety of ways, including

  • Spliffs or waterpipes (smoking).
  • Dabbing (inhaling concentrated extracts).
  • Vaping (vaporizing with an electronic device).
  • Edibles (cannabis-infused foods).
  • Topicals (cream, lotion, spray).
  • Tinctures (alcohol-based).

THC will ultimately bind to the brain no matter how it is ingested, whether it is inhaled, eaten, or consumed in another way. THC is believed to produce a relaxation sensation and induce an increase in sensitivity to light, sound, and touch.

The most common way to consume marijuana has been through smoking. When THC is inhaled, it passes through the lungs and into the bloodstream, where it is absorbed and distributed throughout the body. When consuming THC through an edible, the user is less likely to experience the effects as quickly as if they smoke a joint.

Smoking may cause the subjective effects to be felt more immediately, and last for a shorter period since absorption into the bloodstream occurs more quickly and often progresses over a shorter timeframe than that of edibles.


Edibles can range greatly in their potency depending on the manufacturing methods and the amount of cannabis and its extracted active ingredients used.

Through the digestive tract, THC enters the bloodstream through edibles containing marijuana and undergoes its first metabolic metabolism in the liver before moving into the body. Due to the slower rate of absorption through the digestive system than through the lungs (in some cases, as much as 30 to 120 minutes before reaching the brain), effects from eating edibles can take longer to begin but will last much longer.

When consuming marijuana-infused drinks, such as tea, you can expect to experience effects similar to that of solid edibles.

Smoking a joint and eating an edible have pronounced differences, including the time it takes for effects to take effect, the duration of effects, and how long they last. When smoked, the effects are felt almost immediately. Inhaled smoke or vapor produced by smoking joints, bongs, and other methods produces a near-instantaneous high that lasts 2 to 6 hours; edibles, however, take longer to kick in, elicit peak effects more slowly, and can last for several hours.

Delivery of Cannabis to your system

In spite of their strength, edibles actually deliver fewer cannabinoids to the blood. THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis, is found in edibles in amounts of 10% to 20%. Pure THC has the potential of reaching a whopping 99.9%. When smoking cannabis flower, consumers can expect the average strain to deliver 15% THC with the ability to reach 35%.

A cannabis overdose is characterized by agitation, anxiety, panic attacks, uncontrollable sweating, hallucinations, and sudden high blood pressure. You can prevent unwanted effects, such as cannabis overdose, by monitoring how much THC you consume.

Controlling and Relieving Cannabis Effects

Have you eaten too much? Smoked a strain that you didn’t expect to be so potent? Maybe you have to attend to a number of things but the high is too much?

Nothing to worry about. If you want to come down faster, you can use some of the suggestions below to help cut down on the buzz. If one of the options below doesn’t work, don’t hesitate to try another. Reactions vary from person to person, so this isn’t an exact science.

While this may sound counterintuitive, CBD helps counteract the effects of THC. Similar to THC, CBD is another cannabinoid found in cannabis. Unlike THC, though, CBD interacts with more receptors in the brain. Researchers do not know exactly how CBD works, but several studies conducted on animals and humans show that CBD may be helpful for anxiety and depression. Some people sleep better after consuming CBD which is particularly helpful if you’re experiencing a bad high from THC.

Black Pepper
A preliminary study indicates that smelling or tasting black pepper helps combat paranoia and anxiety that can accompany a serious high. Peppercorns contain caryophyllene, an antagonist of CB2 that enhances the sedating effects of THC.

Lemons contain compounds that have calming effects, such as limonene. You can counteract some of the psychoactive effects of THC by eating lemons or adding some lemon juice to your water.

Due to the high concentration of limonene in lemon peels, zesting them into your water or steeping them in hot water will yield stronger effects than using the lemons themselves.

Pine Nuts
The effects of THC may be countered by pine nuts, according to some research

Pine nuts contain a compound called pinene, which calms the mind and improves clarity. Pinene, incidentally, is a terpene found in plants and has an aroma that is similar to pine.

Cuddling your pet can provide a diverse array of health benefits.
Researchers have discovered that cuddling your pet once or twice a day can have multiple benefits for your psychological well-being. It has been scientifically proven that a snuggle a day can reduce levels of Cortisol, the hormone that is responsible for stress.

Benefits of smoking cannabis vs eating it

In comparison to edibles, smoking cannabis has two main advantages:

1. The quick onset
2. Shorter duration of the effects.

Due to the immediate high associated with inhaling cannabis, in 15 minutes, it’s easy to tell if you’ve taken too much cannabis from a single inhale. However, If you take edibles, you must wait for at least two to three hours until you feel the complete effects and you should resist the urge to ingest more edibles because you don’t think you’re getting high. 

Inhaling or vaporizing cannabis only lasts for two to three hours. Eating cannabis, though, can last for twelve hours or more. Due to the duration of the high, ingesting cannabis could have an impact on your day, or even tasks you need to complete the following day. 

You can also layer your doses when you inhale cannabis rather than eating it. Due to how quickly a high is initiated from inhaling cannabis, you have the added benefit of slowly increasing your tokes until you have reached the desired high. Due to edibles taking much longer to create that high feeling you are looking for, it may take hours before realizing you have eaten too much or rather not enough to receive the high you were hoping for.  

Below we have outlined the differences felt by inhaling vs ingesting so you can choose which option works best for you.

  1. Effects: Inhaling vs Ingesting

    When you smoke, you can feel the effects instantly; when you ingest, it takes anywhere from 30 minutes to more than two hours.
  1. Peak Effects: Inhaling vs Ingesting

    While the effect of smoking cannabis will reach its peak within 30 minutes, ingesting cannabis can take up to four hours to reach its full effects. 
  1. Length of Effects: Inhaling vs Ingesting

    Inhaling and ingesting cannabis can cause residual effects that can last up to 24 hours, however, when inhaled, the effects usually dissipate within six hours as opposed to ingested cannabis, which may last up to twelve hours.


This guide on inhaling vs ingesting will help you determine whether you prefer a quick onset high or a longer-lasting one. While inhaling and ingesting both offer benefits, smoking allows you to reach the exact high you’re searching for within a short period of time after consumption. Smoke it, enjoy it, and be responsible.