11-hydroxy-THC and the Energy of Edibles


At this point we all know there are different ways to consume cannabis. The most common way is to simply light it up, but these days, more people are vaping, dabbing, drinking infused drinks, using skin creams, and of course, eating it. In fact, one of the strongest forms of marijuana, is the kind that comes when its eaten, and this explains the ultimate power of edibles. Plus, without causing the same kind of damage as smoking, eating cannabis edibles is becoming very popular.

If you’ve ever eaten a ‘special’ brownie, you know that it’s not like smoking a joint. There is no immediate feeling of anything, and when the high does kick in, sometimes 1-3 hours after ingestion, it doesn’t quite feel the same either. That’s because the compound producing the effects is not the same as the one in the dry flower of a joint. It’s a little bit different, and significantly stronger.

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What is 11-hydroxy-THC?

Much like the name implies, its simply a form of THC. In standard cannabis consumption, when the plant is lit on fire and inhaled (or vaped and inhaled), the THC – which becomes what it is through a decarboxylation process from the heating – has this chemical structure: C₂₁H₃₀O₂. This chemical structure is not found in an actual living cannabis plant in high amounts, but instead starts as this: C22H30O4 which is tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, or THCA. As stated, this compound is transformed into delta-9 THC by a heating process which creates a chemical reaction that removes a carboxyl group (COOH), hence the name decarboxylation.

The explanation above leads to delta-9 THC, but that’s not what we’re talking about. What we’re talking about is what happens when delta-9 THC is ingested. When cannabis is smoked, THC is taken in through the lungs, transferred to the bloodstream, and then onto the brain, and the rest of the body. When cannabis is eaten, it goes directly to the bloodstream where it is absorbed, and then to the liver, the rest of the body, and the digestive system where its broken down even further. A part of this whole process is that delta-9 THC (C₂₁H₃₀O₂) is transformed into 11-hydroxy-THC (C21H30O3). As you can see from the chemical formulations, it’s not a huge difference. But one of the things we know about chemistry is that slight tweaks in chemical formulas can mean entirely different compounds that do entirely different things.

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Beth Edmonds