Jason Mitchell was against cannabis before he was for it.
A lot of us have taken that weed-strewn path, but Mitchell made a painful conversion, through a bout of ulcerative colitis in 2011. He came to his career as a naturopathic doctor after a personal history with addiction, so he had learned to “just say no.” But when his colitis hit, so did a harsh drug regimen that led him to research alternatives. That’s how he learned about the impact of beta caryophyllene, a terpene found in cloves, pepper, and—oh yeah—various strains of cannabis. Beta caryophyllene had a reinforcing effect on his weakened immune system, and now his colitis is history. “It was the lever that opened my mind to new possibilities,” says Mitchell.
His gut fixation has made him an expert on the progress cannabis makes through your digestive system. And as the co-founder of the natural cures company Hemp Fusion, he’s all about food as medicine.
The science behind cannabis in your digestive tract is a little hairy, so whether you’re taking cannabis for pain, anxiety, or for a high, you’ll need to hang in there for a bit. But trust us: The payload is worth it and it will last a long time.
First, back to that bong hit you may or may not have taken just now. Mitchell calls inhalation the “best way” to get instant results from cannabis. The alveoli (air sacks) in your lungs are all about absorbing oxygen into your bloodstream, and they’ll grab the smokin’ THC you inhale with it. Boom: instant transfer via blood to your brain, and you’ll feel the effects in seven to ten minutes. Not so good, according to Mitchell: the byproducts of combustion that fly with it.
Now, consider what happens when you consume cannabis chocolates, or your partner’s awesome pot brownies. They reach your belly, are attacked by stomach acids, and then move on to the duodenum, where large blobs of THC-infused oil are broken down into smaller blobs. From there, they’re sent along to the intestinal villi—tiny hairs that pull nutrients into the body. They also gladly accept two kinds of psychoactive THC that emerge from the digestive process, release them into your bloodstream, which is how they’ll eventually arrive in your brain. And that takes time, which is why an edible high takes so much longer than one that comes from inhalation. Be patient, people! No second pot brownie for you until you’ve allowed time for the first one to work!
But here’s your reward. Studies have shown that, not only will the THC circulating in your bloodstream produce a high that builds for hours, it will also be more powerful, because of the hard work your liver does to concentrate and empower THC through various chemical processes. Those joint-smokin’ jokers will be stone-cold sober by the time the edibles eater is reaching peak high. Slow and steady wins.
Which is why Mitchell wants you to shop well for your edibles, oils, and tinctures. “The stuff you ingest should be as close to nature as possible, with as many parts of the plant as possible. That’s where the magic is.” Look for a QR code on your product, and scan it with your phone. If cannabis is going to hang in your ‘hood for a while, you want it to be a good neighbor—without bringing along toxins, heavy metals, pesticides, or herbicides.
As Mitchell learned, in his own gut: The plant is all, and enough.