Marijuana — colloquially called weed — refers to the dried flowers, seeds, stems, and leaves of the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plants. It’s a popular drug used by millions of people either for pleasure or to treat chronic health conditions. Weed can be used in a number of ways, but some of the most popular methods include smoking and vaping.
However, some people wonder whether it’s safe to eat marijuana and whether ingesting it has the same effects as smoking or vaping.
This article explains whether it’s safe to eat weed and the health effects — both positive and negative — related to ingestion.
Can you eat marijuana?
The short answer is yes, you can eat weed. In fact, marijuana-infused foods and drinks have been consumed throughout history, as far back as 1000 B.C..
Marijuana was used as medicine in ancient China and India and was introduced to Western medicine in the early 19th century. Edible applications, such as tinctures, were prescribed to treat various conditions, from chronic pain to digestive disorders.
Edible marijuana products were also used to relieve stress and induce euphoria, similar to alcohol.
Bhang, a beverage made from a mixture of the leaves and flowers of marijuana plants, has been consumed for centuries during religious festivals, such as Holi, a Hindu festival of love and color.
In the United States, recreational use of edible marijuana products became popular during the 1960s, and today, many different types of edibles are available, both legally and illegally, depending on state laws.
For example, gummies, candies, chocolates, capsules, teas, and oils are some of the edible marijuana products sold in both legal marijuana dispensaries and through the illegal marijuana market.
Edibles enthusiasts also make their own weed products by infusing butter or oil with marijuana and mixing it into baked goods and other recipes.
Though you can eat raw weed, it won’t have the same effect as consuming marijuana-based products, as marijuana has to go through a process known as decarboxylation to become activated.
Raw marijuana contains tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), compounds that must be exposed to heat, such as in smoking or baking, to turn into the active forms, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
Therefore, eating raw weed will not result in the same effects as consuming weed that has been heated, as in edible products like candies, tinctures, and baked goods.
Though you can’t get high from eating raw weed, some health experts believe that eating it may offer some health benefits due to the wide array of plant compounds it contains.
Yet, research in this area is lacking, so the potential therapeutic benefit of raw marijuana is still unclear.
Weed has been consumed in various forms throughout history for both medicinal and recreational purposes. Though you can eat raw marijuana, it won’t have the same effects as marijuana that has been heated.
Health benefits related to edible marijuana
Marijuana has many medicinal benefits and has been used to treat various ailments throughout history.
Today, edible marijuana products have a number of uses in the medical field and are becoming a more popular, accepted natural treatment in clinical settings.
May benefit certain health conditions
Edible marijuana products are often used to treat conditions, such as chronic pain, cancer-related symptoms, and anxiety.
Medical cannabis products can legally be prescribed in countries around the world, including Italy, Spain, Germany, and parts of the United States.
THC is one of over 100 active compounds — known as cannabinoids — in marijuana.
THC is the compound responsible for the psychoactive properties of marijuana products, including edibles, that may induce feelings of euphoria and relaxation.
Other compounds in marijuana, such as CBD, have been shown to have pain- and anxiety-reducing properties.
The powerful combination of therapeutic compounds in this plant makes it a popular natural treatment that effectively reduces symptoms of and eases pain related to various conditions.
For example, edible marijuana products, such as oils, tinctures, pills, and gummies, are prescribed to treat poor appetite, pain, and weight loss in people who have cancer.
Additionally, these products may significantly reduce pain and muscle spasms, relieve nausea and vomiting, enhance sleep quality, and improve depression and anxiety.
In fact, pharmaceutical companies manufacture oral preparations of marijuana-derived treatments, such as Sativex, which is an oral spray prescribed to treat pain and muscle spasticity .
Though edible marijuana products are prescribed and used to treat many other ailments, such as digestive and neurological disorders, high-quality research in these areas is lacking.
Therefore, the full therapeutic potential of marijuana is still unknown.
Health benefits of edibles
Edible cannabis products typically provide the same benefits as other forms of cannabis. People ingest them to achieve certain effects, such as relaxation, or to treat medical conditions, such as chronic pain.
The effects of edibles depend on the dose a person takes. Typically, the effects increase as the dose increases. However, consuming too much cannabis through edibles is easy to do, and it can cause adverse effects, such as nausea and vomiting.
Some of the beneficial effects of cannabis edibles include:
Relaxation and anxiety relief
Cannabis contains a compound called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
THC is the chemical responsible for the psychoactive effects of edibles and other forms of cannabis. An older study suggests that THC can causeTrusted Source feelings of relaxation and euphoria.
Cannabis also contains the compound cannabidiol (CBD). CBD has anti-anxiety effects.
A 2019 studyTrusted Source reports that more than 79% of people with anxiety or sleep problems who took CBD experienced a decrease in anxiety over the course of the study. Scientists need more studies, but this shows significant hope.
A further study on teenagers with social anxiety supports the findings of CBD significantly decreasing anxiety levels.
CBD may also work as a pain reliever, as well as having anti-inflammatory properties. This makes it a popular treatment among those who experience chronic pain.
ResearchTrusted Source suggests that medical cannabis patients with chronic pain report improved pain management when they consume cannabis products.
Conditions that people treat with edibles and other forms of medicinal cannabis include:
- cancer pain
- neuropathic pain
Muscle spasm control
Doctors may also recommend medicinal cannabis for muscle spasm treatment.
ResearchTrusted Source from 2013 indicates that people experience significant improvement in muscle spasticity and other types of pain when they take cannabis.
An oral preparationTrusted Source derived from cannabis is available to treat muscle spasticity and pain. Other forms of edibles may have similar effects, although research in this area is lacking.
CBD has also demonstrated antiseizure effects, which suggests it could be a potential treatment for epilepsy.
A 2017 studyTrusted Source cites evidence for the use of CBD to improve seizure control in those with specific epilepsy syndromes.
Edibles may be one way to ingest cannabis to reduce seizures. However, more research is necessary before people with epilepsy consider treating the condition with cannabis.
Edible cannabis products may also treatTrusted Source other health issues, such as appetite loss and weight loss, for those who have cancer.