WeEdu 207: Sublinguals and Suppositories

Disclaimer: Keep out of reach of children. For use only by adults 21 years of age and older.

In our previous installment of WeEdu, we talked about edible cannabis products. Our topics today are two closely related categories of cannabis products: sublinguals and suppositories. If you want the pain- and inflammation-relieving effects of cannabis to last longer than smoking but don’t want to wait up to two hours for the effects to kick in, read on to learn about these alternative consumption methods.

What Are Sublinguals?

Sublingual sprays and tinctures are made by soaking cannabis flower, shake, trim, and stems in a solvent - typically either alcohol or oil. These cannabis extracts can be swallowed, but swallowing them will delay the onset almost as long as if you’d eaten an edible. Instead, these sprays and tinctures are most effective when they’re administered under the tongue and along the gums, then held in the mouth for a period of time (around one minute or so) before swallowing. While held under the tongue, the tincture’s cannabinoids are rapidly absorbed by the mucosal membranes that line the inside of the mouth.

Because sublinguals aren’t swallowed and digested, they’re absorbed and enter the bloodstream fairly quickly - in as little as 15 minutes with alcohol-based products or 30 minutes with oil-based products. Because tinctures take effect so quickly, it’s much easier to figure out the right dosage with sublinguals when compared with edibles, which by comparison can take one to two hours to take effect.

Tinctures are typically sold with either an eyedropper or with a spray pump, making it easy to control your dose. This administration route makes it easy to get fast-acting relief that can last for approximately three hours or longer, though some products at higher doses could have effects lasting upwards of eight hours.

Not all sublingual tinctures and sprays will make you feel intoxicated. Tinctures can be made with non-psychotropic CBD, CBN, or THCA (which hasn’t been decarboxylated yet and therefore does not cause intoxication), as well as activated THC (which will make you high). The effects you feel will depend on the tincture formula you’ve chosen, so read the label carefully and compare products before making a decision. If you don’t want to feel intoxicated, make sure you choose a tincture that does not contain activated THC. You should also ask your budtender if you have any questions about a given product or its effects.

What Are The Pros And Cons of Sublinguals?

There are many advantages to using sublingual tinctures and sprays, though this consumption method may not be right for everyone. Some of the benefits of sublinguals include:

  • Fast activation - avoids the long wait time of edibles.
  • Long lasting - effects are felt for a far longer span of time compared to smoking or vaping.
  • Discreet to use - sublinguals can be consumed without drawing too much attention. You can also get tinctures in capsule form, making this consumption method even more discreet.
  • Easy on the lungs - unlike smoking or vaping, sublinguals will not irritate the throat or lungs.
  • Lower caloric content - you’re just consuming a small amount of oil or alcohol infused with cannabinoids instead of an actual food product.
  • Possible to get non-psychotropic sublinguals - this may be convenient for people who need to medicate at work or who are otherwise reluctant to feel “high”.

The biggest downsides of sublinguals are that they require some trial and error in figuring out the proper dose and frequency. The effects are not felt as quickly as with smoking or vaping, so you may need to start at a lower dose and work your way up to find the right dosage. However, dosing is easy once you become familiar with a given product, and you’ll quickly learn how much is the right amount for your needs.

Now that we’ve covered sublingual applications and absorption through the lining in your mouth, we’re ready to discuss a different consumption method that may be relevant for some medical patients: cannabis suppositories.

What Are Cannabis Suppositories?

Suppositories are absorbed through mucosal membranes just like sublinguals, but they’re not administered through the mouth. Instead, suppositories are inserted into either the vagina or the rectum. There, the cannabinoids in the suppository enter the bloodstream and begin to take effect.

The membranes in these orifices allow for more effective absorption of cannabinoids, and the effects come on quickly. Up to 70% of THC and/or CBD is absorbed through the rectum, effects kick in as little as 15 minutes with some products, and they can last for up to eight hours.

Do Cannabis Suppositories Make You Feel High?

The answer to this question is: it depends.

While effects may vary from one individual to the next, many cannabis suppositories on the market today do not make you feel intoxicated, making these products a great option for anyone who needs to stay sharp and focused or who’s otherwise averse to feeling intoxicated. However, the reason many suppositories don’t cause intoxication is because they contain a fat-based carrying agent like oil, which is not easily absorbed through rectal or vaginal membranes.

If a suppository is not lipid-based, it can and will cause intoxication that can last a substantial period of time - almost six hours, according to one study.

The bottom line: there’s a great deal of variance when it comes to what is in a given brand’s proprietary cannabis product. Always check the packaging for information about a specific product and ask your budtender if you’re unsure whether a cannabis suppository will cause any intoxication or other complications. You can also email the manufacturers of a specific brand by finding their contact info online if you have any further questions or safety concerns about a given product.

What Are The Pros and Cons of Cannabis Suppositories?

Cannabis suppositories are certainly not for everyone. But for those treating specific symptoms, like menstrual cramping and localized inflammation, suppositories may offer welcome relief. Some patient testimonials claim that cannabis suppositories have even helped combat the symptoms of endometriosis and prostate problems, though further clinical studies are needed in these areas.

Here are the advantages and disadvantages of using a cannabis suppository.

Pros:

  • Rapid onset of effects - much faster than with edibles, and even faster than some sublingual tinctures.
  • Long lasting effects - the duration of effects is comparable to edibles or some sublinguals.
  • Very efficient absorption rate - up to 70% of cannabinoids are absorbed through rectal tissue.

Cons:

  • Not as portable as other consumption methods - suppositories need to be refrigerated in order to prevent them from melting.
  • Less convenient and less discreet than other consumption methods.

Which Consumption Method Is Right For Me?

Not all consumption methods will work for everyone. If you’re using cannabis recreationally, you may not need the type of rapid, non-psychotropic relief that cannabis suppositories offer. If you’re using cannabis for medical purposes, you may find that different consumption methods offer better or different symptom relief, as well as a different way of meeting your lifestyle needs.

Whichever consumption methods you prefer, Blackbird is here to help. Stay tuned for our next installment of WeEdu, where we’ll be discussing topical cannabis applications - all the balms, salves, and soaking agents you can handle!

Questions about cannabis? Comments or feedback? Just want to chat? Email us at [email protected] or [email protected].

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