Sublingually vs. Ingestion
Determining how to take your cannabis medications can sometimes be a bit tricky. In this article, we’ll discuss the differences between sublingual (under the tongue) and ingestion (eating and digesting) to help you decide which should be your preferred method of consumption.
With ingestion, the medicine must go through the entire (and somewhat hostile) gastrointestinal tract. First it must go through the stomach (with bile and acid), the intestines (where most absorption occurs), and then the liver before entering general circulation. Sublingual absorption, on the other hand, bypasses the gastrointestinal tract completely by being absorbed directly into the bloodstream. This happens through the capillaries under the tongue, which drain into the sublingual vein, and then to the lingual and jugular veins, leading directly into the circulatory system. Once cannabis hits the heart, it will circulate through the entire bloodstream within just one minute.
Ingestion usually takes at least an hour to feel the effects, whereas sublingual absorption happens within minutes. This makes the sublingual approach advantageous to those looking for immediate effects. It works well for patients who need to take cannabis throughout the day while working or playing, or for acute situations. On the other hand, ingestion tends to be better for somewhat of a ‘time release’ effect; because it goes through the gastrointestinal tract and is even further metabolized in the liver, the effects are long-ranging and longer lasting. This is especially beneficial as a sleep aid, as it provides pain relief throughout the night while sleeping, and is well-paired for patients looking to medicate the gastrointestinal tract directly, such as those with Crohn’s disease.
When taking cannabis sublingually, you should hold the product under the tongue, or between the gum and cheek, for three to ten minutes (or as long as possible) before swallowing. This will allow for the maximum amount of medicine to be absorbed, and whatever is left will be swallowed and go through the ingestion process. This provides a small ingestion effect, as well as the immediate sublingual effect. Tinctures are best taken sublingually, as are specially-formulated sublingual products. The highest quality sublingual products are fat-soluble, meaning they are oil-based.
Fats are absorbed more quickly and easily under the tongue than lipids, as lipids do not hold an electrical charge-an optimal method for absorption at the surface of oral mucosa (under your tongue). Because of this, oil-based products are optimal for sublingual absorption, especially those that contain essential fatty acids such as Omega-3, 5, 6, 7 and 9. These fats are much needed and recognized by the body, and therefore assist in immediate and thorough absorption into the bloodstream. MCT, or Fractionated Coconut Oil, is frequently used for this reason; MCT is comprised of medium-chain triglycerides, mostly Capric and Caprylic Triglycerides, which contain zero omega fatty acids.
The finer the emulsification, the faster and more readily the body will absorb the product. Sunflower lecithin has proven to be one of the best fats for sublingual delivery, which you may know as liposomal delivery. Our cells have a phospholipid outer layer, so when there is a lipid (or fat/oil) delivery, it aids dramatically in the body’s ability to absorb and utilize cannabis. Essentially, the lipids surround the medicinal molecules (such as CBD and THC) and the body recognizes it as a natural compound to uptake.
While there is no right or wrong way to take your medicine, consider what benefits you’d like to receive before deciding which method is best for you. Sublingual products have proven to be a great daily treatment for pain relief, whereas the sedative and relaxing effects of an ingested edible can not only help with pain relief but aid in a restful night’s sleep as well. Ingestion can take as long as four to eight hours to feel the effects, and sublingual effects can arrive in as quickly as five to thirty minutes, so you be the judge! Remember, you can always consume more…not less.