Sublingual absorption cannabis products, like mints, breath strips, and gummies, are cannabis edibles that are dissolved under the tongue. They’re becoming increasingly popular in states where cannabis is legal for adult use for their fast onset and potent effects, but how do they work?
Sublingual Absorption vs Normal Ingestion
Traditional edibles, like brownies or any kind of baked good or snack, are digested by the body slowly. The cannabinoids in these edibles have to go through the stomach, intestines, and liver before they’re absorbed into the bloodstream. That’s why edibles don’t take effect until one to three hours after consumption.
Many complain that the effects of edibles are hard to predict; one day a 20 mg cookie makes them feel great, while another day they don’t the effects of the same dosage at all. That’s partly because there are many factors that can affect how you digest and absorb cannabinoids, including metabolism, sleep cycle, and what else you’ve eaten that day.
That’s how sublingual absorption products are superior: they absorb straight into your system through the mucosal membrane under your tongue, allowing the cannabinoids to bypass all the hassle of the gastrointestinal system. That way their effects are both much faster and more predictable. They kick in after only 15 minutes or so.
“Sublingual absorption delivers cannabis directly into the bloodstream, bypassing the digestive system and avoiding first-pass metabolism, this means that it only takes 10-15 minutes to feel the effects,” says Joshua Kirby, CEO of Kin Slips, artisanal breath strips that dissolve under the tongue and contain 5 to 20 mg of THC or CBD. “Additionally, by bypassing your harsh stomach acids, sublingual products are able to maintain sensitive plant compounds like terpenes, giving the consumer a richer and more predictable experience.”
Sublingual Absorption Benefits
The most obvious benefit of sublingual absorption cannabis products is their rapid onset. Taking effect after only about 15 minutes, they are the second quickest way to consume cannabis, after inhalation. In comparison to smoking and vaping, sublingual edibles are way more discreet. For one, there’s no smell. Not to mention, many of these products, like mints, breath mints, and lozenges, look just like regular products, making them easy to pop in your mouth in public.
Sublingual absorption edibles also wear off faster than regular edibles, which can be an advantage or disadvantage, depending on the person and situation. For weed beer brewers, this shorter lifespan is a definitive advantage. “Drinkable” cannabis products also start absorbing in the mouth and so those looking to recreate the lifespan of a beer are turning to sublingual absorption as a possible solution. Plus, for consumers to become regular weed beer drinkers, these products will also have to provide a consistent experience, which these brewers are hoping sublingual absorption can provide.
Providing a reliable cannabis experience is not only important to recreational users; medical cannabis patients also greatly benefit from sublingual absorption. Besides being fast and reliable, sublingual absorption also provides precise dosing. If the complete dose is absorbed under the tongue and none is swallowed, these products deliver the most accurate dose of cannabis medicine on the market.
The Bioavailability of Cannabis
The bioavailability of cannabis has become a hot topic lately and refers to how much of a drug is absorbed into the blood stream. Different modes of cannabis consumption have different rates of bioavailability, as do different cannabinoids, and you might be surprised to learn the bioavailability of some of your favorite modes of consumption.
For example, inhaling cannabis smoke or vape is thought to have a THC bioavailability of 18 to 54 percent. It can vary and different studies have come up varying results, but according to a 2005 study, the average seems to be around 30 percent. That same study found ingesting cannabis edibles only has a bioavailability of about 4 to 12 percent and is “highly variable.” That’s because, like we mentioned before, things like your body’s metabolism and what you ate prior to the cannabis edible will affect the cannabinoids’ bioavailability.
Bioavailability is also the reason sublingual absorption products are the most reliable; their bioavailability is the highest, up 75 percent for THC and 25 percent for CBD. Therefore, they’re more likely to produce the same experience time after time, as long as you don’t swallow too much of the intended sublingual absorption dose. Kirby from Kin Slips explains that’s why they decided to create a sublingual absorption product, in the first place:
“A pervasive issue with cannabis use is the level of unpredictability with certain cannabis products, specifically edibles,” Kirby explains. “It’s important for consumers to trust that every time they have one of our products, they’ll have the same experience. Which is why, after exhaustive research, we determined that the only way we could truly deliver on this promise was through sublingual absorption. After experimenting with various sublingual formats, we found that a strip could be easily placed under the tongue, and when blended with all natural ingredients, dissolved fast and delivered a precise dosage efficiently.”
Sublingual absorption cannabis products are the future of edibles. Their fast onset, short lifespan, and precise dosing make them the most reliable and effective edibles on the market. For medical and adult use, expect to see a lot more sublingual absorption weed products.