Those who have already tried space cakes like to share their story of an incredible brownie that made them feel good for 4 hours, or the one that made them feel bad for that long. What both stories have in common is that it’s hard to know the effect of a space cake before you eat it. And to understand why we need to look at the path of THC in our bodies.
11-hydroxy-THC: one of the metabolites of THC
When you look closely at the trichomes of cannabis. The resin glands that produce cannabinoids, the vast majority of the THC present is in its acid form: THCA. THCA is the precursor of delta-9-THC, more commonly THC. During decarboxylation, the loss of a carbon atom due to heat, THCA transformed into THC. This process occurs, for example, when cannabis flowers consumed in combustion or vaporization, but also naturally when the plant matures.
But when delta-9-THC passes into the body, another transformation takes place. Human metabolism transforms delta-9-THC into 11-hydroxy-THC. 11-hydroxy-THC is neither an endocannabinoid nor a phytocannabinoid and is only a primary metabolite of delta-9. It continues to degrade further to 11-Nor-9-carboxy-THC or THC-COOH, an inert metabolite that is stored in the fatty layers of the body and is often sought after by urinalysis for cannabis use.
Why is 11-hydroxy-THC more potent ingested than inhaled?
The reason 11-hydroxy-THC is so potent is that it crosses the blood-brain barrier more efficiently than delta-9. But if delta-9 converted to 11-hydroxy anyway, why does it matter how it gets into the bloodstream? The answer is in the metabolism.
The body creates 10 times more 11-hydroxy-THC when ingested than when inhaled. When cannabis ingested, it passes into the stomach and then into the liver enzymes, creating two opportunities to metabolize 11-hydroxy-THC.
When cannabis inhaled, it goes directly into the lungs, through which it enters the bloodstream, without passing into the liver. The THC that still present in the blood and then passes into the liver then metabolized to 11-hydroxy but in very small amounts.
The understanding of cannabis and the mechanisms behind its use is expanding as scientific studies continue. The human body is naturally prone to interaction with cannabinoids, and the medical use of cannabis could benefit from these advances.