What Are Cannabis Sublinguals & How Do They Work?

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When it comes to cannabis, there are a lot of options for how to take your medicine—from inhaled methods like smoking or vaping to topical creams and marijuana-infused foods. Still, while most have heard of smoking or eating cannabis, some methods like taking cannabis sublingually are less well known.

What do you know about sublingual cannabis? This fast-acting marijuana oil is designed to be held and absorbed under the tongue, and is becoming an increasingly popular form of administration.

The Science of Marijuana Sublinguals

How do cannabis sublinguals work? Sublinguals are similar to cannabis edibles. In both cases, cannabinoids like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are extracted into an edible oil and ingested. But the big difference between these two methods is in the way that the cannabinoids are processed and actually make it into your system.

While edibles are swallowed and then broken down and processed in the digestive tract, sublinguals work by using the buccal route of administration. This means that cannabinoids are absorbed through mucous membranes in the mouth.

With sublinguals, a person places cannabis oil under their tongue and holds it there. The mouth is rich with many capillaries, which allow the cannabinoids to enter directly into the bloodstream and quickly break the blood-brain barrier. This bypasses the digestive system completely, so cannabis consumers feel the effects much more quickly from sublinguals than with traditional edibles.

The Benefits of Sublingual Cannabis

Marijuana has been shown to help with a variety of conditions and symptoms such as:

As with other methods of taking cannabis, patients use sublinguals to help with a variety of these medical issues.

Reasons why people who use sublinguals prefer them include:

  • No inhalation: One common reason that people give for taking cannabis sublingually is that it doesn’t require them to inhale their medicine. Some folks find that smoking and vaping trigger their allergies or increase discomfort in their respiratory system—or they prefer not to smoke or vape for other reasons. For these patients, sublingual oils are a great alternative.
  • Quick response time: Like smoking or vaping, cannabis sublinguals usually produce noticeable effects within 15 minutes. Traditional marijuana edibles, on the other hand, can take anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours or more to start working. This makes sublinguals the perfect alternative to inhaled methods for those who’ve decided they don’t want to inhale their medicine, but still need to feel the effects quickly.
  • Shorter duration: Sublinguals also mirror inhaled methods in terms of their duration of effect. Edibles can last for a long time. They usually continue providing noticeable effects for around eight hours, but I’ve had edible highs where I was still feeling the effects after a full day.

With sublinguals, the high usually lasts only two to three hours. This makes it a great choice for patients who want to medicate for a short duration but not much longer. For symptoms that come and go like nausea, headaches or anxiety, sublinguals are sometimes the most effective way to microdose cannabis—ingesting small bursts of cannabinoids when needed throughout the day.

  • Preferred high: There are also those who prefer sublinguals simply because they like the way it makes them feel. Cannabis can create slightly different effects depending on how it’s taken. With edibles that are processed through the digestive tract, for example, delta-9 THC (the most common cannabinoid in cannabis) is converted into delta-11 THC. This can create a much more sedative and mentally sluggish high.

The effects from sublingual cannabis oil are closer to those of inhaled methods—but even those aren’t quite the same. Each consumption method has a unique feel in terms of the effects they bring. And for some, sublinguals just feel right.

How to Consume Marijuana Sublinguals

Are you considering using sublinguals yourself? The good news is that there are many sublingual cannabis options available to try. The best way to get started is to buy a cannabis oil that you think you’d like. (As with other methods, you’ll want to pay attention to the strain and chemical composition of the medicine.) To use your oil sublingually, simply place a few drops under your tongue and hold them there for around 90 seconds. Then, swallow anything left in your mouth—it’s such a quick and easy method.

The hardest part may actually be keeping the sublingual under your tongue and not swallowing it by reflex. There’s an instinct to swallow the liquid, and if you aren’t paying attention, you may do this out of habit. If you do swallow it early (before you’ve absorbed much under the tongue), be aware that it will act more like a traditional edible, since it will need to be processed through the digestive system before it begins to work.

But don’t be tempted to take another dose right away. You’ll still want to wait a good amount of time before deciding if you want to consume more.