Cannabis suppositories are a thing.
You may have initially heard about them when Foria released their medicated weed tampons last year to help alleviate PMS. But cannabis suppositories aren’t only for women. With both rectal and vaginal applications, they’re gaining traction alongside medicated massage oil or juicing raw cannabis leaves as another one of the increasingly creative ways people are ingesting weed.
Still, it’s up for debate whether suppositories are the most effective way to reap the plant’s benefits. According to HelloMD, a network of medical marijuana doctors, suppositories vastly outcompete other forms of ingestion, with a 50 to 70 percent efficiency rate as compared with 10 to 20 percent for inhaling or eating cannabis.
However, other sources say suppositories are less effective. While there’s been little research on this, two studies that are now decades old suggest that THC, the main compound in cannabis, would be more effective via eating or inhalation.
THC’s bioavailability — the proportion of the compound that enters a person’s blood circulation — is already lower than you might think. When you smoke a joint, only about 10 to 35 percent of the available THC in the bud will actually absorb into the bloodstream. It’s even less when you eat cannabis: Just four to 12 percent of the ingested THC enters the bloodstream. (Yet, that’s not to say edibles are less effective. Eating cannabis can have a more powerful effect because digestive enzymes transform the THC into 11-THC-Hydroxy, a rather psychedelic metabolite.)
The bioavailability of THC via rectal ingestion seems to be right in the middle: less than inhalation, but more than digestion. In one rectal study, for instance, a group of monkeys was found to have 13.5 percent THC absorbed into their system. However, the formulation of the suppository also has a big influence on the THC’s bioavailability.
Cannabis rectal suppositories are often made from mixing coconut oil and cannabis, or infusing cocoa butter with cannabis oil. The capsule dissolves upon insertion and absorbs into the bloodstream through the lining on the intestinal wall. The suppositories should start to take effect within 15 minutes, and can last between four and eight hours.
As proven with Foria, cannabis suppositories can be great for women’s menstrual cramps, or a good alternative for anyone who doesn’t want to smoke or vape. For patients who can’t swallow capsules or don’t want to take edibles, suppositories could also be a good option. Moreover, they come with “zero head high,” according to Paula-Noël Macfie, founder of Back Door Medicine.
Because suppositories absorb directly into the bloodstream, they bypass the liver, which Macfie says is a key to getting high. “THC travels through the liver to the brain to induce a head high,” she tells Merry Jane. “When smoked, it travels through the lungs to the villi, then on to the liver. When taking it orally, it makes its way to the liver through digestion.” Hence, suppositories allow the consumer to take larger doses of cannabis without the same psychoactive effects as other forms of ingestion.
Without a head high to share with friends, and given the private form of insertion, the benefits of a cannabis suppository are purely medicinal. That said, once you alleviate your period cramps or other aches, pains, and ailments with the suppository, going out or socializing could become that much easier.