Delta THC

The 11 Hydroxy THC Metabolite: Why Edibles Are Super Potent

Dr Abraham Benavides


Dr Abraham Benavides

Medical Doctor

Most people know terms like Delta 9-THC, but do you know 11-hydroxy-THC?

At first, some people may think it is a variant of THC, similar to HHC or Delta 8-THC. But in fact, it is the product of THC when the body metabolizes it.

The crazy thing is that it is more potent than Delta 9-THC, but it is hard to keep chemically stable. That’s why we haven’t seen 11-hydroxy-THC products hit the market until now anyway. 

However, it is an exciting compound with  similarly anticipated benefits as THC, just stronger.

11 hydroxy metabolite vs thc

What Is 11-hydroxy-THC?

11-hydroxy-THC is part of how THC is metabolized. It is also known as 11-hydroxy-Delta 9-THC or 11-OH-THC.

It originates from THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid), which is the raw compound found in the flower of the marijuana or cannabis plant. THCA is then converted to THC by heating or decarbing the cannabis flower for inhalation or consumption in an edible format.

When consumed as an edible, THC is metabolized by the liver into 11-hydroxy-THC. It is an active human metabolite and is the third compound in the process of breaking down THC when eaten instead of smoked. The THC is broken down by the liver enzyme CYP2C9, or cytochrome P2C9.

Even when smoked, the liver will encounter Delta 9-THC and turn it into 11-hydroxy-THC, but you get way more of this active metabolite when you eat cannabis.

11-hydroxy-THC is believed to be more potent than inhaled Delta 9-THC as inhaled Delta 9-THC doesn’t convert as much of the compound into 11-hydroxy-THC.

11 hydroxy delta 9 thc

11  hydroxy metabolite VS THC

In an early clinical study, they made a comparison of the psychological and physiological effects of intravenously administered Delta 9-THC and 11-hydroxy-THC.

Using nine casual cannabis smokers, they found that after administering one milligram of the 11-hydroxy-THC, it only took 2-3 minutes for tachycardia (racing heart) and the psychological high to be felt. 

But when just administering one milligram of the Delta 9-THC, it took 10-20 minutes for it to kick in.

These findings suggest that 11-hydroxy-THC is an active metabolite that is partly responsible for the psychoactive or psychological effects of using cannabis.

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Also, in a 2020 study on rodents, 11-hydroxy-THC was found to be more potent than Delta 9-THC. Depending on the animal and test, the potency was 1.5-7 times greater than that of Delta 9-THC. 

This is likely due to the metabolite’s higher binding affinity for the CB1 receptor in our central nervous system than Delta 9.

This higher affinity is the reason edibles hit harder and for longer than inhaled THC. When eaten, your body produces more 11-hydroxy-THC by your liver, and since it binds better to the receptor, it creates a more potent effect. 

Peak concentrations of 11-hydroxy-THC in the blood occur approximately 1 ½ hours after ingestion and can linger for up to 8 hours.

Related Read: Delta 11 THC

11 hydroxy metabolite

11-hydroxy-THC Benefits

Overall, there is little research about the metabolite. However, it exerts similar effects as THC, just more potent gram for gram. 

This means that 1 mg of THC consumed as an edible will feel more powerful than 1 mg of inhaled THC.

Therefore, you may expect similar benefits from 11-hydroxy-THC as you would expect from THC.

These could include, but are not limited to:

  • Anorexia management
  • Chronic pain reduction
  • Muscle spasticity improvement
  • Anti-nausea and anti-vomiting
  • Sleep management
  • Alleviation of stress
  • Reduction in muscle tension
  • Promotion of relaxation and recovery
  • Anti-inflammatory effects
  • Reduction of nausea and vomiting after chemotherapy
  • Mental health management

Wrapping Up

Technically, 11-hydroxy-THC is the product of Delta 9-THC when it is metabolized by the liver. It is considered more potent and has the same potential health benefits as Delta 9-THC.

It also plays a significant role in the psychoactive effects felt by consuming THC. And when it was injected into cannabis users, it also took effect faster, demonstrating that this volatile little metabolite produces the “high” feeling associated with cannabis consumption.

In summation, 11-hydroxy-THC is what THC turns into, and it will get you high. In fact, it will get you 1.5 to 7 times higher. It’s just as simple as that.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does THC turn into when eaten?

THC, otherwise known as Delta 9-THC, gets ingested and then is absorbed by the liver as it goes through our digestive system. 

Once our liver processes THC, it turns into 11-hydroxy-THC Ultimately, these both turn into 11-nor-9-carboxy-THC, and are excreted through your urine and feces.

An interesting fact is that more of the chemical compound 11-hydroxy-THC is excreted as waste than absorbed and attached to our cannabinoid receptors. 

So, in a way, you are wasting more product than you are absorbing. However, you will still get higher eating a THC edible than smoking it.

Why do edibles get you higher than smoking?

Eating an edible will get you higher than smoking because your body, specifically your liver, will produce more 11-hydroxy-THC. 

As this compound binds to your cannabinoid receptor CB1 more effectively, it will take longer to hit because it has to go through your digestive system, but you will feel its effects for a much more extended period.