The Healthiest Ways to Smoke Cannabis
One big conundrum with marijuana consumption for health is that the most popular way to ingest it is to smoke it, and adding anything to your lungs can be dangerous. As cannabis use becomes more popular, healthier, more efficient ways of using cannabis will develop. In the meantime, what are the healthiest ways to smoke cannabis?
Vaping heats cannabis only to the temperature that releases cannabinoids, not to the point that the flower is burnt to ash. This way you’re only inhaling vapor, not smoke. Some believe vaping in safer than smoking because the herb is not being burned. There is no solid research to back up the idea that vaping is safer than smoking. At least one 2018 scientific study actually suggests that vaping causes memory loss, short-term anxiety, paranoia and distraction. There have been several stories in the recent news of people experiencing lung damage as a result of vaping.
In addition to causing lung damage, vapes have been shown to cause greater cognitive impairment than traditional smoking. In a controlled test , participants in two groups either vaped or smoked cannabis. The people who vaped reported more pronounced physical effects like dry mouth and dry eyes. They also described a more intense high than participants who smoke marijuana and performed worse tasks that required concentration.
Still, vaping is considered a safer alternative to traditional smoking. In order to burn plant material, you need to hold an open flame to it. That should give you an idea of the temperature of the smoke coursing through delicate lung tissue when you smoke cannabis. Using a bong, bubbler, or water pipe filters the smoke through water to remove some of that heat. The water also filters out some of the particles that would otherwise end up in your lungs making it one of the healthiest ways to smoke cannabis.
Fewer Additives = Safer Smoke
Even though all smoking is bad for your lungs, some studies show that smoking cannabis is not quite as detrimental as smoking tobacco. One reason for this could be that CBD has been shown to prevent cancer from spreading through human tissue. Another possible reason for smoking marijuana causing less harm than smoking tobacco is fewer additives. Cannabis smokers are generally smoking flower grown without pesticides or additives.
Skip the butane lighter and use a piece of hemp to light your joints and bowls. Many smokers reuse a hemp wick in place of lighters, which use harmful chemicals to spark that reliable flame. Instead of smoking in a joint, which requires you to inhale the smoke of the burnt paper, use a glass device. Rolling papers are processed with harmful chemicals.
Further reduce chemicals by being careful about where you purchase your cannabis. Buying cannabis from a reputable sales outlet results in a cleaner product. Unregulated dealers can add anything to their product because of the lack of oversight. Not to mention, the countless people who touch the product along the way: farmers might be using pesticides or fertilizers, processors could ignore mold. A legal cannabis business provides high-quality, clean flower through regulation and oversight.
People who want to experience the beneficial effects of cannabis without smoking often turn to edibles. However, edible marijuana products offer their own safety issues. Products can vary greatly in potency. Since edibles take a longer time to affect the body than smoking, it can be a while before you realize you’ve taken too much. Cannabis you eat gets filtered through the liver and/or mouth membranes, while cannabis you smoke gets filtered through your lungs. The way our livers metabolize the chemicals in cannabis also varies. With so many variables, it can be difficult to predict the effects of cannabis. Furthermore, edibles often include more additives than flower.
Two Ways to Repair Your Lungs from Smoke Damage
No matter how you inhale cannabis, the smoke can do damage. People who ingest cannabis can repair the damage through exercise and controlled breathing. Practice deep breathing to move fresh clean air through the whole lung. Deep breathing allows oxygen into the deepest parts of the lung, and clears out toxins that could leave you feeling sluggish. Use some basic yoga breathing techniques to get the oxygen flowing through your lungs.
Healthiest Ways to Smoke Cannabis
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When it comes to reaping the benefits of cannabis, it can be hard to tell what the healthiest ways to smoke cannabis are. Check out these ideas.
Is There a Safer Way to Smoke Cannabis? How the Methods Stack Up
If you’re looking for the healthiest way to smoke cannabis, keep in mind that there’s no totally safe way to do so — even with the purest, most pesticide-free bud. Cannabis smoke contains most of the same toxins and carcinogens that make tobacco smoke harmful to your health.
There are, however, methods that may be slightly less harmful than others. Here’s a look at how different methods compare, plus some smoke-free alternatives to consider.
The dangers of smoke inhalation are well known, so it’s not surprising that a lot of folks assume vaping is the healthier alternative to smoking. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
There’s mounting evidence that vaping can have serious health effects. Much of the concern comes from inhaling vitamin E acetate, a chemical additive found in many vaping products containing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.
However, this risk seems to apply only to vaping concentrates, not flower. A 2006 study suggests that vaping actual cannabis, not concentrate, is less harmful to your respiratory system than smoking. Still, research on vaping cannabis is pretty limited.
Lung health aside, there’s also a matter of potency. People who vape cannabis report experiencing stronger effects — regardless of the amount of THC in the product — than they do when smoking. This means a higher chance of overdoing it, or greening out, when vaping.
Maybe a teeny, tiny bit, but nowhere near enough to make a difference.
Bongs offer a smoother toke because you don’t get the dry heat from smoking cannabis rolled in paper. Though it feels less harsh when you inhale, your lungs don’t know the difference.
Well, both still involve inhaling smoke, so there’s that. But if you had to choose the lesser of two evils, joints are probably the better option. This is because blunts are made with hollowed-out cigars, and cigars and their wrappers are highly toxic.
Even after removing all the tobacco from a cigar, cancer-causing toxins, such as nitrosamines, can remain. Plus, cigar wrappers are more porous than rolling papers, so the burning is less complete. This results in smoke with high concentrations of toxins.
Then there’s the matter of size. Blunts are a lot bigger than joints, and they hold way more pot. Smoking an entire blunt is like smoking roughly six joints.
Dabbing is supposed to give you a “cleaner” high, but what does that actually mean? Not much.
Budder — another name for dabs or marijuana concentrate — delivers a lot more THC than other weed products, often as much as 80 percent more.
Dabbing is still pretty new, so experts still don’t know the full impact.
There’s evidence that exposure to high THC may lead to long-term mental health effects, like psychosis. The risk of misuse and addiction is also higher when using high-THC products, especially for young people.
Plus, unless you have high-tech lab equipment and are trained in extraction, your dabs may be far from pure. Research shows that dabs can contain contaminants and residual solvents that can to neurotoxicity and cardiotoxicity.
Dabbing also has respiratory effects, even though you’re not technically “smoking.” There have been cases of people developing lung damage from dabbing.
The bad news? There’s no safe way to smoke cannabis. The good news? There are plenty of other ways to consume it.
Here are your main options:
- Edibles. Unlike smoking and vaping, ingesting cannabis won’t harm your lung health. The downside for some is that edibles take longer to kick in because they need to clear your digestive system before getting into your bloodstream. The upside is that the effects also hang around longer. You also have an endless variety to choose from, with everything from gummies to baked goods to cannabutter.
- Sublinguals. These are usually lumped together with edibles, but they’re not quite the same. Unlike edibles, you don’t actually swallow sublingual forms of cannabis, which include things like tinctures, films, and dissolvable tablets. Sublingual cannabis is placed under the tongue for absorption, and is absorbed through your mouth’s mucus membranes, so the effects are felt faster.
- Tinctures. Tinctures are made of alcohol-based cannabis extracts that come in bottles with droppers. You can add tinctures to drinks, but you can also get the effects faster by placing a few drops — depending on your desired dose — under your tongue.
- Topicals. Cannabis topicals are for people looking for the therapeutic benefits of cannabis without the cerebral effects. Creams, balms, and patches can be applied to the skin to relieve inflammation and pain. There’s also cannabis lubricant made for, well, sexy time.
- Suppositories. The idea of shoving cannabis up your butt (or vagina, depending on the product) may make you clench, but it’s definitely a thing. Most of the suppositories on the market are CBD-infused and used for therapeutic reasons, like pain or nausea relief, but some brands have upped their THC content for added effects.
If you’d still rather smoke your weed despite the risks, consider these harm-reduction tips to help make it a little safer:
- Don’t hold the inhale. Inhaling deeply and holding it in exposes your lungs to more tar per breath. Don’t be greedy; exhaling faster is better for you.
- Use rolling papers approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Rolling papers may seem like NBD, but some contain chemicals and flavorings that can be toxic.
- Stick to glass bongs and pipes. Plastic bongs can contain chemicals like BPA and phthalates, which have been linked to serious health effects, including cancer.
- Keep your stuff clean. Keep your bongs and pipes clean, and don’t roll your weed on dirty surfaces.
- Don’t share mouthpieces or pass joints. Sharing your stash is fine, but not your pipes, bongs, or joints. When you share these, you’re basically swapping spit with that person and putting yourself at risk for infections.
No matter how you dice it, there’s really no safe way to smoke cannabis, whether you prefer to roll one up or are partial to bongs. As cannabis becomes more popular, so do products that allow you to indulge without the smoke.
That said, if you’re partial to puffing and passing, a vaporizer that allows you to use flower, not concentrates, may be a less harmful option.
Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. When she’s not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddleboard.
You can smoke cannabis in a variety of ways, but is one safer or healthier than others?