I’m not going to lie, as of my mid 20’s I became concerned about the longevity of my life. And for a good reason.
Growing up in a big city, I was constantly bombarded with pollutants, GMO, pesticides and other shady compounds through water, food and air.
Then when I reached my mid-teens, I got introduced to other toxic substances, such as tobacco and alcohol (oh, this one is by far the worst).
Somewhere, along with the lines, I discovered cannabis and the plant opened my eyes.
So, I casually strolled through my smoking journey, until, a couple of years ago, this one idea crossed my mind:
Wait, how can smoking be healthy? Isn’t the combustion what’s so bad about cigarettes in the first place?
And something clicked.
Just the thought of equalizing smelly cigarettes and cannabis made me gasp so I pulled out dozens of official studies dealing with the effects of cannabis on respiratory function. After about a week, I went through them all.
What I found out stuck to my mind like glue:
Smoking weed actually has less long-term effects on respiratory organs than tobacco.
Let me break this down, as I know you’re interested in learning about this.
The first study I’m going to reference is also the biggest in existence. It was done in 2012 but it took 20 years to complete. Unbelievably, it was done with the help of 5,000 people across 4 US cities. (1)
The study researched the effects of marijuana on pulmonary function, on subjects who’ve been smoking for over 20 years.
“Occasional and low volume marijuana use was not associated with adverse effects on pulmonary function”.
“Analyses of pulmonary function and lung disease have failed to detect clear adverse effects of marijuana use on pulmonary function.”
However, this study does not say that smoking marijuana does not cause any inconvenience. I can tell you that myself and you probably know it:
Smoke, wherever it comes from, irritates your airway passages and causes inflammation, increased phlegm production and cough.
But when it comes to pure lung function, this first study says that we’re in the clear.
Another medical research that caught my eye very early on is questioning the same thing essentially — the effects of smoking marijuana on the lungs. (2)
Here is their conclusion:
“In summary, the accumulated weight of evidence implies far lower risks for pulmonary complications of even regular heavy use of marijuana compared with the grave pulmonary consequences of tobacco.”
Me happy. Me moving on.
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Wait, it can’t be this good?
Now, even though we know that cannabis does not cause lung cancer by itself, one fact is still hanging in the air for us smokers:
Cannabis smoke contains harmful substances, which can cause irritation to your airway passages.
So, if you are a health conscious smoker or you’re just looking for a way to reduce respiratory side effects from smoking weed, you should ditch that joint and go for one of the healthier ways of smoking cannabis:
- Smoking with a bong
- Not smoking it at all (hint: cannabutter)
Let’s break this down.
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Vaporize your cannabis for the biggest health benefits
If you haven’t tried vaporizing your cannabis yet, then I’m really jealous. It may not be as cool as lighting up a 3-gram blunt but it has a lot of upsides, most importantly it’s one of the most healthy alternatives to smoking.
The reason we smoke cannabis in the first place is that heat releases cannabinoids and terpenes, producing wonderful flavor, smell and a myriad of psychophysical effects which got us into cannabis in the first place.
What a vaporizer does is it heats the plant up to a temperature that doesn’t combust the flower but rather vaporizes its trichomes just enough to release terpenes and cannabinoids without added products of combustion, such as carbon monoxide. (3)
More studies have shown that vaporizers reduce the risk of developing pulmonary conditions and that the protective effects of vaporization are the biggest among those who use them the most. (4)
Once the flower is heated up, it produces a very light vapor which is also very flavorful. If you’re a weed connoisseur, you will especially love it, because vaporizing cannabis brings out the best possible flavor and smell.
Choosing a vaporizer is easy:
For medical use, you’ll be best off with a desktop vaporizer, such as Volcano. Desktop vape will produce a denser vapor, along with a lot of flavors.
For recreational use, I’d go with a portable vaporizer and I wouldn’t skimp on build quality, as this is a device you’ll be using daily.
To find out which vaporizers are the best value for your money, hop over to our vaporizer reviews page.
Also, vaporizers are ridiculously easy to use:
- Grind your cannabis (and remove the stem as well)
- Pack it into your vaporizer
- Set the desired temperature (here is a chart that shows which temperatures are the best)
- Smoke away
Put some ice in your bong to make it less strong
Bongs are one of the most popular ways of consuming cannabis and for a good reason:
They will get you almost instantly high and they are a bit healthier than your regular joint.
Even though you combust cannabis when smoking with a bong, the hot air has to go through water before it hits your lungs. Of course, the water cools the smoke and filters the tar but on the downside, it also steals some of your precious cannabinoids.
Most people would just use regular tap water for their bongs but there is a trick to make bong even healthier and less harsh on your lungs — ice cubes.
Here’s how to make an ice bong:
- Fill the bong with water (slightly above the downstem is enough)
- Grind your bud finely
- Pack the weed into the bowl piece
- Throw ice cubes into the bong water (through the mouthpiece is the easiest)
- Light it up and toke
The smoke that comes out will be potent but super mellow, as the ice additionally cools down the smoke.
How ‘bout them ice cubes…
Don’t smoke it, cook it
What if I say you don’t have to smoke weed to get high? I know you know, but hear me out…
Yes, smoking is a ritual like no other, but you can also get the same (if not stronger) effects when you eat the herb in the form of a delicious cookie, for example. Everything still works the same, you just switch up the method of consumption.
The prerequisite to making any mind-blowing cannabis edible is to decarboxylate your flowers — or to heat them up for a certain time at a certain temperature.
By heating it up, you are removing the CO2 content and essentially switching up the chemical profile in the bud. This activates the psychoactive and therapeutic cannabinoids and makes the effect more potent.
To properly decarboxylate your cannabis, follow the chart below.
With THC and other cannabinoids activated, you can use your baked cannabis to make a super tasty edible.
Before we wrap this up, remember that consuming your cannabis orally is safe for both your lungs and the body, however, the high it produces is extremely potent.
All edibles usually take about an hour to kick in (as your body has to metabolize them first) but once they do, they are much stronger than just a regular joint. Plus, the high lasts for hours.
Recommendation for beginners:
Do not binge eat cannabis edibles. Stick to smaller doses (for example, a half of weed brownie), let it kick in and assess how well you tolerate it.
Do whatever feels right for you
The big truth for the majority of cannabis users is that we like to mix it up.
So, unless you’re struggling with a condition that affects your pulmonary health, you should experiment with all three methods and see which one works best for you.
As long as you get those cannabinoids in.
- Pletcher MJ, Vittinghoff E, Kalhan R, Richman J, Safford M, Sidney S, Lin F, Kertesz S; Association between marijuana exposure and pulmonary function over 20 years; JAMA; January 2012; 307(2):173-81
- Tashkin DP; Effects of marijuana smoking on the lung; Annals of the American Thoracic Society; June 2013; 10(3):239-47
- Loflin M, Earleywine M; No smoke, no fire: What the initial literature suggests regarding vaporized cannabis and respiratory risk; Canadian Journal of Respiratory Therapy; 2015; 51(1):7-9
- Earleywine M; Barnwell SS; Decreased respiratory symptoms in cannabis users who vaporize; Harm Reduction Journal; 2007; 4:11