These days, it seems like there are more options to consume THC than strains of the cannabis plant. What’s the healthiest way to smoke marijuana?
Everyone knows that smoking (tobacco) is bad for you. And for so long, smoking cannabis was the norm, with the occasional brownie on a special occasion.
In this article, we’re looking at what medical research there is on the safest way to smoke, then we’ll take a look at other options for consumption overall.
Table of contents
Smoking, while it may be the most popular way, is less ideal than consuming through not-smoking. At least as far as your health is concerned.
Smoking lets you feel the effects faster than other methods simply because your lungs can move chemicals into your bloodstream faster than your skin, mucus membranes, or your stomach. But out of all of the ways you can smoke, dry herb vaporizers and vape pens seem to have the least detrimental effects on your lungs and heart.
Smoking health risks come partly from the chemicals that turn into smoke and enter your lungs. The other, perhaps more major part, is the combustion itself – the particulates that result from the flower being set on fire.
Getting THC into your lungs is the fastest way to absorb it into the bloodstream, which carries it to your brain. Most people report it’s also the shortest high. Because the effects are immediate, it’s also easiest to control the dosage.
The ideal, healthiest way to smoke marijuana would bring the least amount of toxic chemicals into your lungs and cool the smoke to reduce heat damage.
The old-school method.
Cannabis cigarettes have long been a thing. It’s easy to carry and easy to produce. All you need is the flower, rolling papers, and a little practice.
There are no filters in joints unless you roll one in. Which means the hot combustion is right in your face.
If you’re going to roll joints, make sure to use an FDA-approved rolling paper. Some of the flavored ones can have harmful chemicals that can create adverse health effects over time.
More portable than bongs, glass pipes also aren’t a great option for your health. Most also don’t have filters, but they’re more portable than a bong or water pipe. You’re still getting the full heat and unfiltered smoke.
Bongs / Water-pipes
It’s long been a common tale that bong water filters the cannabis smoke, making it thereby healthier to consume.
While the water filters a negligible amount, it’s not much of a filter.
What it really does is cool the smoke as it passes through the water chamber, especially if you’re adding ice. The cooler smoke makes it feel less like it’s hurting your lungs. A smoother pull, if you will. The other concern with bongs is that people tend to take big breaths and hold them.
This goes two ways.
First, you probably shouldn’t hold it. That can exacerbate the damage to your lungs.
On the flip side, other studies have found that these huge draws give your lungs a workout. Realistically, how many times are you taking a huge breath and holding it, assuming you aren’t a swimmer? How many times in a day do you fill your lungs to full capacity? Maybe a yawn in the morning pre-coffee, but that’s probably about it.
One study showed increased lung capacity for people who smoked occasionally to moderately. Heavy smokers eventually showed decreased lung function.
Vapes – Pens & E-Vapes
We’re doing two types of vapes here because they have different health effects.
These are the more common ones. The pens with the oil cartridges.
Most people think that since there’s no combustion involved and, therefore, no smoke, it’s healthier. And based on theory, they’d be right.
But the new concerns with vape pens are, what’s in the carrier oil? How are the cartridges produced?
New studies have been finding that the vitamin E acetate in vape cartridges has been causing all sorts of health problems like chest pains, GI sickness, shortness of breath, and lung damage. A few people have even died.
Still a step above combustion-based methods, but we can do better.
Vapes – Dry Herb
These are usually boxes where you grind up the flower, stick it in a science lab-looking tube, and then it gets heated to a lower temperature where the THC vaporizes, but the plant material doesn’t burn. Then you can inhale the good stuff.
There’s not a lot of science around this. Partly lack of long-term studies, partly it’s just an uncommon method. But from the little we do know about all of the different ways of smoking, this is the least damaging method if you want to absorb the THC and entourage effects through your lungs.
Luckily, there are lots of healthier ways to absorb chemicals: stomach/GI tract, skin, and various mucus membranes. None of these involve combustion, so no superheated smoke or harmful particles gets into your lungs, damaging your throat along the way.
We could list new and interesting ways all day, so if you don’t see your favorite on the list, drop it in the comments, and we’ll take a look. We’re going to focus on the most commonly available products.
For a more in-depth look at edibles for medical purposes, you might find Everything You Should Know About Medical Marijuana Edibles interesting.
We’ve come a long way from the pot brownies of the 60s.
THC is fat-soluble. There’s a chemistry definition, but for our purposes, that basically means it can be carried by anything fat – oil, butter, etc.
Baked goods? Check.
The fat content can carry the THC, which means it hits your stomach and your digestive system. The GI tract breaks down the food content transferring the THC through the intestines into your bloodstream. Because the digestive process takes time, the potential downside of this method is it takes a long time to kick it – think 45 minutes to an hour and a half. (Try a gummy before your meal rather than after, so it doesn’t have to compete with all the delicious food you just ate.)
The other part is that it lasts longer. Rather than a 45 – 90 minute felt effect period, you might be high for 4 – 6 hours. This could be a pro or con, depending on your schedule that day.
But what about healthwise?
You aren’t smoking, so your lungs and heart are good. That leaves the normal risks of consuming THC. It could trigger psychosis in some people that are predisposed to conditions like schizophrenia. Definitely don’t consume while pregnant, that could mean low birth weight and adverse mental development for the child.
But overall, it’s a better consumption method for your long-term health. So let’s look at some other non-combustion methods.
The other health note that isn’t strictly cannabis related is the calorie content of the edible. Something like a gummy has negligible calories, although still a respectable amount of sugar. But if you’re looking at brownies or butter to spread on your delicious Saturday morning pancakes, that’s something to keep in mind, too – especially if you’re also prone to munches.
This term kinda went by the wayside once we had modern medicine, but back in ye olden times, medicine would be something suspended in alcohol that you could take on its own or mix into a tea to make the concoction more palatable.
Anyway, in modern times, it’s either a home health remedy term or a way to consume cannabis. It still usually moves through your digestive system, so takes a while, similar to edibles.
Creams, Lotions, & Topicals
This is absorbed through the skin. Many types are CBD only, designed for easing joint pain or sore muscles. It can be expensive, think outrageous fancy lotion prices.
But since the legal cannabis market seems to be looking for more and more methods of consumption, we’re starting to see topicals with THC content. Although you might have a lovely parfum du weed scent going on.
What are the major body parts affected?
The big areas of concern for long-term health are the cardiovascular system and the pulmonary system, aka the heart and lungs.
The fun part about activity monitor watches is that you can see what your heart does when you smoke. In many people, it can make your heart beat faster. (No, it does not count as your cardio for the day.)
It can also dilate your blood vessels and raise your blood pressure.
In other people, the CDC has linked cannabis to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and an increase in your chances of a heart attack in the hour after smoking.
If your cardiovascular system is healthy, you’re less at risk. But if you have a history of heart disease, it could spell serious trouble.
Your lungs are sensitive, there’s no way around that. Everything from city air pollution and smog to the dust kicked up from nearby mining and manufacturing activities can build up, creating asthma and respiratory issues.
Adding smoke on top of that can irritate them, causing health problems like chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD.
If you don’t need to have the smoking experience, it’d likely be better for your long-term health to try a healthier alternative. Or if you want to pick the single healthiest way to smoke marijuana, use the dry herb vape. It’s not particularly portable, but from what we know, there will be less damage to your body.
For more information on the health effects of cannabis, check out Eating Marijuana vs. Smoking – What’s the Difference?
How Marcan Insurance Can Help
While the method you use to consume cannabis has very little effect on your life insurance, with these 12 cannabis-friendly companies, we can help you find life insurance if you smoke either recreationally or for medical purposes. Give us a call at (888) 987-8447 today.