I think we can all agree that the cannabis plant can, to put it bluntly, naturally brighten anyone’s day. But too much smoke inhalation and your lungs won’t be feeling nearly as merry as your brain.
If you’ve been puffing for years now, you may have been thinking that it’s time to give your internal air bags a rest. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to do just that.
Just like her healing properties, Mary Jane’s consumption methods are diverse. From eating to vaping to blazing, there are tons of ways to enjoy cannabinoids like CBD, THC, and some key friends like CBC, CBG, and CBN.
Although you can ingest your cannabis, munching brownies or candies like gummy bears and lemon drops, many people choose to smoke it.
And just so we’re clear, when I refer to cannabis, I’m talking about hemp as well as marijuana. Both plants are unique, both plants contain CBD and loads of other beneficial compounds like terpenes, and both plants are in the cannabis family.
But the key difference between the two is CBD’s punk rock brother, THC. He just loves to get you high and is very good at it. But he can also heal you at the same time.
Simply ask anyone suffering from an autoimmune disease and they may be the first to tell you – although they may have been extremely anti-cannabis in the past – using medical marijuana has vastly improved the quality of their lives.
Want to hear more from someone who’s lived it? Feel free to read about Dr. Doug’s story to get a firsthand POV.
Remember, CBD is the main reason why medical marijuana is so effective in the first place. And it is possible, at your discretion, to reap the health benefits of medical marijuana without getting high.
But no matter if you enjoy a high while relieving pain or if you prefer your CBD to come from buzzless hemp, this post has something for you.
Let’s rank the most lung-friendly methods of consuming cannabis, from worst to absolute best.
You may already have a preferred method, but you can cool down anything that involves hot ash particles with a few tricks that I’ll teach you here.
Blazing Doobies/Joints/Marleys/Spliffs/Whatever You Like to Call Them
Okay, so rolling your own may be convenient. You can carry some good herbs around in your pocket and they’re ready to burn. Just add fire.
But without filtration, this method is the absolute harshest for your lungs. Has burning one down like Ben Harper ever made you cough? Like, a lot? It’s a simple matter of proximity.
Since a Marley is so close to your face, there are two main reasons why torching one can be so rough on your throat:
When your windpipe is mere inches away from the source of flame, the smoke is still hot as you inhale it.
2) Ash Particles
Most spliffs lack efficient filtration. In fact, there’s usually none. It’s just ashy smoke flowing right into your lungs.
And in addition, you’re smoking the paper that’s keeping your green buds in the shape of a cylinder.
In case you can’t tell, this is my least favorite method of cannabis consumption. I steer clear unless there’s a proper filter.
So, what makes a filter any good? Glad you asked. The answer lies in nature and it’s super-simple to create one.
Lung Saver: Use Fruits and Veggies to Make a Filter
- Apple or potato
- Screwdriver or pen or skewer or drill bit or chopstick
Any russet potato works but if you’re using an apple, try to find one without a stem. You can pull the stem out yourself if you must. But the ones at the store that are already missing their stem are the easiest to work with.
I can tell you from experience that apples and potatoes will both leak fluid onto your clothing if you aren’t careful. Make your filter outside or over the sink.
1) Use your pen or screwdriver to bore a hole into the center of your plant matter. Too big and the joint will fall in and the party’s over. Too small and it won’t fit. You want the hole to be slightly smaller than the end of the joint, so you can firmly wedge it in there.
If using an apple, poke into where the stem used to be. If you’re using a potato, hold it so that it’s up and down, and poke through the top.
Be careful that you don’t poke all the way through, which can be really easy to do with an apple. You’re only aiming for the center during this step.
Things will be ok if you go too far and poke through the bottom, but as you puff you’ll have to keep a finger or thumb covering that extra hole.
2) Poke a hole in the side of the fruit/veg until it meets up with the first hole you created. Imagine the two tunnels connecting together in the shape of an L.
This is the part you’ll be inhaling from so the sizing isn’t as important as the initial hole you made. Again, only go to the center.
3) Give your natural filter a test by blowing into the second tunnel you made. Your new creation won’t work properly without excellent airflow.
You may have to make a couple more passes with your boring device. The goal is being able to smoothly inhale and exhale before putting your joint into the top, lighting it, and enjoying smoother draws.
This method helps mitigate both of the reasons why doobies are so rough on your lungs.
By making the smoke travel through a moist tunnel, it has no choice but to cool down on its way to your mouth. The moisture will also capture some of the ash floating in the smoke.
And forcing the smoke to make a 90-degree turn cools it down even further.
Lastly, the smoke has farther to travel by snaking through an organic pipe before reaching your lungs. The more distance there is between your mouth and burning ganja, the cooler the smoke will be.
Puffin' on Pipes
The trick to preserving your lungs while smoking a pipe lies in your choice of materials. Not only substance, style is equally important.
Made of glass (best) or wood (acceptable) or metal (oh, hell no), pipes are super-varied in type. The right kind can hit somewhat smoothly but the cheap, tiny ones can be just as harsh or even harsher than joints.
But if you know what to look for when selecting a pipe, you can help cool the burn.
Lung Saver: How to Choose the Right Type of Pipe
First off, steer clear of anything metal. You can actually taste the metal in some cases. Just don’t, you guys.
Although glass is best, it’s also ideal if there’s some curvature in the smoke tunnel. The reason why the original – “Sherlock” – pipes took their shape is that they make the smoke turn.
Just like the natural filter mentioned above, smoke that turns before it gets to your mouth is going to be cooler than smoke that flies straight in.
Curved pipes are easier on your lungs but a little harder to keep clean than linear versions. And speaking of keeping your pipe fresh, I discovered a great product that makes the process really easy.
So long as your pipe isn’t so ginormous that it can’t fit in the chamber, a few cycles through this jewelry cleaner will do a fantastic job of removing baked-on resin.
Just fill it with cold water and add one drop of dishwashing liquid. Super-dirty items take several cycles.
After a cycle ends simply remove the pipe from the water, rinse it in the sink, return it to the cleaner in a different orientation than the last cycle, then restart the machine.
Yes, you can also use the jewelry cleaner to freshen the bowls and downstems from your bong, which we’ll discuss in the next section.
Icy Hits From the Bong
“The smoke through the bubbling water’s
Making it pure so I got to...
Take my hit and hold it
Just like Chong, I hit the bowl then I reload it...
Grab my 4-footer and bring it on
As I take hits from the bong.”
You know that one?
Regardless, bongs are popular for a few reasons. If you’ve seen and smelled dirty bongwater then you know there’s tons of ash and plant matter in there.
Bubbling water captures smoke and ash as you inhale, giving you one of the smoothest hits available. And compared to a vaporizer, bongs are more satisfying to puff on.
Although bongs are fantastic filters, you can still take filtration up a notch by, just like with a pipe, knowing which type to use.
I know some people who like to travel with their bongs and own two or more.
The little ones have their place, but the kind I’m about to suggest is meant to stay in the same location – perhaps in your living room or bedroom or garage or lounge.
Lung Saver: How to Choose the Right Type of Bong
The first thing to check for is material. Just like a “dry” pipe, stay away from metal bowls. A glass bong with a glass bowl and glass downstem -- known as “glass on glass” -- is the ideal setup.
The second thing to check for is water volume. How much water can the bong hold? You want that bad boy to hold as much as possible.
Find a bong with a deep water chamber. The shape shouldn’t be a straight line, either. The water chamber should flare out at the bottom. A wide base not only holds more water, it makes your bong less likely to tip over.
You’re also looking for an air tube that’s long. Remember the concept of making the smoke travel before inhaling? That applies here, too.
You want to make the smoke travel as far as possible before it hits your mouth.
And for even more cooling power, look for a bong with indents in the air tube. These are meant for trapping ice cubes to cool the smoke.
Now, some bongs have extra chambers and tubes and resemble a squid. These can be nice, but they can be very, very hard to keep clean. All those twists and turns and chambers are hard to reach.
There’s nothing wrong with leviathan bongs and some hit super-smooth but remember you’re going to need to clean that beast someday.
And if you add ice or snow to the air tube, remember to fill with water chamber with a little less than usual. Your ice or snow is going to eventually melt and make its way to the water chamber.
Speaking of water chambers, it won’t take long until you’ve got some gunk built up and you’re gonna need to clean it.
If the resin creeps all the way out of the downstem it can disrupt the bowl’s seal. So instead of being glass-on-glass, your rig turns into resin-on-glass.
When this happens, air seeps through and you won’t get a smooth draw. How can you conquer this dilemma? Simple. Keep your bong clean…
Flavor Saver: How to Clean Your Bong Right
- 91% Rubbing alcohol
- Dry rice or salt, preferably large-grain, to act as a scrubber
So long as they fit, you can put your bowls and downstems in this jewelry cleaner to make them look new again.
If your downstem is too long to fit, you’ll have to clean it manually. Which is fine because you can use the same liquid that cleaned your bong…
1) Thoroughly rinse the glass and empty all water. It doesn’t have to be completely dry, just mostly dry.
2) Add rubbing alcohol to the bong’s water chamber. Use about 1/3 the amount you usually do when adding fresh water.
3) Pour the salt or dry rice into the alcohol. Either work great as an agitator, rubbing against the sides of the glass to remove resin.
4) Seal the top of the bong (where you put your mouth) with the palm of one hand.
5) With your other hand, place your thumb over the hole in the top of the downstem – where the bowl was before you took it out to clean it.
6) Shake vigorously. Swirl the liquid around and shake at different angles to get the hard-to-reach areas.
7) Rinse thoroughly because rubbing alcohol tastes nasty. Be sure to get it all out of your bubbler before filling it back up with fresh H2O.
If you have any pipes or downstems that wouldn’t fit in the jewelry cleaner, save the dirty alcohol instead of pouring it out.
Just grab a large zip-lock bag. Place the dirty glass in the bag, pour the dark liquid out of the bong you just cleaned, zip the bag, and shake, shake, shake.
With some patience and a little effort, you can get your bong looking like new.
It also really helps if you clean often. Don’t wait until it looks as if the Swamp Thing is about to jump out of the water.
Vaping falls in the middle of the lung-damage spectrum. What you’re inhaling isn’t as hot as traditional smoking methods. And there’s no ash in the cloud.
But you’re still smoking. Meaning, it’s not just air going into your lungs. That said, it’s the absolute safest method of smoking, as long as you’re puffing on the right material.
You see, traditional vaporizers use an oil cartridge. And what you’re inhaling isn’t always as it seems. Companies have been known to cut corners. That means some vapor cartridges contain foul chemicals you’re better off without. I'm looking straight at you, FlavRX.
If you go the cartridge route, make sure it’s lab-tested and verified pure. Nobody wants to smoke random e-liquids. Just sounds nast-e.
But cartridges aren’t the only way to vape…
Pro Tip: Did You Know You Can Vaporize Flowers?
A popular method for consuming CBD and THC is with vapor cartridges. That’s what Nate Diaz was puffing on during a post-fight press conference.
But no longer do you have to rely on sometimes-questionable chemicals to vaporize cannabis.
Simply grind your favorite flower, put the grinds into a dry herb vaporizer, and puff away. Dry herb vaporizers are available in portable and large, at-home versions.
Now, if you're going to vape your dry herbs, you will absolutely need a good grinder.
And here's a really cool grinder/dry herb storage/dispenser combo that's perfect for traveling with ground herb to feed into your portable vape stick.
But if you're on a budget, simply get a high-quality but cheap grinder and store your grinds within it. The Chromium Crusher is the rugged grinder I use. It's only about $10 and will last forever with proper care.
Vaporizers create puffable vapor at a much lower temperature than torching a bowl with a lighter. Like, more than 100 degrees lower. Your lungs will certainly appreciate the difference.
The technology has advanced so much in recent years that there are now handheld vaporizers that fit in your palm. Here are some portable and at-home vaporizers in the $100-$200 range.
And if you're looking for an in-home installation, you can go really big.
The absolute classic is called "The Volcano." The digital version really lets you dial-in your own temperature preferences. The lower, the better, for the sake of your lungs.
It comes with a bag you can fill with vapor to pass around at your Sensi parties. Or, you can use a setup with a tube to puff from. Your choice.
To me, choosing to vape flowers, often organically grown, makes much more sense than taking a draw of a chemical concoction in a tiny vial.
Eating Hemp-Based Cannabis Oils
The next two categories – oils and candies – are obviously the most lung-friendly since there’s no smoke to breathe.
Now, cannabis extraction the first step in creating something that comes out of a bottle for administration from a dropper.
Vendors turn hemp or marijuana into a sticky icky goo that’s unfit for consumption all by itself.
This nutrient-rich concoction blends with carrier oils like olive and coconut to create a consistent mixture that’s ready to eat.
And these products, CBD hemp oil, for instance, offer a variety of options. Hemp oils are super-high in CBD and tons of other cannabinoids.
But hemp’s minimal THC content means you could ingest an entire bottle and not feel baked.
Hemp-based oils won’t stone you, but may very well help alleviate your chronic pain and inflammation plus a host of other conditions. Although hemp CBD oil has helped me tremendously, your mileage will vary.
Then there are tinctures made of marijuana. These contain CBD and THC and are going to get you high. Drop some under your tongue, wait an hour, and buckle up.
The choice is yours. As you’re healing yourself, are you gonna get blitzed or stay sober?
If you’re not looking to get loopy, go with hemp oil. If you are looking to get all silly as you benefit from CBD and its best friend THC, there are capsules and tinctures and edibles…
Munching On Sweet Treats
Last but not least, the infamous pot brownies. And now fruit leather. And Rice Krispies treats. And gourmet chocolate. And all sorts of hard candies in a rainbow of flavors.
Point is, today’s edibles cater to individual preferences. There are loads of different choices.
And since they don’t harm your lungs, edibles are now 50% of the cannabis consumer market.
And if you’re up for it, you can even grow your own to make ganja butter from all the leaves and stems. Infused butter is a great way to keep some THC handy for when the mood strikes.
Butter is so versatile and you may find yourself making giggly eggs and cakes and spreading some on your morning toast.
No smell, no smoke, no extra accessories to worry about. It’s easy to see why people are migrating to this method.
But you need to be careful with them! I mean, just listen to this guy. He went a little too far.
Especially if you’re new to THC, please use edibles with caution. They can be great if you know how to operate them. But even if you’re a pro, they’re still unpredictable.
Pro Tip: How to Safely Enjoy Edibles
This is one of those occasions when you really need to check your ego and be real about your tolerance level. Even herbal veterans can strike out from edibles.
A few things to keep in mind:
1) Experiment & Start Small…
If your edible came from a dispensary, you should see milligram content on the label. For a new user, start with 5mg only, and take it from there.
If you made your own butter then made cookies or brownies, start with a very small serving.
2) Be Sure to Wait a Full Hour…
Maybe it’s been 45 minutes and you’re wondering if these things even work. Trust me, give it a full hour before going in for a 2nd helping.
3) Never Mix Edibles with Alcohol…
The one and only time I got sick from edibles was when our softball team ate brownies and drank strong beer after a game. About 90 minutes into our post-game celebration I found myself in the grass, barfing and unable to walk because the world was spinning.
With a little experimentation, you’ll know exactly how much to take and how long it’ll be before you feel the effects.
Overdoing it will most likely put you to sleep. A dig dose is just like a sleeping pill. Try to be somewhere you can crash out if needed.
And don’t even think about driving! You never know when your brain will switch gears and a super-stony space cadet mission will kick in. There’s no way you want to be behind the wheel when that happens.
Now, if you are looking to take things up a notch, you can amplify your stone. The secret? Exercise! Get out and jog or bike or swim and your body will release its own version of THC.
And when you mix a “runner’s” high with a “stoner’s” high, you can’t get any higher.
Wrapping it up...
Now you know that there are basically 4 levels of strain you can put on your lungs while enjoying cannabis. There's a little, a little more, a lot more, and none.
You’ve got edibles, which have absolutely nothing to do with your lungs. Eating your CBD and/or THC gets the gold medal.
Then there’s vaporizing. You’re still inhaling a type of smoke, but compared to sparking flowers with a Bic lighter, that smoke is much cooler and also ash-free. Vaping gets the silver medal.
Because they use water to cool the smoke while removing ash particles, the trusty bong takes home the bronze.
Pipes and joints do not deserve a spot on the podium. Although you can mitigate damage by trying the tricks taught above, these methods are still pretty harsh.
I think harm to the lungs is the greatest risk using cannabis poses. Now that you know how to prevent or lessen that risk, I hope you can breathe a little easier.