Gathering with friends to kick back and smoke up has been a time-honored way to enjoy cannabis for decades (and not just among the young). And the sense of belonging to a vibrant 420 community can often be just as important as the buzz.
However, legalization in many states, combined with the growing focus on health and well being, has led many who enjoy the green – or have started using it to treat medical conditions – to search for healthier ways to indulge.
It’s common knowledge that the THC and CBD in marijuana can provide important health benefits, and that smoking pot doesn’t carry the major risks associated with smoking tobacco. But inhaling smoke from burning plant matter of any type isn’t the kindest thing anyone can do to their lungs. The process can aggravate pulmonary problems like asthma and COPD, and some studies suggest that long term weed smoking can actually create them.
There once was a time when stoner bona fides depended primarily on how quickly and expertly you could roll a joint, or how many common objects you could use to make a bong. That time is dying; there’s now very little stigma attached to enjoying your herb in other ways. (If that stigma does still exist in your circle of friends, perhaps it’s time to expand the circle.)
Not all of the healthier ways to consume cannabis will get you wasted; some just let you experience the medical benefits of cannabinoids while going about your daily life. They’re all worth considering, though, particularly since many of the alternatives are now easy to obtain in dispensaries and even from dealers.
The healthiest alternative of all? Tinctures.
These liquid pot products are designed for direct consumption, since their cannabinoids have already been activated by the manufacturers or producers. Most people put a drop or two of cannabis tincture under their tongue, where capillaries quickly absorb the liquid and the high comes on within ten minutes or so. This is the fastest-acting way to ingest cannabis, since the THC and CBD don’t have to go through the lungs, the liver or the digestive tract; they go right to the bloodstream. That also makes tinctures the most “efficient” alternative, since most of the psychoactive components reach the bloodstream without being filtered out.
Tinctures can be either oil-based, alcohol-based or vegetable glycerin-based. The latter is the healthiest option, since vegetable-based glycerin is much better for your body than the saturated fats used to make oil tinctures. Alcohol-based tinctures speak for themselves, but since you only use a few drops, you won’t be getting much alcohol. If you want a weed-infused cocktail, glycerin-based tinctures are the best choice because they easily mix with water (unlike oil-based liquids). And tinctures are perfect for patients whose illnesses make swallowing difficult or those who get nauseous easily.
The one negative: even alcohol-based tinctures will taste like weed. For most people, that’s a small price to pay. And without sugar, fat or anything else that will pack on the pounds or clog the arteries, a few drops of tincture are the healthiest alternative to smoking.
Edibles are an ideal way to consume marijuana, for several reasons.
First, they’re discreet – no smell, no smoke, no sign that you’re doing anything except getting a sugar boost in the middle of the day.
Second, the body efficiently absorbs THC and CBD once it hits the digestive tract, as long as the cannabis has been heated in order to activate those cannabinoids. If you’re cooking your own edibles, that means “decarbing” the weed by heating it in an oven and then blending it with fat for cooking; butter is used in almost all recipes and cannabinoids bind to it like glue. And if you’re buying edibles, there’s no need to worry about the details – the good stuff is ready to do its magic as soon as it’s digested. One warning: it can take an hour or more for edibles to kick in, so don’t get impatient and keep eating. Give it a test run or two, so you know what to expect.
Third, what could be better than getting your weed and your munchies all in one product? It sure beats late-night trips to 7-11.
Pot-laced cookies, brownies or candy do sometimes have a funky weed taste, but many recipes do a terrific job at minimizing it or hiding it completely.
Unless you’re on a Keto diet, or simply trying to avoid butter, sugar or baked goods, edibles are a great way to go.
Tea or Other Beverages
The experience is mellower, but you can still receive both the psychoactive and medical benefits of cannabis by dissolving cannabutter or a few drops of glycerin-based tinctures into a cup of warm tea, coffee or other beverage of your choice. It’ll work when blended into smoothies, too. You can make weed tea from scratch if you prefer, but you’ll have to go through the whole decarbing process in order to activate the THC and CBD in your flower. Just putting bud into your hot tea will make it taste like pot, but only provide a little of the cannabinoids’ benefit.
Ointments, creams, and balms that have been infused with cannabis won’t get you baked. In fact, you probably won’t experience any psychoactive effects at all when these products are absorbed into the skin, since they never reach the bloodstream or brain. But the medical benefits of applying topicals to sore muscles and joints, burns and inflammation are well-established and will begin providing relief within 15-30 minutes. Cannabis patches, relatively new to the market, are an even easier way to administer cannabinoids to your skin.
You’re still taking a foreign gas into your lungs when you use a vaporizer, so vaping pot isn’t as healthy as the other methods we’ve mentioned. However, the process does eliminate almost all of the “smoke” produced by smoking marijuana, so there’s much less lung irritation and a much lower possibility of exacerbating or causing asthma or COPD.
Just as importantly, vaping only heats the herb. So vapers aren’t inhaling most of the toxins that are released from weed when it’s burned and smoked. They just feel the same effect when the THC hits their lungs and is absorbed. That makes vaporizers far superior to smoking, for the health-conscious.
One final tip for those vapers: oil is a better choice to use in a vaporizer than bud or wax. Wax often contains residual butane and fats, which can be somewhat problematic when heated and inhaled. Bud is completely natural, of course, but oil is much more potent – so it can deliver as much as two-thirds more THC. Those concerned about their health but also looking for the best bang for their buck should definitely consider vaping weed oil rather than flower.