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Bongs, Joints or Dabs: Which Cannabis Consumption Method is Most Effective?

Monday February 25, 2019

M ost cannabis consumers are well-aware of the many different consumption methods out there, but not that many people know about the bioavailability of said methods. Understanding just how much THC uptake there is during cannabis consumption is a key aspect of properly dosing your marijuana and ensuring the best experience possible. Of course, whenever a discussion comparing different smoking methods emerges, people tend to gravitate toward finding out what method is best. Let’s take a closer look at three different consumption methods (dabbing, joints and bongs) to learn more.

Remember, Cannabis Affects Everyone Differently

Because cannabis affects everyone differently, there’s really no right or wrong answer when considering the best consumption method. Ultimately, it boils down to personal preference and identifying which method works best for your body and individual preferences. That’s why it’s important to undergo some trial and error when finding the best consumption method for you – especially if you’re new to cannabis.

Bongs/Water Pipes

Although there have been no peer-reviewed studies done on the overall THC uptake and bioavailability of bongs (commonly referred to as water pipes), many theories suggest that bongs provide a consumer with a cleaner, more filtered high than combusting cannabis via other methods like joints or blunts. Additionally, most consumers believe that bongs actively filter out some of the more harmful elements that may be present in combusted cannabis smoke. Because of the lack of research, it can be difficult to back up these claims though – the scientific information that is available might even prove otherwise.

THC Uptake and Bioavailability

In a study conducted in 2000 by MAPS/NORML, research found that water pipes performed worse than joints in a test focused on cannabinoid to tar ratios. The studies found that joints had roughly 1 part cannabinoids to 13 parts tar, while bongs produced 30% more tar per cannabinoids. However, this information might be skewed as the cannabis tested during the study was extremely low potency (around 2.3%). Researchers go on to mention that by consuming higher potency cannabis, tar intake could be reduced by 5 times the rate of what was observed in the study.

Even more, the study goes on to affirm some consumer claims, stating that there may be health benefits of smoking a water pipe that extend beyond tar content and THC transfer – especially when it comes to filtering out potential toxins. Researchers noted that bongs “may filter out…non-solid smoke toxins occurring in the gas phase of the smoke, which was not analyzed in the study…Previous studies indicate that water filtration may be quite effective in absorbing some of these [toxins].”

Something else to consider when discussing water pipes and bongs is the percolation factor. How much filtration is created in the water through percolation has a direct effect on the amount of harmful gases that are removed. Proper percolation also minimizes the amount of THC and other cannabinoids that are filtered out during the process as well. Because percolation is such an important factor when considering water pipes and bongs, it’s crucial for interested consumers to purchase a piece that functions with effective filtration.

Where to Find a Quality Water Pipe

There are plenty of places to purchase a high-quality bong, but perhaps none with the extensive variety of a credible online headshop. But since there are a few online headshops to choose from, it can be difficult to find the right one for you. That’s where consumer reviews come in. DopeBoo, one of the most trusted online headshops around, has a 5-star rating from over 1,300 reviews by satisfied customers. With a reputation like that, you can rest easily knowing you’re purchasing quality products from a reliable source.

DopeBoo even has a dedicated water pipes page on their site. There, you can browse hundreds of bongs and water pipes to find the right one for your specific needs/aesthetic.

From cheap pieces to high-end glass and everything in between, there’s truly something for everyone on DopeBoo. Looking for bongs under $100? DopeBoo has you covered! Conversely, there are plenty of pieces that are more suited to the connoisseur looking to spend a little extra on their set-up. No matter what kind of water pipe you prefer, be sure to check out DopeBoo if you’re in the market for a new bong!

Dabbing

Dabbing is a relatively new trend that is becoming increasingly popular. At the same time, it has also become immensely refined over the years. In fact, connoisseurs are getting so dialed into their dabbing setups nowadays that the average consumer might not even know where to start. For anyone unfamiliar with cannabis concentrates, be sure to check out PotGuide’s comprehensive guide before moving forward.

In order to dab properly, a specialized water pipe called a dab rig is commonly used. Unlike traditional bongs where cannabis flower is consumed through combustion however, dabbing is achieved through vaporization. That means that the concentrates never reach a temperature to ignite a flame. Rather, concentrates are placed onto a heated surface (such as a nail or banger) until they reach a temperature hot enough to change into an inhalable vapor.

In terms of THC availability, cannabis concentrates offer the most potential as most products range from 50-95% THC. Additionally, since concentrates are vaporized and not combusted, there is no THC lost to pyrolysis – or the chemical decomposition of organic materials via the application of heat. In a recent study conducted by Forensic Science International, researchers found that THC is consumed more efficiently through dabbing than via combustion. Through a test focused on the lungs’ ability to recover THC from the vapor, they go on to note that, according to their findings, cannabis concentrates had “75.5% lung availability while the canna-flowers were only able to recover 26.7%.” While this evidence certainly alludes to dabbing being more effective in terms of cannabinoid uptake, the research was not conducted without flaws. For example, researchers dabbed their concentrates on a red-hot titanium nail, a practice that is highly discouraged nowadays due to the potential for toxicants. Nevertheless, this is some of the only scientific research available on the matter, proving the continuous need for more cannabis research.

Joints

Like smoking cannabis out of a bong, consuming cannabis through a joint also requires combustion. But, if we remember the study above from MAPS/NORML, joints produced far less tars than bongs. However, when considering a water pipe’s ability to filter out other unwanted gases from cannabis smoke, one could still reasonably ascertain that bongs are a healthier option. Plus, when consuming a bong (and dabs as well) there is no THC lost to un-inhaled smoke.

You see, hits from bongs and dab rigs can be taken in one breath without smoke runoff. When smoking a joint, it’s impossible to inhale every bit of smoke that comes from the joint. Because of this, a fair amount of cannabinoids are lost during the process – which is why some people believe joints are less effective and more wasteful. Even though joints do have a significant amount of smoke run-off, the Forensic Science International study claims that the lung availability of cannabinoids from joints is still nearly 30%.

Final Thoughts

It’s true, science doesn’t lie. Given the amount of credible scientific research surrounding cannabis consumption methods and efficacy though, it’s clear more research is needed to make any definitive claims about which method is best. Until that research is available, it’s probably best to stick with what method is most effective for your personal needs!

What are your thoughts on bongs, joints and dabs? Share your input in the comments below!

After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse with a degree in Writing and Rhetoric, Michael started his journey in the cannabis industry managing content, communications, and technical writing for one of Colorado’s largest dispensary chains. In 2016, Michael pivoted to the ancillary sector to become PotGuide’s Content Manager and is now responsible for overseeing all of PotGuide’s editorial endeavors and content marketing strategies.

With a life-long passion for cannabis knowledge and education, Michael devoted himself to becoming a subject matter expert on marijuana at an early age. Now, Michael has worked in the marijuana industry for over four years helping break down negative stigma and promoting safe cannabis practices. An avid consumer himself, Michael has worked tirelessly to improve content marketing strategies for cannabis businesses and is devoted to creating meaningful content that is useful to a wide variety of marijuana consumers. Follow Michael on LinkedIn and Instagram for updates and insights.

There are many different ways to consume cannabis, but perhaps none more popular than joints, bongs and dabs. But which method is most effective in utilizing cannabinoids? Learn more about the bioavailability of different marijuana consumption methods and see which one is best for you!

Demystifying the Bong, One Myth at a Time

Bongs, which you may also know by slang terms like bubbler, binger, or billy, are water pipes used to smoke cannabis.

They’ve been around for centuries. The word bong is said to have come from the Thai word “baung” for a bamboo tube used for smoking weed.

Today’s bongs look a lot more complicated than a simple bamboo tube, but they all come down to the same basic process.

Read on to learn more about how bongs work and why, contrary to lore, they aren’t actually any better for your lungs than other smoking methods.

Bongs come in all shapes and sizes. Some are very basic with just a bowl and chamber. Others are colorful, mouth-blown works of art.

At the end of the day, they all do basically the same thing: filter and cool the smoke that comes from the burning marijuana.

Bongs generally feature a small bowl that holds dried weed. When you light the weed it combusts. Meanwhile, as you inhale, the water in the bottom of the bong bubbles (or percolates, if you want to get technical). The smoke rises up through the water and then the chamber before entering your mouth and lungs.

If you’re looking for a smoother toke, a bong will give you just that compared to smoking weed rolled in paper.

As expected, the water in a bong eliminates the dry heat you get from a joint. The effect is often described as being cooler, creamy, and smooth rather than harsh.

This effect can be deceiving, though.

While the smoother smoke might feel better on your lungs, you’re still smoking. And that smoke is still filling up your lungs (we’ll spare the lecture on why this is all-around bad news for your health).

Sure, a small amount of the bad stuff might get filtered out. But it’s not enough to make much of a difference.

Yes, this means all those stories about bongs being the “safer” way to smoke are largely based on junk science.

So far, bong safety has been pretty low on the list of priorities when it comes to medical research. But as cannabis becomes legal in more areas, this could change.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health organizations, smoke is harmful to lung health regardless of what you’re smoking because of the carcinogens released from the combustion of materials.

Smoking marijuana, whether via doobie or bong, can harm lung tissues and cause scarring and damage to your small blood vessels.

The tendency to inhale deeply and hold your breath when smoking pot means you’re often exposed to more tar per breath. Plus, bongs are basically a way to get more smoke into your lungs while also making that smoke more pleasant to inhale.

All of these aspects make it easy to overdo it when using a bong.

One other risk to keep in mind is related to the use of plastic bongs. Plastics that contain chemicals like BPA and phthalates have been linked to adverse health effects, including cancer.

Bong health risks aside, depending on where you live and local laws, having a bong with marijuana in it or even just some residue could get you in legal hot water.

Research also shows that marijuana-only smokers have more healthcare visits related to respiratory conditions than nonsmokers, regardless of the method used to inhale the smoke.

How do those fancy bongs, with all their bells and whistles, actually work? Plus, find out whether they're actually easier on your lungs than a joint.