By Deborah Malka MD, PhD
Read Time: 3:00
During these times of increased risk for respiratory disease, due to coronavirus (Covid-19), every smoker should be asking themselves– “What can I do to smoke less, or possibly stop smoking, at least for now?”. Smoking less (cannabis or tobacco) may help you resist coronavirus; we’ll share some good alternatives to smoking.
Smoking anything, even cannabis, can cause damage to your lungs. The by-products from the burned material itself, such as tars, hydrocarbons, and carcinogens are irritants to your lungs and impair the ability of your immune system to be as effective as a non-smoker’s immune system. We know that coronavirus passes into the body through respiration, so your first line of defense is your immune response in your throat and lungs. Smoking can decrease the strength of your immune system, especially in your throat and lungs, and may increase your risk of getting the coronavirus or other viruses. Also, sharing smoking devises such as a vaporizer, pipe or a joint could pass the virus to everyone involved so, for now, don’t share.
Smoking less (cannabis or tobacco) may help you resist coronavirus and it’s easier than you may think to do. First of all, as opposed to tobacco, cannabis is not addictive, so there are many other ways you can use to get what you’re looking for from cannabis. As we suggested in our previous article “Vaping vs. Smoking Cannabis”, there are several things you can do to smoke less such as:
- Try to keep your smoking to the equivalent of one joint/day, preferably less.
- If you smoke joints, don’t smoke butts, in fact, try adding a filter to your joint to help reduce the worse elements from smoking.
- Use a water-pipe or a “bubbler” pipe, it minimizes the hydrocarbons you inhale.
- Add a concentrate to your flower, so one puff will do you. Really one puff 4x/day still only amounts to 2 joints/week, or better yet, put your mix in a pipe as I suggest above.
Good Alternative to Smoking: Full Flower Vaporizer
If you want to stop smoking altogether, consider vaporizing as an alternative. Vaporizers heat cannabis to a temperature of 180 – 200° C (356° – 392° F), just below the point of combustion where smoke is produced yet allows the full release of all of the good elements of your cannabis, cannabinoids and terpenes, in an inhalable vapor form.
Vaporizing cannabis can also help you avoid the unpleasant respiratory symptoms smoking can cause such as increased cough, sputum, phlegm, or scratchy throat because there’s no smoke. Some of these symptoms can even reverse when switching to a vaporizer from smoking. One study found, “One pre-post trial of regular users who reported at least two symptoms of bronchitis found that switching to the vapourizer for one month improved self-reported respiratory symptoms by a statistically significant 73%.”1
Also, with a full flower vaporizer, you can use the cannabis strain you already have on hand. Vaporizers can range from table-top to portable pocket-sized models. One of the full flower vaporizers that several people like here at Three Wells is the Mighty vaporizer. It’s expensive but has some of the best control and delivery that we’ve experienced. Using a vaporizer like this gives you the full complement of therapeutic compounds present in your flower.
What is not identical to vaporizing full flower is inhalation through a vape pen. Often the concentrated oils that are used in vape pens have lost the terpenes during the oil extraction process, or worse, utilize an extraction process that can leave a petrochemical (petroleum or natural gas) residue. Also, you must beware of additives in vape pen oils that are used to thin it out, such as propylene glycol or polyethylene glycol. These chemicals are irritants to your lungs.
Cleanse Your Lungs Naturally
Whether you’re a cannabis smoker, or even a cigarette smoker, it’s a good idea to give your lungs some help to clear them of congestion and toxic residue–especially now. You can benefit from taking a lung clearing herbal formula, often sold in combination, such as “lung cleansing” or “lung expectorant.” Common ingredients in these “cleansers” include:
- Lobelia leaf and seed
- Elecampane root
- Coltsfoot leaf
- Horehound leaf
- Licorice root
- Wild cherry bark
- Yerba santa
- Osha root
- Usnea lichen
These come in tinctures, and the usual dose would be 1 dropperful twice/day. And for actual respiratory distress, if you’re already coughing or having lung congestion, you may want to do a steam inhalation treatment at least 1-2 times a day. This is easy to do. Just boil some water, put in a few drops of essential eucalyptus oil, put a towel over you head and face to make a tent, and breathe in the steam fully for 5 minutes. Lastly, don’t underestimate the power of BREATHING deeply. Practice full diaphragmatic breathing, getting air all the way down to the bottom of your lungs. Do some cardio exercise, even if its walking at a fast pace, to increase your circulation and respiration. Those toxins won’t come out by themselves; you’ve got to breathe them out. Respiratory hygiene has never been more important than now, perhaps even more so for smokers. So, remember to smoke less, breathe more and possibly help your lungs to resist viruses like coronavirus.