Marijuana Without Smoking Is Better For You, So Here Are 5 Ways To Keep Your Lungs Happy

With medical marijuana legalized in more and more states and progressive politicians supporting the cause left and right (yay Bernie!), most of us are familiar with the health benefits of this cannabis plant. It's used to relieve ailments of conditions as varied as Alzheimer's disease, autism spectrum disorders (ASD), and multiple sclerosis (MS), and we're moving away from the stigma that weed is reserved for irresponsible college students or middle-aged unemployed men who still live with their moms. It's a medicinal plant, and you now have the option to choose which remedy works best for you. But what's the healthiest way to consume medicinal marijuana?

It turns out smoking a joint is not so great for you — that is, if you want to keep your lungs pink and supple. Combustion of weed fills your lungs with toxic compounds and irritants, and you get more tar from a joint than an equal-sized cigarette; plus, it can be incredibly harsh on the throat. Yes, smoking is the quickest way to feel high, but that feeling often disappears just an hour or two after.

No need to fret, though — there are many alternative methods out there that slowly release tetrahedroncannibol (THC) into your bloodstream and give you all the lasting, colorful benefits of medicinal marijuana — without the negative side effects to your overall health. These new and improved ways to use cannabis are even causing the most conservative folks (like my own father) to join our side.

Here are five healthier ways to use medical marijuana.

1. Use Vaporizers

Using a vaporizer reduces the smoke intake by nearly 95 percent because the weed is burned at a lower temperature, significantly decreasing the level of nasty carcinogens and tar that enter your body. There's also a lot less resin buildup, so your teeth won't turn an unattractive shade of yellow. Experts everywhere are insisting that this is one of the healthiest ways to gain all that marijuana has to offer.

Most of us remember the first bong we ever smoked out of, and how the taste was, um, less than delicious. Well, with a handy vaporizer, you're more likely to taste each and every shade of the marijuana, avoiding the burnt flavors that accompany a joint or a blunt. Plus, the Journal of Psychiatric Drugs published a study proving that smoking with a vape is the most efficient way to consume the cannabis plant. It uses 46 percent of THC compared to a joint, which only extracts 25 percent.

If you're on a budget, this is the ticket. I don't know about you, but I'm sold.

2. Consume Edibles

This way of consuming marijuana is way more fun than the boring, traditional method of smoking. Plus, your lungs will thank you — no coughing and weird phlegm after a brownie. Cannabis infused butter or oil is the the start to yummy marijuana snacks, and you can either make it yourself or find a medical marijuana shop that sells legit products. These days, you can even purchase a tub of special butter or a packet of fancy roasted garlic cannabis crackers, neither of which have an underlying taste of bitter weed.

It takes much longer for edibles to get busy in the bloodstream, so the feeling won't hit you as immediately as it would if you lit a joint. However, you won't really know just how strong the product is until you try it — every batch of cannabis butter or oil will turn out differently — so start with a small dose. No, really, start out with a small dose.

Next step? Be patient. If you reach for too much at the get go, you might not feel so great.

3. Apply Topicals

With medical marijuana topicals, there is no risk for any potential psychoactive reactions, like paranoia or anxiety — because they only work on your muscles and skin, not your mind. Products like lotions, salves, and creams can seriously relieve physical pain and reduce inflammation, according to a molecular biologist and author Dr. Meliha Karsak who conducted a 2007 study that was published in the journal Science. The cannaboids are easily accepted by the natural CB2 receptors in our bodies when they are processed in these forms, so you're more likely to absorb nourishment from topicals than from puffing on a joint.

Most dispensaries give you all sort of options to choose from, including sweet-smelling balms that immediately relieve soreness — without a head high. Topical are also said to speed up healing time for small injuries, like cuts, insect bites, and sunburns, because they act as an antibacterial. Browse Cannabis Basics for some of the best options; they create the cutest tubs of Rescue Butter, Healing Oils, and Mineral Bath salts.

4. Use Tinctures & Tonics

You may not have heard of tinctures, but they actually used to be one of the most popular ways to consume marijuana. They are alcohol extractions of the cannabis plant, containing all 80 of the essential cannabinoids; it's an extremely efficient, incredibly cheap process. A great benefit is that, like the topicals, there is very low risk for users to experience the psychoactive effects. This concentrated way of making the product paves the way for better dose control and fast release into the bloodstream.

Patients undergoing chemotherapy find a great deal of pain relief from these products, and it can be used to treat muscle spasm and cramping, and even epilepsy. The best way to use it is by placing a few drops directly under your tongue, although you can also put a pinch into your morning coffee or even apply it directly to your skin. When you're waiting for the effects to kick in, which won't include a big "high," be patient, like you would be with edibles.

5. Drink Teas & Sodas

This gives "tea time" a whole new meaning. Cannabis leaves or stems can be stewed to brew a delicious, warm treat. Just pour boiling water over the plant and let it steep for about half an hour. If that sounds too boring for you, give the chai tea variety a shot. There are now yummy sodas out there too, like Canna Cola, which sells flavors like Grape Ape and Orange Krush, all of which are made with the intention to bring you healing, medicinal benefits.

Without affecting your lungs in the slightest bit, you can use medical marijuana tea to reduce chronic pain and mental anxiety that come with multiple sclerosis, cancer, and physical injuries. If you don't suffer from any of these conditions, you can still achieve a more relaxed state of being from sitting back and enjoying a safely concocted beverage. Ben-David Sheppard, co-founder of Jane's Brew, a small company that makes cannabis teas and coffees, told the Atlantic that these drinks are starting to appeal to a different crowd, including grandmothers who have never smoked but still want to experience the magic of marijuana.

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