There has been lots of excitement in recent years about dabbing - one of the fastest-growing ways of consuming weed. A major reason people are excited is because dabs are seen as healthier than cannabis flower. Lots of people who don’t like to smoke are buying cannabis concentrates online and turning to dabbing for a cleaner alternative.
But once you start investigating the health risks of dabbing vs. smoking, there’s more to it than meets the eye. There are lots of different things to consider when we talk about the health risks of cannabis use.
So we dug deep into the benefits and risks of dabs vs. cannabis flower, so you can choose the method that works for you. And of course, you have to weigh the risks with the benefits you get from cannabis, whether that’s for treating pain, anxiety, or anything else.
Cannabis Flower Vs. Cannabis Concentrates
Most people are familiar with cannabis flower - also known as bud. Dried cannabis flowers are still the popular form of cannabis used around the world. Female cannabis flowers produce the resin that contains THC and other cannabinoids. But the dried bud you buy online all contains the rest of the plant matter from the flower.
Cannabis concentrates, on the other hand, are a purified form of that resin. As the name suggests, concentrates have a much higher concentration of cannabinoids like THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids. Concentrates are made by extracting resin from the cannabis plant. This can be done in many different ways, including using solvents like butane or CO2, water, or heat.
Dabbing: How Does it Work?
Dabbing is a fairly new way of consuming cannabis. It involves vaporizing a cannabis concentrate very quickly and inhaling the vapour. This is typically done using a dab rig. Users heat a nail to a very high temperature, then dab a concentrate like wax, shatter, or rosin onto the nail. It vaporizes fast, and users inhale the vapour through a water pipe, similar to a bong.
Dabbing: The Upsides
1. You’re not inhaling smoke
The key reason why dabbing is seen as healthier than smoking is because it doesn’t involve inhaling smoke (at as much smoke). When you smoke bud, burning the whole flower produces lots of different chemical compounds, some of which are known to be carcinogens.
It’s mostly vapour produced by dabbing. So it contains no extra plant matter, so in theory, it’s much cleaner than smoke and is nearly all THC or other cannabinoids. And the good news is, research seems to support this conclusion so far.
Dabbing: The Downsides
1. Dabs can produce harmful organic compounds
There hasn’t yet been much research on the safety of dabbing. But one recent study did find that at high temperatures, dabbing produced some dangerous chemicals, including benzene, a well-known carcinogen and pollutant. One way to reduce this risk is to dab at a lower temperature. The researchers found that at lower temperatures, fewer harmful chemicals were produced.
2. Unlicensed dabs can contain dangerous solvents
As we mentioned, dabs are made by extracting resin from cannabis flower. Often this is done using solvents like butane or CO2. It’s important that traces of these solvents are removed before being consumed, as they can be dangerous to our health. In regulated laboratories, these processes are now well established and licenced. However, some illegal and unlicenced producers still don’t purify their concentrates to acceptable levels. The moral of the story? Always choose a reputable, legal place to buy cannabis concentrates online.
As you probably know, smoking cannabis flower involves burning bud in a joint, pipe, or bong. To get high, you simply inhale the smoke. Smoking is still the most popular way of consuming cannabis around the world.
Cannabis Flower: the Upsides
1. It’s easier to manage your dose
One of the major benefits of smoking over dabbing is that it’s much easier to manage your dose. Most flower contains 10 -25% THC, whereas concentrates can contain 50-80%. Especially for new users, smoking can be a safer way to try cannabis, without risking uncomfortable side effects that are more common with dabbing. While it’s impossible to overdose on weed, overdoing it can be a pretty unpleasant experience!
2. It could lead to less dependence and withdrawal
Cannabis isn’t an addictive substance, but some heavy users do experience dependence and mild withdrawal symptoms when they stop using. One recent study found that dabbing led to higher levels of physical dependence than smoking. This could be because dabbing typically involves much higher doses than smoking. More research is needed, but it's worth considering.
Cannabis Flower: the Downsides
1. Cannabis smoke contains more carcinogenic compounds
Evidence suggests that smoking cannabis is much safer than smoking tobacco, and research hasn’t found a link between smoking weed and lung cancer. But there’s no denying that cannabis smoke contains a whole range of chemicals that can be carcinogenic. Smoking can also damage our lungs, especially if we use it regularly.
2. Cannabis flower can be contaminated
Because cannabis flower is unpurified plant material, it can get contaminated. Moulds, bacteria, and mites can infest plants, especially if they’re stored in humid conditions. Insecticides, pesticides, and heavy metals can also contaminate cannabis flower, depending on where it’s grown - and these are all bad news for human health.
How Much Do We Know About the Health Risks?
We think it’s important to point out that right now, no one is 100% sure about the risks of smoking or dabbing. While people have been smoking weed for thousands of years, scientific research is lagging far behind, and we still don’t have conclusive evidence on what all of the risks are.
That’s doubly true for dabbing, which is an even more recent phenomenon. Research is slowly emerging, but there’s a long way to go. Like everything we do in our lives, there are some risks associated with cannabis use. The best thing you can do is educate yourself and make an informed choice about what’s best for you.
Smoking Vs. Dabbing - Which One to Choose?
Dabbing has grown in popularity because it’s seen as healthier than smoking, and there seems to be some truth in that. For those who don’t want to inhale smoke, dabbing seems like a good choice.
But honestly, we probably don’t yet know enough about either to be sure. Both smoking and dabbing have some potential negative health effects. One of the best ways to minimize those risks is to buy you weed from a reputable source. Whether you buy cannabis flower or concentrates online, make sure you understand what you’re buying. That way, you can be sure to limit the chance of dangerous impurities in your weed.
And if you’re put off by some of the risks we’ve discussed here, don’t worry. There are plenty of safer ways to consume cannabis too. Oral consumption - like edibles or tinctures - doesn’t involve burning or vaporizing cannabis, so doesn’t have many of the risks we’ve mentioned here.
In short, there are benefits and downsides to both cannabis flower and concentrates. But the good news is, there are so many different ways to consume now that you’re sure to find one that works for you.