Cannabis Science 101: The Complex Chemistry of the Bong

What’s going on in that bong?

Seriously. What is the science behind the water pipe? Are those bubbles actually making your toke any healthier? It’s complicated.

A couple things are happening. Burning cannabis produces a smoke stream that contains all the things you want — activated THC, CBD, other cannabinoids and terpenes — and a lot of things you don’t, like hot smoke, tar, and fine particulate matter, a.k.a. ash. “Tar” is a catch-all term for the hundreds of nasty compounds produced by cannabis combustion. Aside from nicotine, cannabis smoke is qualitatively similar to tobacco smoke, with a lot of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) you don’t want in your lungs. There is epidemiologic evidence that tobacco smokers who use a water pipe have a much lower incidence of cancer than those who smoke cigarettes or regular pipes. So clearly there’s some good filtration going on. (Too much cannabis smoking can harm the lungs in a number of ways, but despite decades spent looking for it, researchers have never found a link between cannabis smoking and lung cancer — a story for another day.)

– Read the entire article at Leafly.