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The Ultimate Guide to Ice Water Bongs

People like to smoke cannabis. Smoking is the number one method of cannabis consumption in studies from Norml and the Canadian Cannabis Survey 2023. Building on this, research from St. Francis Xavier University, Nova Scotia, sought to understand cannabis consumption patterns more deeply, by enlisting nearly 300 participants to shed light on their preferences. You guessed it! Results indicate a strong preference for smoking, with bongs outpacing joints and pipes.

Bongs rule for a couple of different reasons. Many appreciate the simplicity of packing a bong over the intricacies of rolling a joint. Participants said that bongs deliver quick, potent hits and allow users to easily self-titrate their dose while also conserving their stash.

Although the bong is a heavily favored traditional smoking apparatus, it is not without drawbacks and accidental shatterings. Glass bongs are criticized for producing hot smoke that can be harsh on the throat and lungs. Using ice or ice water to chill smoke gained popularity alongside the rise of glass bongs in the 1970s and the pros and cons have been debated ever since. In this post, we are going to explore all the nuances of cannabis on the rocks. 

Why Do People Use Ice Water Bongs?

Cooling

One major appeal of using bongs lies in their capacity to cool the smoke by filtering it through water prior to inhalation. By cooling the smoke, ice water bongs are perceived to reduce irritation and discomfort while preventing coughing and irritation.

Some bongs enthusiasts take their icing very seriously. Their apparatus have specialized chambers designed for holding ice. As the smoke travels over the ice, it's transformed into a much cooler gas by the time it reaches the mouth and lungs, enhancing the overall smoking experience.  But does the cooling effect remove the risk of respiratory issues associated with smoking? We shall see.

Filtering

In addition to cooling the smoke, ice water bongs, all water pipes really, provide filtration. The smoke is 'vetted' and particulate matter and other harmful substances produced during combustion are removed as the smoke is drawn through the water with each inhale, either before or after contacting the ice. Water filtration works. Is it perfect? Nope. We'll dive into the nitty-gritty of how much this actually helps preserve your lungs in a bit.

Smooth Draw

Using ice water in bongs transforms the smoking experience with smooth draws that ease throat and lung discomfort. As the ice cools the smoke before inhalation, it makes for a more enjoyable intake which could also potentiate a deeper, cannabinoid-rich experience. This phenomenon, known among enthusiasts as a "ripper," strikes an ideal balance between cool, filtered smoke that's pleasant on the inhale and potent in effect. 

If water cools and filters the smoke into a smooth draw, does ice water enhance this effect and does it provide an element of safety to the smoking experience? It's a query many are eager to explore. Let's take a cold plunge into more research now.

bong with ice catcherDoes Putting Ice Water in the Bong Deliver Results?

Strengths

Before we add ice, let me say that people love bongs for their visual appeal. Bongs are beautiful. When art meets cannabis culture, bongs take on a sculptural quality. The sight of smoke swirling around the ice adds a visually stunning, almost trippy aspect to the smoking ritual. This appeal to the eye is certainly a plus for bong enthusiasts, reflecting and highlighting the artistic expression deeply embedded within the cannabis community.

Beyond Aesthetics

When smoke travels through ice water or just ice, ash and tar are trapped, leaving behind a cleaner smoke. This is a key strength and many users report that inhaling cold smoke greatly enhances the flavor of the cannabis. An important factor among canna-connoisseurs

Lost Cannabinoids? Nah

Online forums debate if bongs strip cannabinoids. Let's dispel. Water and ice filtration includes cooling the smoke at lower temps which makes the smoke slow and dense. This  allows more time for unwanted particles like ash and tar to settle out or adhere to the water. But cannabinoids don’t go solid in chilly water. So, no cannabinoid loss to cool temps. 

Cannabinoids are large molecules, so you would think they'd be easily sieved by water. Not true! The larger molecules of active cannabinoids in cannabis smoke can still make their way through the water. This is a phenomenon that hinges on solubility.

Cannabinoids are hydrophobic. They do not readily mix with or dissolve in water. Cannabinoids, due to their hydrophobic nature, tend to avoid the water phase altogether, preferring instead to remain in the smoke phase for you to inhale. This principle reassures users that smoking through a bong doesn't mean lost cannabinoids. 

TLDR: when you’re taking that hit, some stuff gets caught in the water, and some doesn’t. Compounds that mix easily with water or solidify at lower temps tend to get trapped in the water. But none of this pertains to cannabinoids. Another plus for the bong.

Condensation

When hot smoke meets cool water, some condenses into tiny droplets (it turns partly liquid). Condensation brings water vapor into the mix. The moisture reduces irritation. In general, if you keep your bong water clean, inhaling water vapor poses little harm and can ease the smoking experience. Condensation serves to cool and concentrate the smoke, improving the inhalation quality and making bong use a preferred method for many. Adding ice further cools the smoke, capturing more unwanted particles and elevating the smoothness of each hit. This contributes to the distinctive experience of bong smoking, offering a less harsh inhalation compared to dry smoke.

smoke on waterUnderstanding Diffusion in Bong Use

Diffusion in bong usage differs from simple sieving. To understand diffusion you have to visualize smoke particles as a crowd moving in a pool—from really crowded areas to less occupied ones. This movement across the water divides the particles into finer droplets, spreading the droplets widely and increasing their contact area with the water. Diffusion is naturally filtering because it snares larger particles and water-soluble substances like tar and combustion byproducts.

Diffusion plays a crucial role in ensuring a cleaner smoking experience but brings up mixed feelings towards bong water. Bong water is a necessary evil that effectively traps unwanted particulates, making each hit smoother and cleaner. Yet, it is also not something that can be neglected. All these pro-bong examples, though beneficial for filtering smoke, also means that tar and other residue can accumulate inside the bong and in the bong water, requiring frequent cleaning. While bongs are praised for their ability to filter and cool smoke, they are not without their drawbacks. Let's review where bongs are suboptimal.

The Drawbacks of Ice Water Bongs

Research into tobacco smoke offers critical insights into cannabis smoke filtration, revealing essential similarities in the behavior of combustion byproducts and the mixture of particulate and gas-phase substances. The research we have confirms that water filtration acts on a molecular level in removing some harmful components.

The problem of using an ice water bong, is that it may provide a too smooth smoke due to its cooling and filtration effects, leading to misconceptions about the healthiness of the smoke. Enhanced smoothness can give users the false impression that the smoke is cleaner or less harmful than it truly is. Ironically, the very feature that makes the smoke feel smoother—the cooling effect—might encourage users to inhale more deeply and hold the smoke longer, paradoxically increasing their exposure to harmful substances that remain unfiltered.

Excessive Cooling Poses Risks

Ice that smokes indicates a cold gas which sheds loose frost shards that can then be inhaled directly into the throat and lungs with your cannabis smoke. There's a fine line between cooling the smoke and overcooling it! Too cold, and sensitive lungs may become irritated and even inflamed, leading to bronchitis. Further research is needed to determine whether long-term bong use, particularly with ice, contributes to an increased risk of bronchitis. But this concern takes us directly into another issue with bongs: the importance of  getting the right balance of temperature, humidity and breath with each session.

Big Hits

Bigger hits equate to pulling in more resin. Those resin hits -- they hit hard. Harsh hits leave a dank, unpleasant aftertaste in the mouth long after a session has ended. Best to leave the resin out of your lungs. Bigger hits can also lead to "bong lung" where lungs trap air on exhalation. This impedes the natural and necessary oxygen and CO2 gas exchange for optimum respiratory health. Lungs compensate by getting bigger to make room for new air that's breathed in. Over time, big lungs add to big health problems. Take little hits! Sometimes, without realizing it, people can take in a huge uncooled and unfiltered bong hit and the harshness is painful. Not knowing the bong water is low leads to hits that are far too hot and concentrated.

a dirty bong

Dirty Bongs

Contaminated aerosolized  bong water potentially transmits bacteria through the smoke if the bong water has been sitting too long. Stagnant water can become a breeding ground for bacteria and molds, compromising the benefits of filtration. It's essential to strike a balance. You know that hit that tastes very bad, produces very little smoke and hurts like a dagger? A hit like this means you've got a dirty bong.

When smoke has a yellow tint, it's impure and hasn't been properly filtered. The taste -- kind of like superheated plastic or rubber--confirms the problem. Appreciate that bong water filters your smoke and stay diligent about keeping the bong clean and the water fresh. Other clues that your bong and bong water needs cleaning? Bong resin! Bong resin is condensed smoke. It's a sticky, tar-like accumulation that clings to glass. Intricate downstems and ice catchers capture resin, too. When resin builds up in the bong water, it makes a biofilm--a layer of slimed together bacteria. 

Inhaling biofilm is something you absolutely want to avoid to maintain optimal lung health. When you inhale through a bong that hasn't been properly cleaned, you're potentially breathing in bacteria, mold and biofilm from the stagnant water, which can escalate to serious lung infections and even pneumonia. Regular maintenance is a necessity.

Check out this really good (but a little cumbersome) 10 step method for a thoroughly clean bong.

Is There a Better Way to Cool Smoke?

Yes! Weedgets

Imagine taking all the positive aspects of bongs—cool, smooth hits; filtration; and the sanctity of a smoke sesh—now compress it into a convenient device you can carry in your pocket. Wave a magic wand and you've got the Maze-X Pipe by Weedgets.

This innovative device revolutionizes the smoking experience by providing a way to cool and filter smoke using a series of maze-like pathways, ensuring a clean hit without the hassle of water or the risk of inhaling bong water bacteria or a lot of resin. The Maze-X Pipe is designed for those who love the ritual of smoking but crave the convenience and health-conscious design modern lifestyles demand. The mastermind behind Weedgets is Michael Barenboym, a mechanical engineer with numerous patents and many medical device inventions to his name. Barenboym applied his expertise to transforming cannabis consumption.

I brought the Maze-X Pipe to a cannabis event recently and the sleek design was a hit. They liked the maze! Attendees were impressed with its ability to deliver a pure, enjoyable smoke, preserving the quality of the cannabis without losing any potency. 

Upgrade to Medical Grade

The high-tech (ha ha, pun intended) of the  Weedgets Maze-X Pipe bridges the gap between a pure smoking experience and the necessity for harm reduction. Low tech tools like -- awareness and mindfulness -- are useful approaches to smoking cannabis too.

Awareness helps us find that sweet spot between potential risk and therapeutic use since smoking has a dual nature. Cannabis smoke contains by-products associated with smoking-related diseases, but the plant itself has cannabinoids with potential anti-carcinogenic effects. Here's a study that underscores the smoking paradox which lends credibility, yet also serves as a reminder of the importance of informed and mindful use.

Ultimately, the best smoking experience, recreational or therapeutic,  is a mindful one that relies on keeping to a personalized dose. Weedgets Maze-X Pipe may provide this for you.

The Cannabis Nurses Section of Tips and Tricks:

Note to tokers everywhere: it's not important, necessary or better to take a huge deep hit of smoke and it's especially not important to hold that inhale in your lungs.

The tendency to inhale deeply and hold your breath when smoking pot means you’re often exposed to oxygen deprivation and more tar per breath. Sip, don't rip!

Use Dr. Sulak's Secret Breath Technique: Take a small puff and breathe in fresh air then begin exhaling with pursed lips. When you see smoke or vapor leave the lips start inhaling fresh air again and repeat the exhalation. Start with two repetitions of inhalation and exhalation. This creates pressure in the lungs to expand the surface area in the lungs and better absorb cannabinoids. The goal here is to maximize cannabinoid absorption for bioavailability and minimize the particulate and tar inhalation leading to less hits over time.

A Nurses Word of Caution

Here's the good news: it is generally agreed that cannabinoids influence well over a hundred different biological actions that are pertinent to overall health and wellness. For many, cannabis provides symptom relief where conventional medications fall short. That said, in order to keep using  cannabis over time, especially via inhalation, intention is key. Mindfulness maintains the benefits.

Next week: how to get symptom relief with cannabis by using minor cannabinoids along with THC.  By alternating and layering in different methods of consumption like tinctures, topicals and edibles and branching out into some of the minor cannabinoids, we'll explore the many methods of mixing and matching, all the while keeping your THC content manageable.

Always prioritize your health and well-being in your cannabis journey, and remember to consult healthcare professionals for personalized advice.

Further Research and Readings

Earlenbaugh, E. (2023, February 1). Smoking Cannabis Not Associated With Impaired Lung Functioning in Latest Study. Forbes.

Oilax. (n.d.). Study Indicates Weed Vaporizer Usage Poses Less Risk for Toxin Exposure.

Health Canada. (2023). Canadian Cannabis Survey 2023 Summary.

NORML. (2020, March 5). Survey: Smoking Cannabis Remains Most Popular Method of Ingestion.

United Patients Group. (n.d.). Weedgets Maze X Pipe: A Healthier Way to Smoke.

Howe, S. (n.d.). How Does a Bong Work? Healthline

Analytical Cannabis. (n.d.). Young Cannabis Consumers Still Prefer Bongs, Study Finds.

Cedars-Sinai. (n.d.). Bronchitis.

Leafbuyer. (n.d.). Ice Cubes in Your Bong: Yes or No?.

MAPS. (1994). Marijuana Water Pipe and Vaporizer Study

Science Daily. (2022, February 3). Study shows potential of cannabis to lessen the severity of COVID-19.

National Library of Medicine. (2018, January 5). Bronchial injury with severe hemorrhage following cannabis inhalation.

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