The Why of the High:
How long should you hold your inhale?
When I was growing up, holding in a massive hit for 5 seconds was supposed to get you higher: “If you don’t cough, you don’t get off,” went one popular stoner catchphrase. And while it’s cute, it’s dead wrong, according to scientists who’ve been studying the question and discerning myth from fact.
There are two main cannabinoids in cannabis: THC and CBD. THC gets you high; CBD is responsible for most of the healing. To learn how to maximize both of these wonderful molecules I turned to Mimi Peleg, the woman who has probably taught more people how to properly use cannabis than anyone. That’s not an exaggeration. Before moving to Santa Cruz where she now works as a “cannabis lifestyle manage,” at the Green Acres dispensary (you’ve got to love the hippies) Mimi trained about 3,000 patients in Israel’s medical cannabis program. With some 20,000 patients, it’s the largest state sponsored medical cannabis program in the world. Every month, patients get 20g of cannabis (the $100 cost is covered by national insurance), but all patients must be trained to smoke properly. Having read every scientific study and having access to the world’s greatest cannabis scientists, Mimi has concluded that holding in smoke for longer than a second is not necessary.
Cannabinoids are absorbed into the blood in milliseconds, so there is no reason to keep smoke that contains plant matter, tars and other pollutants in the lungs any longer.
However, holding in smoke can be useful when showing the uninitiated how to inhale properly. “I usually instruct newbies or elderly people to hold it for a few seconds so they don’t just put it in their mouth and blow it out. This ensures they get something into their lungs.” She also instructs newbies to take 50% air to avoid violent coughing. (That kind of eruption is the result of a large portion of THC, an oil based molecule, hitting the water based lining of the lungs. Remember, oil and water don’t mix).
More important than the time you hold the inhalation is how deeply you hold it. Shallow breathing fills about .5 of a liter of the lungs. Deeper breathing fills the lungs with up to 5 liters of air. That means that 10 times the amount of cannabinoids are getting into the bloodstream. A deeper breath will get you a deeper experience.
As to smoke or vapor, the answer is: It depends on your goals. Obviously, vapor has less pollutants, so it’s cleaner. (Note: no study has ever linked permanent lung damage to cannabis smoke, probably because the anti-inflammatory effects counter the irritating effects of smoke). But vapor contains fewer terpenes and flavonoids, so the range of the high is limited. It’s clear, but not as powerful. Everyone notices that.
A few additional bits of cannabinolgy:
· Grind weed well, especially if you’re vaping as you’ll maximum surface area.
· If you’re smoking in a pipe turn it on its side while lighting to avoid burning fingers
· If you’re super sensitive use a match as opposed to a lighter which contains butane. The Hippies in Santa Cruz only use a beeswax candle, says Peleg.
· Mix your strains: “Growers don’t want to hear that this, but I don’t care what wins the Cup: If you smoke one strain for a month you won’t get as high. Especially, if you are a seasoned user [and have a tolerance]. The only thing that will help is to mix the strains because they have different terpenes and flavonoids which hit different receptors. This works for a vape and a joint.”