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Smoking CBD: Should You Do It, and Is It Safe?


The cannabis market has exploded in recent years with all sorts of CBD and hemp products. Logically, the question arises over how you should administer the product. Should you ingest it orally? That’s the most common and simplest way. How about smoking CBD? There is certainly that whole stigma of being a stoner and hippy associated with this route. More importantly, is it safe to smoke CBD, and are there benefits that you don’t get from oral ingestion?

Smoking CBD Increases Bioavailability

How you use CBD matters as it affects the bioavailability rate. Applying CBD oil topically, for example, is great for relieving muscle aches but otherwise has little bioavailability as the liquid does not enter the bloodstream.

Ingesting CBD is a little better, but this means the contents enter your lengthy digestive tracts (all 30-feet of it!) before reaching your bloodstream. As such, the effects may not be immediate. It’s also estimated that CBD via ingestion has a bioavailability of about 15%. That means if you were to take 100 milligrams of CBD, only 15 milligrams would make it into your bloodstream.

Why is this? CBD is a hydrophobic substance, meaning it’s not that water-soluble. Non-water-soluble substances do not remain in the bloodstream for long; they diffuse and shuttle into other parts of the body.

Another problematic factor is what is known as the first-pass effect. CBD enters the liver before reaching the bloodstream. Digestive enzymes in this organ chemically break down much of the CBD into unusable components, hence the roughly 15% bioavailability. The first-pass effect is what ultimately limits the bioavailability of just about anything you consume, including food.

This is why smoking CBD oil is a preferable option for some; it increases absorption rate by an estimated 50% to 60%.

Some users also smoke CBD to bypass the strong taste. CBD extract, especially the full spectrum variety with multiple cannabinoids and terpenes, may have a distinct and noticeable texture on the palate that gives some users the yucky face.

Before we move on, we want to point out that we are not discouraging CBD use via oral consumption in any way. This remains the most common method of administration due to ease and convenience. However, it’s just a matter of anatomical and scientific fact that oral ingestion is not the most effective method from a bioavailable standpoint.

Is Smoking CBD Safe?

Can you smoke CBD oil?

Smoking anything in general has a severely negative connotation due to the well-documented hazards of cigarette smoking. It should be noted, though, that hemp and CBD extract do not contain nicotine, so it does not have that addictive effect. In fact, CBD use may actually aid in curbing tobacco addiction.

A 2013 double-blind study at the University College of London revealed that CBD use reduced cravings for cigarette smoke by 40%. It should be noted, though, that this was a limited pilot study with a small test sample. Obviously, more long-term research is needed.

Various studies are also available regarding cannabis smoking and lung cancer. Findings in this area so far have been mostly inconclusive1. Currently, there is no evidence that smoking CBD causes lung cancer.

What About Side Effects?

Since smoking CBD has higher bioavailability, you may be at a greater risk of overconsumption particularly if you’re sensitive to the compound. This is not harmful but may lead to mild side-effects. While CBD in small doses stimulate the body, too much can have a sedative effect. This may lead to drowsiness, which can become a safety hazard if driving or operating machinery. Other potential side effects include dry mouth, lightheadedness, and low blood pressure.

Does It Get You High?

When you think about smoking CBD, you can’t help but think about the stoner stereotype and 20-something-year-olds smoking in their van or their parents’ basement. Contrary to the popular belief, though, CBD does not get you high unless the extract also contains the cannabinoid THC. The vast majority of CBD and hemp extracts do not contain or have minimal traces of THC since concentrations above 0.3% are against federal law.

CBD alone is non-psychoactive, and taking it – whether through ingestion or inhaling – produces a therapeutic and relaxing effect.

CBD Smoking Vs. Vaping

If you’re still on the fences about smoking CBD but would rather not ingest it, then vaping is a third option. Vaping should not be confused with smoking. The former is a huge trend especially with the exploding popularity of vape pens. Even celebrities have jumped on the bandwagon. Hollywood A-listers seen vaping include Katy Perry, Dave Navarro, Jack Black, Samuel L. Jackson, and America’s favorite zombie slayer Norman Reedus. Are they vaping CBD? Who knows, but it’s a viable alternative if you’re concerned about potential long-term health woes of smoking CBD.

Why Choose Vaping? Like smoking, it doesn’t produce the strong taste from oral ingestion via tincture bottle. It also enters straight through the lungs, making the content just as bioavailable. Unlike smoking, though, it doesn’t produce the smoke that reaches your respiratory system, which is what most folks are worried about.

The Best Way to Use CBD Extract

So, with a primer on CBD smoking out of the way, is this the best way to reap the benefits of the scientifically-proven cannabinoid? Is it better to vape? Or are you better off just squeezing a few drops into your tongue and letting it dissolve? There is no uniform answer; how you decide to administer CBD extract is totally up to you. Some people stick to a single method, while others use one or more depending on their mood or preference of the day. Regardless of how you take it, the benefits of CBD are far-reaching and long validated by independent research.

Our Final Word

The latest scientific research has not yielded any detrimental effects of smoking CBD. However, the research into this specific area remains scant. If smoking worries you, other methods are available, so don’t think you’re shortchanging yourself by resorting to other methods of application. Use whatever means you find agreeable.

Medical References

Ribeiro L, Ind P. Effect of cannabis smoking on lung function and respiratory symptoms: a structured literature review. NPJ Prim Care Respir Med. 2016;26:16071-. [PMC]
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Melissa Miller

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