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Puff, cough, pass? Five easy ways to avoid a sore throat from smoking cannabis

Don’t let tickles and tingles get in the way

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    Smoking weed can be a love-hate relationship for many.

    Canadians, especially non-medical users, seem to love smoking cannabis. But the afterglow of that treasured toke oftentimes leads to a not-so-loveable condition: sore throat.

    Puff, cough, pass? Five easy ways to avoid a sore throat from smoking cannabis Back to video

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    “I have been using cannabis for 24 years, but whenever I would smoke, I would experience a burning sensation in my throat and lungs,” says Paul Svoboda, hemp and cannabis aficionado from Spain, who runs the YouTube channel, CBD Love. For Svoboda, the symptoms of sore throat included “excessive saliva production, extremely dry cough, dry nose and difficulty breathing and tasting.”

    An ideal smoke session shouldn’t leave a person’s throat feeling sore and irritated. To avoid such a situation, cannabis users share their tricks and tips:

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    Consider switching to a vape

    “I definitely experienced a difference between smoking and vaping,” says Lily Hall, founder of The High Blog, a cannabis centric lifestyle platform. Hall has been using cannabis for about five years to relieve migraines. “I find that vaping gives a smoother, cleaner puff,” she adds.

    Matthew Lunde, director of media for Harvest Medicine, agrees, “Don’t smoke, vaporize. There’s much less wear and tear when inhaling something that isn’t on fire.”

    Vaping heats the cannabis without burning it—that means releasing no smoke—with the help of a vaporizer. Since cannabis is heated and not burned, this consumption method tends to produce fewer carcinogens, cancer-causing agents, than smoking.

    “Vaping is more flavourful, too,” says Hall. “I tend to use less flower when vaporizing versus smoking. It’s easier to control just how medicated you want to be. You can go for a light session or a stronger one with the click of a button,” she notes.

    Here’s what not to do when vaping: “I tend to get a sore throat when vaporizing at higher temperatures. On lower temperatures, it’s smoother than smoking,” explains Hall.

    Add lemon juice to the bong

    “While using a bong, use hot water with a hint of lemon juice—it’s soothing and easy on the throat,” Lunde recommends.

    The benefits of adding lemon juice just doesn’t end there. “When using a bong, adding just two drops to the water prevents a gunky mess from forming. The lemon juice also helps kill the disgusting bong water smell and keeps things fresh,” Honest Marijuana reports.

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    Sip on lemon and chamomile tea

    When smoking a joint, a glass of water goes a long way. Additionally, “lemon and chamomile tea is great on the throat if it’s getting sore,” Hall shares. “If you find the tickles and tingles just won’t go away, a warm salt rinse helps,” she adds.

    “I always have hot tea, coffee or water with me when I’m vaping,” says Doug, a medical patient from Winnipeg. “Tea with honey is also a great option. In fact, I sometimes even gargle with mouthwash if my throat is irritated.”

    Oil pulling

    “By naturally coating the mouth, gums and throat with natural coconut oil, oil pulling greatly reduces irritation in the throat,” Svoboda says.

    Oil pulling is an ancient health remedy that helps maintain oral health. “In order to oil pull, put a tablespoon of oil in your mouth, then swish it around for 15 to 20 minutes,” Healthline recommends.

    “Depending on your preference, you can do this daily or once per week/month. Also, add a few drops of tea tree oil to water and gargle with it. It will almost instantly stop the pain,” Svoboda recommends.

    Ditch the old cannabis

    Old is gold, but the same might not hold for marijuana.

    For those experiencing sore throat, expired cannabis, especially one not purchased from a certified source, can be the cause. Photo by FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty Images

    “Cannabis is a natural organism, which means, like any other plant or flower, it will always be vulnerable to factors like mites, fungus, mould, weather, overzealous watering, excess light and heat, and various deficiencies, such as phosphorus, nitrogen, iron and calcium deficiencies,” says Dr. Jordan Tishler, in The GrowthOp article, Is it possible for medical cannabis to go bad?

    For those experiencing sore throat, expired cannabis, especially one not purchased from a certified source, can be the cause. Doug, who has been using medical cannabis for the past four years, agrees. “Cannabis, especially if it’s old, or not properly flushed, can be very hard on the throat.”

    Want to keep up to date on what’s happening in the world of cannabis? Subscribe to the Cannabis Post newsletter for weekly insights into the industry, what insiders will be talking about and content from across the Postmedia Network.

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    Don’t let tickles and tingles get in the way

    Why Does Weed Make You Cough?

    If you’ve experienced a coughing fit after smoking cannabis, you’re not alone. It’s a common, natural response to smoke inhalation.

    Sometimes, though, coughing can occur even when you’re not smoking. This is more likely to happen if you regularly smoke cannabis.

    To learn why smoking cannabis can make you cough, read on. We’ll also explore how smoking cannabis might affect lung health, along with the risk of lung cancer.

    Your throat and lungs are lined with sensory nerves. They work to detect irritating substances, like smoke, in your airways.

    If you inhale an irritant, the nerves send signals throughout your respiratory tract. This produces a cough reflex, which helps you get rid of the irritating substance. The goal is to protect your respiratory tract, and ultimately, your lungs.

    This is what happens when you smoke cannabis. The smoke irritates your airways, causing your nerves to trigger a cough reflex. It’s a normal reaction to inhaling any kind of smoke.

    Research suggests that coughing related to cannabis smoking is usually due to short-term effects, rather than long-term damage. Let’s take a look at the research.

    Bronchitis

    According to a 2013 review, smoking cannabis causes tiny injuries to the large airways, or bronchi. Your bronchi are the passages that connect your trachea (windpipe) to your lungs.

    This increases your risk for chronic bronchitis, or inflamed bronchi, which causes frequent coughing. Chronic bronchitis typically goes away when you stop regularly smoking.

    Defense against infection

    Habitual smoking also decreases cilia in the airways. Cilia are small hairs that filter out particles and germs. And though habitual smoking reduces your lungs’ defense against infection, it isn’t associated with long-term damage, according to the 2013 review.

    Long-term lung function

    A 2012 study specifically examined the link between smoking cannabis and long-term lung function over a 20-year period. The researchers found that occasional smoking wasn’t linked to adverse lung function.

    Though they speculated that heavy smoking can cause lasting damage, they weren’t able to make a solid conclusion. The study lacked enough participants who heavily smoked cannabis.

    It’s worth noting that smoking cannabis is associated with lasting lung damage if you also smoke tobacco. In a 2016 study , people who smoked cannabis and tobacco were more likely to have impaired lung function than those who only smoked tobacco.

    Despite these findings, scientists are still learning how smoking cannabis affects lung health over time. More long-term studies are necessary.

    According to a 2020 study , cannabis smoke contains 110 compounds with potentially toxic properties. Sixty-nine of these compounds are also found in tobacco smoke. As a result, many people wonder if smoking cannabis can cause lung cancer.

    The research is mixed. A 2015 meta-analysis found a weak link between long-term cannabis smoking and lung cancer risk. An older 2006 study also found no association between long-term smoking and lung cancer.

    However, a 2013 study , which spanned over 40 years, found that frequently smoking cannabis doubles the risk of lung cancer. The association persisted after the researchers adjusted their data for tobacco use, alcohol consumption, and respiratory disease.

    Similarly, an older 2008 study found a connection between cannabis smoking and lung cancer after adjusting for cigarette smoking.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that it’s difficult to confirm a solid link. That’s because cannabis use often occurs alongside other behaviors that increase lung cancer risk, including cigarette smoking.

    Therefore, more studies are needed involving people who smoke cannabis and not cigarettes.

    It’s also possible for lung cancer to cause coughing. In this case, the coughing will be persistent or get worse over time. Other common symptoms of lung cancer include:

    • coughing blood
    • chest pain
    • hoarseness
    • poor appetite
    • unexplained weight loss
    • fatigue
    • new wheezing
    • shortness of breath

    Keep in mind that coughing has many potential causes. If you’re concerned about your coughing, visit your doctor.

    As mentioned earlier, regularly smoking cannabis can lead to chronic bronchitis. Bronchitis is considered chronic if you have coughing and mucus for at least 3 months for 2 consecutive years.

    Since chronic bronchitis causes persistent coughing, you’ll likely cough even when you’re not smoking. The cough might come and go, and it might get worse on some days. You may also have wheezing.

    If you have chronic bronchitis due to smoking cannabis, quitting will decrease your symptoms.

    Smoke can produce a cough reflex, which is your body’s way of getting rid of irritants. Researchers are still studying the long-term effects of smoking cannabis.