What Is a Bong, How Does It Work, and How Do You Use It?
Today we’re going to address a four-letter word. A word that many have avoided talking about in the not-too-distant past. But now with cannabis legalization spreading around the country, we can feel free to say it.
We’re talking about the all-mighty bong, AKA water pipe or bubbler.
Why do we say almighty? Because for thousands of years, the bong has played an important role in helping civilizations around the world enjoy the benefits of our favorite herb – including its spiritual benefits.
But before we get to that, let’s first address the questions:
What is a Bong?
A bong is a pipe that contains water – hence the term water pipe.
How Does a Bong Work?
The way it works is that as you inhale the smoke, the water in the tube cools and filters the cannabis smoke. Although the bong has served an important purpose throughout history, it has been villainized by law enforcement and other government agencies.
Operation Pipe Dreams
Back in 2003, the DEA spent $12 million dollars on a year-long undercover investigation called “Operation Pipe Dreams”.
In case you wonder what type of dangerous criminals this multi-million-dollar investigation targeted – it was those who sold smoking paraphernalia. Specifically, glass water pipes or bongs.
You may be familiar with the big bad “criminal” Operation Pipe Dreams took down. It was Tommy Chong of Cheech and Chong fame. He was busted for selling bongs. And although Tommy Chong requested probation, the Judge slapped him with a nine-month prison sentence.
Just to be clear, Tommy Chong went to prison for selling glass pipes, not cannabis, just glass. Instead of calling it Operation Pipe Dreams, they should have called it Operation Up In Smoke – as in the 12 million taxpayer dollars that went up in smoke due to this frivolous investigation.
History of the Bong
Fortunately, things have changed since those dark days in cannabis history – with many now being free to buy glass water pipes and cannabis legally.
It might surprise you to hear not all of the history associated with bongs is bad. In fact, the opposite is true. For most of history, bongs have been seen as an important item that can help make the cannabis experience more enjoyable.
You could even say bongs experienced a “golden age” and it may have occurred much further back in history than you think. But before we get to that, let’s look into the history of the word “bong.”
One of the first times the word “bong” was documented in the western hemisphere was in the McFarland Thai-English Dictionary. Published in 1944, it defined the word bong as “a bamboo water pipe for smoking kancha, tree, hashish, or the hemp plant.”
The origins of the bong, however, seem to go back much further than that.
So, if you’re wondering: “when was the first bong ever made?” We have to go back much further in time to answer that.
The 2,400-year-old Golden Bong
In 2013 archeologists discovered a 2,400-year-old Scythian burial mound in what is today Southern Russia.
Inside the burial mound they found various gold items including two gold bongs. The interesting thing about these bongs is that they tested positive for cannabis and opium residue.1
The Scythians were an ancient tribe of nomadic warriors back in the 5th century BC. It’s believed they would smoke the mix of cannabis and opium before heading off to battle. And it seems their use of cannabis was not just limited to pre-war rituals – or bongs.
When Was the First Vape Made?
In addition to helping prepare them for battle, cannabis also seemed to play an important role in Scythian burial rituals. They were said to sit in covered tents following the burial of loved ones. The Scythians would heat hemp seeds on hot stones and breathe the vapors in, evidence of one of the first vapes. It’s believed they did this as a way of communing with those who had passed on to the spiritual world. Learn more about the History of Vaping.
It seems the Scythians weren’t alone in using cannabis in important spiritual rituals either.
Did the Ancient Hebrews Enjoy the Good Herb?
Evidence has emerged indicating that ancient Hebrews may have enjoyed the good herb more than 2,600 years ago. Although not related to a bong, it’s interesting to note that archeologists discovered traces of cannabis on an ancient Israelite altar in the Judahite Shrine of Tel Arad in the Negev desert in Israel.
The site was first discovered in the 1960s and is believed to date back to sometime between the ninth and sixth centuries BC. The fact that cannabis residue was found on an altar in the most sacred part of the shrine could indicate that cannabis played a very important role in their religious rituals.
If true, that means cannabis has served an important role in the spiritual and religious lives of people around the world for nearly 3,000 years! That’s certainly an interesting tidbit of cannabis history.
Now, let’s get to the part many of you came here to learn: how to use a bong.
How Does a Bong Work?
Using a bong for the first time can be intimidating – especially if you’re doing it in front of others. If this applies to you, have no fear. We’re going to give you the basics of what you need to know about how to use a bong.
Let’s start by covering the different parts of the bong. There are essentially four different parts to a bong:
- Chamber – the main part of the bong that holds the water
- Downstem – a small tube that sticks into the bottom part of the chamber
- Mouthpiece – where you place your mouth, usually at the top of the bong
- Bowl – the small removable container that holds your dry cannabis flower
How to Smoke Out of a Bong – A Step-by-Step Guide
Step 1: Add Water to the Chamber of Your Bong
Add clean water into the chamber of your bong but not too much – just enough so the water is about one inch above the end of the downstem. If you want to enjoy a cool hit, consider chilling your water ahead of time.
Step 2: Grind Your Weed
Using a grinder is the best way to break up your bud before placing it into your bowl. If not, you can use scissors or your fingers to break your bud up into a nice and even consistency.
Just be aware that using your fingers can lead to the loss of terpenes.
Step 3: Pack Your Bowl
Place your ground flower into the bowl. Don’t pack the weed too tightly because doing so can restrict air flow.
Before lighting up, make sure you’re near a table or countertop so you can place the bong down if you start coughing. Also, make sure the area you’re smoking in is safe for doing so and that there are no flammables nearby.
Step 4: Grab Your Bong
If you’re right-handed, grab the bong with your left hand. If you are left-handed, grab it with your right. Hold the bong near the bottom of the chamber.
Helpful Tip: Take a breath before lighting your bong. This will help make it easier to inhale and help you avoid coughing.
Step 5: Place Your Mouth on The Mouthpiece and Light the Bowl
Place your lips inside the mouthpiece and try to avoid any gaps that could let the smoke escape.
Hold your lighter to the bowl and apply the flame just above the bowl. Breathe in gently to draw the smoke into the chamber. Once you’re happy with the amount of smoke in the chamber, stop inhaling and set your lighter down.
Step 6: Pull the Bowl Out of the Stem and Inhale
With the hand that you just placed the lighter down with, grab the bowl and lift it out of the stem. You are now ready to inhale that cloud of THC goodness into your lungs.
Does Holding in Weed Smoke Get You Higher?
Contrary to what you may have heard, there doesn’t seem to be a benefit to holding in the smoke before exhaling. So, you can just inhale and exhale when you are ready. Once you’ve exhaled, place the bowl back in the stem.
If you took too large of a hit and there is still smoke left in the chamber you can hold your hand over the top of your bong . When you’re ready to clear out the rest, lift the bowl and inhale.
Once you’re done using your bong, dump out the water and give it a quick rinse to remove any residue before putting it away. Getting in the habit of doing this can help keep your bong cleaner and reduce the amount of time you’ll have to put into cleaning it over the long term.
Learn about more helpful weed tips: Field Trip Cannabis Guide
There you have it. The basics of how to enjoy your bong.
Often once someone gets the hang of hitting a bong, one of the first questions that comes up is: how much does a bong cost?
How Much Do Bongs Cost?
The answer will depend on the size, the material your bong is made of, and how many chambers it has. Glass seems to be the material of choice since it stands up to heat well and won’t impact the flavor of your bud. Bongs made from silicone can also be suitable and less expensive than glass.
As far as the price of a bong, it can range from:
- $20 for a small silicone bong
- $80 for a medium-sized glass bong
- $100+ for larger and more ornate glass bongs
What if you can’t make it to your local head shop to pick up a bong? Well, you can try to make your own bong.
But, unless you have the skills and tools to be able to drill through glass, you may be limited to plastic bongs – which can be good for one-time use but not best over the long term.
How to Make a Bong
Let’s talk about a bong that can be made with something most people have around the house, a plastic bottle. with the lid removed. When it comes to how big your bottle should be, the larger the better. Perhaps something along the lines of a bottle that holds between 16 – 32 ounces of liquid.
- Remove the bottle cap and rinse out your bottle.
- Fill the bottle about ¼ full with clean water.
- Make a small hole just above the water line. This is where you’ll insert a small tube to create your downstem. Insert the so it’s angled downward and the bottom of the tube is submerged in the water. If you don’t have a small tube, you can use a hollowed-out pen.
- Place a small nug into the opening at the top of the downstem.
- Put your mouth at the opening at the top of your bottle, light your bud, inhale, and enjoy!
Optional: Make a small hole a few centimeters below the neck of your bottle to create a carb.
This is just one way to make your own bong. If you have the skills and access to tools that can drill through glass, then you can really get creative in making some pretty cool bongs – while making use of those nice empty glass bottles you may have around the house.
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If you live close to a Bloom dispensary in Missouri, make sure to ask your Bloom budtender about Field Trip Flower so you can enjoy some premium, terpene-rich cannabis that’s grown in MO.