It’s more usual to think of green tea as something we drink. In recent years, smoking green tea has also become popular.
Green tea cigarettes gained favor in Vietnam decades ago. It’s also been a recent trend in America.
The green tea plant (Camellia sinensis) — also the source of oolong, black, and white tea — has many health benefits.
In tea form, it’s been consumed for health and ritualistic purposes for thousands of years. Many other types of tea plants have also been smoked for spiritual and health uses throughout history.People smoke green tea for these reasons and more, such as to help quit tobacco cigarette addiction.However, studies on these benefits, risks, and safety of smoking green tea are lacking.
Health effects of smoking tea
The health benefits of drinking tea are supported by scienceTrusted Source.
There’s no research on the health benefits of smoking tea, however. Its beneficial compounds could possibly be absorbed more quickly into the bloodstream through the lungs. But smoking, or inhaling anything burning, is unhealthy.
Regardless, people who smoke green tea report certain health benefits.
I decided to investigate by trying this out myself. To this day, people ask us if smoking tea is okay.
The most common questions include:
- Is it “good” for you? Could this be a substitute for drinking it?
- Do you absorb caffeine? What about theanine?
- Does it help you quit smoking cigarettes/cannabis?
- Do you get high?
- Does it relax you?
- Is it safe?
I chose four different teas to smoke, on separate days, to gauge how I felt. I chose two black teas and two green teas: a basic black tea bag, a loose leaf blended lapsang souchong (Zheng Shang Xiao Zhong) with herbs and fruit, an orthodox green tea from Darjeeling, and a sencha from Japan. To be clear, we are talking about actual tea, from Camellia sinensis, and not any of the other varied herbs and plants out there that people might also like to smoke.
I don’t smoke tobacco anymore (I used to) but I still remember how to roll a cigarette. The consistency of the leaves was difficult to roll, but I managed. All in all, the smoke of the two black teas was smooth but heavy, kind of like pipe tobacco. The tea bag made me fairly lightheaded. They were both aromatic and the smokiness of the lapsang souchong especially reminded me of tobacco. The tea didn’t burn very well due to uneven leaf size, moisture content, etc. The Indian green was herbaceous but also smoother than you’d think. The sencha has quite harsh and didn’t make me feel good at all, I got a bit nauseous afterward. All in all, they all left me with a very heavy feeling in my chest and my throat felt coated in a kind of film that was unpleasant. My tongue also went slightly numb.
Does it relax you? Does it get you high?
People who have tried this have claimed to feel relaxed after doing so. I felt more numb than relaxed. I can report that smoking tea does not get you high, however, you are inhaling carbon monoxide which can make you lightheaded. After all, how could it make you high? Which, if any, of the psychotropic compounds in tea would make you hallucinate? The two most prevalent of these compounds, caffeine and L-theanine, do not cause hallucinatory effects, even in very high doses. Too much caffeine does lead to nausea and dizziness, a common side-effect of smoking tea.
This sentiment also keeps popping up in forums and article comments in relation to getting tea-high: “Green tea is an agonist of the CB1 receptor in the brain, cannabinoid 1. This is the same receptor that is also a receptor for THC delta 9, found in cannabis.”
What is this supposed to indicate? Different neurotransmitters binding to the same receptor don’t necessarily produce the same effect. Also, it’s not clear why smoking versus drinking tea would produce different effects at the cannabinoid receptors. In effect, just because compounds in tea may interact with these receptors, doesn’t mean it’s getting you “high”. The role of the cannabinoid receptors is, after all, to regulate mood, memory, appetite, etc.
Is smoking tea legal?
Green tea beverage is legal to buy and consume. There are no regulations on the herb as an illegal drug or substance. It can be consumed legally in any way a person would like, including publicly.
Green tea can also be legally purchased as a smoking blend or pre-fabricated cigarette. You can also purchase green tea for drinking purposes and smoke it instead, if desired.
Laws that apply to smoking areas, secondhand smoke, and smoking in enclosed areas most likely apply to smoking green tea. If you can’t smoke tobacco cigarettes in certain areas, you won’t be able to smoke green tea cigarettes there, either.
Do you absorb caffeine or L-theanine?
It seems that you do. Caffeine vape pens have hit the market as well, but this means that you need to be more careful with highly caffeinated tea since it’s not (new word, not modulated) like in a vape pen, and as mentioned above, can lead to nausea and dizziness. It’s not clear by any study I’ve read that theanine can be absorbed when inhaled in the form of smoke.
Could it help you quit smoking?
It seems some have reported this to be the case, but as someone who used to smoke and doesn’t anymore, I find it fairly (word choice) dubious that to quit smoking one substance you need to smoke another. I think the best way to quit smoking… is to quit smoking.
Is it good for you?
This needs to be stated clearly: smoking tea will never be as good for you as drinking tea. Period. End of story. Even if you were to take out the monumental factor of carbon monoxide being bad for you, there just isn’t any evidence that you are absorbing beneficial compounds by burning them. In fact, it is self-evident that this process destroys those compounds. Smoke may have a direct pathway to the bloodstream, but this isn’t the goal of good tea.