What is Shisha? Everything You've Asked Across The Internet

What is Shisha? Everything You’ve Asked Across The Internet

If you don’t know the answer to the question of what shisha is, chances are that you are a beginner who is just scratching the surface of this whole world and years old tradition of smoking shisha, or you just want to know the meaning of this popular term that you’ve heard somewhere.

In both cases, I have answered all the questions you might be looking for around the Internet. In this post, I explained everything that someone like you could ask, from the meaning of shisha as a word to the types of shisha, and if you are serious about this, there are some of the world’s top shisha flavors and brands you could buy.

Now, let’s go back to the past and see where this tradition has begun.

This is What you’ll Learn Today

Introduction To Hookah History

the history of hookah in India and Persia

According to various sources, hookah (also commonly known as shisha) has origins in India and Persia. From the Indian subcontinent, it is believed to have then gained popularity across Persia.

In both, however, hookah became popular even though tobacco was not commonly smoked because it used to be considered a “drug”. It can be said that it was accepted also because it was liked and enjoyed by the royal/noble people of the time around 1542–1605 AD.

According to Sivaramakrishnan (2001), a Persian physician to the Mughal emperor Abul-Fath Gilani is to be credited to be the person who researches trace back to be the inventor of hookah. The variation of that original design is the great hookah/shisha we smoke today!

Therefore, you now know exactly who to think of and thank every time you grab yourself a hookah to smoke and enjoy!

Ever wondered where the word “hookah” comes from?

In Hindi, the language spoken in India, hookah was referred to as “huqqa” and it is derived from Arabic origins, which means “bottle” or “water pipe.”

What Culture is Shisha From?

Many mistake shisha to have originated from the Arabs, however, that is because they were heavily influenced by it too and adapted it within their own culture too.

It was the activity of older men of a house to sit together and smoke what most Arab countries call “nargile”. Similarly, the Turkish people adapted it within their own culture during the 17th century, and the latest to hop on the bandwagon were the Americans, Canadians.

Not long ago, it was not common to find hookah to be a popular choice in the West, but today we find that there are thousands of stores dedicated to shisha.

So, What Exactly is Shisha?

three steps process of preparing the shisha for the smoking session

Shisha or hookah tobacco is a mixture of dried fruits or herbs, tobacco, glycerin, and molasses. It was commonly used for enjoyment and relaxing for centuries.

In the west, shisha is a popular name for hookah tobacco. Generally, these often fruity flavors, contain large doses of nicotine, although there are many variations of shisha tobacco which we’ll discuss later in this article. There are so many different companies that produce hookah tobacco, one of the oldest among them is Nakhla, at the same time one of the shishas with a higher amount of nicotine content.

A high level of nicotine in hookah tobacco or shisha will make you feel relaxed and that is the whole purpose of smoking shisha.

I need to mention that there are also various blends without nicotine. In the modern world, companies started making shisha without nicotine, but is it a good substitute for real hookah tobacco? You’ll find out in the following sections.

Now you know where shisha came from and what’s the meaning and purpose of it, so let’s move on.

What is the Exact Meaning of The Word “Shisha”?

other words for shisha

Many countries have different ways to refer to hookah. It is common to find “Narghile”, “Hubbly bubbly”, “Huqqa”, “Hookah”, “Shisha”, “Chicha”. The word “Shisha” is derived from the Turkish word for “Glass bottle”, which is also the same in Hindi, Urdu, and Arabic. The reference to the base of the hookah, as is often made of glass.

The name is now the most popular way to refer to hookah across the world. I’m interested in knowing, how do you refer to it, you can tell me in the comment section, but throughout this article, I will be using “hookah” and “shisha” to refer to our favorite activity so that at no point should any of you feel left out!

What’s Hookah Tobacco Made Of?

process of making hookah tobacco

Hookah tobacco contains tobacco leaves at its base that are mixed with molasses, glycerin, and honey. This adds to its distinct sweet flavors and moisture that makes it smoother than dry tobacco that could taste harsh.

After which the tobacco is flavored with extracts that could either be chemical or natural extracts, depending on the company.

Some use natural extracts whereas others use chemicals. Natural extracts could come from fruit or other materials that have flavor. This changes the texture and quality of the flavor.

What is The Difference Between Shisha and Cigarettes?

difference between cigarettes and shishaThe difference between shisha and cigarettes is that cigarettes are relatively less filtered than hookah as hookah smoke passes through a water filter before being consumed. Other differences include: cigarettes use dry tobacco that is not moistened by molasses and is filtered through a cotton butt.

Cigarettes do not contain flavored tobacco as hookah does. In terms of health benefits, they are comparatively the same, hookah could be considered worse than cigarettes as it is smoked for a longer duration and the harmful effects of tobacco still pose a health risk to both consumers. like many before you I suppose you are wondering…

Is Shisha Worse Than Cigarettes?

It is a common myth that hookah is a safer alternative to smoking. It may be thought that shisha is a healthier alternative to cigarettes as it does not burn the throat or because it is filtered by water, however, when comparing both smoking methods, cigarette smokers inhale lesser amounts of tobacco due to it burning harsher and they don’t necessarily smoke in large volumes.

An average hookah session can last up to an hour with smokers taking longer inhales and consuming larger amounts of tobacco as compared to the amount in cigarettes.

Hookah is filtered through water and not cotton, making it seem healthier, however, the extended duration evens out the difference, moreover, water fails to filter out many harmful toxins that are in tobacco.

The harmful effects of tobacco still take place in consumers on both ends and equate to both forms of smoking being equally harmful.

3 Types of Hookah Tobacco

Virginia tobacco leaves and tobacco leaves shredded for hookah

Did you know that there are three types of hookah tobacco? There are two different moist types and one dry type. The two moist types include blonde leaf and dark leaf tobacco.

Blonde leaf tobacco is the type of tobacco most shisha smokers would have definitely tried, without even knowing it. It is known for its low nicotine levels and generally light to no buzz whatsoever. It is also called Virginia tobacco because that is where it was first grown. Virginia tobacco is recorded to be 40% of the entire global tobacco percentage.

The other famous kind of hookah tobacco is dark leaf tobacco, it is darker in color due to a special process early in the curing phase of air drying that results in a darker color. It is known to have a strong taste in flavor but not necessarily in the strength of the leaf itself.

The third type of tobacco is known as the tombak, which translates to tobacco in Turkish, it is a type of dry tobacco that is smoked with coals directly on top, without any foil or extra added flavorings, this tobacco has high nicotine content and the leaves are usually dampened with a little water and coals are added to the tobacco before being smoked.

Learn More: Difference Between Washed and Unwashed Shisha

What is Herbal Shisha?

Herbal shisha was created to emulate the hookah experience without the harmful effects of smoking being involved. Herbal shisha is a healthier alternative to smoking, it is made from tea, molasses, and glycerine. So, it is made from almost all the same ingredients as regular shisha, but without tobacco. Being tobacco-free reduces the risk factors that come with smoking tobacco, including nicotine.

Having molasses and glycerine still makes it produce the thick white clouds that are produced by regular tobacco shisha but without the harmful effects of tobacco.

Companies that are known for their shisha such as Fantasia have a herbal line as well that consumers can try or explore online websites or stores that sell them.

Their flavorings are expertly mixed together to get the perfect experience, tobacco-free. However, the only flaw some might see is that they do not provide a buzz but it is the perfect alternative for those looking to quit smoking but can’t seem to kick the habit.

What is The Best Shisha?

what is the best shisha

When selecting shisha flavors, it can be very confusing as there are a large variety of limitless options and companies. The most popular companies that produce shisha today are:

  1. Al Fakher
  2. Fantasia
  3. Fumari
  4. Starbuzz
  5. Azure
  6. Al Waha
  7. and Adalya to name a few.

All of which have large palettes of flavorings to try. They each have their own differences in quality, flavor, and smoke output. Each caters to different types of smokers and what they are trying to achieve from their sessions.

Fumari and Starbuzz focus more on flavoring and smoke output, Al Fakher focuses less on smoke output and more on the quality of stronger tobacco, etc. It is entirely subjective and requires you to explore your options and decide what you like to achieve from your smoking sessions.

The one thing in common with all major companies is that their flavors are expertly mixed and you will most likely receive a very accurate rendition of the flavor you want to try so do not hesitate in trying out something new.

Learn More: List of 20 Best Hookah Flavors Ever

What is Shisha Molasses?

shisha juice all over the table

Molasses is a liquid substance that is extracted from the process of refining sugarcane that is primarily used as a sweetener. Molasses is also the primary ingredient added to shisha to give it that distinct sweetness we all love in our hookah sessions.

Molasses is a relatively newer addition to hookah, hookah was first smoked with dry tobacco until the late 90s. As hookah popularity began to die out and was only smoked by older Arab men with friends at cafes, it was used to popularize its use again with the younger generation of smokers. It involved fermenting tobacco with molasses, honey, and fruit essence.

This was a revolutionary game-changer that resulted in worldwide popularity and hookah became a household item globally with a limitless variety of flavors that are being produced to date. It is now also sold separately as an addition to your shisha, in case you have preferred dry tobacco that you want to enhance with molasses.

What Are Shisha Tobacco Effects?

Shisha tobacco affects your body the same way regular tobacco affects your body. There are over 7,000 chemicals identified in tobacco, over 70 of which are carcinogenic (can cause cancer). The strongest effect comes from nicotine and tar, nicotine is the most addictive chemical in tobacco and tar is the most harmful.

Nicotine and tar enter through the lungs and into the blood vessels, this alone damages the lungs and impair the oxygen transfer capabilities as this process thickens the blood vessels, making the air transfer less efficient. Nicotine reaches the brain and triggers adrenaline glands and tar clogs the arteries that carry blood, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke.

When adrenal glands are triggered, they restrict the blood vessels and increasing heart rate and blood pressure. An increase in blood pressure is also harmful and can damage arteries, making small cuts in the inner lining of blood vessels that end up having clots, these clots can clog the arteries and also cause heart attacks and strokes.

Nicotine releases dopamine in the brain, dopamine is the feel-good hormone and our body likes it when it is produced, making it highly addictive. Moreover, the tobacco smoke damages the cells that it makes contact with, altering their DNA, it also weakens your immune system, these two factors act together and an increase in damaged cells poses a risk for malfunction and production of damaged cells with an ineffective immune system to kill off damaged cells, causes the increased likelihood of cancer.

What Are Shisha Steam Stones

Shiazo steam stones in a hookah bowl

Steam stones were first produced in Germany as another safer alternative to smoking, they are made of a porous rock that can soak up glycerine and honey, ingredients that are used in shisha flavors to provide a variety of rich flavors and produce clouds that emulate smoking a hookah. They are a tobacco and nicotine-free product that is designed to help users quit smoking.

A famous company that produces these stones is called Shiazo, since it is not tobacco burning, it does not produce smoke, but a vapor. They are designed to work similarly to vape pens in that prospect, therefore cutting the risk of smoking by a significant amount.

However, these stones need to be smoked correctly and not with extensive heat as that may pose a serious health risk. Its long-term effects have not thoroughly been studied as of yet. They are reported to work best with heated ceramic disks rather than traditional charcoal-like hookah, reducing the toxicity levels by a large amount.

What is the Shisha Pen?

man smoking shisha pen

Shisha pens are also an alternative to smoking, it is a tobacco-free product that is arguably the most popular alternative to smoking. They are used primarily as a recreational activity since most pens do not contain nicotine. They contain a battery and a heating element that is usually a coil wrapped around cotton and the battery heats up the coil.

This cotton is soaked in freebase liquid that heats up and produces vapor that is virtually harmless. They differ from e-cigarettes in the sense that they do not contain any nicotine and would not be considered the go-to device to quit smoking, However, their construction is almost identical to e-cigarettes with the exception of nicotine delivery.

As a result, shisha pens also do not require the same regulation as e-cigarettes and may require some caution when purchasing. They are cheaper than buying cigarettes but are also disposable. If you are looking for a device you want to use regularly, an E-cigarette may be the device you are looking for. They have a higher cost upfront which is then reduced to buying a large variety of flavoring and replacement pods.

Is It Safer alternative?

These liquids are approved as safe for use, but the opinions about these ingredients are different. It should be noted that it is safer than consuming a shisha that contains lots of nicotine or classic tobacco that is in cigars. There are still no clear studies showing whether is safe for long-term consumption.

Frequently Asked Questions Around Shisha

Is shisha without tobacco haram?

In the religion of Islam, what causes harm to your body can arguably be considered ‘haram’ which means “forbidden”. It is thought that shisha without tobacco is completely harmless, and therefore completely safe to consume, however, even tobacco-free products pose some health risks that may have not been thoroughly explored. Vape pens have been shown to do some form of damage to tissues, the same goes for any tobacco-free product, Anything that damages your body may be considered haram, therefore it is advised to ask a scholar you follow.

Does shisha have nicotine?

Shisha is made from tobacco leaves and molasses and therefore contains nicotine, the nicotine content can vary between brand and techniques used to cure tobacco so some brands may have much stronger shisha or much weaker. Therefore, it all depends on the type of leaf used to produce the shisha flavor.

How much shisha to put in a hookah bowl?

The amount of shisha used in a bowl depends on two things, how you want to pack it and how much space is in the bowl. Some bowls require a tight pack with no gaps in between and enough space for the air to pass through, like a vortex bowl. Some bowls require a fluffy pack, with many gaps in between for air to smoothly pass through, like the traditional bowls that come stock with hookahs.

Can shisha go bad?

Shisha usually has a shelf life of up to two years after opening, however, if it is kept in a safe environment, such as in a dry, airtight and away from direct sunlight, it can last much longer. It will however lose some quality and flavor over time but still be consumable.

About Author
S. Muhammad. A

My name is S. Muhammad. A Marketer by profession, a Hookah smoker by passion! I come from a house where hookah smoking is part of my culture. I have pictures of my grandfather smoking his beloved hookah too. I believe there is art in everything, and I try to depict the art I see in my hookah sessions and try my best to share them with you so you enjoy your hookah with me.

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