Everyone is vaping these days, but few know exactly what’s happening within their vaporizer. It can feel a lot like smoking weed, but technically, it’s much different. Vaping requires no fire, creates no combustion, and produces no smoke.
So what is vaporizing, and is it good for you?
What is Vaporizing?
While smoking remains the most popular way to enjoy cannabis, vaping is rising in popularity, sitting closely in second place. Vaping, or vaporizing, is a route of administration that doesn’t use fire or extreme temperatures to burn the flower (or concentrate). Instead, vaporizers gently heat cannabis to a relatively lower temperature to hit the boiling point of individual compounds. At each boiling point, the compounds evaporate, to create a vapor.
The vapor is captured and inhaled to provide near-instantaneous high and soothing medicinal relief.
In 2015 a research paper summarized the process of vaporizing cannabis succinctly, “Vapourizers heat the entire plant without igniting it, releasing the cannabinoids in a vapor that is relatively free from the byproducts of combustion.”
There are essentially three types of vaporizers on the market today: the desktop, the handheld, and the vape pen. We explore these in more detail below. Almost all vaporizers fit into two categories.
The first are devices that draw hot air over the flower, which reduces the direct exposure to the heating element. The second is more popular, the vape pen. These expose the flower or concentrate to a heating element, and the person vaping has to pull the hot air over the product.
Types of Vaporizers
With the rise in popularity of vaping weed, there are more options for the vape-lover than ever before. You can vape at home or on the go. You can vape concentrates or bud. You can find rechargeable, refillable, or totally disposable options.
If you love vaping, it’s a great time to go shopping.
Desktop or Table Top
As the name suggests, a desktop or tabletop vaporizer is a larger, stationary device used to vape flower and sometimes concentrates. The Volcano is essentially the granddaddy of all vape devices on the market today, although there are now several other well-established brands available.
These larger vaporizers are roughly the size of a small kitchen appliance, and typically have highly customizable settings on temperature and method of draw. The Volcano, for instance, has a whip (long tubing) or a balloon attachment options. Tabletop vaporizers are ideal for patients and even recreational consumers who prefer long sessions on the couch or other cozy corner of the house.
Portable and Handheld
For those who vape on the go, you’ll need a portable option. Handheld vape gear (like the Da Vinci or the Pax) is small enough to fit into a pocket or purse. Portable vaporizers work with flower or concentrate. Some designs come with add-on kits, which allow them to switch between the two. New sleek vaporizers also come with custom temperature settings, and sometimes a connected mobile application.
By far, the most popular vaporizers today are vape pens. These are small disposable or refillable battery-operated devices that look like pens, hence the name. They are based on concentrates, such as CO2 extractions, live resins, distillates, and liquid shatter. The concentrate cartridge connects to a rechargeable or disposable battery, usually with a 510 thread. Some products, like the THC Infused E-Juice, work with e-cigarette setups like the Juul or Aspire Breeze.
Vaping Science and Research
When you light up a joint or put flame to a bowl, you burn the flower at extreme temperatures. According to some tests, it could reach as high as 2000°F. Flame combusts everything and produces significant byproducts beyond the THC and CBD you want. So in comparison to smoking, what is vaping? It’s avoiding the problems of combustion altogether.
One experiment comparing vapors to cannabis smoke identified five different byproducts: “polynuculear aromatic hydrocarbons, organic pollutants with known toxic and carcinogenic effects.” When the researchers tested the weed vapor, it only had two byproducts: terpenes and a second unidentifiable one.
According to this same review, there are even more indications that vaping is healthier for the respiratory tract. Researchers tested the CO2 exhaled following a big inhale of smoke versus a big inhale from a vaporizer. After exhaling smoke, the tests reported significant increases in CO2. Interestingly, there were little to no changes in CO2 levels in vaped exhalations compared to normal exhale levels. As they concluded, “These findings give further evidence that vaping reduces exposure to gaseous combustion toxins.”
Even more interesting was the cannabinoid difference between the smoke and the vapor. The smoke contained 12 percent cannabinoids, but the vapor contained over 94 percent. Scientifically, vaping is cleaner, and you’ll get much more value out of the experience!
Why Vaping Temperature Matters
Are you still asking, “What is Vaporizing?” It’s the careful control of temperature, to target the boiling points of individual desirable compounds. Each cannabinoid (and terpene for that matter) has a different boiling point. If you go down the vaping rabbit hole, you can get extremely precise about hitting specific temperatures to customize your experience.
What’s the best temperature to target to get the perfect high? 338°F. While terpenes usually boil at much lower temperatures (as low as 132°F), you’ll have to bring the device up to 338°F to vaporize the most desirable cannabinoids, including THC and CBD.
Aim to stay below 350°F. The higher the temperature, the more toasty the taste and valuable cannabinoids are lost. Keep in mind that smoking weed using a bong, blunt, or pipe can reach temperatures up to 2000°F. But, combustion starts at 451°F.
Of course, vape pens and preset handheld vape devices don’t require any temperature setting at all. They have an internally regulated heating element, that should already be set at an appropriate temperature for most cannabis products.
In Summary, What is Vaporizing?
Vaporizing heats cannabis and concentrates, without the use of combustion. As each cannabinoid and terpene hits it’s individual boiling points, they evaporate into vapor. This vapor is inhaled, for a speedy delivery medicinal benefits and buzz.
The best vaping temperature is 338°F. However, vape connoisseurs may want to experiment depending on the products used and the desired effects. And if you love vaping, you can rest easy knowing that research increasingly says it’s safe. Science says that vaping is less toxic than smoking and is likely much better for your respiratory tract than inhaling combusted material.