Many organic herbs contain sought-after components that can be attained by smoking them. Smoking cannabis, in particular, has proven to have some positive benefits such as providing nausea and pain relief. However, there are always risks associated with inhaling burnt plant matter. Although we are ingesting some of the beneficial cannabinoids we seek, potential carcinogens and other toxins such as carbon monoxide & dioxide, ammonia and other irritants are present in the smoke we inhale as well.
The Institute of Medicine found in 1999 that, "because of the health risks associated with smoking, smoked cannabis should generally not be recommended for long-term medical use." Although there is no evidence that smoking cannabis causes lung cancer, or even damages our cell, it is thought that the smoke can potentially cause symptoms that may lead to respiratory problems.
This is why vaporizing is recommended as the primary delivery system for medical marijuana patients. Multiple scientific studies have been conducted confirming vaporizing as being a potentially healthier alternative to traditionally smoked marijuana.
Vaporizing, as it applies to cannabis, is the process of gently heating herbs in order to release active ingredients, causing them to rise into the air as vapor. Most vaporizers use hot air (convection), a hot surface (conduction), or a combination of the two.
Most vaporizers these days use convection to heat the herb which is downstream from the vapor path and separate from the heater. This methodology tends to heat the biomass much more evenly and effectively than conduction style heating.
Through the process of suction hot is drawn through/over the herb manually (manual whip or direct draw) or air is forced through a bed of herbs by a fan. The temperature applied to the bed of herbs can be varied precisely with the use of analogue or digital controllers. At the same time, the user's draw speed (how fast air is displaced) and draw strength affect the vaporization temperature. Some users prefer to select the vaporization temperature to manage which active ingredients are released, others prefer a single temperature and varied draw speed/strength. Different temperatures release different proportions of active ingredients from the herb. The taste, type of euphoria, harshness, and specific medicinal properties of the vapors are greatly affected by the temperature used.
Although both vaporization and combustion use heat to release the active ingredients, the major differences are the temperature used and the resulting by-products of each method.
When smoking, temperatures can reach ~800°-900°C. At these temperatures pyrolization occurs. This process not only chemically alters some of the actives (and thus, deactivates them), but results in harmful by-products including carbon monoxide, benzene, toluene, naphthalene, tars, particulates and polyaromatic hydrocarbons.
When vaporized, the herb stays below the point of combustion (approx. 230°C). Desired active compounds are released, while harmful combustion by-products are dramatically reduced or avoided entirely.
After combustion, any remaining material is a black, soot-type ash. Since vaporizing doesn't burn the product, the structural integrity of the herb is for the most part maintained (the remaining material generally weighs less than the input material). Vaporized remains, commonly referred to as ABV (Already Been Vaped), are often saved by the user in order to further extract active compounds. Users can revape, cook with and/or make a tincture from the ABV in order to extract remaining actives. The color of the ABV can be a primary indicator of the difference between combusting and vaporizing.
Stripped of many of the byproducts of combustion, users often report a more refined and purer taste to vapors. Furthermore, vapors are generally less irritating than smoke, allowing the user to inhale deeply and for a long duration. Many vaporists report a "cleaner" psychoactive state relative to smoking, often void of the "couch-lock" experience and relative lethargy.
Many users report that they use less material when vaporizing as opposed to smoking/combusting. Also, the possibility of reusing/recycling the ABV allows a user to get multiple uses out of the same material.
Works by utilizing direct contact of the herb with an electrically heated surface, often times solid metal or a screen. A common problem with vaporizers like this is burning of the herb due to poor heat distribution. It is very difficult to regulate the temperature with vaporizers that use conduction. Included in this category are vaporizer pens, or "e-cigs", which often times utilize a heating element to vaporize essential oils or concentrates.
Works by passing precisely heated air over the dried herb, vaporizing the material more evenly and efficiently. The herb never comes in touch with the heating element; instead air is either forced by a fan, or through inhalation, over the herbs and through the delivery system. Heating elements for convection vaporizers are typically made out of ceramic, though some are made out of stainless steel or other types of metal. Ceramic heating elements retain heat extremely well and are unaffected by cool air drawn through the system.
Use radiant energy either produced by electricity or a light source to provide heat. The herb absorbs the radiant energy, increasing in temperature until its components vaporize. These types of vaporizers are more rare, and are on par with convection vapes in term of quality of vapor produced.
Despite what you might have heard, there is no best vaporizer. What's the best car or the best fruit? It's a matter of personal preference. Luckily, there is s a wide variety of quality vapes on the market. You just need to do some research and figure out what best suits your needs.
When considering a vaporizer you should be thinking along these lines:
Other considerations include: track record/reliability, type of heater, materials used, materials used in vapor path, parts and service warranties, company customer service, shipping costs, and aesthetics.
If you're new to vaping, we recommend starting with a portable, affordable vape pen. Modeled after e-cigarettes, vape pens deliver powerful, quick results, and are very simple to use. Check out Luvbrite's selection of vaporizers and vaporizer accessories here, including pre-filled cartridges that take the guesswork out of determining your doses and a variety of USB-chargeable pens.