Cannabis Vaping 101: How Does Vaping Actually Work?

Weed and the body were made for each other.  Research continues to reveal the therapeutic efficacy of the cannabis plant.  Cannabinoids interact with the mammalian endocannabinoid system in a way that fosters homeostasis in the body. For the treatment of chronic pain to Parkinson’s disease, people are turning their attention from synthetic cannabis vaping, vaping cannabis healthydrugs to a more natural alternative.

Although the benefits of cannabis are numerous, the way it is consumed can either enhance or detract from its medicinal profile. Combustion methods—those that involve setting the cannabis on fire and inhaling its smoke—are the most common, but also the most dangerous.  The process of combustion has deleterious effects on the pulmonary system and releases toxins into the body, some of which may be carcinogenic. Edibles, cannabis-infused food, and drink avoid this but come with their own sugar, fat, gluten, and allergen-induced problems.

Enter vaping, the process of heating a substance at a temperature that creates a vapor but does not result in combustion or the destruction of the material. Because it avoids smoke and unhealthy foods, vaping is regarded as one of the healthiest consumption methods, especially for those who use cannabis as medicine.

How Does Vaping Work?

Cannabinoids vaporize at around 284°F, and cannabis combusts at around 392°F. Vaporizing works by heating cannabis between those temperatures through conductive, convective, or radiant heating.

Conduction requires direct contact between a hot surface and the cannabis substance until the cannabinoids convert into a consumable vapor.  Portable and pen vaporizers typically use this kind of heating since it requires less space than convection. Because the flower or oil comes in direct contact with the heat and the difficulty in regulating temperature with conduction heating, it risks charring.

Convection involves the use of air to heat the cannabis rather than direct contact with the heating element. The heated air is forced over the cannabis by a fan or inhalation. Vaporizers that apply convection heating are much better at regulating temperature, and this prevents any burning of the cannabis flower or oil.

The efficacy of radiant, or infrared, heating is comparable with convection. The cannabis is heated by absorbing electricity or light generated heat until it reaches a temperature that converts its chemical compounds to vapor.

Vaporizers offer consumers a way to severely reduce the heat of combustion methods of consumption.

In addition to enhancing the medicinal attributes of cannabis, the lower temperature makes consumption much more comfortable. A joint can get as hot as 2000°F; that’s a scalding hit

Customizing the temperature also allows consumers to get the most out of the chemical compounds present in their bud.  Terpenes are extremely volatile compounds, so they are immediately burnt off when flower combusts. Setting a vaporizer to a low temperature allows consumers to enjoy the flavor created by their cannabis’ terpene profile.

Shopping for a vaporizer can be overwhelming. Vaporizers can be larger and stationary, or smaller and portable. Stationary vaporizers either use tubing or bags to deliver the vapor from the heating chamber to the mouthpiece. Portable vaporizers, also known as vape pens, come in an array of sizes and styles and allow users to directly inhale from the heating element.  Some are specifically designed for dried, ground flower, others for oils, and some are compatible with both.

Flowers VS Oils/Concentrates

Cannabis flower is a far simpler substance to consume than concentrates.  Although there are many different strains that can have varying effects, a bud is a bud. Even the most potent flower will not be as powerful as a concentrate.  Bud usually contains between 10 and 25 percent THC, but concentrate potency usually, falls between 50 and 80 percent THC.  Finally, flowers may retain more flavor than concentrates since they don’t go through an extraction process; likewise, they leave a stronger odor behind, so dry herb vaporizers require more maintenance than those that use concentrate cartridges.

The word “concentrates” is an umbrella term covering products such as shatters, crumbles, oils, and waxes.  Vaporizers are compatible with oils that are typically preloaded in replaceable cartridges.  This set up is much more convenient to maintain than a flower vape.  Concentrates are far more potent than flower; they are the extracted chemical compounds minus extraneous plant matter.

A much smaller quantity of a concentrate can deliver an equally powerful high as dry herb in a much shorter amount of time

Finally, concentrates are extracted using a solvent (CO2, hydrocarbons, alcohol, water, propane, butane, etc.).  Some consumers are wary of the effect solvents may have on them.

The Top Vaporizers on the Market

Whether you prefer to vaporize in the comfort of your own home or while out and about, there is something out there for everyone.  Here are some of the best vaporizers of each style.cannabis vaping

Portable Vaporizers

Users draw the vapor in from a mouthpiece that is directly connected to the heating element.  This design allows for small, portable vaporizers perfect for the novice and expert alike.

The Mighty by Storz & Bickel, $349—This battery powered vaporizer uses a combination of convection and conduction heating and is compatible with dry herbs or oils with the Liquid Pad add-on.

Pax 3 by Pax Labs, $199.99-$249.99—One for the techies, this “iPhone of vaporizers” is compatible with flower and extract and includes a range of hi-tech features including Bluetooth connectivity, over 60 temperature settings, and its own app.

Ascent by DaVinci, $199—This device is compatible with loose leaf and oil, uses precision temperature control, and is made with an all glass vapor path.

Whip and Bag Style Vaporizers

Whip style vaporizers use tubes to deliver the vapor from the heating element to the mouthpiece.  One end of the approximately 3-foot long silicon tubing is attached to a mouthpiece while the other is attached to a glass chamber which holds the cannabis and adheres to the heating element.  Bag Style Vaporizers are comprised of a food grade plastic bag, a heating unit, and a mouthpiece that may or may not attach to a whip or stem. Because of their size, these vaporizers are more stationary.

Volcano Classic by Storz & Bickel, $599—Regarded by some as the best vaporizer period, this desktop device contains a removable, odor free, food safe balloon for ease of movement. Purchasing the Liquid Pad accessory makes this vaporizer compatible with flower and oil.

The Herbalizer, $599—Developed by NASA engineers, it is no wonder that this device has the reputation for being the world’s smartest vaporizer. It uses convection heat powered by a 300 watt halogen light bulb capable of reaching up to 800°F. It is compatible with dry flower and oils, and operates in two modes: the VaporTherapy mode for the vaporization of concentrates or flower and the Aromatherapy mode for the vaporization of essential oils.

Cannabis Vaping 101: How Does Vaping Actually Work? was last modified: by
Dianna Benjamin

About the author: Dianna Benjamin is a freelance writer, teacher, wife, and mom horrified and fascinated by social justice and our inability--yet constant pursuit--to get it right.