Cannabis has been smoked for thousands of years in different forms, but is smoking really the most healthy and effective way to go these days?
Until fairly recently, smoking cannabis was the only real delivery system for patients to obtain instant relief for their symptoms, whether via a rolled cannabis cigarette, a pipe, or bong. Edible options were certainly available too, but they take up to two hours to have any effect. Furthermore, edibles have a poor absorption rate due to the plant material decomposing in the stomach.
On top of that, some people find smoking cannabis, no matter what it’s form or delivery, to be a challenge. It can burn the throat and lead to coughing for novice and advanced patients alike, and that’s not to mention the smell it produces when combusted.
However, some people say that smoking is dead and that vaping is the future, and they have a lot of science-based evidence to back up that lofty claim.
What is Vaping?
Vaping, also known as vaporizing, is a relatively new delivery system for cannabis, which extracts the active chemical compounds from the plant, delivering them to the user, without the toxins which are part and parcel of combusting any plant material into the lungs. No one is suggesting that smoking cannabis is anywhere near as detrimental to health as tobacco. However, toxic vapor starts to be released from plant material at 392F, while small traces of benzene and other toxins are also present at that temperature, such as carbon monoxide and some pesticides.
Considering that combustion of cannabis (smoking) is somewhere between 932-1292F, that’s more than double the maximum heat of a vaporizer.
What is a Vaporizer?
A vaporizer is a gadget, battery powered if portable and powered by electricity if desktop, which heats plant material according to a pre-determined maximum temperature setting. There are numerous advantages to this, not least that vaping is a far healthier option than smoking, due to the fact there is no combustion and therefore almost no toxins entering the lungs.
There are many vaporizers on the market today, ranging from budget devices to top of the range. Some are designed for dry flower, while others are designed for oil concentrates and extracts. Vaporizers generally have a temperature range of 248F-446F, which is way below combustion, but well within the range where active compounds are released. Essentially, a vaporizer is an oven which bakes the materiel.
Ideal Vaping Temperatures
One of the main advantages of vaping cannabis is that the user can specifically tailor his or her intake, according to preset temperature profiles. There are of course many other factors at play here, including quality of plant material, and the device being used. Oftentimes a desktop vaporizer will deliver more consistent and stronger vapor than a portable model.
So what is the ideal vaping temperature? Well, that depends on you and your desired effect. Let’s take a look at the following table, which illustrates this:
As is clear from this illustration, 350-375F is the optimal vaping temperature for most patients, while higher temperatures deliver a deeper body sensation and stronger effect, lower temps are associated more with a heady feeling or ‘high’. North of 400F, and we’re looking at borderline toxins, although nowhere near to the toxins produced by combustion.
Vaping Temperatures in Detail
Having understood what vaping is and how it works, let’s take a look at the specifics of which temperatures release which compounds from a cannabis flower.
We know that cannabis has numerous chemical compounds, flavonoids and terpenes, which all have a symbiotic effect when smoked, eaten or vaporized. THC is the active psychedelic compound which is the most famous of the bunch. THC is activated at 374F. CBD is another well-known compound, which is activated at 329F, as illustrated by the following table:
According to Dr. Arno Hazekamp, who studies medical cannabis as the head of research at Bedrocan BV in the Netherlands, said about vaping temperatures, “In general, I would say 210°C is the best balance between efficient evaporation of terpenes and cannabinoids and smoothness of the vapor.”
Different effects from high vs. low vaping temperatures
Some patients will require just a minimal dose of cannabis in the morning to deal with their chronic pain or ailment. As such, they may choose to ‘microdose’ setting their vaporizer to a low temperature, say 350F, and taking just one or two long puffs. In the afternoon, the user may wish to medicate more heavily, and could set their gadget to around the 380F mark, to produce thicker vapor and therefore stronger effects. A night user, perhaps one who suffers from insomnia, may opt to whack their vaporizer up to the 420-450F mark, for thick, dense vapor, similar to smoke. It may tickle the throat a little, but it will result in a deep and strong body effect, which many claim offers a wonderful night’s sleep.
Flavonoids and Terpenes
Flavonoids are a class of plant pigments that are sometimes referred to as Vitamin P. They are responsible for the look and taste of a specific cannabis strain or plant, and they are also thought to have secondary health benefits as outlined below, depending on the vaping temperature. Here are a few examples of flavonoids:
Beta-sitosterol – 270F
This flavonoid is thought to have anti-inflammatory qualities.
Apigenin – 250F
Apigenin is thought to be estrogenic, anxiolytic and have anti-inflammatory properties.
Cannflavin A – 365F
This flavonoid is a COX inhibitor.
Terpenes are naturally occurring properties in a wide range of plants, which give a specific plant or fruit their unique aroma. You may be familiar with aromas such as cinnamon, cloves or mango. What you are smelling there are the terpenes or terpenoids as they are sometimes called:
Beta-caryophyllene – 385F
Thought to be anti-inflammatory and anti-malarial.
Alpha-terpinol – 311F
This terpenoid is an antioxidant, sedative, antibiotic and anti-malarial.
Beta-myrcene – 335F
This is analgesic, an antibiotic and anti-inflammatory.
Delta-3-carene – 332F
This terpenoid has anti-inflammatory properties.
1,8-cineole – 349F
1,8-cineole increase cerebral blood flow, acts as a stimulant, and is anti-viral, anti-inflammatory and an antibiotic.
D-limonene – 350F
D-limonene appears naturally in cannabis. It has anti-mutagenic, antidepressant and immune system potentiating properties.
P-cymene – 350F
P-cymene is an antibiotic and an anticandidal agent.
Linalool – 388F
This is an antidepressant, sedative and immune system potentiator.
Smoking cannabis wastes valuable material
It’s an interesting fact that while the effects of smoking cannabis can be more intense (due to the fact you are combusting all the compounds at once) the reality is that a large amount of medicine is being wasted on every puff. It’s logical enough, as studies show that a cannabis cigarette contains roughly 10 percent cannabinoids, with the remainder being a mix of toxins and other things, such as the burning paper or filler material inside. That joint paper is white in color because it either bleached or contains chlorine.
In stark contrast, vapor from a good quality cannabis vaporizer contains up to 95 percent cannabinoids, and only small traces if any of those toxins. Many also report that they can get medicated with a fraction of the amount when vaporizing over smoking, although that doesn’t hold true for everyone.
Which vaporizer to choose
If you are convinced by what you have read so far, you’ll be thinking about getting yourself a vaporizer, if only to check it out and see if it’s for you. So which vaporizer should you choose? With all the awesome vaporizers on the market today, it’s hard to know what is best for you. We recommend you carry out your own research (Google, YouTube etc) to try and ascertain what suits you best. Do you want to be mobile or prefer to medicate at home? Do you desire strong effects or something more mild? Once these questions are answered, you can go ahead and make your decision.
Whatever you choose to do, you should know that according to many patients, vaporizing cannabis offers the very best effects for treating a whole host of conditions, without the toxins and smells associated with smoking.
If you are serious about taking cannabis for medical purposes, vaporizing has to be on your bucket list. Stop wasting your medicine, start vaporizing!
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