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Cannabis Vaporizers: What They Are and How They Work

vaping cbd and cannabis

A cannabis vaporizer may also be called a vape pen, dry herb vape, CBD vape, or weed vape. These are different from the vaporizers that are used to vape nicotine. Some cross-over devices do exist, but vaping weed or CBD vs nicotine e-juice requires different temperature settings and coil materials. Luckily, there are many types of vaporizers available. The downside? It can be confusing to know what kind of device you need.

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Quick Tips for CBD Oil Vapes and THC Oil Vapes

Cannabis vaporizers can be used for either CBD oil or for THC oil. There isn’t a difference between CBD oil vapes and THC oil vapes. They are different from nicotine vapes, dry herb vapes, and wax pens though!

Pro’s of Cannabis Vaporizers: Dosing is easy to get a feel for, easy to use, portable
Con’s of Cannabis Vaporizers: Cost, effects may be briefer, battery life must be monitored

Cannabis Vaporizers for CBD Oil

You should not ever vape CBD oil tinctures (we cannot emphasize this enough)!

Many tinctures are labeled simply “CBD oil,” but this type of product is not meant to go in a vaporizer of any kind! CBD oil tincture is taken under the tongue and should never be put in a vape.

If you are looking for a CBD vape liquid, make sure that it is specifically labeled that way. Most CBD vapes are sold as pre-filled cartridges that you screw on to a pen-style battery. These “pen” or “stick” vape batteries must also be specifically labeled as a cannabis vaporizer or they will not produce the right temperatures.

CBD oil vapes are very popular because the battery portions tend to be cheap ($10-$20) and pre-filled CBD vape carts are very convenient. These cartridges simply need to be screwed on to the battery and they are ready to go!

CBD oil vapes are also available as disposable CBD oil vapes. Disposable CBD oil vapes are already charged and filled. If they do not have a button to push, you simply inhale to activate the device and get a puff of vapor.

Dry Herb Vaporizers for CBD Hemp Flower

Dry herb vaporizers use ground cannabis or hemp flower. Instead of smoking the ground hemp flower in a pipe or bong, you can vape it simply by packing it into the chamber of a dry herb vape.

The chamber heats to 250°F to 450°F and vaporizes the cannabinoids contained in the plant’s natural botanical oils (resins). What is left is a browned flower that has had all of its resins removed. Those resins carry cannabinoids into the CBD vape smoke without heating the flower to the point of combustion. The leftover flower can be disposed of because it will not have any more botanical oils or cannabinoids left.

Avoiding combustion is the goal with dry herb vapes. When using a dry herb vape at the appropriate temperature you will experience more of a strain’s flavors. This is because the lower heat releases more terpenes and cannabinoids. If heated to the point of combustion, more of these plant molecules are destroyed by the high temperatures of burning the hemp flower. Some people also feel like dry herb vapes are less harsh than smoking (combustion) from a pipe or joint.

How Do Cannabis Vaporizers Work?

The main goal of dry herb vapes and cannabis oil vapes is to produce smoke without combustion. This is accomplished by using precise temperatures that correspond to the exact temperatures where physical properties and chemistry of the flower change.

Combustion Vaporizers

Combustion occurs at high temperatures when a liquid or herbal material is heated directly on the coil of a vaporizer. Many vapes and wax pens utilize combustion to produce vapor. This can be a drawback because when materials combust they release potentially harmful materials like carcinogens.

Smoking hemp flower using a combustion style vape is almost the same as smoking unless a glass screen is added to prevent the herb from contacting the heating coil. These types of vapes are not desirable because they do not give the clean flavors that you get from a real dry herb vape. A true vaporizer uses conduction or convection instead of combustion.

In the case of some wax pens, they are designed so the wax sits in a chamber with a ceramic coil. If the wax is overheated or on the coil itself, you may end up with some undesirable combustion.

Non-Combustible Cannabis Vaporizers: Conduction

Conduction occurs when heat from a heat source is transferred to something that is touching it. That is why many vapes have a “warm up” time before they start to produce vapor. The heat has to pass from the energy in the battery to the heating element, and then warms the chamber surface to a high enough temperature that the heat transfers to the material in the chamber (hemp flower for example).

Non-Combustible Cannabis Vaporizers: Convection

Dry herb vapes that use convection are not usually portable units, but some portable convection vapes do exist. Cannabis vaporizers that use convection heat have a heating element that warms the air around the herb to create vapor. The hemp flower goes inside a chamber and when the air around it becomes hot enough the resin in the flower vaporizes and leaves the browned flower behind. Slowly inhaling as you heat the chamber will help the flower to vaporize more evenly. Most 3 in 1 dry herb vapes (also have chambers for wax and oil)

Vaping Temperatures for Cannabis Vaporizers

It can be hard knowing the exact temperature to use when vaporizing cannabis. For those who vape cannabis or hemp, these temperature averages may be helpful. Most of the cannabinoids and terpenes have ranges where they will vaporize.

Even with this information, there are way more factors that can impact these temperatures. For the average person, they should work pretty well. 350°F and 450°F are common vaping temperatures, but for vaping dry herb it is better to start at lower temperatures. Most dry herbs vaporize between 350° F and 435° F. Lower vaping temperatures on a cannabis vaporizer will simply not produce vapor. A cannabis vaporizer temperature set between 380°F and 420°F is ideal for most dry herbs.

You can see from the chart below that unless you are smoking a strain with the uncommon and low potency cannabinoids CBC and THCV, there is no much reason to heat your vape above 370°F. The higher your set your temperature (closer to 435°F or above), the greater you risk having combustion which can release the harmful toxins that vaporizing strives to prevent.

*Please note that the effects mentioned in this graphic are anecdotal claims only; CBD and hemp flower have not been approved for any form of medical use and may not actually have these effects in all people or at all doses.
Plain Jane does not claim or endorse any claim of medical benefit from their products containing hemp and CBD in compliance with current FDA guidance.

Cannabis Vaporizer FAQ

There are many common questions about cannabis vaporizers. Here are just some of the frequently asked questions that are encountered:

How do vape pens work?

Vapes can use combustion, conduction, or convection heat to vaporize dry herb, wax, or oils. The heat is generated by power from the battery.

How do you use a vape pen?

If the vape pen has a push-button, it must be charged. Most are configured so that they turn on and off when the button is pressed 5 times rapidly in succession. They will also usually turn off automatically after a few minutes. Most models are also configured so pressing the button 3 times in rapid succession will change the temperature to high, medium, or low.

If the vape pen does not have a button, it is likely a model where you can simply inhale to take a hit. These do not have on/off switches or temperature adjustments.

What are the drawbacks of vapes?

What is a vape cartridge?

A vape cartridge is the tank or pod filled with liquid that is screwed on or inserted into the battery portion of a vape.

Why choose an oil vape cartridge?

What types of cannabis vape cartridges are available?

How long does a vape cartridge last?

The lifespan of a cannabis vape cartridge depends entirely on its size (0.5ml or 1ml usually) and how often it is used. Light to moderate users can get anywhere from two to four weeks of use generally. A heavier user that uses only a vape may need to re-purchase weekly.

What is a 510 cartridge?

“510” is the size of the threading (the part you screw together) on a vape cartridge and battery. 510 vape threads are the mos common size, but you will always want to check and make sure the vape cartridge has the same thread size as the battery.

What is in a cannabis vape cartridge?

A CBD vape cartridge is filled with CBD extract. Some companies will also use thinning agents like propylene glycol (PG) or MTC oil. Ideally, no thinning agents are used but because extract can be thick they are sometimes needed. CBD extract is made by extracting hemp flower with either CO2, ethanol (food grade), or hydrocarbons (butane).

One big challenge with vape cartridges is that cheaper ones may use “broad spectrum” formulas. This term is used very loosely and could mean that the company has just added flavorings to isolate. They are not naturally occurring like a full-spectrum extract so the flavors are not actually what a strain naturally tastes like.

Some companies will label these as a specific strain but have actually just added terpenes that they think are close to the natural strain flavor. Be aware that these “flavors” are not true reflections of the way a strain of hemp flower really tastes!

What is a good vape for pain, sleep, energy, or anxiety?

No CBD vape product is approved for any medical use! When companies talk about product “effects” they must be careful not to make illegal medical claims. These “effects” are largely based on the terpene profiles and not the effect of the cannabinoids. Terpenes may have effects like those seen in aromatherapy (where they are also used). Some are calming, some are energizing, and some have no effect. These “effects” are also observational and based on reviewers. No two people will have the same exact use habits or the same experience because everyone’s body is unique. Always talk to a doctor before using CBD because it can have side effects, drug interactions, and may damage the liver!

Final Thoughts on Cannabis Vaporizers

There is definitely a learning curve when it comes to cannabis vaporizers, but with the information from this article you should have a good idea of the basics and how to get started. Remember to only vape products that are explicitly intended for vaping.

CBD oil tinctures should never be put in a vaporizer because they are intended to be taken sublingually. Vaping CBD oil tincture could damage your cannabis vaporizer and could lead to a very bad experience with no desired effects. Likewise, CBD isolate powder is not intended to be vaped or smoked.

Vaping carries many of the same risks as smoking and is not entirely safe. However, vaping and smoking both provide high bioavailability compared to other delivery methods. This means that more plant compounds make it into your body.

No delivery method delivers the full amount of compound to the body but one major study estimates that inhalation can lead to up to 56% bioavailability versus lower numbers for sublingual tinctures and oral products like edibles and capsules. Cannabis vapes are therefore appealing for those who are looking for a fast activation time and higher absorption of compounds in the body.

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