“Vaping” or “vaporizing” is seen as the healthier alternative to smoking cannabis. Intuitively, this makes sense. Even though cannabis smoke is different from tobacco smoke, inhaling any sort of burning matter is probably not ideal from a medical perspective. Tinctures, topicals and transdermal patches have been made and introduced, but sometimes it is the instant effect cannabinoids and terpenoids provide that is required. Inhalers are one way of getting this effect, but they are not widely available and lack the variation (e.g. different cannabinoid and terpenoid ratios) raw cannabis flowers and extracts can provide.
Hence, the move towards finding a way of getting decarboxylated cannabinoids immediately via the lungs, but without the smoke. This has lead to the development of hundreds if not thousands of different vaporizers and vaporizable products, from the disposable to the aesthetic, where cannabis is heated to an inhalable, mostly-odorless vapor. Moreover, vaporizers also tend to be a more efficient method of cannabis consumption than smoking, as fewer cannabinoids and terpenoids are burnt off in the decarboxylation process and less cannabis needs to be used overall for symptom relief.
However, products are of variable quality, with some products being extremely bad and even harmful, and has led the US Military and FDA to issue warnings. However, other products are extremely good. So, how does one tell what is “good” and “safe”? Here’s some advice …
Is Vaping Bad For Your Lungs?
Essentially, this boils down to “What precisely is being vaped”? Many flavored vapable products contain an organic compound called diacetyl. This is a compound found in many foodstuffs and beverages and is generally safe to consume in low doses. However, when heated and breathed in, it can cause many problems. One of these problems is “popcorn lung”, aka bronchiolitis obliterans, which is a scarring of the tiny air sacs in the lungs, resulting in the thickening and narrowing of the airways.
There are, of course, hundreds of different chemicals in many vapable products, especially those that are flavored. Given that there are few long-term studies on the dangers of vaporizing, learning which chemicals have what effect when vaporized will be a long and arduous task. Some products have seen traces of heavy metals from cheap heating coils, as well as propylene glycol and glycerin, which, alongside many other polycyclic hydrocarbons are linked to the development of cancers and lung and cardiovascular diseases.
Many of the concerns surrounding nicotine-based cartridges and “e-cigarettes’ also apply to cannabinoid-based oil cartridges, but not necessarily all of them. Vaporizing a well-made extract using a high-quality vaporizer may be one way of avoiding the problems associated with using vapable cannabis oils. Another concern is that there are some cannabinoid-based vape oils that contain synthetic cannabinoids, which are not necessarily as well-tolerated as their naturally-occurring counterparts.
What Is the Best Kind of Vaporizer?
The best vaporizers are ones that use ceramic heaters or titanium coils to heat up the extract or flower, and have no loose parts inside the vaporizer (i.e. one that is well-made and sturdy). Disposable vaporizers are of variable quality, and as many are cheaply made in China, could mean breathing in burning hot heavy metal particles. This is, as you can imagine, quite toxic.
Whilst there are probably some good quality disposable products, the lack of regulation in this area is a concern, so a long-term solution is probably ideal. Sadly, the cost of such units can be quite high, and even some of the “best” ones start to produce smoke rather than vapor at high temperatures. High temperatures may also burn plastic or some of the vaporizer’s internal electrics, which is also a potential health – and explosion – hazard. High temperatures also burn the lining of the throat and lungs, which increases the chance of developing cancer. Also, if you want to vaporize cannabis extracts, then be sure to find a vaporizer that has the ability to contain the extract.
Should You Make Your Own Safe Marijuana Oil For Vaping?
When concentrates are highly purified, they take on an “oil” or “honey” like appearance, usually solid at room temperature but turning more runny at higher temperatures. Such extracts can be vaporized, or even infused into coconut or olive oil to make a homemade tincture (which is not suitable for vaporizing).
Making cannabis oil can be a complicated process. There are various ways of making extracts of various potencies, from live resin (where live flowers are frozen and then pressed to extract the resin) “bubble hash” (using dry ice to separate trichomes from the plant) through to rosin extraction (using heat and pressure to separate the trichomes from the plant) and the full-on Rick Simpson Oil (using solvent to “strip” the cannabinoids from the plant, leading to a highly purified product).
Some extraction methods are relatively safe to do at home, others less so. Whilst there are many advantages to making your own cannabis extracts (i.e. likely to be fewer impurities and additives if made correctly), it can be expensive, difficult and time-consuming. Doubly so, if the person making it is a patient. Other than doing it yourself, the only way to get high-quality, solvent-free cannabis oil is to find a trustworthy supplier who makes a point of testing their extracts.
Due to some of the above problems, alongside the fact that, for some, vaporizers are not their preferred or ideal method, many have moved away from vaporizing. For medical purposes, there does not seem to be too many better methods than tinctures, topicals, inhalers, transdermals and suppositories. Others stick to tried-and-tested pipes or bongs, but this does not remove the harmful effects of smoking, even if no papers and/or tobacco are used.
Therefore, should you decide to vaporize, it is probably worth finding a very high-quality one, sticking to vaporizing cannabis flower and extracts alone (no additives or mixtures) and avoiding premade vaporizer cartridges, which may contain many hazardous chemicals.