People have smoked cannabis for centuries to enjoy its health benefits like reducing stress and stimulating appetite. But smoking releases harsh toxins that damage your lungs and can cause cancer. Plus it’s messy. And stinky.
Vaporizers heat cannabis to temperatures below burning point (451°F) which releases potent vapor with the same physical and mental benefits as smoking marijuana, but without the harsh smoke toxins1. And the herb odor is much less.
Heating cannabis without burning it releases THC and other active ingredients into the air. This vapor gets you just as medicated as smoking a joint, but instead it virtually eliminates all the harmful smoke toxins found using joints, pipes or bongs. Warming marijuana just before it burns turns out to be a great way to enjoy this wonderful plant.
Vaporizers heat cannabis to temperatures below the point of burning. Instead of releasing toxic smoke, vaporizers deliver pure, clean THC vapor that’s just as potent.
Cannabis itself isn’t harmful; it’s the smoke that gets you. Burning marijuana releases over 111 known air-born toxins and compounds. Studies have found that pot smokers face higher risk of bronchitis and respiratory infections, but this risk comes from smoke byproducts and not cannabinoids themselves.
“I’ve changed my habits a little bit. I’ve smoked so much and I got congestion from it, wheezing in the night and coughing. So I switched over to a vaporizer. You don’t get any smoke, and you don’t get any heat. And for a singer, or someone’s lungs, it’s much, much healthier. There’s pot in the vaporizer, but when you puff it in, you’re getting vapors, but not heat and not smoke. I think it’s even stronger, too.”
Da Buddha is a good starter vaporizer to show the basic vaporization process with medical cannabis:
Turn your vaporizer on to warm-up the heating element. Patience is a virtue, so wait until it’s hot and ready.
Grind the herb to a fine-ish consistency. Most vapes work better with fine grinds, so take a few extra seconds to find a nice consistency.
Load vaporizer with herb; here we’re using Da Buddha vaporizer and using the wand to inhale or "suck up" the ground weed.
Inhale slowly using steady breaths to draw the warm vapor into your mouth and lungs. Don’t be distracted, find focus and be attentive.
1. Indica Marijuana Nugget Ready for Grinding:
Notice the color, lush green and fresh looking, not too wet or dry; this will grind nicely.
2. Freshly Ground Weed, Ready to Vape:
A medium-fine grind and we’re ready to vaporize. Many vapes perform better with finer grinds. A few extra taps and grinds helps.
3. Herb After 5 Hits in the Vaporizer:
The weed looks light brown after 6 hits in a plug-in vaporizer on medium temperature. Notice some faint green? You’re more than half way done.
4. After 12 Hits it’s Already Been Vaped (ABV):
Mostly done. Note the brown monotone color, earthy and depleted looking. It’s also dry and crispy to the touch. Nothing really left to vape.
5. Fully Cached After 20+ Hits:
Turning up the heat we draw the few final hits, the weed is tasting dark. There’s a faint odor of brown herb — it’s fully toasted, and so are you.
Vaporizing marijuana avoids the smoke and harsh heat of pipes, joints and bongs, while delivering the same amount of THC and other active cannabinoids. Here’s some proof:
Vapor analysis found 36–61% THC, an efficiency that compares to marijuana cigarettes. Vapor consisted overwhelmingly of cannabinoids, with trace amounts of three other compounds. Combusted smoke contained 111 other compounds. Results indicate that vaporization can deliver therapeutic doses of cannabinoids with a drastic reduction in smoke compounds.Link: Cannabis Vaporizer Combines Efficient Delivery of THC with Effective Suppression of Pyrolytic Compounds
Choosing between the different types of marijuana vaporizers involves trade-offs in size, price, design and ease of use. The main things to consider when comparing vaporizers are:
Let me help guide you to the right choice for you with my detailed and well-researched marijuana vaporizer reviews.
Standard Plug-in vaporizers are electric units that typically sit at home on a table or desk. They use whip tubes to deliver vapor from a heat source to your mouth. Because the heat source is so powerful they are capable of delivering very strong and consistent hits of vapor. Most plug-in units are warmed-up and ready to use in 3+ minutes.
Forced-air vaporizers are also plug-in electric, but use bags to hold vapor and fans to inflate the bag. Bags allow the vapor time to cool, so these units are best for people with lung and breathing problems. Bags are also very good for sharing with friends.
Portable vaporizers can be carried in your pocket for discreet, any-time medication. Most portables run on rechargeable batteries, but a few use refillable butane gas. Most portables are warmed-up and ready to use after 1–2 minutes, but a few have super fast warm-up times under 10 seconds.
Whip tubes are made of glass or food-grade plastic (so they’re safe to put in your mouth). With a tube, you’re drawing hot air into your mouth like using a straw.
Take slow and steady hits and you’ll avoid any harsh heat and just feel warm vapor. Be careful not to breathe out through the wand or you might blow herb into the heating element which may burn and cause smoke.
Bags are made of plastic and collect vapor. Typically a fan inside the vaporizer pushes air through the herb chamber/screen compartment, filling the bag with cool vapor.
Bags allow the vapor to cool, making them perfect for people with throat and breathing problems like acid reflux, asthma or bronchitis. Bags are also great for sharing in groups because you can pass it around and take huge hits from it like a bong.
Convection vaporizers use hot air, herb never directly touches the heat source as hot air passes over the herb to release active ingredients. As you inhale, you can regulate the temperature and strength of the vape hits by controlling how hard and fast you inhale (pull) air.
Conduction vaporizers use a hot surface, herb is heated by direct contact with a hot metal plate (or oven). As the plate gets hot it releases THC cannabinoids from the herb inside but only for the parts actually touching or very near the heat source. Frequent stirring or shaking these types of vapes helps evenly distribute the heat across your herb load. Typically easy to clean and affordable, conduction vaporizers have fewer parts and complexity.
Marijuana comes in two strains, Indica and Sativa:
Over 85 active chemical compounds, or cannabinoids, have been found in marijuana. These are the main three typically listed on medical marijuana labels and dispensary menus:
Read more in my guide to cannabis cannabinoids
Eating marijuana makes it hard to control the dose, eating too much is a very easy mistake! Effects of eating don’t kick in for 45min to an hour after eating pot brownies or such a treat. Even the most popular San Francisco medical marijuana edibles vary in strength and dose size per batch. Its kind of a gamble.
But vaporizing weed makes it easy to control your dose as you feel the effects within seconds. Inhale as much as you want and stop when you’re feeling good.
Grinding your weed exposes more of it to air during vaporization, drawing more active ingredients and conserving your weed at the same time! Here are a few tips for grinding as well as buying a grinder. We loaded three basic marijuana grinders with herb and put them to the test:
A. Cheapie plastic two-piece grinder fails our tests to make a semi-fine mix. This will waste weed in many vaporizers such as the Magic Flight Launch Box.
B. Metal four-piece grinder does a better job for a finer consistency, but still misses my mark. The finer the grind the better the vape session.
C. Metal two-piece grinder does a nice job getting to semi-fine because you can over-grind and shake things around to get more of a powerdy consistency.
Also a coffee grinder works very well, but can pulverize herb to dust, which can be too fine for some vapes. Experiment and do tests with your specific strains.
Below are some tips for maintaining your vaporizer so it stays working smoothly and efficiently.
Isopropyl Alcohol works very well to clean resin. It dissolves ethyl cellulose, many oils, alkaloids, gums and natural resins. Dip pipe cleaners in alcohol, put it on rags and Q-tips and use to clean off resin. Soak glass pieces and they should clean up nicely.
We hope you enjoyed this detailed exploration of vaporization and how it can help improve your health compared to smoking cannabis.
We recommend these for medical marijuana patients looking to stop smoking and switch to a reliable and consistent vaporizer: