Vaporizing vs. Combustion: What are the Differences?

Herbal Relief CentreConsumption Methods, Education, Vaporizers

You may have heard of the vaporizing craze that is taking over the cannabis world. Many people insist it’s healthier than traditional smoking methods, but who can you trust? We’re here to break down both methods for a comprehensive comparison.

Combusting Cannabis

Combustion is any method where the flower of the marijuana plant is lit on fire, creating smoke, which is then inhaled and exhaled, delivering the THC and CBD to your blood system through your lungs. From there, they travel to the brain where they attach themselves to the cannabinoid receptors. Viola, you begin to feel the psychoactive effects of THC and the medicinal effects of CBD. When smoking, the cannabis can trigger an effect in only a few minutes.

More Than Just Medicine

In the process of combustion, the cannabinoids need to be heated to 230°C, causing tar, other toxins, and carcinogens to be released into your lungs. This can compromise your respiratory system, creating the chronic bronchitis cough we associate with too much smoking.  Studies are showing that cannabis smoke impairs the system less than cigarette smoke and that the risk of lung cancer is lower.

Types of Marijuana Combustion

Smoking marijuana can be done in ways too numerous to list in this article. That being said, a few of the most traditional ways are still the best. The most common are:

Papers: A joint may be the most iconic of all marijuana delivery systems.

Pipes: The most common kind of pipe is a glass, metal, or wooden pipe. That being said, a pipe can be made from nearly anything. The only qualifications is a bowl and a bit of a neck to draw the smoke from the bowl to you.

One-hitters: A smaller form of a pipe that only fits a small amount of marijuana in the end. They often resemble cigarettes, but can be found made of metal, glass, or even ceramic.

Bongs: Built with the same bowl as a pipe, but a larger vessel for smoke. They often require you to draw the smoke until the vessel before using another breath to take it into your lungs. Just like pipes, there are a myriad of bongs. Check out the bigger list here.

Vaporizing Marijuana

In the case of vaporizing cannabis, the same delivery system happens within your body. You inhale the cannabinoids into your lungs, they travel through your bloodstream to your brain, and then you feel the effects.  The difference is how the drug is released from the plant.

Vaporizing Methods

Vaporizers use conductive heat or convection heat. Cannabinoids begin turning to vapour at 140°C. Many vaporizers even have a temperature control, to adjust the amount you will inhale.

Conductive: Marijuana is placed directly on top of an electronically heated surface. This surface is typically a screen or a solid metal plate, called a hot plate. The direct heat turns the cannabinoids and terpenes into smokable vapor. This can lead to some charring of the cannabis.

Convection: Air is heated to the desired temperature before coming in contact with the plant. Through inhalation or by a fan, the heated air is applied to the cannabis, converting the cannabinoids and terpenes into smokable vapor that you then inhale. This keeps the marijuana from ever getting charred.

The How & What of Vaporizing Marijuana

There are a number of forms and ways to vaporize cannabis.

Cannabis Concentrates You Can Vaporize

Cannabis is more than just dried flower, the traditional way to use marijuana. Today, the market includes a range of concentrates and consistencies that perform better in a vaporizer. The extraction process pulls the THC and CBD out of the marijuana plant using solvents, leaving behind a powerful substance. A few of the most common concentrates include:

Oil: While technically both wax and shatter are types of oil, the term oil usually refers to a concentrate that is runny. It can be thin as liquid honey or as thick as molasses.

Wax: This variation of cannabis concentrate is opaque and looks a lot like wax, hence the name. They range in texture from so runny they are almost oil to so solid they are almost shatter. Softer forms are considered “budder” while the stiffer stuff is called “crumble” or “honeycomb.”

Shatter: This concentrate is solid and breakable, resembling glass. It easily breaks into pieces, which is how it got its moniker, but if the shatter is a bit malleable it could be called “sap” due to its golden colour and sap-like consistency.

This is far from an exhaustive list. If you are interested in using a marijuana concentrate, talk to your doctor or read more here.

Types of Vaporizers

Vape pens: These can be big or small handheld versions. They almost always use the conductive form of vaping, meaning you may be dealing with a little bit of burnt cannabis. However, they are extremely portable and particularly discreet, perfect for balcony use or migraine diffusion throughout the day. These are often your cheapest way to venture into the vaporizing world.

Portable vaporizers: Larger than a handheld pen, but smaller than some of the behemoth desktop vaporizers in the next section, portable vapes range in size from a pack of cigarettes to an external hard drive. In fact, most of them look like a hard drive, equipped with screens to ensure you’re vaping at the right temperature.

Stationary vaporizers: There are also a number of larger vaporizers, which are good if you are looking to inhale a lot of vapour and don’t need to travel with it. These ones usually require plugging in and can range in size from a mug to a toaster. The advantage is the quality of vapor they deliver due to their use of convection heating.

For a more detailed look at vaporizing, click here.