Is the vaporization healthy? Differences between vaporization and combustion of cannabis.
Vaporization has gained in popularity in recent years, as much as electronic cigarettes. But what exactly is vaporization and is it healthy?
Essentially, vaporization is the heating of cannabis without combustion. The heat releases the active ingredients in the form of a fine vapour generated by a vaporization device. Since there is no combustion, no smoke is produced. Since combustion does not occur, smoke is not created. The vaporizers vary in size and functionality. There are fixed systems or laptops.
Is the vaporization healthy?
According to two recent surveys, people who vaporize cannabis flowers feel a beneficial effect compared to combustion, as the vaporizers are specially designed for cannabis, without the toxic smoke emissions of combustion.
But what does the research say? Does vaporization reduce the inhalation of these toxins such as tar, ammonia and other carcinogens that are potentially found in cannabis smoke?
Although there has been very little research on the vaporization of cannabis, studies show that vaporization produces significantly less toxins than combustion because there is no smoke emission. Although the combustion of cannabis remains less toxic than the combustion of cigarettes, not all forms of smoke inhalation are healthy. All kinds of smoke contain gases and particles that can cause lung irritation and respiratory problems. In fact, more than 100 toxins and molecules are released when cannabis is burned. Smokers are more susceptible to respiratory infections and bronchitis, due to the influence of combustion toxins and not cannabinoids.
One of the first studies comparing combustion to vaporization, showed fewer respiratory problems with vaporization, based on a consumer report of respiratory symptoms.
The advantages of vaporization
Many patients who use medical cannabis have had consequences on the respiratory system and their lungs can be strongly irritated by smoke, so they often find a good alternative in inhaling steam. Some say that vaporizers produce a purer effect, different from combustion where you also feel the effect of toxins (carbon monoxide, for example).
In a recent study in 2014,on approximately 100 subjects who smoked as well as vaporized, consumers reported several benefits of vaporization on smoke, including no smoke smell and better overall taste. They also reported that the same amount of cannabis produced more effect with steam. After the study, almost all participants planned to continue using vaporizers.
Novice consumers also tend to prefer to vaporize because steam can be inhaled in short puffs rather than deep breaths. In addition, the discretion of the vaporization (cloud density) is an additional benefit that vaporizers appreciate.
What can be the disadvantages of vaporization?
The few disadvantages are directly related to the intrinsic settings of the vaporizer or the preparation of the cannabis; because it must be ground to an appropriate consistency or, the waiting time necessary to heat the vaporizer for an adequate temperature, as well as the cleaning of the vaporizer.
In addition, vaporizers are more cumbersome (size, weight…) and their relatively high costs are dissuasive, especially for occasional consumers, although profitable, if we calculate over the long term.
A 2009 study was one of the first to investigate temperature variability related to vaporization. Like other studies, this one has not only demonstrated the reduction of toxin emissions during vaporization but also the influence of temperature on these emissions.
In this study, cannabis was vaporized at three different temperatures (170°C, 200°C and 230°C), with the proportion of cannabinoids measured for each temperature using high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). Values at 200°C and 230°C show significantly higher levels than in smoke, showing less harmful toxins when vaporizing.
Most vaporizers heat cannabis to a temperature just below combustion, in a range of 170 to 200°C. We now know that the amount of active ingredient released increases as the boiling point of these products is approached.
The specific temperatures at which the various active ingredients (terpenes. cannabinoids) are released are known, for example, from 120°C for THCA and some terpenes such as beta-caryophyllene, 130°C for CBDA, 155°C for THC, 165°C for CBD, from 170°C to about 220°C for most terpenes and 220°C for CBC (cannabichromamene).
Based on this knowledge, the settings can be adapted according to: while for medical use, the temperature will depend on the compounds you need, the temperature for recreational use remains largely a personal preference.
Currently, medicine agrees that the best way to absorb the active ingredients of cannabis is through vaporization, as evidenced by some vaporizers classified as medical devices.
To conclude, here are the 4 main reasons that make vaporization the choice of medical environments:
- Eliminates the risk of nuisance due to toxins.
- Healthier for the lungs.
- Better control, availability and release of active ingredients.
- Fewer side effects.
Research on cannabis vaporization
A few decades ago, research was not as extensive, as cannabis was illegal in most countries. As the legalization of cannabis and its acceptance into medicine continue to spread around the world, as in the United States for example, more scientific studies are now available and are constantly increasing.
An increase in information on vaporization and its effects, as well as an increasing availability of by-products, creates more credibility and confidence for cannabis users in both medicinal and everyday use. Scientists can thus study cannabis vaporizers to analyze their effects on the body, as in this study carried out on nearly 3000 users between the ages of 18 and 90. Another study examines cannabis use preferences in cancer patients to alleviate their symptoms.
In view of the steady increase in cannabis users who perceive vaporization as beneficial and less harmful, it is more important than ever to encourage scientific research on this subject.