We humans have been using cannabis for thousands of years and, for much of this time, our methods of consumption have varied little. However, with the rise of the technological revolution and a clearer understanding of the harms of smoking, electrical devices like dry herb vaporisers have become an increasingly popular alternative to traditional joints, bongs, and pipes. But is it worth making the switch to dry herb vaporisers? We’re taking a look at some of the reasons you should consider it.
First off, let’s recap on what a dry herb vaporiser actually is and how it works.
Vaporisers – or “vapes” are now a common sight across the UK and most other countries around the world. First rising in popularity as an alternative to smoking cigarettes, these convenient devices have firmly crossed over into the cannabis world. Their function is to replace the harmful smoke associated with burning plant material with a vapour that is inhaled into the lungs in the same way. When it comes to vaporising cannabis, a range of different products can be used, from oils and hash to dried cannabis buds or flowers. The dry herb vaporiser, of course, focuses on the latter.
To unlock the valuable cannabinoids and terpenes from the cannabis, vaporisers apply relatively low temperatures via a a heating element to trigger the evaporation of these sought-after compounds – all while avoiding the acute and chronic effects of traditional smoking methods. (For a more in-depth look at how this technology works, take a look at our ‘Beginner’s guide to dry herb vaporisers’). But is there any evidence to support the switch to dry herb vaporisers when it comes to cannabis? Let’s start with the most pressing issue: harm reduction.
Dry herb vaporisers: a healthier alternative?
Just as many smokers have turned to e-cigarettes and nicotine vapes as a healthier alternative to smoking tobacco, cannabis users are increasingly adopting dry herb vaporisers for health reasons. This is particularly true among medical users; after all, smoking cannabis is still technically illegal in the UK, even if you are a patient with a medical cannabis prescription. This is because of the health risks associated with inhaling cannabis smoke, such as lung damage from breathing in harmful toxins.
While some studies indicate that cannabis smoke may not be as harmful as tobacco smoke, (cannabis smoke has not been linked with tobacco-related cancers) it is generally accepted that all plant matter, when combusted, releases toxic compounds that can be damaging to health. When it comes to cannabis specifically, cannabis smoke has been implicated in respiratory dysfunction, including the conversion of respiratory cells to a pre-cancerous state. Furthermore, a 2021 study found that cannabis smoke raises levels of potentially harmful by-products and chemicals – albeit to a lesser degree than tobacco smoke.
Vaporising cannabis eliminates this potentially harmful smoke, replacing it with a cannabinoid-rich vapour better suited to medicinal use. While more studies are needed for us to fully understand the health implications of vaping cannabis, it appears (as many clinicians will support) that dry herb vaporisers generally offer far better health outcomes to smoking.
A smoother “smoking” experience
Another factor to consider when deciding whether to invest in a dry herb vaporiser is the quality of the user experience. Recreational users with a history of smoking will be familiar with smoke’s potential harshness on the throat – particularly when combined with tobacco. But even when inhaled alone, research indicates that cannabis smoke can cause damage to the throat and lungs, potentially leading to chronic bronchitis and other symptoms, including cough, lung hyperinflation, and even acute bronchitis. All of this can lead to irritation both during and after a smoking session.
In contrast, many find that the cooler temperatures used to heat cannabis in a dry herb vaporiser make for a smoother experience. While a lit cannabis joint can exceed temperatures of 400°C, vaporisers are able to release cannabinoids and terpenes at much lower temperatures – starting at around 120°C (THC has a boiling point of around 157°C). As a result, opting for a dry herb vaporiser could help to reduce irritation both during and after your next sesh. What’s more, many vaporiser users will tell you that this cooler vapour also offers a better taste and aroma! What’s not to like?
A more efficient option
Finally, let’s address something that is understandably important to everyone in these tough times – getting more bang for your buck. Not only do the lower temperatures applied by a dry herb vaporiser offer a smoother and potentially more enjoyable experience, but they could also make for a longer one.
Thanks to the lack of combustion that releases smoke, vaporising is thought to prolong the life of your cannabis buds. You see, while smoking is obviously an effective way of consuming cannabinoids and terpenes, it isn’t necessarily the most efficient method. While the high temperatures trigger the release of these compounds, they may also destroy a significant proportion of them before you even get a chance to enjoy them. Remember how THC has a boiling point of 157°C? Imagine how many compounds could be obliterated in temperatures exceeding 400°C!
Evidence shows that vaping helps to preserve these compounds, giving consumers the chance to, well, consume them! Essentially, this means that a smaller amount of cannabis flower is required to achieve the same effects. However, as the findings of a recent small study of infrequent cannabis users highlight, this could also mean an increased likelihood of experiencing the less desirable effects of THC, such as anxiety.
Still, for seasoned consumers, this could mean saving a lot of money in the long run! Of course, the caveat to these benefits is that dry herb vaporisers produced by reputable brands can come with a pretty hefty price tag. But this is an investment in your health, and when there are as many potential upsides as this, it may well be worth exploring.