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Vaping vs. Dabbing: Why You Should Care About Heat

Walk around any hemp festival or Cannabis Cup in the United States and you’ll notice two products popping up all over the place: vaporizers and dab rigs. In many ways, these trends represent two competing directions for the cannabis industry.

On one hand, vaporization has blown up as a health trend for cannabis lovers. Most forms of cannabis consumption have some type downside: smoking cannabis still subjects the consumer to charred plant matter, and many edible companies still rely on sugary desserts as a vehicle for infused products. Vaporizing your cannabis is the only surefire way to avoid the most common cons to cannabis consumption since the process doesn’t create smoke and is 100% calorie and sugar-free.

On the other hand, much to the horror of the typical cannabis naysayer, dabbing has also risen dramatically in popularity. Yet, the biggest opposition to dabbing doesn’t have as much to do with health as the general appearance of the activity–when you begin to take a blow torch to a metal nail and pack the oil down, consuming marijuana suddenly looks almost entirely like consuming something else.

To get an expert opinion on these two subjects, the Leafly team had the chance to talk Seibo Shen of VapeXhale. Recently, Shen has been battling with one particular question: how do you give consumers the experience of dabbing without all the stigma?

In an attempt make the process healthier, Shen and his team have designed a concentrate attachment that lets consumers vaporize cannabis concentrates rather than dab them, which uses a mixture of vaporization and combustion to transform concentrate into a smokeable form.

To better understand what role heating technologies play in your cannabis consumption, we put together a quick lesson in basic mechanics. Here’s all you’ve ever wanted to know about heat:

Vaporization vs. Dabbing (or Conductive vs. Convective Heating)

Though dabbing has developed a scary reputation, in many ways the activity is actually much healthier than smoking. Yet, when enthusiasts are trying to consume cannabis in the safest way possible, there are a few things you need to understand about what’s happening to the cannabis when it’s heated in particular ways. Namely, you’ll need to understand what the difference is between conductive versus convective heating.

Conductive Heating

Vaporizers and other tools that rely on conduction to transform cannabis product into smoke or vapor typically use flower or concentrate directly applied to a hot plate to change a product into a useable form. When dabbing, the “hot plate” is an ultra-hot metal nail that is heated to extremely high temperatures using a small blowtorch.

“Dabbing may be less harmful than smoking,” explained Shen, “but it’s still not vaporizing. When you’re heating the TI nail 900 to 1000 degrees and you’re dropping some oils onto it and watching it sizzle, that pad is getting hotter than a frying pan when you’re frying your food. Those char marks that are created, that’s combustion. That is also what happens when you use combustion to heat concentrates for dabbing.”

Convective Heating

Rather than heating the cannabis matter directly with a heating element, convective vaporization uses an electronic mechanism to heat air. Once the air reaches a certain temperature, the hot air actually heats the cannabis flower and/or concentrate, extracting the THC and turning the material into a vapor without charring the substance.

Of the two types, convective vaporization is the best for your body. The convective method avoids the charring associated with nearly every other method, meaning that convective vaporization creates the purest form of activated, consumable cannabis.

What to Look for in a Quality Vaporizer

Though vaporization is one of the healthiest ways to consume cannabis, not all vaporizers are the same. Depending on the model, different vaporizers can rely on the same methods for activating and extracting cannabinoids as other activities, like dabbing. Yet, as vaporizer technology becomes better each year, consumers need to begin understanding what to look for in a quality machine.

“When we began looking at vape after vape, we noticed a common trend: the heater is sitting in the same chamber as the electronics,” Shen explained. “As in many electrical devices, most of the individual components are held together by solder. This is concerning because when that heating element begins to warm up the solder, that metal can begin off-gassing. The last thing someone who is conscious of their health wants to be concerned about is inhaling anything other than cannabis vapor.”

Not only that, but vaporizers that rely on adding water to the machine may face an additional problem: “Many vaporizers use aluminum heaters, which are perfectly fine, but if any sort of moisture happens to get down into the heating chamber, that metal will begin to oxidize and it can rust. Obviously you don’t want to inhale something that’s rusted.”

Why Vape Temperature Matters

The final thing that you need to be concerned about when vaping, dabbing, or relying on heat to consume your herb is temperature. Often times, avid cannabis consumers turn up the heat on their vaporizers (or try to make their dab rigs boiling-lava hot) to produce an extra thick vapor or smoke.

This creates one major problem: benzene.

Benzene is a common carcinogen that can be found in everything from car exhaust to soft drinks and tobacco. While cannabis tends to produce low benzene levels (a 1986 study found that benzene levels in cannabis consumers are lower than those of tobacco consumers, but higher than non-smokers), the chemical can still be released when consumers heat their product over 365 degrees.

“If you’re vaporizing for health reasons,” Shen said, “you want to stay below 365 degrees. One of our major goals was to create a vaporizer that would give consumers that thick, tasty vapor without having to crank the temperature above 365 degrees.”

The cannabis industry is becoming more high-tech each year. As more research and information about individual products comes out of the woodwork, more entrepreneurs are focusing on creating products that both work well and also give consumers the safest cannabis experience possible. Though people have been vaping and smoking for over a decade now without any major complications, finding new ways to ensure that cannabis maintains its newfound good reputation is always a positive for anyone hoping to make the cannabis industry their future.

Having problems understanding the basic science of dabbing and vaporization? Here's the lowdown on how temperature affects your health.

A Beginners Guide To Vaping Concentrates

Marijuana has come a long way in the last decade or so. Legalization in some states and a general increase of awareness gives innovation room to breath. Although vaping concentrates has been around for awhile, they’re finally starting to come into their own as an alternative to the traditional methods of smoking marijuana plants.

What is concentrate?

Let’s back up for a second. What exactly are concentrates? Herbal concentrates are the official name of “dabs,” small concentrations of the active ingredients found in cannabis. While the terminology and the sheer amount of options with vaping concentrates are enough to scare some people off, many people are coming around to them.

Why are people switching to concentrates?

So what’s the big deal with dabs, anyway? People are creatures of habit, and it usually takes something good for most people to expend the energy shaking up their routine. Vaping concentrates have a couple big draws.

  • Stronger Hits. Concentrates are just that, concentrated. They contain all of the active ingredients and none of the fluff. Their potency is much higher than conventional smoking methods, with some wax concentrates being as much as 80%.
  • Increased Flavor. Because there’s nothing else getting in the way, concentrates tend to deliver a much stronger flavor. The “taste” of marijuana is often people’s least favorite aspect, and with vaping concentrates it is no longer a problem.
  • Discretion. Even in states where consuming marijuana products is legal, many people prefer not to draw attention to themselves. Vape pens are discreet and don’t leave nearly as much smell behind after you’re done using them.

What options do you have?

There are 4 basic kinds of concentrates. Which one you choose will depend on the delivery device you want to use and your specific preferences.

  • Wax. This is the most common choice, especially for people new to vaping concentrates. It is the cheapest and most easily available option. Wax is usually somewhere in the 60% range when it comes to potency (it is the weakest of the four concentrates). It’s soft texture means it is difficult to handle without the proper dabbing tools.
  • Budder. Budder is the other lower potency option. Like wax, it is soft enough to require dabbing tools to handle. Budder is the more flavorful option, though, as it contains more terpenes (the compounds responsible for flavor). If you’re looking for a lighter hit with stronger flavor, budder might be your ideal option.
  • Shatter. At 80% purity, shatter is the strongest hit you’re going to find amongst the vaping concentrates. It is the consistency of thin glass and can easily break or shatter, hence its name. Shatter can be easily used by hand. Simply break off a small amount and pop it into your chamber.
  • Crumble. Crumble is similar to shatter. It is also breakable, though not quite as fragile as shatter. It is probably the easiest form to handle and is the second most potent option, after shatter.

The Different Devices

There are currently 4 options for consuming vaping concentrates. By far the most common is the concentrate vape pen, though the other systems do have their fans.

  • Concentrate Vape Pen. These are a smart buy for anyone new to the vape concentrate scene. You can buy one on an online vape shop. They are portable and easy to use. When you shop for a concentrate vape pen, you will need to make some decisions, such as whether to go with a wickless version or not.
  • Non-Pens. These are an alternative to the concentrate vape pen. They are also portable but operate using a skillet system.
  • E-Rigs. E-rigs are for those who prefer their vapor concentrates to be cooled. These portable devices heat the concentrate up on a nail and then deliver the vapor through a water attachment.
  • Desktops. Desktop concentrate vapors are meant for groups. Since they are large and some need to be plugged in, you won’t be going anywhere with this sort of rig. The vapor is inhaled through a tube or balloon.

Most people who switch to vaping concentrates end up with a concentrate vape pen and some wax. This is a great starting point, but there is always room for experimentation. Find the combination that works best for you and vape away!

Can you vape flavor concentrate?

Yes, if they are properly diluted, food concentrate drops can be used for vape juice. Vape juice contains the following: water, food-grade flavoring, nicotine, and propylene glycol of vegetable glycerin. The food concentrate drops would take the place of the food-grade flavoring.

What is DAB pen?

A DAB pen is a modern way of consuming THC without combustion. DAB pens are essentially vape pens designed to handle THC concentrate rather than e-Liquid. DAB pens offer a stronger hit than bowls or bongs with less hassle.

What goes in a dab pen?

DAB pens, also called wax pens, take various forms of THC concentrate. The devices themselves are comprised of the same components as a regular vape pen: a heating element and a battery. The difference is in how the pens are loaded. Typical vape devices take cartridges full of e-Liquid, but DAB pens require you to load the concentrate directly on the heating chamber.

What are vaping concentrates?

Vaping concentrates or herbal concentrates are what you use in a DAB pen. These small “dabs” are highly concentrated active ingredients, allowing you to get more of the cannabis ingredients you want and fewer of the inactive components.

Michael Ashby

Michael is a long established writer of Fiction, Poetry, and Marketing based content. When he’s not working on his countless literary projects, he spends his time educating customers on various growing industries and products.

Marijuana has come a long way in the last decade or so. Legalization in some states and a general increase of awareness gives innovation room to breath.