Vaping Whole Flower vs. Vaping Oil: What’s Better?
Vaping cannabis has increased in popularity over time, and the difference between vaping whole flower versus vaping oil has become a topic of debate. Both methods are beneficial in different ways and cause different effects, so which is better?
According to physicians, the best and safest consumption methods are not smokable medical cannabis. There are many other intake methods, such as tinctures, capsules, and edibles, that do not cause inflammation and irritation in the lungs.
Among patients, some still prefer smokable products. And increasingly, vape pens and rigs have become more popular. If you are planning on using smokable cannabis, is there a difference between whole flower and vape oil?
Are you thinking about vaping medical marijuana? There are some important things you should know.
Why Do Some Patients Prefer Smokable Medical Marijuana?
Smokable cannabis products remain a top-selling option for patients across the United States. For some people who may have previously used cannabis recreationally, smoking cannabis flower is the conventional method. And the steps it takes to prepare cannabis flower for inhalation is a pleasing ritual that is part of their lifestyle.
The cultural familiarity of smoking cannabis has persisted for thousands of years in traditional medicine. But there are some tangible reasons why many patients choose smokable medical marijuana:
1. A Rapid Onset of Psychoactive Effects
Smoking cannabis is the fastest way to get cannabinoids and terpene content into the bloodstream. Two of the most notable cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Both cannabinoids are rapidly absorbed through the lungs and can provide rapid relief of a variety of physical or mental health symptoms.
People who do not enjoy smoking may still choose smokable cannabis products because it is the fastest way to feel the effects. And for individuals who suffer from debilitating symptoms such as chronic pain, anxiety, or muscle spasms, it may give patients a temporary reprieve and make them more comfortable.
2. The Ability to Take Small Amounts
When you consume too much cannabis, by any intake route, it can result in some uncomfortable symptoms. You can experience severe nausea, drowsiness, and possibly paranoia. The concept of people using cannabis to become highly impaired is not accurate. Getting too high is anything but fun.
However, when you are using smokable cannabis, you have the option to inhale small amounts. Then you can wait up to thirty minutes to see how the quantity you inhaled has affected you. Has it helped reduce your symptom(s)? Then you know you are good and do not need to take more.
But if you have taken 1-2 small inhalations and after an hour, your symptoms have remained uncomfortable and unchanged; you can try smoking more medical marijuana. The effects of cannabis typically last up to four hours. But smokables allow you to microdose if you are trying a new strain or potency and reduce your risk of becoming uncomfortably impaired.
3. Help With Painful or Acute Symptoms
Unless you or someone you care about has experienced chronic pain, it is difficult to understand the urgency some patients feel. When pain is severe, the symptoms make it hard to go about your day at work, at home, or for social activities.
Many patients who endure acute symptoms of chronic pain, muscle spasms, intractable nausea, or severe clinical anxiety find that smoking cannabis flower or vapes help them quickly improve their comfort by reducing the impact of debilitating symptoms.
4. Smoking Cessation
Now that medical science has proven that tobacco use is carcinogenic (cancer-causing), the majority of Americans have moved away from smoking cigarettes. However, the desire to smoke remains long after people have recovered from nicotine addiction.
Some patients who have quit smoking may find that smokable medical marijuana satiates the urge to smoke tobacco products. And that can also help prevent them from taking up the habit (and increasing health risks) once more.
What is Cannabis Vaping?
The technology to vape has been around for a long time. In fact, the very first patent for an electronic vaporizer was filed in 1927 by a man named Joseph Robinson. Different models were introduced throughout the 20th century, including some devices invented by Jed Rose, an entrepreneur who developed the world’s first nicotine patch.
In 1993, a Cherokee medicine man named Eagle Bill invented a device called the “Shake and Vape,” which was designed to vaporize cannabis. The “Volcano Vaporizer” was introduced by a company called Storz and Bickel in 2000, and in 2003, Hon Lik invented the world’s first e-cigarette in China.
Since then, vaping devices have not changed very much. The vape works by exposing a small amount of vape oil to a heated coil; the reaction creates a light vapor cloud to be inhaled. No incineration occurs, which is why vape clouds are not heavy, unlike smoking cannabis flowers or raw hemp.
Why Do People Enjoy Vaping Cannabis?
The lighter vapor can be easier to inhale and less harsh on the exhale. Because the vapor is less dense than conventional cannabis smoke, some people mistakenly feel that they will not cough after inhaling. However, both vape pens and traditional raw cannabis pipes or bongs have the potential to make you cough.
One of the advantages that vaping cannabis offers is the ability to control the amount of airflow more accurately. While bongs and glass pipes have a hole (carb) that can be used to increase the amount of smoke that enters the chamber, it is not a perfect science.
More modern cannabis vape rigs have precision airflow control that can reduce the amount of vape produced and inhaled. You can adjust the settings to your own personal preferences.
Cannabinoids and terpenes dissipate with high temperatures, and you will lose a lot of the potential benefits if you vape (or blaze your bowel) at temperatures of 451 ℉ or hotter.
The only method of controlling the temperature with cannabis flower is by using a water or ice bong. When the smoke passes over the water, it naturally cools, but the incineration temperature can still reduce a lot of the terpene and cannabinoid content.
However, high-quality vaporizers have precision temperature control. You can set them to a maximum temperature of 315 ℉, for example, to preserve more of the medicinal benefits of your cannabis vape oil. That includes keeping valuable cannabis terpenes, which may help provide relief for pain, anxiety, and other symptoms.
What Ingredients Are Inside Cannabis Vaping Oils?
There is more than just cannabis extract and terpenes in cannabis oil for vaping. The carrier oil is a fat-soluble substance that improves the bioavailability of your THC oil. It helps your body absorb the cannabinoids inhaled from your vape pen. It also helps distribute the nearly pure cannabinoids equally so that the amount delivered is equal, every time you use your vape pen.
Carrier oils are the substance that cannabinoids and terpenes are mixed with. This helps provide the chemical reaction in portable vaporizers that converts the oil to a vapor that can be inhaled.
The cannabis industry uses a number of different carrier oils, including:
- Medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) oil.
- Propylene Glycol (PG) helps as a propellant to produce the vapor when heated.
- Vegetable Glycerin (VG) helps produce more dense vapor clouds.
Before 2019, another common additive in vape oils was vitamin E acetate. However, you are unlikely to find any vape cartridges that contain the additive at a licensed dispensary. In November of 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 2,172 injuries and 42 deaths from lung damage linked to vitamin E acetate.
Some states have banned vape products that contain additives, but it remains legal to sell products with vitamin # acetate in many states. If you plan on regular THC oil consumption, make sure you check the certificate of analysis (COA) for the product to ensure that it does not have harmful chemical additives.
What Are Dry Herb Vaporizers?
Cannabis smokers who prefer raw plant material instead of oil vape pens may try using a dry herb vaporizer. Vaping THC oil doesn’t provide the same flavor or experience that many cannabis users prefer. And vape cartridges are not always convenient because you have to charge vape pens, and periodically, cannabis oil cartridges malfunction.
Dry herb vaporizers offer many advantages, but the first benefit is that you can use whole flower. The dry herb vaporizer is designed with a special compartment where you can pack ground-up buds. Instead of vaping oil cartridges, you get the fresh flavor of the cannabis and your favorite strain.
Some people choose vaping dry herb because it is more convenient than using a glass pipe method. And it eliminates any extra toxins associated with pre-rolls, including potential carcinogens and harmful chemicals in rolling papers.
Vaping Loose Leaf Flower Vs. Oil
There are two main types of vaporizers used to vape flower: conduction or convention. Each heats the flower differently. Conduction vaporizers involve a metal-on-metal, motionless heat transfer, while convection vaporizers move energy via a liquid or gas much like steam.
The more efficient of the two are conduction vaporizers which heat with hot air since convection vaporizers use a metal chamber in which the flower touches the walls and receives uneven heat. This means the flower that touches the chamber walls receives more heat which leads to waste. This is an important distinction to realize when deciding whether vaping flower or oils is best.
Overall, vaping oils (or cannabis concentrates) are better for times when someone prefers one or two quick puffs on the go because no heating time is necessary. In addition, vape pens are typically small and inconspicuous. Vaping flower requires one to prepare it by grinding the flower and refilling the chamber before each use.
Flower vaporizers require battery recharging and drain power while turned on, whereas oil vaporizers only use power when a draw is made from the pen. The loose-leaf has a stronger flavor than concentrates but also a stronger smell. Both methods are cleaner and produce lighter effects, but this is neither positive nor negative, depending on the desired outcome.
For some people, vaping means clearer effects; for others weaker effects. In the end, the decision to vape flower, oil, or both comes down to personal preference.
Is Vaping Healthier Than Smoking Raw Cannabis?
One recent study published in the BMJ Journals (Thorax) suggested that cannabis vaping could be more harmful than nicotine vaping. Cannabis vaping can cause more adverse effects, including lung inflammation, pulmonary barrier integrity disruption, and overall lung damage.
The animal study by Dr. Yasmin Thanavala, Department of Immunology, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, Buffalo, New York, also revealed that regular use of cannabis vapes could increase the risk of respiratory infections and “suppress the immune responses to vaccinations.”
Patients most at risk of negative side effects from vaping are those with pre-existing lung inflammatory diseases, such as asthma, COPD, and pulmonary fibrosis. For this reason, physicians do not recommend smokable cannabis products (including cannabis oil vape) for patients who have respiratory disorders.
Get Your Medical Card With DocMJ
Do you have questions about medical marijuana and vaping? Schedule an appointment with DocMJ and start a conversation with one of our friendly physicians. We take the time to answer your questions and provide help finding the right medical cannabis options for your needs.
Dr. Glider is a board certified Internal Medicine Specialist. He received his Florida Medical Marijuana Physicians Certification in 2017 and was one of the first recommending physicians with DocMJ. In addition to medical marijuana recommendations, Dr. Glider continues to practice Internal and Geriatric Medicine in private practice. Additionally, he serves as Medical Director for a home health company, supervising and educating staff, as well as supervising an advanced Registered Nurse Practitioners for a transitional care program.
Dr. Glider graduated from the College of Osteopathic Medicine & Surgery in Des Moines, IA and completed his residency at Saddlebrook General Hospital in Saddlebrook, NJ. He has received several honors and awards throughout his professional career, including a City of Des Moines Merit Award and a Chamber of Commerce Award (Port St. Lucie, FL). Dr. Glider is an experienced and caring physician who is loved and respected by his peers and his patients.