Vaporizers: Why (and How) You Should Use One

As much as we here at Sespe enjoy the experience of smoking, we concede that inhaling burning plant matter may be less than healthy for the lungs, and is not necessarily the most efficient way to medicate. Vaporizers can be costly, yes, but a good vaporizer has the potential to pay for itself in the short term by helping you get more out of your medicine, and in the longer term through better respiratory health.  As a bonus, vaporizers reduce or eliminate smoking odors, making it easier to be discreet.

Vaporization involves heating plant materials until the active components boil into a vapor. Nothing burns, so there is no smoke, and virtually no tar or particulate matter. Vape users experience less coughing and phlegm, and often report a better, more cerebral high. The absence of smoke doesn’t mean there is no taste, though — vaporization actually enables you to taste the essence of the plant, rather than the byproducts of its burning.  And since nothing is lost to combustion, you will derive more medicinal effects from less medicine. The plant material left over after vaporization can be used in cooking, often with surprising results — the ABV (already been vaped) leavings used in our firecracker experiments produced the strongest edibles I’ve ever personally experienced.

The decision to use a vaporizer is an easy one, but the decision of which one to buy can be confusing. Vaporizers are an investment, so you’ll want to consider a variety of factors before you decide on which one is right for you. To fully explain the different options (and combinations of options) available would be well beyond the scope of this article, but here’s are some things to keep in mind as you shop:

Heating Elements:

Different manufacturers make different claims about the superiority of their heating elements, but the choices break down into different heating methods (convection, conduction, or some combination of the two) and different types of heating elements (aluminum, ceramic, or glass). The manufacturers of ceramic-based heating elements will warn you that aluminum-based units carry health risks, but there’s no evidence that using aluminum at the temperatures it’s used for in vaporization releases any harmful chemicals. However, be aware that lower quality ceramic heating elements may contain unsafe materials like solder that could release toxic vapors. Be extra-cautious when considering the cheaper models, and always do your research on the manufacturer’s heating design before deciding on a vaporizer.
Form Factor/Portability:

All vaporizers are relatively portable, but some are specifically meant to be with you at all times, while others are too big to be easily transported. The advantages to using a larger unit may inspire some to improvise portable vaporizer kits to enjoy away from home, but there are some brilliant portable vape designs that make the small, hand-held units quite appealing. One new model is meant to look identical to a rescue asthma inhaler, while others are designed to resemble other personal electronic devices, this is a really fun product category to shop in — vape designers are a talented and creative bunch.

But as clever as these portables are, there’s really no substitute for a good, home-based unit. In much the same way as you have your beloved bong for your more formal smoke sessions, it’s always nice to have a full-sized, feature-rich home unit to really get the most out of your medicine. At Sespe, we use a thermostatically-controlled Volcano for precise temperature control. The Volcano is perhaps the best-known of the aluminum heating element type vaporizers, and their product line includes both full-sized and portable models.

How to Vaporize:

Every vaporizing system has its own particular procedures and quirks, and each patient has their own unique needs, but here are some tips to help you find the best approach for you.

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  • Preparation is important. You’ll want to use a grinder (often included as a part of starter kits for new vaporizer users) and make sure you grind the flowers into an even, coarse texture.
  • Fill the chamber, but not too full! Vaporizers that use the convection heating method work best when packed loosely, less than 1/2 full, while those that use a conduction method work best when packed more firmly.
  • Temperature:  Ideally, you want to heat your flowers to between 180 °C (356 °F) and 200 °C (392 °F) degrees. Studies have shown that at these temperatures “… there was virtually no exposure to harmful combustion products using the vaporizing device. Since it replicates smoking’s efficiency at producing the desired THC effect using smaller amounts of the active ingredient as opposed to pill forms, this device has great potential for improving the therapeutic utility of THC.”
  • Keep trying! Vaporizers are tricky, and each model has its own best configuration.

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When researching this post, we found several very helpful articles which explain the subject in more detail. like this one from VapeNow.com covering the different types of heating elements, and found some of our images and information in the Wikipedia article on the subject, along with some surprisingly informative stuff on UrbanDictionary.com, of all places. The subject of cannabis  is huge and ever-changing, and this post is just meant to get you started out on this safer, more effective way of medicating.

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