Vaporizer (inhalation device)

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A vaporization heat wand and vaporization chamber bowl used to deliver vapor through a water pipe

A vaporizer or vaporiser is a device used to vaporize the active ingredients of plant material, commonly cannabis, tobacco, or other herbs or blends for the purpose of inhalation. However, they can be used with pure chemicals when mixed with plant material (e.g. nicotine-free tobacco).

Vaporization is an alternative to burning (smoking) that avoids the inhalation of many irritating toxic and carcinogenic by-products.[1]

Vaporizers contain various forms of extraction chambers including straight bore, venturi, or sequential venturi, and are made of materials such as metal or glass. The extracted vapor may be collected in a jar or inflatable bag, or inhaled directly through a hose or pipe. With little to no smoke produced and cooler temperatures,[2] less material is required to achieve a given level of effect.[3] Hence, the irritating and harmful effects of smoking are reduced,[4][5][6][7][8] as is secondhand smoke.

A conduction-style vaporizer
A passive-convection "vaporization pipe" with flame filter
A portable radiation vaporiser

E-cigarette vaporizers

Electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) is the term used to describe a subcategory of vaporizers designed to replace cigarettes. E-cigarettes make use of E-Liquid: flavoring and nicotine dissolved in a solution of vegetable glycerine and/or propylene glycol. Using E-cigarettes, as opposed to lit cigarettes, is considered to overall be a safer experience for both users and those nearby.[9][10]

Benefits of e-cigarettes

Research has shown that e-cigarettes produce 8 to 450 times less carcinogens than regular cigarettes.[11][12][13] In 2013, a paper about carcinogens in e-cigarettes from France stated that e-cigarettes were “potentially carcinogenic," which lead media outlets to spread misinformation on the dangers of e-cigarettes.[14] Later research showed that the original research was flawed and, in fact, e-cigarettes contain much lower amounts of carcinogens than lit cigarettes.[14][15][16][17]

Because of the benefits of vaporization over smoking, e-cigarettes are often regarded among the medical community as both a valuable harm reducing alternative to lit cigarettes and an effective smoking cessation aid.[18][19] E-cigarettes were found by a New Zealand study to be as effective as nicotine patches in smoking cessation.[20]

Marijuana vaporizers

Vaporizer with water cooling

Vaporizers are also used to inhale marijuana. Of the studies about vaporizing marijuana, few have addressed the quality of the vapor extracted and delivered; instead, studies usually focus on the mode of usage of the vaporizers. There are 483 identifiable chemical constituents known to exist in the cannabis plant,[21] and at least 85 different cannabinoids have been isolated from the plant.[22] The aromatic terpenoids begin to vaporize at 126.0 °C (258.8 °F),[23] but the more bio-active tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabinol (CBN) do not vaporize until near their respective boiling points: THC 157 °C (315 °F),[24] CBD 160–180°C (320°F-356°F),[24] and CBN 185 °C (365 °F)[24]

Vaporizers for medical use

A forced-air vaporizer. The detachable balloon (top) fills with vapors that are then inhaled.

Studies have shown that vaporizing cannabis exposes the user to lower levels of harmful substances than smoking cannabis.[25][26][27][28] These findings are important for it is estimated that 10–20 percent of patients with chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, and HIV/AIDS have admitted to smoking cannabis for therapeutic purposes.[29] For patients, a study found that smoking cannabis sativa reduced daily pain by 34%, a statistically significant amount.[30]

In a study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in May 2008, it was stated that vaporizers were a "suitable method for the administration of THC."[31] A 2007 study by University of California, San Francisco, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Neurology, founded that "there was virtually no exposure to harmful combustion products using the vaporizing device."[7] A 2006 study performed by researchers at Leiden University found that vaporizers were "safe and effective cannabinoid delivery system(s)." The study stated that the amount of THC delivered by vaporizers were equivolent to the amount delivered by smoking.[28] Because of those studies and other studies, vaporizers are medically sound devices for delivering THC.[32]


The proposed factors affecting output include:[25][28]

  • Temperature
  • Specimen density
  • Weight, content of water and essential oils
  • Consistency of material in the filling chamber
  • Storage time of the vapor
  • Inhalation method (breathing technique)

Not all those have been scientifically tested. Research using vaporizers found the delivery efficiency highest at around 226 °C (439 °F), falling to about half efficiency at 150 °C (302 °F) to 180 °C (356 °F) degrees depending on material.[28] The purest preparations produced the highest efficiencies, about 56% for pure THC versus 29% for plant material (female flower tops) with 12% THCA content. Besides THC, several other cannabinoids as well as a range of other plant components including terpenoids were detected in the plant material. Using pure THC in the vaporizer, no degradation products (delta-8-THC (D8-THC), cannabinol (CBN), or unknown compounds) were detected by HPLC analysis.[28] The longer vapor is stored, the more THC is lost as it condenses on the surface of the vaporizer or the balloon. This loss may be negligible over a few minutes but may exceed 50% after 90 minutes.[28] The Leiden University study found that as much as 30%–40% of inhaled THC was not absorbed by the lungs but simply exhaled. However, they did not find large individual differences in the amounts exhaled.[28]

Culinary application

Vaporizers are sometimes used by chefs as a method of applying controlled heat to herbs and spices to release flavors that are otherwise difficult to titrate or apply, or that might be spoiled by overheating during cooking.[33][34][35] Grant Achatz, chef-proprietor of Alinea in Chicago, "uses the aroma-filled bags as place-mats, punctured when plates are placed in front of the customer."[33]

See also


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  2. ^ Stephen A. Greene (2002). Veterinary Anesthesia and Pain Management Secrets. 74: Elsevier Health Sciences. ISBN 1560534427. 
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