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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. tobacco-free nicotine).

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 an inflatable bag, or inhaled directly through a hose or pipe. With no combustion happening when used properly and cooler temperatures,[1] a significantly better efficiency in extracting the ingredients can be obtained.[2] Hence, the irritating and harmful effects of smoking are heavily reduced,[3][4][5][6][7] as is secondhand smoke.

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

E-cigarette vaporizers

First generation electronic cigarette resembling a tobacco cigarette

An electronic cigarette ("e-cig" or "e-cigarette") is a battery-powered vaporizer which simulates tobacco smoking by producing a vapor that resembles smoke. It generally uses a heating element within an atomizer that vaporizes a liquid solution called e-liquid. E-liquids usually contain a mixture of propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, nicotine, and flavorings,[8] while others release a flavored vapor without nicotine.[9]

The benefits and risks of electronic cigarette use are uncertain.[10][11] Some research indicates that the health risks are much lower than regular cigarettes and similar to nicotine replacement therapy.[12][13]

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,[14] and at least 85 different cannabinoids have been isolated from the plant.[15] The aromatic terpenoids begin to vaporize at 126.0 °C (258.8 °F),[16] 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),[17] CBD 160–180°C (320°F-356°F),[17] and CBN 185 °C (365 °F).[17]

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.[18][19][20][21] 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.[22] For patients, a study found that smoking cannabis sativa reduced daily pain by 34%, a statistically significant amount.[23]

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."[24] 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."[6] 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 equivalent to the amount delivered by smoking.[21] Because of those studies and other studies, vaporizers are medically sound devices for delivering THC.[25]


The proposed factors affecting output include:[18][21]

  • 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.[21] 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.[21] 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.[21] 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.[21]

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.[26][27][28] 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."[26]

See also


  1. ^ Stephen A. Greene (2002). Veterinary Anesthesia and Pain Management Secrets. 74: Elsevier Health Sciences. ISBN 1560534427. 
  2. ^ "Get Educated Before You Buy Vaporizers". Retrieved 3 March 2014. 
  3. ^ Earleywine M, Barnwell SS (2007). "Decreased respiratory symptoms in cannabis users who vaporize". Harm Reduction Journal 4: 11. doi:10.1186/1477-7517-4-11. PMC 1853086. PMID 17437626. 
  4. ^ "Vaporizers for Medical Marijuana". Archived from the original on 2010-07-18. Retrieved 2008-07-28. 
  5. ^ Grotenhermen F (June 2001). "Harm Reduction Associated with Inhalation and Oral Administration of Cannabis and THC". Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics 1 (3 & 4): 133–152. doi:10.1300/J175v01n03_09. 
  6. ^ a b Abrams DI, Vizoso HP, Shade SB, Jay C, Kelly ME, Benowitz NL (November 2007). "Vaporization as a smokeless cannabis delivery system: a pilot study" (PDF). Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics 82 (5): 572–578. doi:10.1038/sj.clpt.6100200. PMID 17429350. 
  7. ^ "The Centennial Celebration – Washington, D.C. September 13–17, 1948". Science 108 (2800): 205–206. August 1948. doi:10.1126/science.108.2800.205. PMID 17821306. 
  8. ^ Grana, R; Benowitz, N; Glantz, SA (13 May 2014). "E-cigarettes: a scientific review.". Circulation 129 (19): 1972–86. doi:10.1161/circulationaha.114.007667. PMC 4018182. PMID 24821826. 
  9. ^ Saitta, D; Ferro, GA; Polosa, R (Mar 2014). "Achieving appropriate regulations for electronic cigarettes.". Therapeutic advances in chronic disease 5 (2): 50–61. doi:10.1177/2040622314521271. PMC 3926346. PMID 24587890. 
  10. ^ Odum, L. E.; O'Dell, K. A.; Schepers, J. S. (December 2012). "Electronic cigarettes: do they have a role in smoking cessation?". Journal of pharmacy practice 25 (6): 611–4. doi:10.1177/0897190012451909. PMID 22797832. 
  11. ^ "Questions and answers on electronic cigarettes or electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS)". World Health Organization. 9 July 2013. Archived from the original on 21 July 2013. 
  12. ^ Britton, John; Bogdanovica, Ilze (May 15, 2014), Electronic cigarettes - A report commissioned by Public Health England, Public Health England 
  13. ^ Caponnetto P; Russo C; Bruno CM; Alamo A; Amaradio MD; Polosa R. (Mar 2013), "Electronic cigarette: a possible substitute for cigarette dependence.", Monaldi archives for chest disease 79 (1): 12–19, PMID 23741941 
  14. ^ "What chemicals are in marijuana and its byproducts?". 2009. Retrieved 2013-01-13. 
  15. ^ El-Alfy; Abir T et al. (Jun 2010). "Antidepressant-like effect of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and other cannabinoids isolated from Cannabis sativa L". Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior 95 (4): 434–42. doi:10.1016/j.pbb.2010.03.004. PMC 2866040. PMID 20332000. 
  16. ^ "Methods of Medicating with Marijuana". Retrieved 10 February 2014. 
  17. ^ a b c McPartland JM, Russo EB (2001). "Cannabis and cannabis extracts: greater than the sum of their parts?". Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics 1 (3/4): 103–132. doi:10.1300/J175v01n03_08. 
  18. ^ a b Gieringer, Dale; St. Laurent, Joseph; Goodrich, Scott (9 February 2004). "Cannabis Vaporizer Combines Efficient Delivery of THC with Effective Suppression of Pyrolytic Compounds". Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics (Haworth Press) 4 (1): 7–27. doi:10.1300/J175v04n01_02. Retrieved June 20, 2010. 
  19. ^ "Marijuana Vaporizer Provides Same Level Of THC, Fewer Toxins, Study Shows", Official Journal of the American Academy of Neurology (summarized by Science Daily) (2007-05-16)". 2007-05-16. Retrieved 2011-02-23. 
  20. ^ "Cal NORML/MAPS Study Shows Vaporizer Can Drastically Reduce Toxins in Marijuana Smoke". Retrieved 2011-02-23. 
  21. ^ a b c d e f g Hazekamp A, Ruhaak R, Zuurman L, van Gerven J, Verpoorte R (June 2006). "Evaluation of a vaporizing device (Volcano) for the pulmonary administration of tetrahydrocannabinol". Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences 95 (6): 1308–17. doi:10.1002/jps.20574. PMID 16637053. 
  22. ^ "Biomechanics Of Vaporizers". VN. 4 February 2014. Retrieved 9 February 2014. 
  23. ^ Barohn, Richard (2013). Peripheral Neuropathies, An Issue of Neurologic Clinics. Elsevier. ISBN 978-1455771226. 
  24. ^ Zuurman L; Roy C; Schoemaker RC et al. (September 2008). "Effect of intrapulmonary tetrahydrocannabinol administration in humans". Journal of Psychopharmacology 22 (7): 707–16. doi:10.1177/0269881108089581. PMID 18515447. 
  25. ^ Gieringer DH (June 2001). "Cannabis 'Vaporization'". Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics 1 (3 & 4): 153–170. doi:10.1300/J175v01n03_10. 
  26. ^ a b Bob Gledhill. "Alinea restaurant uses Volcano as flavorizer". Retrieved 2011-02-23. 
  27. ^ "Tools for creating aromatic flavors". 2007-01-18. Retrieved 2011-02-23. 
  28. ^ "Volcano used to release nutmeg aroma". Archived from the original on 2009-01-24. Retrieved 2011-02-23.