The Difference Between Smoking, Vaporizing, and Dabbing Cannabis
When some people think of cannabis being consumed, they have images running through their mind of joints, pipes, bubblers, and more.
This is likely due to how cannabis consumption has been portrayed on TV shows, movies, and in mainstream media.
Martha Montemayor, a Certified Nutritional Consultant in Denver, Colorado, cleared up a lot of those misconceptions during her talk "The Pluses and Minuses of Each Delivery Method" at the recent Cannabis Health Summit.
When looking at the inhalation delivery method, cannabis consumption can occur via smoking, vaporizing, and the new phenomenon known as 'dabbing.'
It's very important for consumers to know the scientific differences between each method in order to ensure that they are getting the most benefits from their cannabis experience.
Burning cannabis with a flame wastes beneficial plant material
According to Montemayor, roughly 50% of the plant material in cannabis flower is lost forever when a flame is applied to it.
This is because the temperature of a flame from an average butane lighter is well over 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Some lighters that use different flammable material such as naphtha can burn at a lower temperature, but those flames still burn at over 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Lighting cannabis on fire results in the consumer wasting half of their cannabinoids. In some instances burning cannabis, such as with a joint, is necessary due to convenience, but consumers and patients would get much more out of their cannabis if they vaporized it.
Vaporizing involves a much higher level of bio-availability
If you are not familiar with the term 'bio-availability' you are not alone. It's a scientific concept that most consumers are not aware of.
Bio-availability as it pertains to cannabis flower refers to the proportion of the cannabis flower that enters consumer's physiological system.
When someone burns cannabis with a flame, the bio-availability of the flower is only 15-25% according to Martha Montemayor.
However when cannabis is vaporized, the bio-availability is as high as 60-70%! As such, vaporized cannabis results in a higher amount of cannabinoid absorption by consumers compared to smoked cannabis.
A consumer that vaporizes cannabis will use less plant material compared to if they smoke cannabis and in the process save money.
Is dabbing considered vaporizing?
When cannabis is being vaporized, it isn't being burned as Martha Montemayor pointed out at the Cannabis Health Summit.
Rather, the cannabis is being warmed to the point that the trichomes vaporize, but the plant material is left intact.
This is a big reason why vaporizing is not as harmful as smoking, because the consumer is not inhaling plant material that has been combusted, just vapor.
The optimal temperature for vaporizing is between 300-400 degrees Fahrenheit. That is considerably lower than the temperature involved with smoking cannabis.
But how does that compare to dabbing? The answer lies in the temperature involved. When a dab nail is heated to the point of glowing, it is over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
In that sense, dabbing is definitely not vaporizing. You can tell because of the residue or 'char marks' that are left behind on the nail. They may be subtle, but they are there, and that's the sign of combustion.
What about low temp dabs?
The exception to the rule may be what is called 'low-temp dabbing' in which the dab nail is heated up just enough to heat the cannabis concentrate.
If you are only considering the temperature, then a strong argument could be made that the consumer is vaporizing if the temperature is low enough.
However, the debate as to whether that counts as vaporizing has waged on for a long time, and there is no end in sight. One person can easily argue that the concentrates are still being combusted, so therefore it's not vaporizing.
However, the opposite side of the argument also has validity. Either way, the fact remains that when you are dabbing, you are getting way more out of the material involved than when you are applying a flame to cannabis flower.
Sometimes 'getting more' via dabbing is not recommended, as some people's tolerance is not high enough. Before you try dabbing, ask yourself if you are truly ready, and go very slow. That way you help ensure that you don't have an undesirable experience!
If you want to see Martha Montemayor's entire talk on cannabis delivery methods as well as the other 35+ cannabis experts, physicians, scientists, practitioners, growers, athletes and thought leaders from CHS 2017, you can get free access if you sign up for Green Flower Insider by May 19!
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