High and dry: How to use a dry herb vaporizer

We all know how to light up a joint or pipe and inhale our favorite smoke. But dry herb vaporizers are actually better for your wellness. How’s that? Well let’s dive in.

What does a dry herb vaporizer do? 

It’s known as dry vaping because you are inhaling steam from dry organic material —  you’re not sucking in an aerosolized solution of chemicals and additives, which is what you’re doing with pen-style vaporizers and candy-flavored vapes juices from a tank-and-coil mod.

Dry herb vaporizers heat the herb — yes, we are talking about cannabis — to the point where the plant’s resins and trichomes come to a boil and create steam. Then you inhale that steamy goodness — whether high-CBD or high-THC — with no added chemicals and minimal processing of your medicine. You’re treating your body to therapeutic cannabinoids, and relief, faster than with capsules, tincture or edibles.

Dry herb vaporizers come in many forms and styles, from table-top to discreetly pocket-sized, and three basic categories:

  • Conduction, in which thermal energy is transferred through direct contact with your cannabis.
  • Convection, where the transfer of energy takes place through the movement of a liquid or gas (you inhaling). 
  • Hybrid convection-conduction, which employs both methods of energy transfer.

Conduction dry herb vaporizers

The IQ from DaVinci

A conduction vaporizer will have a chamber or oven where you’ll deposit a small amount of your favorite ground-up cannabis flower. In a conduction device, your cannabis comes in direct contact with the heat source, where it cooks a bit — and it typically takes a minute or two for that oven to heat up. Well-known conduction vaporizers include:

Convection dry herb vaporizers

The AirVape Legacy

With a convection vaporizer, hot air is pulled over your cannabis when you inhale. You can expect heating that’s more even, therefore you want to pack your cannabis a little more loosely, so it can all be exposed to the airflow for greater uptake. Convection vaporizers heat up on demand, no waiting. Some claim you get better flavor and longer sessions with convection heating. Well-known convection vaporizers include:

Conduction-convection hybrid dry herb vaporizers

Obviously these take advantage of combined conduction and convection heating technologies, so you

The AirVape X

get the benefits of both — and there are some great options in this category: 

  • AirVape X
  • Firefly 2
  • Crafty and Mighty by Storz & Bickel

How do you use a dry herb vaporizer?

It’s pretty simple. While the technology may differ by model and manufacturer, the technique for dry vaping is pretty much the same, whatever vaporizer you are using:

  • Place your cannabis in the vaporizer. 
  • Turn the unit on (this often requires pressing a control button three to five times).
  • When the unit signals it’s ready (often by a change in lighting or by vibrating) place your lips on the mouthpiece and inhale.

Why go dry? Because dry vaping is better than burning your weed

Remember Fahrenheit 451 — Ray Bradbury’s masterpiece about book burning?  When you smoke cannabis, you’re heating it up past 451 degrees, and incinerating the herb. Just as those book bonfires were torching valuable stuff, you’re also obliterating some of the goodness of the plant when you burn your weed. When you burn your cannabis, the cannabinoids, terpenes and trichomes that give it those fantastic aromas and enable its effects on mind and body take a shortcut to converting straight into carbon.

Also, when you inhale smoke, you’re exposing your lungs to the soot and ash created by that incineration. This is where your health comes in. While humans may have been inhaling smoke since prehistoric times, you and I have only one set of lungs, and we now know about lung diseases we would rather avoid. To this end, dry vaping is about reducing — eliminating, actually — the harm of smoking, while still allowing us to enjoy the gift of cannabis. 

Dry vaping lets you control your high

Not surprisingly, dry vape is smoother than smoke, so you’re probably not going to have the cough reflex you often get with harsh smoke. The mind / body effects can be different too, when you manipulate the temperature inside your vaporizer, and thus the cannabinoids and terpenes that are activated. As my podcast guest John Bailey explained, dry vaping puts you in charge of your cannabis: 

“With vaporizers, your experience is going to be a lot more fine tuned to what you’re getting. So you can remove the fear of anxiety or nausea because you now have said, I’m going to just control what that experience is going to be for myself.”  

Just as with smoking, you can titrate your dose one hit at a time to get as high or medicated as you want. While it’s easy to know when a joint is done — you burned it all and there’s nothing left — with a dry herb vaporizer, the flower you placed in your device is still going to be there. There’s a name for this brownish stuff, it’s called Already Been Vaped (ABV). Don’t throw it out though! Because it usually has some cannabinoids left intact, some dry vapers prize ABV for use in cannabutter and other edibles. 

At what point do you dump your ABV and refill your vaporizer? When there’s no vapor on your exhale, it’s time to refresh. 

Ready to get started with dry vaping?

Inhaling additive-free resin- and cannabinoid-rich steam is better for your lungs, and overall health, than inhaling smoke. It’s easy to do, and it may be better for your bank account too, as many dry vapers say it helps them stretch their stash.

Ready to get started, or step up to a better dry vaporizer? Look for dry vaporizers  made with durable materials including glass, high-grade steel and ceramics, so they won’t leach harmful fumes that can come off aluminum, rubber and plastic when they are exposed to heat. 

We recommend well-made vaporizers from  AirVape, Cloudious9 and DaVinci.

If you’re looking for high-CBG flower to put in your new vaporizer, we recommend some John Snow, from U.S. Hemp Authority-certified American Shaman.

Happy dry vaping!