Q&A: Is dry vaping cannabis or hemp flower better than smoking it?

Most of us recognize instinctively that inhaling burnt plant matter, of any kind, is not the best thing for our lungs. That’s why so many people were using the Juul and other vape pens. But in the summer of 2019, after people started getting sick and even dying due to vaping-related conditions, a lot of vapers started looking for another option.

And there is another option. If you are interested in immediate access to the medical benefits of cannabis or CBD (and other cannabinoids, including CBG), and you would like to avoid inhaling smoke and / or the carrier liquids in vape juice or e-liquid, then dry vaping cannabis flower may be an alternative. Really, it’s like smoking, minus the smoke. 

Understanding dry vaping and smoking cannabis or CBD

People have been inhaling smoke for thousands of years. We now know this is not a healthy habit, as modern medicine has proven that smoking causes cancer. Yet inhalation is still the fastest way to get medicine into your body, through the small blood vessels in your lungs that carry vapor molecules into your bloodstream.

Dry herb vaping is a fast, but less harmful way to inhale your medicine, as you are not inhaling the soot, ash, carbon and carcinogens that come with smoke. For cannabis smokers, dry herb vaping presents a way to medicate instantly, without the risk of contracting some of the disease states that we know can come with smoking.

Dry vaping vs smoking: the comparison

When you smoke your cannabis or CBD, you are obviously igniting it. All of the plant’s cannabinoids are torched and converted into smoke. As noted above, and in our interview with Troy Redington, inhaling dry vapor that consists of cannabis trichomes, resins and terpenes is much less harmful than inhaling smoke — your lungs will thank you and so will your heart.

What’s more, with a dry herb vaporizer, you can manipulate the temperature settings, and thus control which cannabinoids are brought to the boiling point and converted into the steam you’re going to inhale. In this way, you have much more control over your cannabis / CBD experience.

Ready to get started? You will need a dry vaporizer, and these devices are available from about $60 for an entry-level portable unit, to up to $200 or $300 for a dry vaporizer with more bells and whistles. In the long run you’re going to save money because you get more of an effect from each gram of cannabis. And you can save your vaped material (often referred to as Already Been Vaped or ABV) for use in edibles.

Dry vaping cannabis can also enable you to stretch your cannabis budget, and achieve a clearer, clearer, less-sedating effect than you get when you smoke cannabis. And if you prefer not to get high, you don’t have to. Simply choose a high-CBD flower for dry vaping, and you can have fast relief, without the high.

Another important difference: While the aroma of burning cannabis can be delightful, it tends to cling to your clothes and hair, which is not so great. This is not an issue when you dry vape: The vape cloud dissipates, and there’s no lingering odor.

Q: Is vaping dry cannabis flower healthier than smoking?

People have inhaled smoke (tobacco as well as cannabis) for centuries, and we know that inhaling burnt plant matter can cause diseases including chronic bronchitis, emphysema and lung cancer. Inhaling the steam from heated plant material is different. Most dry vaporizers heat to 330 to 370°F (165-187°C). At these temperatures, there is no combustion, nor release of carcinogenic chemicals. You are inhaling warm air that’s been pulled over the plant, without the plant matter being incinerated.

When you use a dry herb vaporizer with cannabis or high-CBD flower, you’re gaining the health benefits of the cannabinoids, without the downside of smoking.

Q: How does a dry herb vaporizer work?

Dry vaping cannabis requires a dry herb vaporizer that’s designed for that purpose (rather than blowing billowing clouds of vaporized e-juice). Dry herb vaping is pretty simple:

  • You put some loose leaf cannabis flower into the chamber of the vaporizer. Vaporizers have different designs, but in addition to the chamber and a rechargeable battery, they will also have a heating element and a mouthpiece.
  • Once the unit is turned on and heated up, you place your lips on the mouthpiece and draw in your breath.
  • This pulls heated air over the ground material, converting the resins on the cannabis flower into a steam or vapor that you inhale.

Q: At what temperature should I be dry vaping my herb?

Temperature matters when you’re dry vaping. Fortunately most dry herb vaporizers allow for precision temperature control.

Terpenes, the aromatic compounds that give cannabis its distinctive flavor and smell, will vaporize at different temperatures. Many vaporizers allow you to control the temperature of the vapor. In this way, when you dry vape cannabis flower, you have more control over the active ingredients you’ll be inhaling. Most cannabis vaporizers heat to 330 to 370°F (165-187°C).

With some research, (see chart) you can discover the variable temperatures at which the various terpenes convert to vapor, and adjust the heat of your vaporizer according to the terpene profile you’re after.

Q: Do I need to prepare the cannabis flower before I place it in the vaporizer?

You’ll need to clean your cannabis to separate the stems and seeds, just as you would if you were going to smoke it in a pipe or joint. Grinding the flower will expose more of the resins to the hot air, making for a more efficient extraction process — and allowing you to get more out of your cannabis.

Q: Do you need a special vaporizer to vape dry cannabis?

Yes, you will need a dry herb vaporizer that’s designed for this purpose. There are tabletop models such as the Volcano, and many portable units that are more convenient and discreet.

Q: Does dry vaping cannabis flower irritate your lungs as much as smoking?

You’ll have to try it, but in my experience, the vapor you get from a dry herb vaporizer is mild and flavorful, compared to the burnt taste of inhaled smoke. Dry vaping does not immediately produce the cough impulse I so often get when inhaling smoke, although it can trigger a cough after a few hits. And you’re really only pulling a bit of steam through your lungs; don’t expect the billowing clouds that e-juice vapers are producing. But you are getting the active ingredients — the cannabinoids that can have a beneficial effect on your health. 

Q: Do you get a ‘clearer” high from dry vaping cannabis?

The effects of cannabis can be subjective; if you want to objectively measure your cannabis experience, there’s a lot of value in tracking your use.

In my experience, the effects of dry vaping cannabis are milder than smoking it. I dry vaped an indica strain and it gave me an energetic lift, with none of the anxiousness or paranoia. I tried it at different temperatures, and definitely got different flavors, from piney and citrus-like at low temps (320 to 330 F) to grassy at about 380 F. It can be fun to experiment with temperature and different vaporizers, and note different flavors and effects.

Q: How much does a dry herb vaporizer cost?

, Q&A: Is dry vaping cannabis or hemp flower better than smoking it?As with most things, you can pay a little less, and get a lesser model, and overpay and get something really deluxe. Quality vaporizers are available for less than $120. One that we’ve tried and like is the DaVinci MIQRO. It’s solidly built and it fits in your pocket, and at this writing, it’s on sale for $99. 

The Atomic9 from Cloudious9 is also a nice little powerhouse of a vaporizer, for only $59.99.

Q: Can I dry vape CBD and other hemp?

You certainly can dry vape high-CBD cultivars for immediate relief. There are also high-CBG cultivars now available, and you can expect to see more of these coming onto the market as demand for this form of medicinal hemp grows.

Q: If you grow your own cannabis, is dry vaping the ultimate ‘farm-to-table’ way to consume?

If consuming organically grown plants is important to you, you might want to dry vape cannabis flower. When you dry vape loose leaf cannabis that you’ve grown yourself, you can be confident it doesn’t include pesticides, for instance. There are other vaporizers that let you vape concentrates or oils. With some work, you could make your own THC or CBD concentrate, otherwise you’ll have to purchase it, and trust that it’s high-quality and does not include additives you don’t want to inhale.