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What Is a Dry Herb Vaporizer?

close-up of a hand holding a dry herb vaporizer

A dry herb vaporizer is a device that heats dried cannabis flower and creates a vapor containing elements of the plant material. The flavors, cannabinoids, and terpenes of cannabis are extracted with the vapor, which users inhale to reap various medical and recreational effects.

A dry herb vaporizer differs from other types of vaping in that it handles plant material, whereas other vaporizers use concentrates or cannabis oil. It is possible to purchase a dual-use vaporizer, which can be used for both dry herbs and concentrates.

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What Is a Dry Herb Vaporizer?

A dry herb vaporizer uses a heating element to bring cannabis flower to the vaporization point rather than its combustion point, as with pipes or bongs. There are a few different types of dry herb vaporizers on the market.

Tabletop vaporizers are stationary units with precise temperature controls designed to sit atop a table or desk. There are many kinds of tabletop vapes, such as volcanoes, but all include a chamber, a heating element, a mouthpiece, and controls to manage the temperature.

Flower vape pens are more portable dry herb vaporizers, allowing users to vaporize their flower of choice using a battery rather than plugging a unit into electricity. The average flower vape is larger than cannabis oil vape pens. It allows users to enjoy the experience of consuming flower without the hassle of packing a bowl or rolling a joint.

Both flower pens and tabletop vaporizers require regular maintenance and removal of any leftover plant material to function at peak, safe performance.

How Dry Herb Vaporizers Work

Vaporizing marijuana involves heating dried cannabis buds to a temperature that converts the active constituents — cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids — into an inhalable vapor.

Vaping flower is typically thought to offer a cleaner method of using cannabis than smoking. Vaporization occurs at lower temperatures than combustion, which allows the user to inhale more cannabinoids than would be burned off using a flame. Since no smoke is produced during the process, users also avoid the carcinogens and toxins associated with smoking.

To use a dry herb vape, one places dried cannabis in the chamber, turns on the device, and selects a temperature. The flower gets vaporized, and the vapor passes through the airpath into a mouthpiece, through which it is inhaled. After a few hits, the flower’s desirable components are completely used, and the remaining plant matter is ready to be removed from the chamber.

How to Use a Dry Herb Vape

The process is essentially the same when using any dry herb vape, whether a tabletop or portable device.

To vape marijuana with a tabletop dry herb vape:

  1. Read the manual to determine your device’s specific instructions and usability.
  2. Plug in the vape device, turn it on, and allow the device to heat to your preferred temperature settings.
  3. While you wait, grind or pick apart your cannabis bud and load it inside the chamber. Most devices fit between a quarter gram to a half gram of ground cannabis, so be sure not to overpack. Close the chamber when you’ve finished loading.
  4. Once your device reaches the desired temperature, inhale from the mouthpiece to take a hit. Long, slow inhales are the way to go, holding for a few seconds before exhaling the vapor.
  5. When finished, or when the herb is used up, turn off the vape, allow it to cool, and discard the leftover plant material.

A portable dry herb vaporizer follows the same general process, using a vape battery instead of a plug to heat the flower:

  1. Again, read the manual to understand how to maximize your device’s functionality and make it last.
  2. Check your battery life to ensure your vape is fully charged before use. Turn it on and allow the device to heat ahead of use. Most units will have a USB charging cable to charge the battery, but some use proprietary chargers or cables.
  3. While you wait, grind or pick apart your cannabis bud and load it inside the chamber. Be mindful not to overpack it. Close the vape when you’ve finished loading.
  4. Set your vape to the desired temperature, press the button, and inhale. Some vapes won’t feature a button and will immediately activate when you inhale. Make sure you can taste the cannabis when you draw long, slow breaths.
  5. When you’re done or the flower is used up, discard the leftover plant matter from the chamber. Keep your dry herb vape clean to keep it in top working order for the best vaping experience.

Potential Benefits

Vaporizers offer a potentially safer solution for people who want to use flower but have a weakened respiratory system. Vapor is less likely to irritate the lungs. It avoids the inhalation of harmful carcinogens or toxins that occur when plant matter is combusted and produces improved respiratory symptoms, as found in a 2010 study.

Those who use cannabis vaporizers also benefit from increased concentrations of cannabinoids and terpenes in their bud. One study found that more cannabinoids were present in the systems of those who vaporized cannabis compared to those who smoked dried cannabis flower. This is an excellent option for those who need more potent cannabinoid concentrations for their medical condition and a way to get more value per dollar from their marijuana medicine.

Vaporizing cannabis also preserves the structural integrity of the terpenes, producing a more flavorful and aromatic smoke. The key to a flavorful flower depends entirely on temperature: the perfect, precise heat setting with the right bud produces the full flavor profile of a particular cultivar. It can highlight flavor and aroma elements that may not have been detectable when smoking the material.

Vaping is also more discreet than smoking cannabis, as vapor quickly dissipates and doesn’t leave behind the noticeable smell and haze of smoking marijuana flower.

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Drawbacks of Dry Herb Vaping

One of the main drawbacks of dry herb vaping is the initial setup cost. Vapes can be expensive, sometimes up to three times as much as a glass bong or pipe. You can often find vaporizers in your budget; once you’ve acquired your vape, all you need to spend money on is the flower.

Using a portable device, you must regularly charge your dry herb vape. Even vapes with long battery lives will need regular charging, and a dead battery could delay your vaping session by a few hours.

Finally, anecdotal reports claim that the high from a vape is relatively weaker than the one produced by smoking. While there’s no evidence to support this, and it may be the placebo effect, some patients subjectively feel more of a psychoactive experience when smoking flower.

Other potential dangers are usually associated with badly-made vaporizers that may contain ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs, as well as heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead off-gassing from heated vape parts. Some products may also contain flavorings such as diacetyl or the thickening agent vitamin E acetate, both of which are chemicals linked to serious lung disease.

Is Dry Vaping for You?

The key consideration when assessing dry herb vaping as a consumption option lies in cost and impact on health. Vaping is largely considered safer than smoking, but it really comes down to personal preference.

If you have the money to purchase a vape, a vaporizer could have a long-term benefit by preventing smoke damage to your lungs and throat while providing more health benefits from the cannabis plant.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is a dry herb vaporizer better than a dab pen?

The differences between a dry herb vaporizer and a dab pen come down to preferences. Dabs are much more potent than flower and take up far less space in terms of portability. However, concentrates don't always contain the benefits of the entourage effect found in the combination of cannabinoids and other active components in flower. Flower is often more flavorful, and those seeking a less-potent experience may choose weed vaporizers as the preferred option.

How are smoke and vapor different?

Vaporization occurs at lower temperatures than combustion, which allows the user to inhale more cannabinoids than would be burned off using a flame. Since no smoke is produced during the process, users also avoid the carcinogens and toxins associated with smoking. Vaping flower is typically thought to offer a cleaner method of using cannabis than smoking.

How much do dry herb vaporizers cost?

Dry herb vapes can be expensive, ranging from $50 to $500, depending on features, form, and type. Tabletop or portable vapes can feature more precise temperature controls, removable or rechargeable batteries, and even companion smartphone apps. Be sure to research which features are most important to you and have a budget in mind when exploring options.