When vaporizing cannabis, you can enjoy all kinds of experiences. Some users like the cool steam, while others prefer hotter, thicker vapor. Vaporizing simply warms your bud instead of burning it and creating smoke. As you adjust the temperature of your vape, you can affect the type of high you have by activating or not activating certain cannabinoids. Let us explain.
The importance of temperature when vaping
When smoking a joint, it’s simply a case of sparking up and toking away. In contrast, vaping is a much more nuanced process, with slight temperature shifts able to drastically change the experience. When vaping, the device will be heated enough to melt the resin glands (trichomes) of your herb so that they form a vapor which can then be inhaled.
The female cannabis flower is known to contain the highest concentrations of trichomes, which sit on the surface of the plant – be it the bud, leaves or stems. The vast majority of the therapeutic cannabis compounds – such as cannabinoids like THC and CBD – are found in the trichomes.
In addition to non-intoxicating CBD products and the psychoactive THC, trichomes also consist of terpenes, molecules with therapeutic benefits that also produce an aroma. Terpenes are also found in other plants (e.g. linalool is in lavender, beta-caryophyllene is in black pepper). The cannabis plant is estimated to contain more than 400 individual chemical compounds in all. Each compound has a unique boiling point and set of properties.
How temperature changes can influence your vaping high
When you vape your flower at the lower temperatures (290 to 330°F), the vapor produced will be cool and barely visible. Not all the cannabinoids and terpenes will be activated, as the trichomes are only gently melted at such temperatures. Therefore, the therapeutic potential may be somewhat limited.
A good vaporizer should heat up to around 400 to 445°F, hot enough to rapidly melt the resin glands and release many more cannabinoids and terpenes, including THC. Vaping at hotter temperatures produces a much stronger high, and the vapor tends to be much thicker and more visible. It’s advised not to heat your herb more than 445°F, as this risks burning the herb, creating the toxin-filled smokes that vaping seeks to avoid.
Because cannabinoids and terpenes boil at different temperatures, the same strain can produce a multitude of highs. The lower temperatures may not be hot enough to activate certain cannabinoids and terpenes, while hotter settings may burn off compounds with lower activation temperatures.
Here’s a guide to the boiling points of the most important compounds found in marijuana:
Interestingly, THC and THC-A (raw cannabis) have different boiling points. THC-A starts to boil at a reduced 220°F, but the compound does not fully decarboxylate until it reaches 314.6°F.
Therefore, vaporizers that reach higher temperatures tend to give the user a more potent and intense high than devices that operate at cooler temperatures. However, the lower temperatures can come in handy if you want to vape during the day and are just looking for a light high.
Let’s consider the pros and cons of vaping at low, mid-range and high temperatures.
Low-temperature vaporizing is generally considered to be around 290 to 330°F. Vaping at these temperatures will induce a relaxing, controlled high, without the heavy sedating effects sometimes associated with cannabis. If your strain contains piney and peppery flavors, expect to taste them when vaping at low temperatures.
While CBD and THC are activated in this temperature range, you probably won’t experience their full power. Low-temperature vaping is ideal for boosting mood, quelling anxiety and stress and keeping concentration. Think of it as a natural alternative to caffeine.
Vaping between 330 and 370°F will produce a more noticeable psychoactive experience than the lower band, and most cannabis users will choose to vape in this range.
Most of the compounds in the herb will be activated between these temperatures, but you won’t be lumbered with a couchlock that renders you unproductive for several hours. If you’re getting together with friends and are looking for a fun, sociable time, then this temperature range is excellent.
For the THC thrill seekers among us, the high-temperature band of 370 to 445°F is sure to scratch that itch. Anticipate intense euphoria and a strong couchlocking high in this range, although the specific sensations vary depending on the strains. Strains with high levels of THCV should be vaporized at hotter settings, as this cannabinoid has a higher boiling point than most compounds in the plant.
Cannabis users who are used to smoking the herb will probably relate more to high-temperature vaping than the other settings, as it offers the closest experience to the traditional marijuana high.