What characterizes a vaporizer high? How much of a difference is there between a vaporizer high and the high from a joint or bong? How different are various vaporizers on the market as to the high they produce? How much does the temperature setting on a vaporizer matter to the quality and character of the high?
A clearer high
There are many discussions about these and other question concerning the vaporizer high. After reading various online threads from a number of cannabis websites I would say that there is at least one thing almost every vaporizer user agrees on: the vaporizer high is much ‘clearer’ than the high coming from burnt cannabis smoked either from a bong, pipe, or from a joint with tobacco.
Going from my own experiences and from reports of many other users, a ‘clear’ high is a high that leaves you cognitively more functional; there are less short-term memory disruptions, you are not loosing the thread so often when talking about a certain subject, you feel less disoriented and confused.
One reason for this is presumably the absence of various toxins otherwise created by burning cannabis at high temperatures. If cannabis is heated beyond 200 ºC (392 ºF), some unwanted substances are produced:
“(…) traceable amounts of benzene are found in the vapor mist. Benzene contributes to couch lock (…)
But the clarity of the vaporizer high compared to highs from burning cannabis cannot only be explained by the absence of some toxins. A cannabis plant contains around 113 cannabinoids. It also contains more than 120 terpenes and more than 20 flavonoids, which are responsible not only for the distinct aroma of a strain, but also have an important influence on the high.
If we want to understand the character of vaporizer highs better, we first need to look at the different boiling points of some of the relevant cannabinoids. THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, known to give you a more heady, cerebral, energetic high, already boils at 157ºC (314.6 ºF). CBN (cannabinol, an oxidation breakdown product) is known to be sedative and to generate a more confusing, disorienting high, boils at 185 ºC (365 ºF). CBD (cannabidiol), now getting famous for its medical value for various purposes (anxiolytic, analgesic, antipsychotic, antispasmotic, etc.) boils between 160-180 ºC.
The cannabinoid THCV (tetrahydrocannabivarin), known to act as a euphoriant as well as being analgesic, boils at 220 ºC (428 ºF). For the sake of brevity I’ll leave it at that; but there are other cannabinoids which we know have an influence on the high.
Now, given that vaporizers can be set to different temperatures ranging from as low as 130 ºC to 200 ºC and more, it should be clear that they can produce a range of markedly different highs at different temperatures.
Vaporizer technology and user experiences
If we want to evaluate experiential reports about vaporizers we have to look very closely at what kind of vaporizers have been used to generate a high. Markus Storz, the inventor of the German Volcano vaporizer, presumably the best known precision vaporizer in the world, explained to me in a personal interview:
“Vaporizers which are heating up only the chamber, but don’t heat up the incoming air to vaporizing temperature cannot consistently heat up the plant material.”
Many experimental reports from users of vaporizers with an inferior heating technology have to be considered with care. While most vaporizers presumably still deliver a much better, cleaner high than that coming from a joint or bong, users of many inferior vaporizers do not get the precision temperature control to really let them join a grown up discussion about the differences of a high coming from a certain strain produced with a vaporizer at 160ºC (320 ºF) or 180ºC (356 ºF).
And there are other factors we have to keep in mind when evaluating personal reports about the vaporizer high from users. Many users have smoked joints for a long time before using vaporizers, mostly made of low-quality black market cannabis mixed with inferior cigarette tobacco. They tend to equate the ‘real’ high with the resulting effects of burned, inferior cannabis and bad tobacco– which are usually more disruptive, disorienting, sedating, and messing with their short-term memory.
Often, these users are initially disappointed by the vaporizer high from pure cannabis because they miss a certain nicotine kick from the tobacco, or because they actually have been seeking out only a ‘mind-crippling’- effect which helps with sedation and forgetting the strains of their day.
I have talked to many users who told me they seek a state of mind in which they simply get a body stone relaxation coupled with a high that cripples their mind, messes with their short-term memory, so that they can get relief from their daily stress, mentally and physically. A clearer high coming from a precision vaporizer set to a lower temperature usually does not give them that. Many of those users do not even recognize the altered state of mind coming from a vaporizer as a real high, because they are not used to being so cognitively functional.
When we look at discussions about the vaporizer high in various internet forums we also have to keep in mind that many users receive their cannabis from the black market and, therefore, often do not know exactly what strain they are buying, under which conditions it has been produced and stored, and what the cannabinoid profile of their material is. Briefly, then, many of the anecdotal reports about vaporizer highs and generalizations about how using a vaporizer affects the high in a systematic way have to be considered with care and are presumably wrong.
Many opinions are based on consumers using bad quality marijuana with vaporizers which do not really allow for a precise temperature control, and many user reports are influenced by their bias from smoking marijuana. This also explains the many contradictory reports from users. In part II, we will therefore take a closer view at an approach to better research vaporizer highs in the future and how to produce valuable insights into the diverse effects of the many cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids in cannabis.
Precision vaporizers and the future of cannabis research
When we look at the various cannabinoids and their boiling points, we can certainly make some rough predictions about the systematic influences of a vaporizer on the character of a high.
Temperatures higher than 185 ºC (365 ºF) will for instance produce more CBN, which is known to produce a more sedative, confusing effect. A vaporizer high will always strongly depend not only on a certain strain and its cannabinoid and terpene profile, but also on the exact temperature at which it is used.
Precision vaporizers like the Volcano in the hands of skilled user will help us to answer many questions and to actually come up with new questions about how a vaporizer can affect a high.
This sounds like a futile enterprise for nerdy high aficionados. But to answer these questions will help millions of users to use the potential of marijuana in a more meaningful and inspiring way.
Many people use the marijuana high to better remember long gone events, to work creatively, to find new patterns in music or art, to better appreciate nature, to get in touch with their feelings and have a better introspective access to themselves, to enhance their empathic understanding of others, to make love, to generate great and live changing insights and to personally grow.
Many of those users are on a voyage, exploring a new world, and the use of marijuana can be crucially important for their lives – and the lives of everybody around them. They will extremely profit from a progress in understanding how the various cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids affect a high.
Naturally, medical patients will immensely profit from this development, too. For them, other questions play a bigger role: at which temperature should I vape what strain to get the best analgesic properties while staying mentally functional? At which temperature should I vape my strain to get a good relief of my neuropathic pain without getting tired during the day?
Precision vaporizers are magnificent tools for researching the psychoactive properties of the various cannabinoids and terpenes, and we are certainly only at the very beginning when it comes to understanding these substances and their psychoactive potential.
Terpenes and flavonoids affect the high
Many plants (and some insects) produce terpenoids for a whole variety of reasons. When ingested by animals, terpenes can be anti-oxidant, analgesic, anti-microbial, anti-carcinogen, muscle relaxant, anti-depressant, anti anxiety, sedative, psychoactive in various ways, and have various other effects. Plants need to defend themselves against pests and herbivores, but some also have to rely on animals:
“Many plants that rely on animals to disperse their seeds must limit feeding rather than kill the animal directly because it might lose a valuable seed carrier. Lipids (…) perform this function. The most interesting lipids are terpenes, which have a strong aromatic flavor. For example, myristicin, found in nutmeg and many other spices, prevents animals from seasoning their diet too heavily with those plants. If taken in sufficient quantities, myristicin causes dizziness and loss of motor coordination.” 
Like the various cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids have been developed by plants for many reasons and therefore can be used for a whole range of medical purposes; and they have many diverse influences on mind and cognition. Clearly, the distinctive terpene profile of a certain strain importantly contributes, and – in addition to the cannabinoid profile – defines the character of the high coming from that strain. The boiling points of terpenoids (when dried and cured, terpenes turn into terpenoids) are also distributed over a whole range of temperatures.
Myrcene, the most prevalent terpene found in marijuana has clove like, earthy, citrus, mango and minty nuances, boils between 166-168ºC (331-334 ºF) and is said to be analgesic and anti-inflammatory.
D-limonene boils at 177 ºC (351 ºF) and has hints of citrus fruits, rosemary, juniper and peppermint, is anti-bacterial, repulsive for predators and is found in many rinds of fruits and flowers. It can also be anti-carcinogen and anti-depressant.
The sedative 945-terpineol boils only at 217-218 ºC (423-424 ºF) and has hints of lilac, citrus, apple blossoms and lime. The flavonoid apigenin boils at 178 ºC and is believed to have anxiolytic properties.
This short list should already illustrate that we do not only have to look at dozens of cannabinoids, but also at a whole variety of terpenes, flavonoids and their distinctive boiling points if we want to understand the distinctive highs coming from various strains vaporized at a certain temperature.
Also, vaporizers do not burn terpenes and can therefore bring out their full aromatic potential. You will not only get a high different from that of burned cannabis because you get a more favorable cannabinoid/terpene/flavonoid profile almost without toxins. Your high will be positively affected by a distinctive sensual aromatic experience.
When you drink a 30-year old Port Ellen whisky, your consciousness is not only affected by the alcohol in your beverage. The complex aromatic experience opens up your mind, makes you sensitive, and lets you go on a sensuous trip. Users of vaporizers can have more of this aficionado component in their use, especially when vaping marijuana at lower temperatures.
Vaporizing: A whole new way to consume cannabis
Precision vaporizers offer new dimensions in exploring the mind-altering potential of cannabis. A marijuana high is the result of the effect of dozens of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids, which all have different boiling points and therefore vaporize at different temperatures.
Many of the generalizations about vaporizer highs that can be found in forums are probably wrong; others, like the claim that the vaporizer high offers a much “clearer”, less confusing and less sedated experience make sense not only regarding the many users who endorse this view, but also on the basis of what we know so far about the psychoactive properties of some cannabinoids, terpenes, and their various boiling points.
In the next years, our knowledge about the psychoactive role of the various cannabinoids and terpenes will grow, quickly. There is already much knowledge concerning these questions coming especially from the medical dispensaries in the US and their patients. I hope that many inspirational users will soon be in a better position to better access a much higher quality of marijuana and to enjoy its effects in precision vaporizers. Their feedback and that of medical marijuana users to medical and other professionals will be crucial for the research of the potential of marijuana. And there is no doubt that vaporizers will play a fundamental role in this journey, a journey that will essentially help millions of marijuana users in the future to generate a crucially useful altered state of mind.
The Australian koalas know their favorite plants. They eat only select types of eucalyptus. Some aromatic oils of the eucalyptus go from their inside through their skins to protect them against ectoparasites, while other oils “decrease blood pressure, lower body temperatures, and relax their muscles.” Usually, they eat the mature leaves for these purposes in hot climates, but in cold climates, they eat younger ones containing phellandrene, which increases body temperature. Maybe it is time for us marijuana users to follow their example and to get to know our cannabis better.
- Compare Lester Grinspoon (ed.) (2014), marijuana-uses.com.
- Ronald K. Siegel (1989, 2005), Intoxication, The Universal Drive For Mind Altering Substances p.29.
- Disclaimer:Laws and regulations regarding cannabis use differ from country to country. Sensi Seeds therefore strongly advises you to check your local laws and regulations. Do not act in conflict with the law.