Vaporization Part II

This is the second article in a multi-part series about vaporizing cannabis. The first article focused on the way vaporizers work, the health benefits of vaporizing, and the viability of vaporizers in delivering medical cannabis. This article will look beyond just the health differences between vapor inhalation and smoke inhalation, and will focus more on the substantial qualitative health differences in the experience between vaporizing and smoking. As it happens, not only are fewer toxins released during vaporizing, there is also a different profile of terpenoids, cannabinoids, and flavonoids that are released as well. Although most of these molecules are not independently psychoactive, they are capable of moderating how THC is metabolized, as well as providing distinctively different sensations and qualities to the medication .This is what may account for the diverse views of medical cannabis patients on the subject of vaporizing, since the respiratory health benefits are well established. Before getting into the specifics of what chemicals are affected and what changes are brought about, we’ll start with a quick review of how chemicals are released into the air during a vaporization or smoking session. In a vaporization reaction, chemicals are essentially changing from one state to another, similar to the way water vaporizes when placed on a stove. Although the temperature increase may cause chemical changes to the atoms before they are vaporized (such as the de-carboxylation required for the body to metabolize THC) the molecules are essentially changing phase. There is no flame because the chemical bonds…

To Vape or Not To Vape

Although cannabis itself is not harmful to health, method of administration can be detrimental to lung function. Pulmonary (lung and breathing) troubles are well-documented side effects, with daily smokers having decreased lung capacity, coughing, and sinus problems exacerbated by frequent smoke inhalation. This would be true of any combusting plant matter inhaled directly due to carbon monoxide, but cannabis plant material can also contain tars and produce other noxious substances when burned. Increasingly doctors are recommending vaporizer use to daily or frequent cannabis users to decrease harmful side-effects of smoking while maintaining potency and ease of dosing. This will be the first article in a series of articles about vaporizing, and will focus on the benefits and disadvantages of vaporizing. What is a vaporizer? A vaporizer is a device that heats cannabis to temperatures that release cannabinoids into air (vaporization). This vapor is then inhaled, without any smoke or combusted plant matter. The first vaporizers were very crude, home-built devices that used heating elements like soldering irons to directly heat the cannabis matter. However, over time, as companies began to emerge to serve demand from users wanting a better vaporizing experience, more complex designs emerged. Although many designs still use direct heat conduction, the more expensive but more consistent vapor design relies on using convection heating. In this method, air is heated first and then driven through the cannabis matter, assuring a more even temperature distribution as well as preventing the matter from getting too hot and partially combusting on…

Cannabis Synergy: Beyond THC

Cannabis is a plant as ubiquitous as it is therapeutic. For centuries Cannabis has held an integral role in many societies as a medicine and as a relaxant. A century ago, Cannabis extracts were used in the United States as a normalizer for disruptions in appetite and for cases of nausea, amongst their plethora of other alleviative properties. Since the early twentieth century, reports of Cannabis use turned to an anecdotal form due to the social controversy over the psychoactivity of Cannabis and the scheduling of Cannabis on the controlled substance list. Since then, illicit use continued, with anecdotes of profound therapeutic potential. The diversity of therapeutic effects attributed to Cannabis is staggering. Reports encompass relief from gastrointestinal disruption and illness, decrease in ocular pressure, analgesia, and normalizing depression to list just a few. This wide range of purported medical benefit is unlikely to be attributed to merely one psychoactive compound, the notorious delta-9 THC. THC may be accredited to a large variety of therapeutic benefit, but the variance in psychoactivity seen between strains invites the theory that these variances are caused by different relative ratios of THC to the other cannabinoids, and perhaps even more importantly, the terpenoids. Contrary to the omnipresent terpenoids, phytocannabinoids are produced exclusively in Cannabis. Their involvement with the endocannabinoid receptor system in humans has been an intriguing mystery, with theories such as the surreptitious mimic and others that are beyond the scope of this review (for more information, refer to the National Insitute of…

Terpenes: Effects in Medical Marijuana

The first thing people really notice upon inspecting a new supply of medical marijuana is - the aroma. What gives each plant its particular smell is the complex array of terpenes - the organic chemical makeup of the plant. How they relate with cannabinoids is the subject of much modern research. What is known is that terpenes are volatile, fragrant substances formed in the early steps of making proteins, amino acids, etc. They are not as immediately necessary as, say, water, but they do provide the structure for a plant to survive over time. Hundreds of components have been identified in cannabis varieties; some major terpenes present in all cannabis plants, and their generally recognized effects, are as follows: Alpha-pinene is a basic protective component; its function is improving respiration/circulation, disinfecting and repelling pests. (Think evergreen forest floor, early in the morning). Limonene is a calmative component, recognizeable as a lemony smell. It is a mood brightener and strong pestilent repellant. Alone these terpenes are somewhat aggressive/irritant but in mixtures they offer a strong foundation. Research does demonstrate an "entourage" effect for terpenes, where the final therapeutic impact of the whole plant is more than the sum of its parts. Cannabis also contains linolool, which induces calm, perhaps by modifying response of neurons to L-[H3] glutamate (Phytomedicine, 1999. 6(2), pp 107-113). Finally, myrcene is both sedative and anti-spasmodic (relaxing all muscles); it is also analgesic and anti-inflammatory. Beta caryophyllene is a sesquiterpene, as opposed to the above monoterpenes, and is…