Herbal vaporizers are not entirely new as they have been used by the ancient Egyptians. They were used for curing asthma by heating an herbal mixture over brick and allowing the ailing individual to inhale the vapors. Jamaicans used the calabash (a hollowed gourd) in rituals to heat large amounts of herb without fire, and groups could inhale the concentrated vapors from long hoses. Ancient Chinese herbal remedies were delivered through multi-chambered pots and bronze apparatus to produce therapeutic herbal steams and vapors to treat royalty.
Present day vaporizers and vapor towers are more intricate, more powerful and we are learning that they have the capability to provide the most powerful medication doses.
Herbal vaporizers heat the active ingredients in herbs without combustion and without directly applying fire. The active ingredients are converted from a liquid phase (or a solid phase in some cases) into a gaseous phase – a vapor. The molecules of the substance take different properties because of the change in their environment. Combustion ignites the substances to its flash point rather than heating to its boiling point, and can contaminate the substance reducing its advantageous elements. In a vaporizer, the application of heat is controlled via temperature regulation. The key difference is that it is applied at a constant temperature causing the active ingredients of the herb’s molecules to boil off into a vapor. When you want to choose a vaporizer it is important to know how the vapor is created, how the temperature is adjusted and what is the delivery method used.
There are a great variety of vaporizer devices available – for our purposes, we are focusing on plug-in vapes, because there are not many portable vaporizers (if any at all) that can regulate temperature as efficiently or as precisely. Some of the most common herbal vaporizers are balloon/forced air, whip/direct inhalation, convection and conduction. While personal preferences generally dictate the type of vaporizer you choose, convection vaporizers provide the most effective vaporization under ideal circumstances. Convection with some devices may not get the herb heated enough to release essential ingredients while with other vaporizers the products can be heated to combustion, defeating the purpose of using a vaporizer. Or, some devices may not produce a strong- or constant enough airflow to achieve a reliable “steady state” for ideal convection to occur.
Most vaporizers operate on similar mechanisms and principles to achieve vaporization. Heat, or temperature control can be the highlight or the curse of any given device. It is possible for combustion to occur if the temp to airflow balance is not achieved, or just as importantly, maintained accurately. Since each herb has a different point of combustion each herb will require different heat levels and that level of control is not available in most model herbal vaporizers, even with digital vaporizers that claim accuracy and precision.