Smoking marijuana, either through bongs, joints, or blunts, has been the preferred method of consumption up until fairly recently. As fun as it is to fire up a joint, it is important to understand that the combustion process releases carcinogens. It doesn’t happen at the same rate as when you smoke tobacco cigarettes, but it is nonetheless a potential health hazard.
As a result of these findings, people have been eagerly looking for healthier ways to consume weed. The use of a vaporizer is one such option, and as it involves inhaling vapor, and does not cause the marijuana to combust, it is theoretically safer than smoking. When you smoke weed, you inhale all of the compounds in the burned matter, including potentially harmful ones.
Vaping involves heating the marijuana up to a much lower temperature. The vapor produced by this process isolates desirable byproducts by increasing the temperature of the weed to the vaporization points of compounds such as cannabinoids and terpenes.
Vaping devices work via a battery-operated heating system. The marijuana flower or juice is heated up to a temperature below combustion, and the ensuing vapor is inhaled. Although you can try and vaporize cannabis flower, vape cartridges are a convenient way to vape. All you need to do is insert them into the vaporizer, switch on your device, and allow it to turn the juice into delicious vapor.
Vaping & Bioavailability
Aside from reducing inhalation of damaging compounds, vaping allows for greater bioavailability of cannabis’ compounds. The term relates to the proportion of compounds such as terpenes and cannabinoids that become active after consumption. CBD and THC consumed via a vaporizer have a bioavailability rate of up to 55%. In contrast, consuming capsules or taking oil sublingually have rates of below 20% and below 30% respectively.
While a vaporizer starter kit could cost you up to $50, and vape juice tends to be more expensive than cannabis oil, you can save money overall because 1000mg of a compound lasts a lot longer. Vaping also preserves terpenes which have been linked with a variety of health benefits such as stress relief, improved memory, and mood elevation.
Vaping Isn’t All Good News
While vaping is widely believed to be a safer alternative to smoking, it is not free from controversy itself. One of the biggest discussions going on at present regards the type of ‘carrier’ used in vape juice. A carrier is what the cannabinoids dissolve in so they can be vaped.
Whether you are vaping CBD or THC, you need a carrier to help dissolve it before it is ready for inhalation. The most commonly used carriers are Propylene glycol (PG), Vegetable glycerin (VG), and Medium chain triglycerides (MCT). Researchers who have analyzed the trio believe that MCT is the best vape juice carrier, but let’s take a closer look at all three options.
PG was the most popular dissolving agent on the market until recently because it is among the thinnest solvents available. The thinness of a product impacts the ability of vape oil to work in a refillable or pre-filled cartridge. The thinner the solution, the easier it is to vaporize it; a process that also reduces the amount of residue left behind. As PG has no taste, it doesn’t interfere with the vape juice’s flavor.
However, PG has plenty of drawbacks. As it absorbs moisture quickly, it can cause dryness of the mouth. Yet this is nothing in comparison to the BIG problem. If PG is overheated during vaporization, it produces formaldehyde and carbonyl compounds. These are suspected to be cancerous byproducts!
A 2017 study by Troutt and DiDonato, published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, looked at the most popular marijuana thinning agents which include PG, VG, MCT, and PEG 400 (Polyethylene glycol). All four agents were heated to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. The researchers discovered that while PEG 400 produced the most harmful acetaldehyde and formaldehyde byproducts, PG produced far more formaldehyde than VG or MCT.
Unless you have an expensive vaporizer that heats up your weed to a specific pre-set temperature, you may not know what temperature your vape juice is being heated at. Add in the fact that vaporizer batteries and cartridges are not always made perfectly, and you could be inhaling cancerous agents without even realizing the damage you are causing to yourself. In the long-term, it is likely that PG can cause a lot of harm.
VG is a sweet thickener and is vegetable based. You will find it in chewing gum and cough syrup. While it is thicker than PG, it is also less likely to cause allergies. Its sweetness can help provide your vape juice with a better taste, and most users of VG say it provides a much smoother hit than PG.
VG is an odorless liquid and is taken from plants in the form of triglycerides. As it provides you with a thicker vapor, it produces a more intense flavor than PG-based vape liquids. However, VG has also been linked with the release of cancerous compounds. Furthermore, manufacturers often mix PG and VG together in their vape juices. Check for a PG/VG ratio on any vape juice you buy.
As VG is thicker than PG, it also requires more heat to vaporize properly. By raising the temperature, you also increase the risk of releasing carcinogenic byproducts.
Medium Chain Triglycerides
MCT is found in food items such as coconut or palm kernel oil. As it is flavorless, manufacturers like to mix it with concentrates. In general, vape juice that uses MCT as a carrier is considered to be much safer than juices with VG or PG. Unlike the other two options, MCT does not release carcinogenic byproducts when heated. It is also deemed to improve the bioavailability of cannabinoids and terpenes.
MCT has also been linked to a host of health benefits. For example, it can improve glucose levels in individuals with Type 2 diabetes, it can help control your appetite, and MCTs are used as energy immediately instead of being stored as fat.
Yet there are a few side effects associated with excessive vaping of MCT oil-based vape juice. The best-known adverse effect is known as lipid pneumonia. This condition occurs due to oil build-up in the lungs, which negatively affects the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide while you breathe. It is a temporary and treatable condition that can be avoided by using sensible amounts of vape juice.
Final Thoughts on Vape Juice Carriers
If you are new to vaping, a discussion about cannabinoid thinning agents may seem too complex at first. However, there are only three main options (avoid PEG 400 like the plague), and just one of them is worth genuine consideration.
When purchasing vape juice, make sure you ONLY select products that use MCT as their carrier. While overconsumption can cause lipid pneumonia, sensible use can help you enjoy the full benefits of the cannabinoids and terpenes you are inhaling. PG and VG have been used since vaporizers became popular, but it is time they were consigned to the scrapheap of history. Both thinning agents release carcinogenic by-products when heated, and shouldn’t be allowed near your lungs, or those of anyone else.