Dry Herb Vape vs Oil Vape for Consuming Cannabis

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Smoking is one of the oldest ways of consuming marijuana since it is efficient and effective in delivering cannabinoids into the bloodstream. However, it is also thought to cause considerable health issues, though this is still up for debate. Nevertheless, it is now steadily being replaced by vaping which is touted to have fewer associated health risks. 

Nowadays, cannabis is typically prepared in two ways for vaping: dry herb or concentrate. As you may expect, one is not necessarily better than the other. A lot of people still prefer dry herb to concentrate for certain reasons. Let’s look at why this is as well as the pros and cons of each.

Vaping devices for dry herbs and concentrates

PAX 3

Vaping devices, especially the more compact ones, used to either be for dry herb or concentrate only, with the latter often smaller since less heat and power is needed to vaporize concentrates. However, there’s now a growing number of vape devices that can use both dry herb and concentrate like the PAX 3 that is both compact but powerful enough to vape dry herb.

If you’re not yet familiar with vapable marijuana concentrates, here’s a quick overview of 4 of the most common ones for vape devices:

  • Oil – This is the most basic kind of marijuana extract. In most cases, this is a liquid concentrate derived using CO2 as a solvent. Vape cartridges and pods usually contain cannabis oil.  
  • Wax – This has a wax-like consistency and is the least potent among the concentrates at only around 60%. 
  • Budder – This is another low potency concentrate that is almost the same as wax. Many prefer using budder for its flavor due to its high terpene content.
  • Shatter – . This is a concentrate that has hardened and taken on a glass-like form which can be “shattered” into pieces. Shatter is typically at 80% concentration and is the most potent. 
  • Crumble – Crumble looks somewhat like a clump of crystals that is breakable like shatter but not as fragile. It is also typically less potent than shatter. 

The most common concentrates for most portable vapes would be wax and oil. Smaller pen-style vapes or tank mods will only be able to use oils. Most portable vapes can use oils, wax and budder while some of the more expensive ones, like the AirVape Legacy, can use all. 

Potential Health Risks

Vaping is generally considered to be safer than smoking but it still comes with its own set of health risks. In fact, health authorities, in particular the CDC, issued a warning against vaping in 2020, prompted by the rise in ER admissions caused by E-cigarette or Vaping Product Use-Associated Lung Injury (EVALI).

Risks of vaping cannabis oil

The CDC specifically recommended against:

  • The use of e-cigarettes, vaping products, including ones that contain THC by youths, young adults, pregnant women and adults looking for an alternative to smoking.
  • The use of Vitamin E acetate in vape liquids to improve consistency as it has been shown to cause lung injury. 

Cannabis and vaping enthusiasts are also aware that there are health risks, but their concern is more on the quality and safety of the concentrates being used. In an interview with Planet of the Vapes, Dr. Arno Hazekamp, one of the world’s top marijuana researchers warned against the risk of e-liquids. He said that with such products, the manufacturer is the one who makes the decision of what goes into your body. 

“…you never get to see the variety so you have to trust that it is what they say, but also the chemistry involved in the extraction, the decarboxylation if they did that, winterization, the adding of flavors, and the removing of chlorophyll, things like that – that’s all done for you. And that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to have a very, very different effect. If it’s done right, maybe you get the same components in your lungs after inhalation. But the thing is, with the dry herb (vaporizer) you can kind of make those decisions yourself, and with liquid vaporizers, those decisions are made for you.” – Planet of the Vapes interview with Dr. Arno Hazekamp, 2019

From this alone, we can see that the clear winner in terms of safety is a dry herb vape since it has fewer associated risks compared to smoking, e-liquids, and concentrates. Even if you make your own concentrate, which is often a lot of work, dry herb will still win in terms of flavor and aroma. 

Risks of vaping dry herb

If this is the case, does this mean that dry herb vaping is completely safe? The answer to that is: proceed with caution. The truth is, there’s still not enough definitive research that says it is entirely risk-free but it is said that there hasn’t been a case of someone being rushed to the ER due to lung injury caused by dry herb vaping.

Costs

There’s no question that concentrates pack a stronger punch than dry herb, so you need just a bit of it to get high. So it can be easy to assume that oils and concentrates will get your more bang for your buck, let’s see if this is true.

Take for example:

AbsoluteXtracts Sour Diesel Vape cartridge, 500mg, 75.71% THC – $50

Using The Sunlight Experiment’s herbalist calculator we see that the equivalent of this is 660 mg of dry herb. Based on the price of Sour Diesel from California Cannabis Dispensary, which is $325 per ounce, 660 milligrams should just be around $7.5

Then again, there are a lot of users that prefer marijuana oil/e-liquid since it is more discreet, easier to carry around, can be used with smaller vape devices, and emits less of the smell that usually gives marijuana away. 

Cleaning and Maintenance

The preferred device for using cannabis oil is usually the vape pen. A typical example of this would be KandyPens’ Flacko Jodye “Walnut” Collection which costs $88. This is a reusable pen-style vape that can take both oils and concentrates. Cleaning it is fairly easy: Just use a q-tip soaked in isopropyl alcohol to clean the ceramic coil or dual quartz coil. You can also soak the atomizers in alcohol to get rid of stubborn stains. Kandypens offers lifetime warranty on the battery but not for the coils which typically need to be replaced in 1 to 2 weeks under normal use.

Tank mods are pretty much just bigger, more powerful versions of pen vapes, but they will also need regular cleaning, which requires a bit more effort due to the number of parts that need to be disassembled, cleaned, and put back together.  

AirVape X

Mid-sized hybrid vapes like the AirVape X can also use concentrates, but not the liquid kind that can leak into the device. Most will use wax at the very least. These vapes are cleaned almost the same way, with alcohol and most will come with their own cleaning tool. 

Mid-sized vapes obviously have a longer lifespan and need fewer replacement parts overtime than pen vapes. In most cases, they will give you more value for your money.  

Vape device compatibility

Mighty by Storz & Bickels

As previously mentioned, there are only a few dry herb vapes that can also be used for cannabis oils or e-liquids. An example would be the Mighty by Storz & Bickel, which is considered to be the best all-around handheld marijuana vape. However, the Mighty is not exactly discreet, its measurements are 5.5″H x 3.2″L x 1.2″D and weigh 230 grams. It is also one of the most expensive among its peers at $349. 

These devices often need a pad for absorbing liquid concentrates so that it can be vaporized safely in the heating chamber. Because of this, it is somewhat more convenient to use cannabis oil on a vape pen that only needs a refillable cartridge. 

Frequently Asked Questions about Cannabis Dry Herb and Concentrate/Oil Vaping

Which is safer to use for vaping, cannabis oil or dry herb?

The consensus among health experts and cannabis users is that its safer to vape dry herb. There is a known risk associated with vaping oils and e-juices and the CDC has already issued a warning against it. On the other hand, there are no known cases of lung injury directly caused by vaping dry herb.

Which is cheaper, vaping dry herb or oil/concentrate?

E-cigs and pen vapes, whether disposable or reusable, are generally smaller and cheaper that dry herb vapes.

What is the best device for vaping marijuana oil?

This can be as small as a pen vape like KandyPens pen vape or the Mighty from Storz & Bickel.

What is the best device for vaping dry herb?

It depends on what you are looking for in a vape. If you want thick clouds on tap for you and your friends at home, you’d want the Volcano by Storz & Bickel. If you need a decent portable dry herb vape that’s not too expensive, get an Arizer Solo II.

Conclusion

Those who are serious about getting high usually use dab kits and mid-sized to desktop vapes for wax, budder, crumble and shatter. Meanwhile, cannabis oil is used mostly for its convenience and discretion since it can easily be vaped easily even with smaller, cheaper devices and it also does not leave an obvious scent. Those who are looking for an experience as pleasurable as smoking will always opt to use dry herb since it provides an all-around experience in terms of flavor and potency. 

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