How to Vape CBD Oil

The news might have you scared of vaping, but here's how to vape CBD oil safely.

how to vape cbd oil iStock / Ivan-balvan

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a powerfully medicinal chemical housed in the cannabis plant. Vaping is an inhalation method that provides consumers with a rapid way to experience CBD’s medicinal effects. We’ll explain the mechanism, safety, and how to vape CBD.

How to Vape CBD

Given the outbreak of EVALI and the lack of clarity about its cause, the safest way to vape is to vape flower. To do so, you must use a vaporizer that has a dry herb attachment. You cannot use a vape pen designed for oil cartridges. Vape CBD hemp flowers to get an abundance of CBD without any THC, or choose a high-CBD, low-THC strain for a mild, therapeutic high.

If you feel comfortable using an oil cartridge, you can go with disposable vape pens or ones that need to be refilled. The disposable pens tend to be cheaper and made with more questionable materials, so be careful. Refillable cartridges may require a bit more maintenance, but you will save money in the long run and have more control over what you’re inhaling.  Don’t be afraid to research the brand and ask questions about how the oil was extracted and what’s inside it before you purchase your CBD oil.

Follow the instructions provided with your vape pen. Weigh the risks against the potential benefits, and if you choose to proceed with vaping, do so with extreme caution.

How Vaping Works

As with smoked cannabis, vaping delivers cannabinoids via inhalation. However, the chemical composition of the substance inhaled and the impact on the body between the two delivery methods is significantly different.

Smoking cannabis involves setting the plant material on fire and inhaling the smoke. When you smoke from a bowl, pipe, bong, apple, soda can, etc., you are using combustion to create an inhalable smoke. In addition to cannabinoids, this smoke contains chemicals that are specifically byproducts of the process of combustion. These compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are toxic carcinogens. Although it is unclear if PAHs are potent enough to cause cancer when inhaled from cannabis smoke, they provide no benefits. It is preferable to avoid them.

In addition to its toxicity, cannabis smoke is extremely hot. Combustion begins at 446 degrees Fahrenheit. To put that in perspective, water boils at 212 degrees F. Although the temperature decreases once the smoke has traveled from the site of combustion to your throat, it’s still hot enough to cause respiratory irritation, the most pervasive side effect of long-term, frequent cannabis smoking.

Vaping provides a theoretically healthier alternative because it avoids the process of combustion. Vaporizers work by heating the cannabis plant matter or oil just enough to great a vapor, but not enough to cause combustion. The vapor is inhaled, ostensibly without any PAHs. A 2015 Journal of Respiratory Therapy review by Mallory Loflin suggests that the decreased temperature of vapor reduces the pulmonary irritations associated with smoking. However, Loflin also cautions that “drawing firm conclusions about the impact of the technique is difficult.”

Is Vaping Safe?

If you’ve been paying attention to the news lately, the idea that vaping is a safe alternative to smoking may sound uninformed.  According to the CDC, over 2,400 people have been affected by e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury (EVALI). The symptoms of EVALI include chest pain, shortness of breath, fever, nausea, and vomiting. It may be confused for pneumonia. Dozens of people have died due to complications related to EVALI.

Since early September, a number of states have banned vaping including Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Oregon, and Washington.  Although these bans have targeted the tobacco industry’s flavored e-cigarettes, the reason for the bans is relevant to all forms of vaping, including vaping cannabinoids. This is because the mechanism by which EVALI occurs is not yet clear. Although the CDC has identified the presence of Vitamin E acetate in every case of EVALI, it warns that “there are many different substances and product sources that remain under investigation, and there may be more than one cause.”

Here are the CDC’s recommendations as of December 12, 2019:

  • People should not use vaping or e-cigarettes containing THC, especially if those products are from informal sources such as friends, family, or online sellers.
  • Nothing should be added to vaping products, especially Vitamin E acetate.
  • Until their investigation is closed, people should avoid vaping.

If you are still interested in vaping safely, there are ways to mitigate the risk presented by EVALI.

  • Purchase your vape cartridges from regulated vendors. Black market cape cartridges may contain counterfeit cannabinoids and dangerous chemicals. Your health is worth the investment of a more expensive purchase.
  • Talk to your budtender. Ask these trained professionals to point you to additive-free vape oils extracted from organic cannabis.
  • Vape flower. Instead of using a vape pen designed for vape cartridges, buy a vaporizer that has a dry herb atomizer attachment and avoid the risk of vaping oil altogether.

Why Vape CBD?

CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid housed in the cannabis plant. Most cannabis strains are bred for a high THC concentration, so it’s typical to find cannabis products that contain significantly more THC than CBD. However, strains like Charlotte’s Web or Cannatonic can contain even more CBD than THC. If CBD doesn’t get you high, why would you smoke a strain that has more CBD than THC, the cannabinoid responsible for cannabis’ psychoactive effects? Here are a few reasons:

  • CBD does not intoxicate you, which makes it a good medicine for those who need relief during work hours.
  • CBD’s side effects are mild compared to many other medicines. Diarrhea, tiredness, and appetite and weight changes are most common.
  • CBD can alleviate an array of conditions and disorders including insomnia, acne, cancer, neurodegenerative disease, psychotic disorders, epilepsy, viral hepatitis, comorbidities associated with autism, addiction, and anxiety disorders.

Inhalation is the most rapid method of delivering cannabinoids to the brain. According to a 2018 Molecules review by Natascia Bruni, Carlo Della Pepa, Simonetta Oliario-Bosso, Enrica Pessione, Daniela Gastaldi, and Franco Dosio, the effects of the cannabinoids can be felt within ten minutes of inhalation and can continue for up to five hours post-delivery depending on the concentration of the cannabinoids in the inhaled medicine. Bruni et al. admit that the greatest weaknesses to inhalation include the difficulty in standardizing inhalation techniques and respiratory irritation. Vaporizing cannabis can help mitigate both of these challenges. Vape pens make it easier for patients to control the temperature and titrate the dose. These controls can help patients determine the appropriate dose of cannabis suitable for their specific treatment plan and reduce the likelihood of respiratory irritation.

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