Vaping has become a popular way to consume cannabis and there are a variety of ways you can vape cannabis to get the results you’re looking for. The differences between vaping dry flower and vaping oils (also called concentrates) have long been debated. Both types of cannabis consumption are valid and both have different effects and uses.
Cannabis consumers tend to be very loyal to their preferences between vaping dry flower or vaping oils. It’s hard to know what will work for you since each person is going to react differently and have different goals when using cannabis while vaping. Neither option is wrong, it’s just about what works for you.
In a survey report from TVape, a whopping 86% of the 700 respondents agreed to the statement that they “felt generally better after vaporizing as opposed to smoking”. One thing for sure, people do seem to prefer vaporizing to smoking.
If you aren’t sure about the differences vaporizing cannabis or vaping oils yet, that’s ok. There’s a lot of research out there and it’s hard to narrow it all down. You probably even have friends telling you one way is better than the other. With that in mind, here are some concrete differences between vaping dry flower and vaping concentrates.
What Is Cannabis Concentrate?
A cannabis concentrate is a product stripped of the excess plant material and impurities leaving behind only the most desirable parts of the cannabis. When compared ounce to ounce with natural cannabis flower, concentrates have a greater proportion of cannabinoids and terpenes.
Concentrates come in many forms, like wax, creams, lotions, and oils. It gets so complicated that UCLA came up with a whole page on cannabis concentrate terminology. They all have their own particular uses but vaping with oil is what you’re looking for information on at this point.
Understanding the composition of oil will help you understand the differences between vaping flower and vaping oil.
What Are The Benefits Of Vaping Cannabis Oil?
Concentrates like oil have a higher percentage of THC when compared to dried flower cannabis. This gives the oil a more potent punch when vaped. For patients using cannabis as a treatment for symptoms like anxiety or pain, this is a good thing. It acts more quickly and is a more powerful dose of medication to really attack the symptoms and calm them more efficiently at times.
Vaping oil recreationally also has similar effects. Many recreational users will find they reach their preferred level of high while vaping oil. Again, this has a lot to do with the higher concentration of THC in the oil.
When it comes to cannabis oil there’s definitely a less is more factor. A small amount of oil may not look helpful but it’s definitely extremely powerful.
Oils are also easier to use on the go since they come in easily carried forms. Pre-filled cartridges are almost impossible to mess up, and they’re so portable you don’t have to worry about not having your cannabis with you when you need it. If you get hit by a sudden wave of panic you have something fast-acting on hand that you can use right away.
[Related: Vessel Vape Pen Review]
Is Processed Cannabis Safe in Oil Form?
Harvard’s Peter Grinspoon can’t answer his own question in this post on the safety of CBD, let alone THC. He asks the questions and then dodges it, so it will be hard to get a definitive answer.
Remember how concentrates are made? They’re stripped of all parts of the plant, which includes the terpenes. Since terpenes in marijuana are part of what gives medicinal benefits that can be an issue if you’re vaping to treat a medical condition.
Terpenes are often added back in with artificial flavorings but it’s not quite the same. It’s sort of like drinking apple juice and thinking you’re getting the same nutrition as an actual apple. This doesn’t mean oil has zero benefits, in fact, you’ve already read about the many benefits oil vaping does have. It’s just something to be aware of.
There’s also something to be said about removing the ritual involved in preparing the dry flower version. Some cannabis consumers prefer the ritual and find it to be part of their calming encounter with marijuana consumption. Again, that comes down to personal preference but a pre-filled cartridge isn’t going to give you that option.
What Are The Benefits Of Vaporizing Dry Flower?
Dry flower (or dry herbs) have all the parts of the plant included. That means you’re getting all the natural terpenes and cannabinoids straight from the plant itself.
Vaping cannabis flower gives you the full aroma and taste of the plant as well. Some cannabis consumers claim that vaping the dry herb is a fuller, richer experience that can’t be mimicked by vaping cannabis oil.
The psychoactive effects are different as well. You’re already aware of the THC difference but vaping dry flower creates a different effect overall. The high from vaping dried flower is going to be more like the high from smoking a joint or bowl. If that’s the effect you are seeking, then vaping dry flower is a great option for you.
What Are The Negatives Of Vaping Dry Cannabis?
Because it’s a plant that isn’t regulated yet (as it’s not federally legal yet) there’s no way to certify it as organic. While specific growers may use organic practices, overall there’s no industry standard on what pesticides are or are not ok to use. It’s possible you could be exposed to pesticides passed on through vaping dry herb.
Research also waivers on the effects of vaping dry flower on your lungs. Nothing is concrete on either side of the debate, but there is some question as to the long term effects of vaping dry flower. These same discussions are not being had when it comes to vaping cannabis in oil form.
It’s nothing that is conclusive enough to discourage you from vaping dry herb but it’s something you should still be aware of. If you have lung issues currently you should speak with your doctor to see what they think is best regarding your own personal health issues and what types of cannabis you choose to consume.
You’re the only one who can make the best choice about which way you want to consume your cannabis. It’s okay if you try vaping both dry flower and cannabis oil before deciding which you like best, but before you decide, remember that not even Harvard’s PhDs have an easy time answering these questions yet.
You can also consult your doctor, a dispensary employee, or cannabis expert to help you make a more informed decision. Whichever option is best for you, you’re bound to enjoy the great benefits of vaping cannabis. Find what works for you and stick with that. You’ll be more than thrilled when you do.
Even if you offered me a million bucks, there’s no way I could articulate a perfect cannabis strain to you; they simply don’t exist. No one strain has everything. Ever. Sometimes I want a light pineapple flavor with a Sativa buzz to send me to the stars. Other times simply bottomless sleep. Maybe it’s pain, a migraine, nausea, or maybe I just decide take down two pizzas; let’s discuss a few…
What Drives Your Cannabis Strain Selection?
Despite aroma coming to my mind first, taste is actually the most interesting for me. An often-overlooked factor, taste requires excellent technical execution during the grow, with good nutrients and more importantly, a proper flush at the end. Nothing sucks worse than having some bitterness on the burn because of a little fertilizer late in the flowering cycle. It ruins many strains for me. Similarly, this can be an absence of flavor depending on the micronutrients or other issues.
Superior Taste of a Cannabis Strain
I remember making a bonsai tree many years ago with a phenotype of Jack Herer, which was very unique in its pineapple flavor and aroma. We had 4 main types going around California at the time, and by now there could be 10 more, but this one was special! This little plant was an absolute wreck to grow and a nightmare to even find. It had tiny buds, took a long time to grow, was sensitive to minor fluctuations in the pH and growing process, yet despite these shortcomings, the flavor was out of this world. The effects were too. It’s the whole package that made it exceptional. But while the effects were great, and the energy high, the flavor that lingered was what made this memorable.
That Jack Herer represents a fine and very expensive wine to savor but did little for pain; that’s where Granddaddy Purple comes in. I know you’re probably thinking to yourself, “hey, that’s old and there are newer and stronger strains”. You’d be right. It’s old, having been around for almost 20 years and there are indeed stronger strains with THC levels over 30%. For me it’s important to define potency as it refers to the desired effects. If I’m in pain, I don’t actually need the THC. I’ll opt for CBD and other cannabinoid compounds and terpenes found in Granddaddy Purps over other strains, because of its overall effect and possible entourage effects.
Cannabis for Gluttony and Self Loathing
We all have those days we want to end early, where everything was terrible, the sky fell, your feet hurt, and you want to release your sorrows for a bit; here comes Trainwreck. Sure, the last time this happened I woke up next to the remains of a medium pizza, 3 cinnabons, and a pint of ice-cream, but who says that’s a bad thing?! It’s like taking a sledgehammer to the face; it’s unwelcomed but it gets the job done. Thinking about it now, I can almost feel the terpenes emanating off of the buds. It’s potent in THC, in terpenes, and often when harvested a little later, CBD and CBN. The flavor is also like a train wreck but no strain is perfect.
Party Time Cannabis Strains
Verde has an incredible Super Lemon Haze that nails almost every category at once; incredible flavor, citrus aroma, dense buds, potency that gets my head swimming but still allows me to function and at only $10 a gram, it’s a great deal. At social events, it keeps my energy stays high and allows me to function. In high doses the heady stone seeps into the room, but can also provide laser focus when you end up inadvertently grilling chicken for 25 people. Most of the purple Indicas would put me to sleep, Jack Herer would turn me into mush, and Trainwreck: well I’d probably try to eat all 25 pieces of chicken.
These are only a few of the limitless characteristics and strains I enjoy; and those same strains are going to differ further when they hop from a bong, to a pipe, to a vape. The possibilities are endless. Next time you pick out your next bud, maybe ask yourself, what it is that you’re actually hoping for.
Every time I harvest cannabis, I make a conscious choice; do I want to harvest a heady, clean buzz that borders on psychedelic, or a descent into the depths of my couch, with my eyelids growing heavier by the second, and the room slowly falling dark? Harvest timing (among other things) has an enormous effect on the properties of any strain you’re growing. At it’s extremes, it can make even the best Sativas act like an Indicas or vice versa.
It’s About the Trichomes
At the simplest level (it’s still very complicated), it comes down to trichome development. To understand this we need to understand what a trichome is and why we should care.
Photo: Royal Seed Company
Trichomes are small glandular hairs found on Cannabis plants, which probably first developed as a protection mechanism for our favorite plant. If you’ve ever looked at a poster of a big juicy bud while waiting in your favorite dispensary, you’ve certainly seen trichomes. They function to keep away insects just like the way capsaicin in hot peppers exists to stop animals from eating them. The irony is that these same compounds such as THC, CBD, and terpenes, are the ones we’re interested in. As the plants develop, the trichomes start out clear, progressing through cloudy into amber. Each phase has very different qualities.
Earlier Cannabis Harvest
When I talk about an early harvest, it means most of the trichomes are cloudy. When trichomes are cloudy but still whitish, their mix of chemistry provides an extremely clean sort of psychedelic experience. On a haze, it allows my consumers to toke as much as they desire, boosting the psychedelic qualities while simultaneously bringing “couch lock” down to almost zero. It’s very energetic and energizing. You won’t become sedated, and the effect can mimic narcotics or other compounds. Many may doubt me, but I’ve absolutely hallucinated on weed harvested in this way.
Later Cannabis Harvest
I’ve taken those same strains and harvested later (some trichomes are amber and some are cloudy) and produced something reminiscent of a hybrid. Lemon Haze is a favorite for this since later harvesting boosts its flavor. Feelings of couchlock are reintroduced, with higher levels of CBD forming in the amber trichomes as they oxidize and degrade. Harvest timing is a tool I use to customize different strains. There are drawbacks for either earlier or later harvest.
Earlier vs Later Cannabis Harvest
The more time I allow for my plants to flower, the easier it is to pack on more weight. It’s in my best interest to make my buds heavy, compact, and potent, for both my bottom line and my consumers experience. No one wants fluffy buds but I’ll talk about what I look for when purchasing fresh flower later. It’s all a balancing act, where a day or two can tip the scales. The longer I wait, the more amber trichomes I have, the more THC breaks down and forms CBD (and other compounds), and eventually flavor suffers. However, if I’m too early those same compounds have yet to peak. In some cases, this may be what I want.
Harvesting Time for Medicinal Cannabis
When growing strains for medicinal purposes, I usually harvest late. They wouldn’t be considered recreational by most consumers due to their highly sedative effects, which is why demand is generally lower (less demand means less profitability). Most have massive CBD contents and very little THC, which was aided by a late harvest. Cancer patients don’t care about getting high, they just want to be able to eat and sleep. This accomplishes that goal (in conjunction with good breeding).
On the flip side, the last time I grew Trainwreck I harvested a portion early for a more recreational feel and it blew my mind. I sacrificed a small amount of weight, which would have gained back by letting it continue to grow. The earlier harvest created a product on another level of high. The trichomes were mostly milky, and lent to an incredibly clean buzz. Early harvests also cause diminished terpenes such as Myrcene which are notorious for couchlock, helping drive a mind-altering experience. For some, it’s a bit too strong and may not be a pleasant experience so choose wisely.
The Typical Harvest Time
When in doubt, a normal harvest where 25% of the trichomes are amber and the rest are milky is fine. It’s (fairly) standard and will still give you amazing products. For those of us in the industry wanting to tweak strains a bit further, timing is one of many tools available. Next time you’re curious, grab a magnifying glass and take a look for yourself.
About the Author
Joey d’Artagnan holds a multiple degrees from top institutions including a bachelors in chemistry. He also has comprehensive education in botany and horticulture, and has spent over 10 years consulting extensively for both the craft beer and cannabis industries. His experience includes both indoor and outdoor production-scale grows, encompassing soil, hydroponic, and aeroponic methods. Additionally, Joey has developed cloning, breeding, and edible programs for a variety of top-tier cannabis and hemp operations spanning both coasts. Joey currently resides in Boulder, Colorado.