How Vaporizers Work

By Chris
Last Updated on

How Vaporizers Work

If you want to learn more about vaporizing, and how vaporizers work, you are in the right place. Despite all the media hype over vaping related health issues back in 2019, cannabis vaporizing keeps getting more and more popular around the world.

The reason is quite simple, vaporizing is proving to be an effective alternative to smoking. It is basically the same relaxing puffing action, but a different method of extracting the ingredients from the plants.

Instead of burning your cannabis and inhaling smoke, you heat up your herbs to below combustion and inhale vapor.

Yes, that’s right, despite the negative media coverage, vaporizers are actually very useful devices. They enable you to inhale the active ingredients of cannabis (and even other plants) without the smoke.

Before vaporizers became popular, the only way to inhale the goodness of cannabis was via combusting and smoking it. Most people’s primary cannabis consumption was via joints, bongs, and pipes.

This is changing at a very rapid pace in front of our eyes. And in case you are wondering, yes vaping weed does get you higher than smoking.

Weed vaporizers

What is a Vaporizer or Vape?

Vaporizers are specialized devices designed to heat organic compounds to release their active ingredients.

Vaporizers use electricity or butane gas as a power source to heat your plant matter to temperatures below combustion. At these temperatures, the active ingredients such as cannabinoids, terpenoids, flavonoids, and other beneficial compounds are released without producing tar or smoke.

E-cigarettes and mods for e-juices, as well as all types of cannabis vaporizers, are referred to as ‘vaporizers’ or ‘vapes’.

Well, if you look at the Oxford or Cambridge dictionary, Vaping or vape ‘is the use of e-cigarettes or other devices that let you breathe in nicotine or other drugs as vapor, rather than smoke.’ The term had become so popular, that in 2014, Vape’ was named as the word of the year by the Oxford Dictionary.

In this article, we’ll focus predominantly on weed vaporizers.

Portable dry herb vaporizer

What is a Dry Herb Vaporizer?

Dry herb vaporizers are devices that are specifically designed to vaporize dry cannabis flowers. Herbal vaporizers incorporate a herb baking chamber that holds and heats your ground cannabis flowers.

Vaporizing solid matter like dry cannabis is a lot more involved technically than vaporizing liquids or waxes. So dry herb vaporizers are usually more expensive than oil or wax vapes.

Herbal vaporizers enable you to extract the cannabinoids, terpenoids, flavonoids, and other active ingredients from your dried marijuana.

Now, let’s talk about what a vaporizer does and why it’s better than smoking.

Weed Vaporizer Collection

How Vaporizing is Different from Combustion?

Combustion happens at high temperatures. When smoking a joint, the burning tip of the blunt heats up to 900 Celsius (1650 Fahrenheit) while you are drawing a puff on it. And sits at around 400 Celsius (750 Fahrenheit) between puffs.

On the other hand, during vaporization, you are heating your herbal materials to no more than 260 Celsius (500 Fahrenheit).

Vaporizing dry herbs

Smoke is not good for you. If you’d like to learn more about why, read the below info on combustion. If you already convinced, you can skip to the next section.

Combustion is the process of burning something. In the light of science (chemistry), it is the chemical process in which substances mix with oxygen in the air to produce heat and light. The process can either be complete or incomplete. The latter though produces carbon monoxide (CO), which is a harmful, colorless, and odorless gas.

POTV Lobo Review: Affordable Excellence in Vaporization

Incomplete Combustion Produces Carbon Monoxide.

Combustion is used in many ways such as in cooking, in a fireplace, if our homes get too cold, cars and even in smoking to enjoy a relaxing puff. All of these can contain high levels of carbon monoxide.

When carbon monoxide is inhaled into the lungs, it adheres with hemoglobin in the red blood cells to make carboxyhemoglobin (COHb) and it goes into the bloodstream. And when that happens, oxygen is unable to bind with those receptors affected by CO.

A high level of carbon monoxide in the bloodstream then deprives the body of oxygen, causing you to lose consciousness and suffocate or worst can cause death.

Incomplete combustion does produce high amounts of carbon monoxide, however, when smoking plant materials, there is usually a sufficient amount of oxygen available for complete combustion.

With complete combustion, carbon monoxide is unlikely to reach levels that can actually kill you. When smoking plant materials, there will be more carbon dioxide produced, along with other toxic elements, tar, and other carcinogens. These toxins may not be deadly in the short term, however, they have proven to be over time, indeed.

Dry herb vaporziers

The History of Vaporizing

The concept of vaping or vaporization can be traced back to Egypt, based on the book The History of Herodotus.

Herodotus is a Greek historian, who recorded the ancient practice of the Scythians as follows:

The Scythians take some of this hemp-seed and throw it upon the red-hot stones; immediately it vaporizes and gives out such a vapor as no Grecian vapor-bath can exceed; the Scythians, delighted, shout for joy.

Moving forward, 1500 years ago in Afghanistan (or in the present time the India-Pakistan border), Irfan Shiekh of the Safavid dynasty invented what is known as hookah or a water pipe.

In 1927, Joseph Robinson came up with the idea of the first electronic cigarette for which he filed a patent to the USPTO and was approved.

“My invention relates to vaporizing devices for holding medicinal compounds that are electrically heated to produce vapors for inhalation and to provide a device for individual use which may be freely handled without any possibility of being burned.” Joseph Robinson, May 3, 1927, New York

By 1960, a Korean War Veteran Herbert Gilbert filed for smokeless non-tobacco cigarette patent in Pennsylvania.

“The present invention relates to a smokeless non-tobacco cigarette to provide a safe and harmless means for smoking by replacing burning tobacco with heated, moist, flavored air. Another object is to provide an article of manufacture resembling a cigarette by which air may be drawn through a porous substance of a cartridge which has been moistened with a chemically harmless flavoring preparation, heated by a suitable heating element. A further object is to suitably raise the temperature of the inhalant mixture, so that it may approximate that of cigarette smoke. A further object is to insulate the heat source so that the cigarette’ may be held in the fingers without discomfort to the user’s hand.”

It is said that modern-day vaporizers are built based on the design made by Gilbert , who to this day in his 80’s is still working with the Emperor brand.

Between the period of 1990 to 1994, Amsterdam Father of Cannabis Vaporizer Eagle Bill invented the Shake and vape based on the ancient Egyptian methods. It is a glass pipe vaporizer with a bowl, which is heated at the bottom instead of lighting the cannabis itself.

Storz and Bickel has been Acquired by Canadian Cannabis Company Canopy Growth Corp

Inspired by Bill’s design, BC Vaporizer, Canada claims to have invented the first electrically charged vaporizer in 1994. It is still in business today and creators of solar-power charged vaporizers.

Fast forward in 2000, a Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik, who was a heavy smoker and whose father died of lung cancer from the same smoking habit, vowed to rid himself of the habit. After trying all his available options including nicotine patches but failed, a dream-inspired idea would become the modern-day e-cigarette.

“The idea of electronic cigarettes came to me in a dream in 2000. Coughing and wheezing, I imagined I was drowning, until suddenly the waters around me lifted into a fog.”  Hon Lik

By 2004, his patent was officially approved by USPTO.

“The present invention relates to an electronic atomization cigarette which contains nicotine without harmful tar. The electronic atomization cigarette includes a shell and a mouthpiece The advantages of the present invention include smoking without tar, significantly reducing the carcinogenic risk. Furthermore, users still feel as if they are smoking and experiencing the same excitement, and the cigarette is no need to be lit and is no fire risk.”

It was also in the year 2000, that Storz & Bickel company in Germany invented the new era of Desktop vaporizers, which was named VOLCANO.

Storz and Bickel Volcano Digit Vaporizer

And that’s your history lesson on how vaping and vaporizers came to be. At the present time, new vaporizer companies have cropped up where innovative techniques and advanced technology are combined together to come up with smaller, lighter devices utilizing convection or conduction heating methods, or both.

How Does a Weed Vaporizer Work?

Ever wondered how your weed vaporizer works?

Vaporizers help to turn solid, liquid, or waxy concentrates into vapor. To achieve that, the material needs to be heated up to the appropriate temperature to reach its boiling point to start releasing vapor. The required temperature can vary from one substance to another, however they are always below the point of combustion.

Cannabis flower is usually recommended to be vaporized at 190 degrees Celsius (374 Fahrenheit). Having said that, many of us here at VapeFuse vaporize our cannabis starting at lower temperatures (as low as 160 Celsius (320 Fahrenheit) and gradually increase the temperature as we progress through the vaping session. This is referred to as full spectrum vaporizing.

Weed vaporizers can also be used to vaporize other plants. Many tobacco smokers are switching to vaping their loose-leaf tobacco in a dry herb vaporizer, instead of smoking it or using an e-cigarette.

Weed vaporizers can also vaporize common herbs. Some people actually use their cannabis vape to consume herbs. Instead of brewing them in a tea, load them into a vaporizer. Here’s a table showing the different temperatures for some common herbs:

Plant Name                      Temperature Setting
Chamomile 190°C (374°F)
Damiana 190°C (374°F)
Lavender 130°C (266°F)
Lemon Balm 142°C (288°F)
Sage 190°C (374°F)

Herbs are not the only materials that can be vaporized, though. You can also vaporize cannabis products, such as concentrates and oils.

On Spotlight: The CloudV Terra Dry Herb Portable Vaporizer

Here is a quick list of what can be vaporized these days:

  • Liquids: this is the concept that e-cigarettes use. They come with a liquid tank’ for the e-juice’ (with a certain amount of nicotine). In terms of required technology, liquids are super easy to heat up and vaporize.
  • Oils: Oil vaporizers work on a similar concept than liquid vaporizers. Oils are still liquids, easy to heat up and vaporize as well. Oil vaporizers are very popular with both CBD and THC oils exploding in popularity during the last few years.
  • Waxes and Concentrates: These materials carry the concentration (essence) of the active ingredients of the plants and gaining popularity quickly. Many herbal vaporizers are also capable of vaporizing concentrates. Having said that,  concentrate vaporizers utilize a special heating coil and do a better job at vaping.Cannabis Wax
  • Dry Herbs: These are the trickiest to extract vapor from. Herbal vaporizers are more complicated due to the herbs have to be heated evenly for vapor production.

Heating Method

Most vaporizers utilize one of two heating mechanisms: conductive or convective heating.

 Conduction is the transfer of heat between substances, that are in direct contact with each other just like cooking on a stove. Vaporizers that use the conduction heating method usually heat the walls of the chamber.

Dry herbs have to come into direct contact with the heated walls of the chamber to heat up and produce vapor.

Convection, on the other hand, is when thermal energy is transferred from hot places to cold places. It occurs when warmer areas of a liquid or gas rise to cooler areas in the liquid or gas.

conduction vs convection heating method

The same concept when you are baking in an oven. In a convection vaporizer device, the heat from the heating chamber gets transferred to your herbs with the use of a built-in fan or air holes. Instead of a heated surface, heated air warms up your dry herbs. Hot air is circulated all over the chamber leaving no room for unvaporized material.

Convection heating technology provides more even heat distribution than conduction.

Through heating technology and the right materials, the above heating processes are installed in vaporizers. Some have conduction heating only, while others have convection heating and there are also vaporizers that come with hybrid conduction and convection technology.

An average conduction vaporizer warms up faster, which means less waiting time. However, it may cause uneven vaporization of your dry herbs as only the material that touches the heated wall of the chamber gets vaporized.

Therefore, you may need to stir the cannabis inside the chamber during your vaping session to vaporize your herbs evenly.

Vaporizers using conductive heating technology are generally more affordable, due to simpler technology.

Convection heated vaporizers, on the other hand, can be a bit more expensive, due to the technology they come with.

The initial warm-up of convection dry herb vaporizers takes a little longer, although some convection vapes heat up very fast.

The hot air from the heating element is delivered to the herb chamber via the airflow

and with an internal fan or air holes, the hot air generated circulates within the materials inside the chamber, which allows for even vaporization of the ground up herbs.

Types of Weed Vaporizers

We have already learned that there are conduction and convection vaporizers. The heating technology is not the only differentiation between devices though. There are many vaporizer options these days.

11 Things You Need to Know About Vaporizing Tobacco

Portable vaporizer VS Desktop Vaporizer

Desktop Dry herb vaporizers

It all started with tabletop vaporizers that you plugged into the power plug. Technology has come a long way since then and more and more handheld vaporizers became available over the years.

Today, portable vaporizers are way more popular than desktop vapes. A handheld vaporizer today offers a similar or better vaping experience that was only possible with a plug-in desktop unit a decade or so ago.

Temperature Control

Another differentiation point between vaporizers is temperature control. Some dry herb vaporizers come with more precise temperature control than others.

Some herbal vaporizers only have a few preset temperatures and you are limited to those. Other devices offer full, by the degree temperature control in a certain range. Adjustable temperature is more and more common in new vaping devices.

If you vaporize medical cannabis, you may need very precise temperature control to be able to follow temperature settings instructions from your doctor or dispensary.

Generally speaking, most cannabis vapers start their vaping session at a lower temperature and increase the temperature as they go. Lower temp provides more flavor while higher temperatures can produce big tick vapor clouds.

Play around with your vape to find your ideal temperature for your vaping style.

Digital VS Analog Vaporizers

Another differentiation point worth mentioning is that some dry herb vaporizers are made with sophisticated digital control, digital display, and even mobile app control.  Other manufacturers embrace a simpler approach and keep their devices more analog. Both of these approaches can result in very high-quality vapor production, it really comes down to your personal preference.

Vaporizer Components

Weed Vaporizer Parts

Oil, wax and dry herb vaporizers use very different components.

Liquid vaporizers are basically simple batteries with a thread. Vape pens tend to use a 510 thread to connect the battery with dab carts. The carts include the heating element.

Wax vaporizers also often made up of a threaded battery and an atomizer.

Dry herb vaporizers a lot more involved. Apart from the battery and heating element, dry herb vapes use a herb chamber.

Different dry herb vaporizers use different materials for the baking chamber. Material includes ceramic, stainless steel, and even glass.

Higher priced vaporizers tend to use higher quality components. As a result, they are less likely to produce any toxic chemicals.

The methods of inhalation are through a mouthpiece, which can be made of glass, stainless steel, or plastic.


A vape device can fulfill many purposes. Weed vaporizers are designed to extract the active compounds from your cannabis without the harmful chemicals associated with combustion.

Vaporizing cannabis provides a very convenient consumption method for cannabis users and it is the recommended route of administration for medical cannabis in many countries around the world. Many modern vaporizers can be connected to glass bongs to provide a smooth transition to bong users. Vaporizers give you a slightly different, a little nicer high than smoking cannabis.

Different vaporizers come at a different price point. The more sophisticated features a vaporizer has the more expensive it is.

I hope this post helped you to find out more about what weed vaporizers are and how they work. Please let us know in the comments section below if you have any questions or anything to add.



I have been vaporizing herbs for many years and working for VapeFuse in Australia and Europe. I try every vaporizer and fortunate enough to have this as part of my job. I feel like I am living the dream. I love to hear from other vapers, so always feel free to comment on my posts. Keep on vaping.

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