Readers of this article are likely familiar with the advantages of vaping versus smoking cannabis. Vaping cannabis dramatically increases the availability of psychoactive compounds compared to smoking, and there are far fewer toxins generated from combustion.
But, there is a hidden benefit that many are unaware of! Vaping allows for precise control of temperature, and this can have notable effects on how a particular strain feels in the body and mind.
The reason for this is that the different compounds in a dose of cannabis vaporize (and therefore become available for absorption by the tissue of the lungs) at different temperatures. The vaping process causes the compounds (cannabinoids) to sublimate or “boil” off so that you can inhale them.
Smoking does this too, but the heat is so high that much of the cannabinoids burn off simultaneously. But when you have precise control, you get access to a wide range of effects. It’s like splitting white light (smoking) into colors with a prism (vaping). Editor’s note: We have a separate dabbing temperature guide if you’re interested in the right range for your rig or e-nail.
Thus, a single strain can induce different effects depending on the temperature at which it’s vaporized. Here’s what you need to know to start exploring this phenomenon.
Minimums and maximums
First, let’s look at the endpoints of the vaping temperature spectrum. THC, the cannabinoid with the lowest boiling point, starts to vaporize at 315°F (around 157°C). Therefore, this is the minimum temperature required to feel any psychoactive effects.
If you keep temps right around the boiling point, you can get a mild, pleasant high that’s great for new consumers and those with low tolerances. For those who enjoy vaping for the flavor, this temperature will also start releasing terpenoids and flavonoids, the compounds responsible for those delicious aromas and tastes characteristic of cannabis. Even if you like getting high fast, try more hits at this lower setting to experience some nice flavor effects and a more gradual build.
The other endpoint is where combustion occurs. This can start happening around 450°F (230°C), though it won’t be certain until around 550°F (290°C). The cannabinoid with the highest vaporization point, THCV, requires 428°F (220°C) to begin vaporizing, and most see their full expression around 465°F (240°C). Thus, we can set an upper limit of testing ranges to 465° Fahrenheit.
Boiling Points of Other Cannabinoids
CBD evaporates at anywhere between 320°F and 355°F (160-180°C), depending on the strain and the amount of water in the plant. You might notice that this is very close to THC’s boiling point of 315°F, making it difficult to isolate THC or CBD through temperature alone.
If you need one cannabinoid to dominate over the other, you’re better off choosing a strain with more of your preferred compound. There are high-CBD marijuana strains available, but we prefer to vape organic hemp flower for whole-plant CBD.
Keep in mind that if you are looking for CBD for health purposes, you will need to turn up your vape mod up a few extra degrees to release it effectively.
Consumers seeking antiemetic effects should go to at least 355°F (180°C) to maximize the release of Delta-8-THC, the cannabinoid most responsible for the anti-nausea properties of cannabis. Temperatures above 365°F (185°C) begin to release cannabinoids associated with relaxation like CBN, which can be helpful for sufferers of insomnia and sleep disturbances.
CBG requires temperatures above 390°F (200°C) to vaporize, with maximum release at around 445°F (230°C). THCV and CBC begin to vaporize as temperatures breach 425°F (220°C). We have also written an extensive discussion about the medical benefits of different cannabinoids.
Terpenoids and Flavonoids
Terpenoids and flavonoids are naturally-occurring compounds found in plants, fruits, and essential oils that give cannabis its characteristic scent and flavor.
Aromatherapy lovers take note: you can get some of the same effects by finding a cannabis strain that matches the terpenoid profile of your favorite essential oil. While it won’t be as potent (at least until we start seeing a lot of cannabis essential oils on the market!), there may be some beneficial effects induced by these (as of yet) poorly-understood compounds.
From a vaping perspective, terpenes and flavonoids enhance the aesthetic experience and may play a role in moderating or intensifying the effects of other cannabinoids. However, at higher temperatures, they start to burn off and the smell and taste of the cannabis and its vapor.
Using the information detailed above, we can define some ranges that you can use to start experimenting with different vaping temperatures:
Below 320°F: Too low to activate cannabinoids, but you might get some flavor out of your cannabis or organic hemp flower. This is the range colloquially called “waste it to taste it.”
320-345°F: Flavor-oriented vapor. Core psychoactive compounds are present, but in mild amounts, producing a light high from THC and a good dose of CBD (with strength increasing commensurate with temperature). This range is good for beginners or testing a new strain out. Lower temperatures will also extend the life of your stash.
345-390°F: Deeper high. Bolder flavors are enhanced, while some of the more subtle notes are muted. Most variation in strains is notable within this range, making it perhaps the “best” range to vape most strains for most consumers. The majority of vapers will find a comfortable cannabis vaping temperature within this range.
390-465°F: Sedative high and the release of more exotic, lesser-known cannabinoids. Those who love to explore the deeper, more relaxing highs can play around in this range, though temps at the higher end of the range may yield a harsh vapor. Other cannabinoids, like THCV and CBG, begin boiling in this range.
Above 465°F: Too high. You’re combusting your cannabis and losing the benefits of vaping — just smoke instead.
The water content of your cannabis or hemp strain will also impact these temperature ranges. Water has to be boiled out of the plant material before the cannabinoids can reach their full expression. Thus, when comparing strains or temperatures, you’ll need to control for water content as best as you can.
Age and moisture levels can also affect THC content due to the conversion of THCA to THC with time and heat – check out our article detailing decarboxylation for the science behind this. It’s important if you ever decide to make edibles!