Vaping is often heralded as a healthier alternative to smoking. Vape pens hit the market in the early 2000s and have been growing in popularity since, with many people switching over from traditional nicotine cigarettes to vaporisers instead.
As of recently, vaporisers are not just being used for nicotine. The CBD oil trend is moving over into the vaping world, with people wishing to vape their CBD instead of taking it sublingually. Compounds are absorbed very quickly through inhalation, and for previous smokers or those who smoke socially, vaping CBD can be a great way to get your daily cannabidiol dose.
But is it actually so great? The theory behind vape pens and e-cigarettes was that the lack of combustion makes it healthier than cigarettes. The process of combustion releases hundreds of toxic chemicals and carcinogens, so surely this makes a product that allows you to get the same hit with none of the combustion healthier? Sort of, but the keyword here is healthier – it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s good for you.
And besides, even if vaping holds some dangers on its own, can you actually use CBD oil in a vape pen? We will answer this question and more in this article, because truth us, it’s worth knowing what you’re actually putting into your body.
The Health Concerns Behind Manufacturing CBD
Over in the USA in states where marijuana is recreationally legal, people can actually vaporise dry herb in the form of the whole plant. If only it were that simple here! Since cannabis and THC are illegal here, you have to stick to CBD oils made from industrial hemp that contain less than 0.02% THC. This is, of course, for your safety, but in an unfortunate contradiction, the process of removing CBD from hemp and making it safe for consumption can have some undesired effects.
In the past, the principal way to extract CBD from the plant was to place it in an air-sealed pipe and run a strong solvent like butane over it. Butane is used in lighter fluid – it’s not great for your health. The solvent would then extract the cannabinoids, resulting in a gooey, high-potency CBD oil.
Of course, knowing that butane is not consumable, manufacturers would put the oil through a rigorous cleaning process, but it’s very difficult to remove all the butane. Sometimes, residues from the solvents remain in the oil, and these are very dangerous. It’s not all doom and gloom, though, because many companies are switching over to CO2 extraction, which is a lot safer in terms of the end product.
That being said, some companies still extract CBD using solvents; particularly ones that are trying to drive their costs down. Make sure you always look out for this on the label, because it’s quite easy to avoid if you know what you’re looking for.
The Health Concerns of Vaping CBD
The cannabis plant is covered in plant waxes and resins that protect its leaves. During the extraction process – whether solvents or CO2 is used – dissolved portions of the plant’s cuticle wax can also be drawn into the oil.
Since vaporisers use lower temperatures in order to avoid combustion, these waxy particles are not burnt away and instead are inhaled into your lungs. Some experts believe that these will build up as waxy granules in your airways, obviously leading to health complications down the line.
Again, there is a way to avoid this somewhat. After CO2 extraction, some companies choose to ‘winterise’ their oils. This refers to soaking the plant in alcohol and freezing it, allowing the waxy particles to be separated out. Winterisation obviously adds to the expense, and it is thought that it can also filter out some of the CBD and make the oil less potent, which is why some companies choose to skip this step.
Not using winterisation techniques might be fine for sublingual oils, but if you know you want to vape your CBD, try looking out for companies who have winterised their products in order to try and avoid build-up of waxy particles in your lungs.
However, winterisation might actually lead to a more viscous product, which leads to a whole new set of problems…
The Health Concerns of Thinning Agents
CBD oil cannot be vaped in its normal form, as this is much too viscous and would not work in a vaporiser. To get around this, the oil must be ‘thinned’ into something more liquidy. So, as a solution, manufacturers add thinning agents to dilute the oil into a vape fluid.
This can be a huge problem. Thinning agents can be toxic and can absolutely ruin your health. Two of the most commonly used thinning agents are polyethylene and propylene glycol (PEG), which can break down into carcinogenic (cancer-causing) compounds. Other by-products of thinning agents include the likes of formaldehyde, which is also a group 1 carcinogen.
In other words, thinning agents can cause cancer. So, while you’re not inhaling combusted toxins from cigarettes, you’re still inhaling toxins when you vape.
The Health Concerns of Vaping an Oil
Vaping any kind of oil, CBD or otherwise, is not necessarily a great idea. Oil is a form of fat, so when you vape an oil you’re essentially inhaling fat into your body. There is a possibility that lipids can accumulate in your alveoli as the fat starts to cling to the interior of your lungs.
Eventually, this can cause Lipoid Pneumonia, in which the bronchial tubes are obstructed with globules of fat, resulting in an inability to breathe.
This is only likely to happen in very heavy vapers, but it’s worth mentioning.
So, Can You Vape CBD Oil?
We should point out that not very many studies have been done on the matter of vaping, let alone vaping CBD oil specifically. It will probably be many years from now when we have actual concrete evidence on the safety situation when it comes to vaping CBD oil.
For now, we can say that there are vapable CBD cartridges out there for you to purchase. These are only on sale because they are compatible with vape pens and do not present any explicit immediate danger, meaning that, in theory, you can vape CBD oil. However, keep in mind that you can only vape the CBD oils designed for this purpose – don’t go putting any old CBD oil in your vape pen!
It is apparent that there could be some pretty serious dangers when it comes to vaping CBD oil, but after being informed it really comes down to personal decision of whether you want to take that risk. If you’re on the fence or if this information keeps you awake at night, try switching to a safer alternative such as sublingual oils or edibles instead.