The Lowdown on Vaping Terpenes
Vaping has established itself as an enormously popular alternative to smoking, and not just tobacco. A lot of cannabis users have begun to experiment with vaping ‘the herb’ rather than smoking it.
This shift comes with a number of benefits and possibilities, but it also comes with heightened complexity. For example, if you’re vaping cannabis, there is a good chance that you’re also vaping terpenes, even if you don’t know it.
So, what effects do terpenes produce when vaped? Is it safe to vape them? If you find yourself asking these questions, you’re not alone, and you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, we will break down all the vital information about terpenes so that you can better understand the key role they play in shaping and enhancing your vape experience.
What are terpenes?
If you’re reading the True Blue blog, you probably know what terpenes are already. If you don’t need a refresher, move along to the next section.
Terpenes are organic hydrocarbons that appear throughout nature. Highly aromatic, they lend flowers, herbs, and fruit their distinctive scent. Cannabis is one of the most prominent examples. Others include lavender, pine, eucalyptus, and lemon, each of which contains its own unique combination of terpenes.
But terpenes do more than produce smells. Many of them also have proven therapeutic benefits. For instance, linalool—a terpene found in cannabis, lavender, and mint, among other plant species—is used to help manage inflammation and chronic pain. It has also been shown to reduce stress and anxiety.
The main takeaway here is that, in the context of marijuana, terpenes are responsible for two things: its characteristic smell and a good number of its therapeutic properties.
Is vaping terpenes safe?
Most people understand that the central purpose of vaporizing is to help people quit smoking. And while there are now concerns about the safety of certain chemicals present in some e-liquids, health experts believe that vaping is a lot safer than cigarettes.
Since vaping does not involve combustion, it does not create “tar”—the cancer-causing substance in cigarette smoke. This tar isn’t unique to tobacco. Any time you burn something, harmful chemicals are going to be released. Marijuana is no exception. That is one reason why so many cannabis users are ditching their joints in favor of vape pens. With vaping, there is no tar; nor, for that matter, is there any throat burn.
For terpenes to be vaped, they must be added to a THC- or CBD-based vape liquid. Without them, the liquid will lack the flavors and aromas, and many of the therapeutic effects, that we associate with cannabis. In other words, terpenes are essential to the vaping experience.
With that said, there are questions surrounding the safety of vaping terpenes. A recent lab study found that, when a liquid containing terpenes is converted into vapor, a number of toxic chemicals are produced. Among these are the carcinogen benzene and the flammable liquid xylene. Additional research into this question is sure to follow.
Do terpenes get you high?
The short answer is no. THC is the psychoactive compound in cannabis that makes you high. Different strains have different levels of THC, which explains why some are more potent than others. Certain methods of ingesting cannabis—like edibles, for example—are associated with higher THC content, and therefore a more vigorous high.
CBD is also psychoactive, though it doesn’t induce euphoria like THC does. Instead, CBD has a calming effect. It’s what makes cannabis so efficient in treating anxiety, depression, and seizures.
Terpenes are not psychoactive. However, some evidence supports the idea of the “entourage effect.” According to this theory, terpenes compliment THC and CBD, enhancing their effects.
One study, for instance, looked at the difference between pure CBD and a CBD-rich extract in treating people with epilepsy. The researchers concluded that the CBD-rich extract, which contained terpenes, provided more symptom relief and resulted in fewer side-effects. So it could very well be the case that terpenes contribute to your high.
What are the benefits of vaping terpenes?
We briefly touched on the therapeutic properties of terpenes. Now let’s take a closer look.
There are hundreds of different terpenes in cannabis. Some strains have more than others, but they all have some. The list of potential benefits offered by terpenes is a long one, ranging from stress-reduction to treatment (along with various medicines) of cancer.
The most common cannabis terpenes are myrcene, limonene, and beta-caryophyllene.
Myrcene makes up about half of all the terpenes in cannabis. An antioxidant, it is known for its calming effects, and has shown efficacy in treating pain, inflammation, and insomnia. Traditionally it has been used to manage a range of conditions including hypertension, dysentery, and diabetes. Myrcene is also abundant in hops, lemongrass, and mangoes.
Limonene, as you probably guessed from its name, is the primary terpene in the rinds of citrus fruits. Due to its fragrance, it is commonly added to foods and perfumes. Anecdotal evidence indicates that it can be employed to treat anxiety, depression, and inflammation.
Beta-caryophyllene is famous for its spicy smell and taste (it exists in black pepper, oregano, basil, and rosemary). As with many other terpenes, studies have suggested that beta-caryophyllene can reduce pain and inflammation. It may also have the potential to treat alcoholism-related conditions.
Those are just a few of the benefits—and flavors—you can expect from a vape liquid that has been infused with cannabis terpenes. Just be sure to purchase liquid containing natural terpenes, not synthetic ones.
Do it yourself?
Many people prefer a DIY approach to vaping terpenes. This typically involves adding a little terpene oil to one of your favorite e-liquids. But it is also possible to make your own customized liquid from scratch. For this, you need a base liquid-like propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin, your chosen terpenes, and some THC and CBD oil. It’s important to ensure that you are getting your products from a reputable and trustworthy seller! Don’t take any chances. We can’t stress that enough.
Once you have your ingredients, the sky’s the limit. Having said that, don’t go crazy with the terpenes (which, by the way, should always be added last). They are extremely potent and ingesting too much at one time can be dangerous, not to mention unpleasant. When in doubt, err on the side of caution. Start small—1 or 2 percent of volume—and go from there.