Nowadays, there are many methods of cannabis consumption that offer options for newbies and experienced users alike. There’s also a lot more information available on the science behind weed, so users of both recreational and medical marijuana can make an informed decision and customize their experience according to their needs.
Whichever method of consumption you use to get your THC dose, you must know by now that this cannabinoid takes a few turns before delivering its effects, and temperature is maybe the most important stop.
In this article, we will discuss the importance of temperature for THC and its effects, and how you can use this to your advantage. Let’s go!
Why Is Temperature Important for Cannabinoids?
Temperature is important for cannabis because it helps activate all of the chemical compounds (cannabinoids THC, CBD, THCV, CBC, and CBN) present in the cannabis plant. The raw cannabis flower contains acid forms of the main cannabinoids (THCA and CBDA) that are non-intoxicating and non-psychoactive. They possess some anti-inflammatory properties and mainly serve to keep pests and bacteria away from the plant.
However, when exposed to high temperatures over 200°F though, a chemical reaction happens, called decarboxylation, where a carboxyl group is removed and carbon dioxide is simultaneously released as a byproduct. This means that the THCA and CBDA get converted into their active forms THC and CBD that are able to bind to the cannabinoid receptors in the human body and exert their effects.
Temperature and Methods of Consumption
If you’ve been using cannabis for a while, you might have not thought about what the different methods of consumption have in common in regard to THC content. Truth is, weed needs the right temperature to go through the process of decarboxylation for any method, it just happens in different ways – with edibles it’s done beforehand, while with smoking and vaping it’s simultaneous.
How Does It Work With Edibles?
Whether bought from a dispensary or made in the comfort of your own home, weed meant to be used in edibles must be decarboxylated at the ideal temperature. At home, this is usually done in the oven at 235°F (not the microwave), while manufacturers use industrial ovens.
It’s important to note that decarboxylation is not the same as drying and/or curing weed. During these processes, only a small amount of psychoactive THC is released, which is nowhere close to the amount released during the process of decarboxylation.
The Difference Between Smoking and Vaping
Smoking and vaping are two popular methods of using marijuana that may seem similar, but in fact, work in a very different way and offer different effects. Smoking a joint is one of the easiest and oldest forms of consumption while vaping has been gaining a lot of popularity recently due to its versatility – there are all sorts of vape pens and dry herb vaporizers these days.
The main difference between smoking and vaping is the temperature at which cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonols are released. When you smoke a joint, the flame from the lighter produces a heat of a minimum of 600°F. That’s burning hot. This means that a large portion of the terpenes, flavonoids, and cannabinoids get burnt. This combustion generates quite a few toxins as well and you’re inhaling all of it. That’s why the smoke is harsh and the flavor always has a smoky overtone, regardless of the cannabis strain you’re using.
In contrast, with modern vaporizers, whether they vaporize concentrates or dry weed, you can customize the temperature to get different experiences. Vaporization doesn’t actually ignite the weed, therefore there is no combustion. Instead, the weed (or concentrate) gets heated to a specific temperature, allowing for an accurate extraction of specific compounds (flavor-giving terpenoids like linalool, limonene, myrcene, caryophyllene, and pinene) without any additional and unnecessary toxins.
It’s an alternative to the common consumption method and it offers an increased availability of all active ingredients present in cannabis.
When You Vape Weed at Different Temperatures You Get Different Effects
The boiling point of THC is 315°F, which means that for THC to start having any effects, it must be heated above this point. Generally, lower temperatures offer milder and less psychoactive effects, and higher temperatures give you the well-known “high” feeling. Let’s check out the three vaping temperature ranges and their perks.
Mildly Toasted (325-350°F)
Vaping at a low temperature is perfect for when you need a mild mental buzz, focus, and a dash of euphoria. As the terpenes don’t combust at this point, lower temp vaping will retain much of that intense, fragrant cannabis flavor. Depending on the strain, you will taste the fresh, piney, and citrusy notes thanks to the terpenes. The flavor won’t be harsh at all, in contrast to smoking, and the vapor will be light and gentler on your throat, lowering the risk of irritation and coughing.
Low temp vaporizing is perfect for when you want a boost in the morning, or want to top up during the day, but without the possibility of making you feel lethargic if you have more stuff to do. It’s also great for first-timers as it offers a dip into the effects of THC, as well as lightweight users who prefer to keep their THC content under control. With this temperature, the chances of experiencing common side effects like cottonmouth, red eyes, anxiety, and paranoia are very slim.
Happy Medium (350-400°F)
The medium temperature range is considered pretty universal and it’s a good place to start, even if you’re still building upon experience. The psychoactive effects will be felt more noticeably as more of the THC is being evaporated. You will feel your senses are heightened, your head is clearer, and your mood is elevated. You will also feel more relaxed, but not to the point where you won’t be able to get things done – it’s more like you’re calm, but functional. This temperature is also good for medical cannabis users (eg. some high-CBD Indica strains) who seek pain relief.
The flavor will also be a little stronger, as more cannabinoids and fewer terpenes get into the mix. You’ll still feel the freshness, but the undertones will be richer and warmer, and the smoke will be thicker. This temp range strikes the perfect balance between the two opposites – it puts you in a meditative state and gives you heightened perception, while at the same time it makes you feel nice and relaxed in your body, but not drowsy. Consequently, the chances of experiencing some common side effects are bigger, but nothing serious.
Totally Baked (400-430°F)
At these higher temperatures, there is maximum extraction of the THC content in cannabis. The well-known psychoactive effects can be felt in all their glory, and both your mind and your body will be affected. You will feel intense euphoria and heavy relaxation to the point of drowsiness and lethargy that may cause you to experience “couch-lock”. The flavor will be sharper and closer to the flavor of an actual joint, as most flavor-giving terpenes are easily lost at these temperatures.
Compared to low temp vaping, the smoke will be much harsher and may induce coughing. You will also be more likely to experience side effects due to the high THC extraction. Because of the sedative high and the possibility of side effects, vaping at these temperatures is best suited for night time sessions when you can fully relax without having to think about engagements.
Temperature is the most important element in activating the cannabinoid content in marijuana, otherwise, its psychoactive effects won’t be felt. Smoking and vaping are two common methods of consumption that offer different versions of THC effects because they work differently.
With smoking, there is a combustion of the plant material and a release of toxins, while with vaping there is bigger control of the temperature and with that, of the desired effects. The higher the temperature, the more intense the THC effects will be.