How Does a Vaporizer Work | Billowby Education Center

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  • How Does a Vaporizer Work
  • David Matthews
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How Does a Vaporizer Work

A vaporizer is a type of device used to deliver the benefits of medicinal herbs. There are several advantages to using a vaporizer, such as a cooler smoke, less mess and the elimination of the by-products found in wrapping papers. People who are new to these devices often ask, “Exactly how does a vaporizer work?”

The Physics Behind Vaporization

Materials can exist in one of four states of matter, which are solid, liquid, gas and plasma. The most common way to alter a material’s state is through temperature. If a glass is filled with tap water, the water is in its liquid state, but it can be converted to a solid (ice) by lowering the temperature or a gas (steam) by increasing the temperature.

How Vaporizers Work

An illustration of the basic principle might be helpful before explaining the mechanical aspects to answer the question, “How does a vaporizer work?” A good example would be the process that wood undergoes when it is burned in a fireplace. When lit, the wood first loses its moisture content and dries out. As the wood grows hotter, the molecules binding the wood into its solid state begin to break apart, releasing the gases that have been trapped inside. At this point, there will be no appreciable change in the amount of heat being given off by the wood although smoke is typically visible. Only when the wood reaches the temperature required for combustion will the wood begin to burn and produce heat. If this temperature is never achieved, the wood will not burst into flames, but if the temperature remains consistent, the wood will continue to emit gases until they have all been freed.

How does a vaporizer work to deliver medicine? It uses the same physics as burning wood in a fireplace. Like wood, medicinal herbs will begin to release vapors at a lower temperature than is needed for combustion. However, while wood in a fireplace must achieve combustion to provide any benefits, medicinal herbs need only vaporize. It is these vapors, not the smoke from a flame, that contain the beneficial chemicals.

Thus, the short answer to the question, “How does a vaporizer work?” is that a vaporizer heats concentrates or dried herbs to a temperature that is high enough for vaporization to occur, but which is low enough to prevent combustion. There are two methods of applying heat to the medicine.

  • Conduction was the first method introduced during the 1970s. This method requires the medicine to be in direct contact with the heat source. For example, a simple vaping device might have a pan to hold the medicine. Directly beneath the pan, a battery-powered heating element produces the temperatures needed for vaporization to occur.
  • Convection heat is the most recent method developed for vaporizers. In a manner similar to a convection oven, convection vaporizers use hot air to raise the temperature within the chamber sufficiently to allow vaporization to occur.

The type of heating element often depends on the style of vaporizer. Vaporizers are available in a variety of styles, but most can be placed in the categories of either portable or desktop. The category of portable vaporizers includes vape pens, which are small units that resemble electronic cigarettes. This category also includes compact systems that are larger than pens but more portable than desktops. Desktop vaporizers tend to be larger and heavier units that are designed to remain largely stationary. Desktop units may feature a whip, which is an attached tube and mouthpiece for inhaling the vapor, or a balloon that is attached to the heating chamber and uses a fan to help move the vapor through the bag.

Which vaporizer is best is largely a matter of personal preference. No one unit is intended to be perfect for all users. However, considering the answer to, “How does a vaporizer work?” can provide valuable insights for making the purchase decision.

One crucial factor that needs to be evaluated is the range of temperatures achieved by the vaporizer. Different types of medicines can vaporize at slightly different temperatures. Dry medicinal herbs usually begin to vaporize at approximately 285 degrees Fahrenheit and combust at approximately 446 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, a vaporizer that heats medicine within this range should provide satisfactory results.

However, everyone must find his or her perfect temperature for each specific medication. There may even be times when individuals prefer to vary the temperature by time of day, the harshness of the medicine or other factor. Many vaporizers allow operators to choose the temperature for each vaping session, and some models feature thermostatically controlled heating elements with digital displays to make it easier to adjust temperatures.

Additional Tips

For many, the simple answer to, “How does a vaporizer work?” would be, “They work extremely well.” However, people who are new to vaporizers may find that vaporizing is a rather different experience that requires some adjustments. These tips can help get the maximum benefit from vaporizing medicinal herbs.

  • Some novices report that vaporizers delivered a stronger hit than they were accustomed to experiencing when the same medication was inhaled through other methods. It is therefore a good idea to sit while using a vaporizer the first few times to avoid the possibility of falls.
  • Do not exceed 440 degrees Fahrenheit on a vaporizer as this is getting uncomfortably close to the combustion point for dry herbs.
  • Never over-pack the vaporizer. Each model should have directions that include the maximum load.
  • When using a whip, long, slow drags should be avoided as the medicine can become overheated and combust.
  • Although vaporizers are very efficient, there may be medicine that does not vaporize, especially if the unit uses the conduction method. Many people recycle their left-over medicine to make butter or edibles.
  • When using a balloon-style vaporizer, the slowest speed on the fan setting tends to produce the thickest vapor.
  • Allow the unit to warm up sufficiently before attempting to vape. The instruction manual should contain an estimated warm-up time for the specific model.
  • Following a hit immediately with a deep breath of room air can help the lungs absorb more of the medicine. This also helps with the enjoyment of the medicine’s taste.
  • Grind dry herbs well before vaporizing. The finer the grind, the greater the area of contact will be. Surface area is an important part of how much of the medicine’s benefits will be released.
  • Vaporizers should be cleaned thoroughly according to manufacturer’s directions. Should water get inside the balloon, make sure it is completely dry before storing or using.
  • Each vaporizer performs somewhat differently, but as a general rule, slow drags provide the hottest vapor and biggest hits, while fast drags have cooler vapor but smaller hits.

Points To Remember

  • Keep in mind that knowing the answer to, “How does a vaporizer work?” does not necessarily translate to knowing how a specific vaporizer works. Read the instruction manual thoroughly before attempting to set up or use a vaporizer for the first time.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. For example, do not leave a vaporizer on longer than the manufacturer recommends.
  • Vaporizing medicine can be an adjustment from other methods. Some people report that the effects are felt more slowly, so it is best to be patient the first few sessions to avoid over-medicating.

Definition Of How Does A Vaporizer Work?

“How Does a Vaporizer Work?” is intended to educate consumers on the physics and mechanics involved in using a vaporizer for medicinal herbs. Essentially, vaporizers work by heating the medicine enough to release the beneficial chemicals as a vapor; this temperature is significantly lower than the temperature at which the medicine will combust.

By inhaling just the vapor, non-beneficial elements can be eliminated. For example, when using rolling papers, the papers are burned along with the medicine and by-products are inhaled. Since there is no combustion required for vaporization, the toxins contained in smoke are also eliminated. Most “vapers” report that vaporizers provide a cooler, less-irritating experience.

In Conclusion

Vaporizers can be an excellent delivery method for medicine as exhibited by the Pax 2 Portable Vaporizer. There are many different types of vaporizers available, so each individual will need to evaluate the different styles and brands to determine the best vaporizer for his or her needs. Many users find that owning multiple vaporizers, such as a portable vaporizer for travel and a desktop vaporizer for home, offers an ideal solution. Understanding the answer to the question, “How does a vaporizer work for medicinal herbs?” should help when evaluating the features offered by the different styles.


  • David Matthews
  • Guides