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Role of Boiling Point in Vaporization?

Discussion in 'Ask FC' started by suchWow, Apr 6, 2014.

  1. suchWow

    suchWow New Member

    Hey guys,

    First post. I've been doing some research on this for some time and I've struggled to find a clear answer. I think vaporization could possibly be a promising delivery method for other herbs besides cannabis (duh), and while there are threads about that exact subject on this forum I am particularly interested in the science behind vaporization, and I'm hoping you guys might be able to provide some enlightenment.

    I often see chamomile, peppermint and St. John's Wort mentioned as alternative herbs that are good to use with a vaporizer. Based on my understanding of how vaporization works, the active compounds in the herb reach their boiling point and are basically turned into an aerosol to be inhaled. IF that's correct though, and we take an example like St. John's Wort:

    One of the main active components that has been identified to act as an antidepressant is called hyperforin. The boiling point of hyperforin is, according to a Google result, 1140 degrees F. This is obviously way too hot to be extracted by vaporization...

    So I guess my main questions are these:
    Is it more complicated than simply looking at the boiling point of these compounds to determine if a plant would be a good candidate for vaporization?
    Will vaporization always be more effective than consuming the herbs?

    Looking forward to hearing some responses.

    EDIT: Cleaned up post a bit. Added links.
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2014
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  2. pakalolo

    pakalolo RoboMod v4.0a (unstable) Staff Member

    Other side of your screen
    At the risk of teaching Grandma to suck eggs, let me caution you against the trap of thinking of the boiling point is a divider between no vapour and vapour. Consider the way water comes to a boil: steam starts to rise long before the boiling point. You can see visible vapour rising from hot water at temperatures as low as 50°C (122°F).

    Forgive me if that is obvious to you. I suspect it might be since I find the way you phrased your understanding to be interesting. You didn't say it was vapourized, which I think means that you understand the process better than most. When the talk turns to "vapourizing", my friend @nicelytoasted is fond of pointing out that the process is actually thermal desorption. Now that I've tagged him, he'll be by shortly to discuss this. ;)

    As to your questions: I think the answer to the first one is yes, and to the second one I'd say it depends. It isn't obvious to me that vapourization is a superior delivery method for everything. Take alcohol as an example. Vapourizing alcohol is far more dangerous than drinking it because of the speed at which it enters your system. The risk of severe, even deadly overdose is much greater.
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  3. grokit

    grokit well-worn member

    the north
    There's a counter-argument to that.

    Because vaping alcohol does not go through the digestive tract, the effects of consuming it are immediately felt, making it easier to stay within one's limits. Also the effects wear off much faster.

    In contrast, it takes 20 to 30 minutes to feel the full effects of spirits that are swallowed, making it much easier to overdose before you've even caught up to the consumed level of intoxication.
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  4. pakalolo

    pakalolo RoboMod v4.0a (unstable) Staff Member

    Other side of your screen
    I think it's actually harder to stay within your limits because it is much harder to judge how much you've consumed. Also, vapourized alcohol bypasses the stomach and liver, so your body never gets the signal that you've overdosed. Normally you would start to feel sick and if you've had too much you'd vomit, which is your body's way of rejecting the excess alcohol. When you vapourize it, your system has no way to get rid of the excess.
  5. suchWow

    suchWow New Member

    Fantastic response. So I actually did not take into account what happens to water as it approaches its boiling point, so my description may have just been vague. :) It makes perfect sense though, and I'm glad that you pointed out that vaporization is not 'binary' in nature, which I hadn't properly processed. I had assumed that the boiling point must be reached in order for active compounds to be extracted.

    This proves, for example, why this guy on reddit's AskScience section might be wrong about vaporizing peppermint (he basically says that menthol's boiling point higher than most vaporizers can reach, therefore it wouldn't work) when the experiences I've read about and seen on YouTube seem to indicate that the minty menthol is in fact being extracted.

    I'm mainly interested in using vaporization to enhance the effects these herbs provide. Since the herb's effects are onset much quicker with vaporization vs. drinking a tea or taking a capsule, there's some applications I can see that would be very nice. Lately, I've been having some trouble with sleeping and anxiety. On a night I can't fall asleep, if I could just vaporize some lavender or chamomile to help me get some shut eye, that would be great.

    At the same time, if there were not much to be gained from vaporizing these herbs (as opposed to normal ingestion) it would be much cheaper to just NOT buy a vaporizer. So this is basically what I'm trying to determine - if the potential benefits that a vaporizer brings for alternative herbs are worth it.
  6. Bouldorado

    Bouldorado Well-Known Member

    Just a thought, but don't most of the desired actives in cannabis reside outside of the actual plant (i.e. in the form of trichomes on the surface)? If that is indeed the case, that would help explain why vaporizers work so effectively for THC.
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  7. nicelytoasted

    nicelytoasted Vaked Chemist

    In the vape lab
    Hello and welcome suchWow

    I figured I best pop in here since I was summoned by our own RoboMod v3.17 (supposedly ticking) :lol:

    Yes, there's more into it than just the boiling points, although they can be a useful guideline, just like the vapourizing temperatures, imo.

    Most of the time, the boiling points are derived in a lab, from the pure substance on its' own. In the plant, these substances are just a part of a complex matrix (interacting with countless other substances), where the boiling points (and other properties) can change drastically. In the case of cannabis, when you thermally desorb the plant, you add enough heat energy to melt the wax covering of the trichomes, thus releasing this complex matrix of oils, containing cannabinoic acids, terpenes, terpenoids and flavinoids, as well as numerous other volatile organic compounds. This heat is also enough to activate the cannabinoic acids into cannabinoids. This heated matrix is drawn into the air stream and exists as mostly a mix of 3 main phases: volatiles gases, semi-volatile aerosols and non-volatile particulates (what we call vapour).

    As far as St. John's Wort, the references I saw stated that it can be effectively " vapourized" at a temperature range of 100 - 150C. This is probably a guideline of the temperatures required to thermally desorb the oils in its' matrix effectively, rather than just the boiling point of the active ingredient(s), imo.

    I am also a firm believer that we were meant to consume the entire plant, if possible, to derive the most benefits. In the case of cannabis, the dam plant just works so synergystically. Personally I vapourize it, and then consume my remains (abv, avb, duff, etc) regularly to optimize it as a preventative. The medical power of the duff has been under rated, imo.

    I believe that there's a few threads in here that may provide you with some good references on vapourizing different herbs. I encourage you to check them out.

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