The wide-ranging, potential benefits of a high-quality CBD product continues to attract waves of new users every day. Each of these new users is faced with a similar problem: finding an effective product that meets their needs and fits with their lifestyle.
Products like oil-based capsules that are swallowed are discreet but can suffer from low bioavailability. This causes a significant percentage of the precious phytocannabinoid-rich hemp oil to be flushed from the body as waste.
In response to these issues, companies have been researching ways to make CBD products more efficient and less wasteful. For orally ingested products, nanoemulsified CBD oil is a great example of new technologies that improve absorption and effectiveness. Products like tinctures help bypass some of the absorption issues, but ultimately they still suffer from bioavailability and waste issues.
For many users, vaping offers advantages when compared to ingesting CBD oil. When heated and inhaled, CBD and other cannabis-derived compounds are quickly and effectively absorbed into the body. While the effectiveness and quick time to onset is extremely favorable, the current state of the vape industry can be off-putting for health-conscious CBD users.
As we discussed in our introductory guide to vaping CBD, companies in the cannabis industry that are producing CBD vape products are leaning heavily on the existing practices and technologies. Unfortunately, the starting mindsets of the two groups are much different.
The vaping industry was built on the premise that it is a less-dangerous alternative to smoking. This attracts a group which is more likely to accept the risks of inhaling less than ideal chemicals, as long as the dangers are overall lower than the combustion-based alternative.
As a result, it is common, if not universal to find vape products on the market containing potentially harmful artificial ingredients and thinning agents. These chemicals and fillers include polyethylene glycol 400 (PEG 400), propylene glycol (PG), vegetable glycerin (VG), and medium-chain triglycerides (MCT oil). While these compounds may be considered safe when swallowed, a growing body of research is showing that heating and inhaling these chemicals carries potential risks.
When the compounds cited above are heated, they can undergo decomposition that results in the production of a variety of volatile carbonyls. These compounds include formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, and acrolein. These specific carbonyl compounds have been shown to carry adverse health effects on humans.
It is important to note that these thinning agents vary in the levels of compound production. PEG 400 and PG were observed to produce much higher levels of acetaldehyde and formaldehyde than VG and MCT. For this reason, if you do choose to vape with thinning agents, then going with a VG/MCT cut product is preferable, and these products are widely available on the market today.
These same studies do point to the levels of these byproducts being lower than when compared to cigarette smoke. The conclusion is that while vaping may be safer than smoking, it is still potentially more harmful than not vaping altogether.
While ex-smokers turned vapers may be happy to puff away happy to be reducing their overall risk, the average CBD user does not share the same mindset. Those seeking CBD products are most often health-focused, seeking the therapeutic benefits of consuming hemp oil. These users are not looking to add additional health risks to their plate.
The issue then arises when most CBD vape products lean on the use of the same thinning agents that the greater vape industry has established as a common practice. The result is a mismatch in desires and available products.
While not ideal, the thinning agents we discussed above play a key role in the process of vaping. These substances thin out traditionally thick, viscous hemp concentrates ensuring that they flow nicely through a vape cartridge or coils. Too thick and the substance can clog or burn, causing them to not vaporize properly.
Fortunately, advances in cannabis extraction are creating new purification methods that allow for a new breed of chemical-free CBD vape product. Several companies have developed processes for extracting hemp oils down into a pure form that is able to be vaped without the need for artificial thinning agents.
These products are created by using clean solvent extraction methods, removing waxes through winterization, and further refining through processes like fractional distillation. The resulting distillate is a plant-derived liquid containing the sought after cannabinoids. These distillates are then often combined with cannabis-derived terpenes for flavoring and entourage benefits.
The result is a plant-derived distillate + terpene cartridge that is free of thinning agents like PEG/PG/VG/MCT and any other artificial ingredients. Though the choice to inhale these substances may carry some risks, health-conscious CBD users can rest easy knowing that these forward-thinking cannabis extractors are helping remove the known risks from vape products, creating products that minimize negative health impacts for the end-user.
The issue with distillate cartridges like described above comes down to ease of production and availability. Currently the expertise to create these all-natural vape oils are limited, the process is lengthy and expensive, and as a result, the availability is limited. We've seen limited runs of this type of product available via boutique sellers, but nothing widely available.
Hopefully, in the future, more products free from chemically added fillers will become available!