Vaping is now a mature industry, having weathered a decade of regulations, pressure from big tobacco, and huge growth spurts. While city and state governments worked diligently to ban vaping nearly everywhere smoking is, vaping pioneers were busy marketing home-brewed e-liquids and imported e-cigarettes.
Homemade vaping oils are all the rage, but vaping has moved far beyond that with a new generation of vape pens that can vape anything you want without the need of a carrier oil. They have ceramic, quartz, and titanium heating chambers and plates designed for herb, concentrate/powder, and liquid.
Check out the new methods of safely vaping drugs here.
Otherwise, here’s a breakdown of all the liquids laying around your house that you shouldn’t put in your vape pen (except vegetable glycerin).
Used in most nicotine retail eliquids, vegetable glycerin provides a subtle, yet thick “smoke” vapor. Used commercially in pharmaceuticals, foods, and more, vegetable glycerin is as harmless as water, which is to say you’re not invincible if you push your boundaries. You can vape vegetable glycerin, and polypropylene glycol is added to give flavorings something to bond to.
Vegetable glycerin is commonly derived from vegetable oil. You know how in Fight Club, they make soap from human fat and lye? Replace the human fat with vegetable fat, and that’s how vegetable glycerin is made. If animal fat is used, it’s just called glycerin (or glycerol). Vegetable oil is essentially glycerin + salt. When the alkaline (typically lye) is added to the solution, it separates the salts from the fats. The salts become soap, and the fats become glycerin.
You can vape vegetable oil, but it’s not as pure as vegetable glycerin. You also risk lipid pneumonia because of the lipids present in vegetable oils. Keep in mind, canola oil, soybean oil, and any cooking oil is a vegetable oil, with the exception of lard animal fats. So while these oils will work in a vape pen, it’s not recommended to do so.
Here’s a video showing how to turn vegetable oil into glycerin (just like in Fight Club, but with vegetable oil).
Popping up all over the Northwest recreational and medical cannabis dispensaries are new organic ejuices made from coconut oil instead of vegetable glycerin. Some sites (and conventional wisdom) will tell you impurities in the oil will clog your vaporizer, but there’s no more risk with coconut oil than any other vegetable oil. You can make vegetable glycerin from coconut oil, and that’s what you should be vaping.
Glycerin is technically an alcohol, but that’s not what you’re actually thinking of when asking this question. You’re talking about liquor basically. Although alcohol can be vaped, it’s not a good idea to do it through an ecig, which will heat the alcohol to combustible temperatures. Vaporizing alcohol is done with pressure, and the facts of vaping has more information on how to accomplish this.
Corn syrup is sometimes added to ejuice (as can honey, agave, and other viscous sweeteners), but it’s not a great idea. Though similar to vegetable glycerin in many ways, corn syrup’s sugar content is as prone to ignite while vaping as alcohol. It is not recommended to vape corn syrup. You’ll find this combustion happens if you try to vape tinctures as well, since they typically have other additives that aren’t vapable.
Tinctures are just CBD or THC dissolved in alcohol, so they should be vapable right? Wrong – they also include flavorings, oils, sugars, etc. They will likely catch on fire if you try vaping them, turning your vape pen into a mini flame thrower directly into the back of your throat.
Most of the Pacific Northwest has already brought in experts and scientists from the oil industry to work on the viscosity of cannabis concentrates. Using the right methodology, the concentrates can be made viscous enough to vape in any standard vape pen without diluting in any glycerin or oil. This is ideal, and there are a ton of vape pens on the market that can handle any type of concentrate.
You can also use essentially a crack pipe to vape pure cannabis concentrates in any form, regardless of viscosity.
Extractors are now running their machines to extract all essential Ayurvedic oils, such as lavender, peppermint, and more in order to infuse them with cannabis for vaping. This industry is booming and will soon be prolific across the United States as a replacement to flavored vegetable glycerins. Like vegetable oil, these could give you lipid pneumonia. On top of that, many essential oils aren’t safe to inhale. Just because a plant is edible doesn’t mean a super-concentrated version of it is safe to inhale. Be very wary of these products.
Many ejuice companies utilize essential oils for natural flavorings. Keep in mind, most natural flavors are plant extracts (and the nicotine used on ecigarettes is an essential oil from the tobacco plant, just like cannabis concentrates are a form of essential oils). Artificial flavorings are typically derived from insects. Whether any of these are actually safe to inhale is something the FDA is currently looking to find out. Food-grade doesn’t equate to inhalable.
Learn more about vaping essential oils in Ayurvedic Vaping…
Brian Penny is a former business analyst and operations manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer. He’s appeared in Huffington Post, BBC, podcasts, AM/FM radio, Fast Company, Cannabis Now, Hardcore Droid, and Lifehack.