A Deep Dive On The Modern Dry Herb Vaporization (Thermal Extraction) Industry
The use of heated surfaces (conduction) and air (convection) as a medium for extracting cannabis has been around for thousands of years. This approach has been referred to by many names although vaporization is the most utilized term. However, the term vaporization itself doesn’t clarify if you’re talking about cannabis flower, aromatherapy botanicals, concentrates, cartridges, tobacco / nicotine, or some other technology. That’s why at Ritual we use the term thermal extraction to specifically refer to the vaporization of dry herbal material. For us in Colorado that dry herbal material is usually cannabis, but our devices also excel with a variety of herbal botanicals including; star anise, cinnamon, chamomile, coffee, eucalyptus, ginger, ginseng, lavender, and tons of other awesome herbs.
History of Thermal Extraction (Dry Herb Vaporization)
Some of the earliest documented use of vaporization come from Egypt. In 440 B.C., Herodotus included an account of cannabis vaporization in Book IV of his acclaimed Histories. He wrote, “The Scythians, as I said, take some of this hemp-seed, and … throw it upon the red hot stones.” When the hemp began to smoke and release a vapor, the “Scyths, delighted, shout[ed] for joy.” Sounds pretty familiar to us!
Humans have continually appreciated cannabis since this initial documented discovery with constant innovation. Through much of history this innovation occurred behind closed doors and word of progress was slow to travel. The internet has fueled rapid development with users bouncing ideas off each other and collaborating on new technologies. Long before the Volcano was a commercially available product in the United States, DIY enthusiasts had constructed devices that worked remarkably well.
Some of the first modern thermal extraction devices include the Shake and Vape by Eagle Bill Amato (1994), The Ubie by American Smokeless (2000), the VaporGenie (2002), and of course The Volcano by Storz & Bickel (2003 U.S. launch). Nowadays there are many different devices offering unique vaporization technologies to ensure there is a device that can work for anyone! Have a high tolerance and used to multiple bong rips? We recommend looking at the Taroma XL which works through your water piece and can keep up with any lungs. If you are more used to sipping on a joint, something like the DynaVap “M” or Arizer AirMAX will work perfectly.
One of the biggest issues with recent vaporizers is that in the pursuit of simplicity and portability some companies have been willing to sacrifice customer safety when it comes to materials utilized. The reason that consideration regarding materials is so important is that certain plastics, metals, and other materials “off-gas” or release potentially harmful gasses when heated to vaporization temperatures. Not only are these gasses dangerous to inhale, they also add off-putting flavors to your vapor which hide the natural terpenes. Additionally, corrosion can present potential health concerns if exposed to the airpath, thus why we focus on corrosion-resistant materials.
At Ritual, we are obsessed with only providing customers with safe devices because we know that many users choose thermal extraction as a result of searching for a safer way to consume cannabis. Below are some of our favorite materials used in devices which are known to be safe;
- Strong, low density, and naturally resistant to corrosion all make titanium an ideal component of high-end devices. Some of our favorite titanium devices include the DynaVap Omni, DynaVap VonG(i), Taroma 2.0 and Taroma XL.
- Stainless Steel
- Strong, resistant to corrosion and easy to clean make stainless steel an awesome material for thermal extraction. Featured prominently in screens and tools, we also love the application of stainless steel in the DynaVap “M” and Herb Ripper grinders.
- Hard and resistant to corrosion ceramics have many applications throughout the thermal extraction industry. From QaromaShop’s Suet Jade Porcelain Stands to the heaters in Elev8’s Silver Surfer and Super Surfer Vehicle 2 ceramic is well established across the industry. Despite its strong reputation, new applications such as the Ceroma housing prove there is still lots of potential.
- A hard, crystalline mineral composed of silica, quartz has been highly regarded by concentrate enthusiasts for a while. The ability to withstand extreme temperatures makes it ideal for dab bangers, although QaromaShop has proved it’s applications are endless with the introduction of the Qaroma and Qaroma XL.
- A type of glass that is resistant to thermal shock, making it perfect for thermal extraction applications. Commonly utilized for dabbing in bangers and throughout devices like the Ispire daab.
Conversion to Thermal Extraction (And Why Many Devices Fail)
For some personal history, Ritual’s founder Patrick originally tried a dry herb vaporizer while living in Texas in the mid-2010s. It was from a well-known company who continues to dominate head shop display cases. However, the device itself tasted like burnt popcorn at best and melted plastic at worst and was a poor enough experience to turn Patrick off of the industry for a decade. After experiencing some health issues, he rediscovered thermal extraction technologies and was astounded at the incredible progress made both in terms of device performance and safety. This journey opened our eyes to the lack of public knowledge regarding modern dry herb vaporization and also the difficulties users can face when converting from primarily combustion. Below are common refrains we hear about dry herb vaporization and why we believe the modern industry alleviates many of these concerns.
- “Those devices don’t really get me high” – We agree with this sentiment if you’re referring to most of the major names available throughout the country. However, the best modern devices have enough potential to compete with the highest tolerances and deliver a satisfactory session for any user. The key is in understanding the correct device to convert you, because if your chosen technology delivers unsatisfactory results, it is much easier to just light up the joint you have.
- “The vaporization high makes me feel weird” – We have experienced this as well and believe it is generally due to a lack of thorough extraction where users only experience partial effects because they never reach the necessary temperatures to fully extract their material. Additionally, it’s very important to match the device to the user preferences and cannabis tolerance. If you are used to ripping multiple bongs before bed, it’s unlikely that a portable device will match that experience. However, load up the same amount of material in a Taroma XL and you will leave satisfied and ready for a long sleep. Based on our experience we believe desktop devices are extremely helpful in converting users, after which most start to find increased satisfaction from the smaller bowls on portable models.
- “It’s too complicated” – While the industry has awesome roots in garage hobbyists and tinkering, we believe things are greatly simplified these days to where anyone can have an awesome experience.
- “It’s too expensive” – We think it’s all about what you value. While our devices will never be price-competitive with a pack of rolling papers, they do provide top-quality experiences that you can feel better about knowing you aren’t inhaling carcinogens. Thermal extraction is also significantly more efficient in terms of material consumption meaning the amount of flower you consume monthly can realistically drop 30-50% while still experiencing great sessions and highs. How is this possible? The extreme heats associated with combustion end up destroying active compounds leaving less for you.
- “I want to feel it in my chest and exhale clouds” – So do we, there is just something primitive and comforting about releasing a huge cloud after your hit. While every dry herb vaporizer we carry is capable of producing thick clouds, if this is your primary concern we recommend the Super Surfer Vehicle 2, DynaVap “M” with a butane torch (and a little practice), or the Taroma XL.