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A Lesson for Patients: Vaporisation vs. Combustion

When you get a medical cannabis referral, you’ll work with your doctor to find the best product for your needs. Before choosing your prescription, they’ll consider the strain, dose, and delivery method.

When it comes to medical cannabis, Australian doctors work with a variety of products including dried herb, oils, and capsules. But you might be surprised to hear that the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) doesn’t ever recommend smoking cannabis. Instead, the TGA recommends patients vaporise — and here’s why.

What Happens When You Vaporise Cannabis?

To have an effect, cannabis must be heated. Smoking and vaping are two of the most common ways to activate the cannabinoids and terpenes and access the medical benefits of cannabis.

For medical cannabis users, the TGA has approved two vaporisers: The Mighty Medic and the Volcano Medic. Both work with dried flower, and the Volcano also works with liquid cannabinoids dissolved in alcohol.

Vaporisers heat cannabis in a controlled and precise manner. As the cannabis heats up, cannabinoids and terpenes turn to liquid and then a gas — essentially evaporating the medicinal compounds. You then breathe in the vapour and the active compounds go to work.

Different cannabinoids and terpenes have different boiling points, which is why most vaporisers have temperature controls. It means patients can set a precise temperature suitable for the strain and desired effects.

The Volcano Medic has a wide temperature range of 40°C to 230°C and the Mighty Medic 40°C to 210 °C, giving patients total control over their prescription.

What Happens When You Smoke Cannabis?

Instead of evaporating cannabinoids and terpenes, smoking cannabis combusts them. Smoking typically reaches temperatures far greater than the maximum setting on a vaporiser. At such high temperatures, many cannabinoids, terpenes, and other plant materials start to burn.

Instead of turning slowly into a vapour, some of the compounds react with the air and form a range of byproducts. Unfortunately, not all of these are good news. They include smoke, tar, and carcinogenic compounds like benzene.

Lots of cannabinoids and terpenes also get lost when you burn cannabis. According to the TGA, up to 40 percent of a dose of THC can be wasted when cannabis is smoked. Nonetheless, smoking remains one of the most popular ways recreational cannabis is consumed, which is why so many patients are curious about it. Because of its prevalence in popular culture and in the illicit market, doctors often get a lot of questions about smoking medical cannabis.

ConsideringBut, with the increased risk associated with of smoking, the TGA approves dry herb products for vaporising only, not smoking. This ensures a lower risk to patients, without compromising on the medical properties.

The Risks of Smoking Medical Cannabis

Besides the difference in dosing and onset times, the TGA recommends against smoking cannabis because the risks are higher than vaporising.

While it’s true that there is no proven link between smoking cannabis and lung cancer, cannabis smokers do have a higher risk of bronchitis and respiratory infections. This is because of the toxic byproducts produced when cannabis is burned at a high temperature. Cannabis consumers who vaporise report lower levels of respiratory problems than those who smoke.

A 2001 study discovered that cannabis smoke contains carcinogenic compounds including benzene and toluene. However, careful temperature control with a vaporiser to temperatures of 185 degrees completely removed these compounds.

Smoking vs. Vaping Medical Cannabis

Considering the pervasiveness of smoking among recreational cannabis consumers, it’s no wonder that so many medical cannabis patients have questions about it. Let’s compare a few of the similarities and differences, that are about more than just temperature setting.

Onset Times

Both smoking and vaping are fast-acting and have an effect within a few minutes. They provide relief from symptoms faster than oils, lozenges, and oral capsules.

Researchers have determined that it takes about 30 minutes to reach peak concentration of THC in your blood after smoking. Vaping is even quicker — you can feel the effects within 90 seconds, and peak concentrations are reached within 15 to 30 minutes. For both methods, the effects typically last between two to four hours.


It’s much easier to manage your dose of medical cannabis by vaporising than by smoking. This is because vaporisers allow for accurate dosing and temperature control, and very little THC or other cannabinoids are lost during vaporisation.

Smoking, on the other hand, can be tough to dose. As we mentioned, up to 40 percent of THC is lost when you smoke cannabis. That means it’s hard to know exactly how much of your dose you actually consumed.

Medical Cannabis Referrals for Vaporising Cannabis

When you speak to a doctor for a medical cannabis referral, they may prescribe vaporisation of dried flower with one of the two TGA- approved vaporisers. Vaporising medical cannabis eliminates the risk from smoke-related carenogenes and delivers precise dose control into the hands of patients.

Book a consultation with an alternaleaf doctor today to explore whether vaporising is right for you.

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