Many cannabis consumers think that customizing their cannabis buzz is limited to the strains they have on their shelves, but temperature is an equally important factor.
Think of temperature control as the key to unlocking whatever effects a strain can offer. A strain that’s high in CBD (non-intoxicating, relaxing, anti-epileptic), for example, must be heated to the compound’s boiling point of 356°F if you’re to reap its benefits. Likewise, the relaxing terpene linalool isn’t unleashed until you hit 388°F. Temperature can also determine a strain’s intensity: higher temperatures typically exaggerate effects while lower temperatures offer a more gentle, mellow experience.
This type of customization isn’t possible through smoking. When you bring a lighter to your bowl, you’re combusting the plant material which creates smoke, carbon dioxide, and other harmful byproducts. The temperature is hot enough to activate the THC and other compounds, but this “sledgehammer approach” isn’t terribly efficient, as temperatures that high can also destroy volatile but pertinent cannabinoids and terpenes.
Knowing that cannabis has a variety of precious constituents with different boiling points, I wanted to see how temperature affected the overall experience felt by different strains. Lining up a row of strain jars like test tubes, I turned on my trusty Herbalizer and began playing mad scientist.
Low Temperatures for Clear-Headed, Functional Effects
310°F to 330°F
Recommended for: mild euphoria, focus, productivity, subtle relaxation
There’s a time and place to be stoned off your rocker, but sometimes all you need is the slightest kick from your cannabis. For days when you need uplifting relief to carry you through chores and tasks, low-temp vaping is the key to a functional, productive buzz.
I loaded my Headband concentrate and set my vaporizer to 320°F in order to release three key constituents: the uplifting, focus-feeding terpene pinene; the pepper-flavored anti-inflammatory terpene caryophyllene; and of course, the psychoactive commander in chief, THC. Despite high levels of THC, vaporizing at this temperature didn’t make me feel stoned in the slightest. Instead, I was left feeling acutely alert and in complete control of my faculties. The taste was a subtle mix of herbs and pine, but certainly lacked the loud flavors found at higher temperatures.
Turning the heat up to 330°F, the high became slightly more intense but tasks and concentration were still completely manageable. The 290-330°F range seems the perfect fit for those who wish to stay productive and functional, cannabis novices and newbies, and/or anyone sensitive to THC’s side effects (dizziness, paranoia, dry eyes/mouth, lethargy, etc.).
Moderate Temperatures for a Balanced Buzz
330°F to 370°F
Recommended for: moderate euphoria, enhanced sensory awareness, mood elevation, functional relaxation
As you increase the heat, more THC is volatilized and your high becomes more intense. This middle range — 330°F to 370°F – gives rise to more euphoric effects that help elevate the mood, stimulate giggles, and kick start the appetite. It’s more functional than when you push past the 370°F mark, but you will most definitely start to feel the stone that lower temperatures spared you.
Historically, 365°F has been the sweet spot for me (I’ll never forget because the first time I vaporized, my friend read the machine’s clock-like screen and thought it was 3:65PM). I’ve always loved the combination of tamed euphoria coupled with the subtle relaxation and focus found at this temperature. I turned my Herbalizer up to 365°F and dished out more of the Headband wax. The vapor felt fuller than it did at 330°F, and the flavor was perfectly fruity with the aftertaste of sweet vanilla licorice. Its effects were distinctly different from the low-temp experience: my thoughts went from a sloppy sprint to a relaxed walking pace, allowing me to unwind and focus.
Whether you’re kicking back with a book, exercising, socializing, cleaning, or playing video games, these moderate temperatures provide most of the cannabinoids and terpenes you want without fully volatilizing the THC – I know many people who would want as much THC as possible, but for others it’s about achieving a careful balance of clear-headedness and blissful elevation.
High Temperatures for Intense Euphoria and Relaxation
370°F to 430°F
Recommended for: intense euphoria, sleep, heavy relaxation, meditation
For ultimate THC decarboxylation mode, turn your vaporizer above 370°F. At these high temperatures, you get terpenes like linalool (calming, anxiety relief) and cannabinoids like THCV (energizing, appetite suppressant), but keep in mind that they’re approaching combustion territory. You may even notice the vapor become smokier and harsher on the lungs.
Durban Poison is a South African sativa known for its elevated levels of THCV, a highly psychoactive cannabinoid known to weaken appetite (yes, weaken). I coincidentally had this strain in my collection last week, so I decided to cook it at 430°F to see if I felt more “energized” than I would at a lower temperature.
For me, the answer was a definitive yes. I finished inhaling the bag of Durban Poison fumes (a little bit went a long way) and shared it with my roommate when I realized how high I became after just a few hits. I passed the kitchen on my way out, and caught a glance of those old-fashioned chocolate glazed donuts – the kind you’d normally eat like popcorn after getting stoned. Call it a THCV placebo or miracle, but those seductive delicacies had no power over me (until later, but that’s irrelevant).
Vaporizing the indica Skywalker at a high temperature – 390°F to be specific – was an entirely different story. Your muscles melt, eyelids get heavy, and thoughts become shrouded in a pleasant mental mist that makes it easy to fall into a calm, meditative state. I can’t say for certain whether it’s the linalool gained at 388°F or the more fully volatilized THC, but this strain was detectably heavier at higher temperatures and decidedly more sedating than the Durban Poison when vaporized at the same temperature. That bring us to the final and most obvious consideration when attempting to customize an experience: the strain.
Differences Between Cannabis Strains
The above temperature tiers don’t so much “create” effects – they modify them, so keep in mind that the limits of your customization are set by whatever strain you’re working with.
Take Durban Poison and Skywalker as an example. A racy, upbeat sativa versus a heavy, pacifying indica. Durban Poison will always have that high-energy cerebral effect profile and Skywalker is destined to be a calming sedative (in most people’s opinions). Temperature is basically the volume knob: turn it up for intensity, and turn it down for subtlety.
But, in summary, don’t forget that with increases in temperatures, you can uncork more essential compounds. However, go too hot and you may be destroying some of those delicate cannabinoids and terpenes. Everyone has their own preference, and it’s up to you to find your own favorite temperature, but knowing exactly what is vaporizing at those temperatures may help.