A vaporizer is used to heat up herbs to the point when it releases its active components and produces vapor. The advantage over burning herbs is, that the material is not combusted and hence no smoke is produced and the generated vapor does not contain toxic particles like tar, naftalene, toluene benzene and so on, making the inhaling of the vapor much less hazard to the health of the user.
Most of the aromas of trees and plants, which we perceive as pleasant, are produced by ephemeral oils. The smell of pine when walking through a forest or the odor of lavender is exuded by the trees and flowers and is nothing else but ethereal oils. Not only are those oils pleasing our olfactory sense, they have measurable effects on our well-being and health. Lavender oil for example has a calming effect and enhances sleep. In ancient Persia, Greece and Rome it had been used as a disinfectant for infirmaries.
Essential oils of jasmine, cannabis, lemon balm, rose, eucalyptus, rosemary, chamomile, sage and thyme have a long history of use in perfumes and fragrance mixtures and are known for their positive effects on both mind and body.
A vaporizer is used to detach the active components of recreational or medicinal herbs for inhalation. Inhaling vapor has an immediate effect and is more efficient and much cleaner, hence healthier, than smoking and/or incensing.
Incensing implies burning and carbonization, while smoking comprises combustion of the herbs. Both methods of producing smoke creates serious amounts of unhealthy byproducts of a toxic nature, including tar (solid particles) and nitric oxide (gas). All those byproducts are injurious and irritating to the throat, mouth and lungs. Furthermore, burning of the herbs destroys a big part of the active compounds, which in fact means, smoking herbs is way less effective than vaporizing.
A vaporizer utilizes a hot air flow to extract the active compounds from plant material and the created vapor is ideally tar free. This process does not burn the herb and hence there is no ash after vaporizing; the remaining material only lost its color and aroma and thus a vaporizer is easy to clean - simply empty out the herb chamber and you're done.
This process is called convection and avoids direct contact of the herb and a heat source, preventing burning of the material. And that is the reason why modern vaporizers use convection streams.
Most quality vaporizers are not intended for outdoor use or use on the go, because they depend on electricity and are relatively big. For this purpose, smaller glass vaporizers are much more suitable. These smaller vaporizers, usually heated by a lighter, aren't necessarily of lower quality, but are more vulnerable because the material from which they are made of and refilling and cleaning can be more tricky.
Although vaporization of medicinal plant materials has been performed for centuries, it has been applied to cannabis only in recent times.
Eagle Bill, a medicine man, was introduced to vaporizing THC using a heat gun by a Californian cannabis grower in 1993.
Eagle Bill then modified this plain idea and came up with his "Eagle Bill's peace pipe of the future", the Shake & Vape, which was based on the ancient Egyptian method of vaporizing herbs by utilizing heated stones.
A year after a Canadian company had developed the first electric vaporizer (1994), the Vancouver Times published an article about their BC vaporizer, mentioning that "It heats up to the point where it (the herb) does not smoke, but vaporizes the THC, which then re-condenses in your lungs".In 1996, the BC vaporizer was put to tests in the MAPS and NORML's "Marijuana water-pipe and vaporizer Study."
De Verdamper, a vaporizer developed by the Dutch cannabis enthusiast Evert after he had heard about vaporization in 1995, has gone through many changes and improvements and is considered one of the best vaporizers today.
Markus Storz started developing vaporizers in Germany in 1996 and registered a patent for his removable valve balloon for the "Volcano inhaler" in 1998. Two years later he filed a patent for a heating element as a heat exchanger for "hot air extraction inhalers". Also in 2000, the "Vapormed Inhalatoren" company was founded, initiating the sale of the Volcano.
Researchers of the University of Leiden, testing the Volcano vaporizer with pure THC preparations in 2006, yielded encouraging results, backing up the MAPS/NORML study.
The Irish company Oglesby & Butler introduced a wireless vaporizer no bigger than a smartphone in 2008: the Iolite. This was the first portable vaporizer featuring a built-in thermostat maintaining a temperature of around 374°F/190°C, powered by piezo ignition and a butane reservoir.
Only a few years later, a tiny wooden box vaporizer entered the market of portable vaporizers. The Magic Flight Launch Box, a small compact vaporizer uses conduction and infrared heating to vaporize the herbs within seconds. Its effectiveness (it uses only a single AA battery to reach a temperature of 380°F) and quick heat up time made it one of the most popular vaporizers today.