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Understanding Safe Dab Temperatures

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Safe Dab Temperatures

Safe Dab Temperatures. Social media is brimming with videos of cannabis dabbers (those who vaporize marijuana concentrates with a torch or electric e-nail device) doing hits at temperatures well in excess of 600° F (316° C).

A woman holds a thermometer.
Is dabbing safe?

While exhaling large clouds of dense vapor might be good for one's YouTube or Instagram following, responsible adults must first answer a critical question: Is it actually healthy? Cannabis experts and wellness professionals have for years been saying that the vaporization of loose-leaf and concentrated cannabis is healthier than smoking them. The science certainly supports this stance.

However, recent research reveals that the temperature at which cannabis concentrates are dabbed plays a large part in determining if harm reduction is actually being achieved. Are a large portion of those who dab cannabis concentrates and perceive better health outcomes fooling themselves?

Safe Dab Temperatures: The Zone

Safe Dab Temperatures. What has the science revealed about the vaping of concentrates? Well, it seems that there is a safe zone with respect to dabbing temperature. Let's explain.

"Dabbing temp safe zone: The boiling points of desired target molecules (terpenes and cannabinoids) and where residual solvents and toxins begin to appear."

Two factors influence the dabbing temperature safe zone: The boiling points of the desired target molecules (terpenes and cannabinoids) and the temperature at which residual solvents, toxins, and other undesirable chemicals begin to appear.

Safe Dab Temperatures: Boiling Points

Safe Dab Temperatures. The boiling point of a terpene or cannabinoid is when the molecule reaches a temperature at which it vaporizes and can enter a stream of air to be inhaled by a consumer. Chemically speaking, vaporization is very different than combustion and results in a distinctly different set of molecules.

The following table from Steep Hill Labs lists the boiling points of many common terpenes and cannabinoids. Note that these temperatures (in Fahrenheit) fall within the low 200s to the high 300s. See our article "Boiling Points for Dabbing" for the boiling points of additional cannabinoids and terpenes.

A chart displaying the boiling points of popular cannabinoids and terpenes.
Cannabis boiling points.

Safe Dab Temperatures: Fahrenheit 451, Baby

Safe Dab Temperatures. The hard stop ceiling for dabbing/vaporization temperature is 451° F (233° C) because this is when combustion begins to occur and a pure vapor stream is no longer being created. However, recent research and data indicate that residual solvents and other potentially damaging molecules may form at temperatures below where combustion occurs.

Despite its ironic coincidence with the 420 holiday of the cannabis culture, 420° F (216° C) actually falls squarely in the safe zone of what should be employed for relatively responsible dabbing in terms of potential health outcomes.

The book cover for Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451.
Toxins appear at 451° F.

420° F achieves the boiling points of the desired terpenes and cannabinoids while avoiding the higher temperatures (430° and above) where residual solvents and other toxins begin to appear in small quantities.

The lowest temperature at which a marijuana concentrate can properly be vaporized to ensure greatest potential bioavailability is subjective and varies depending on the product being considered.

420° F (216° C) falls in the safe zone to achieve the boiling points of the desired terpenes and cannabinoids while avoiding the higher temps known to result in residual solvents and toxins.

For example, if a cannabis concentrate is heavy on THCA (the non-psychoactive acidic precursor to and creator of delta-9 THC), this cannabinoid vaporizes at the relatively low boiling point temperature of 220° F (104° C).

However, if the appetite suppressing terpene humulene is present, it won't vaporize until 388° F (198° C). And if the pain fighting cannabinoid CBC is present in quantities that might deliver positive efficacy to a human, 428° F (220° C) is necessary to achieve vaporization. One powerful takeaway: The boiling point of the pain-fighting cannabinoid CBC is nearly double that of fellow cannabinoid THCA. This is why the dab temperature of 430° is arguably so desirable: It ensures vaporization of most terpenes and cannabinoids but prevents formation of toxins.

The optimal vaporization temperature of any loose-leaf or concentrated cannabis is determined by the exact mix of cannabinoids and terpenes and, more precisely, their respective boiling points. Based on the Steep Hill Labs chart above, 388° F (198° C) is the lowest temperature that would sufficiently vaporize a cannabis concentrate containing the five cannabinoids and six terpenes listed.

A MiniNail dab rig set to 415 degrees F.
Some do not exceed 430° F.

Thus, since it is difficult or impossible to predict the exact terpene and cannabinoid profiles of a given concentrate, let's for practicality assume that 400° F (204° C) will reach the boiling points of most or all desired molecules, resulting in their vaporization, inhalation, and ultimate bioavailability (if everything else goes smoothly).

Safe Dab Temperatures: Toxins at 430°

Safe Dab Temperatures. As cited above, some research into this topic by private companies has revealed that residual solvents begin to appear at roughly 430° F. Based on this, we can establish 390-420° F as an optimal "safe zone" for vaporization temperature.

The greatest harm reduction and safest vapor from dabbing cannabis concentrates is achieved at 400-430° F (204-221° C).

The next time you see a dabber exhaling a huge cloud of vapor on your favorite social media, take a close look at the temperature at which they dialed in their e-nail. If it's above 451° F, they are necessarily introducing carcinogens and other toxins that are known to be created when the chemical process of combustion occurs. Anything over 430° F may also begin to create residual solvents and other nasty undesired chemicals.

As temperatures rise, so too does the volume of residual solvents and toxins created. Thus, higher temps equal more bad chemicals in the airstream when dabbing. For daily dabbers who rack up hundreds of weekly tokes, that's a potentially dangerous volume of bad chemicals consumed.

A woman holds a small torch to a glass dab rig in preparation for dabbing.
Do you dab?

Safe Dab Temperatures: Better Hardware, Please

Safe Dab Temperatures. Patients and lifestyle consumers who own premium vaporization products that feature the ability to reach temperatures with pinpoint accuracy can easily dial in their device to instantly achieve harm reduction and improved health outcomes—especially for daily consumers.

"For those seeking the enhanced potency, an investment in premium hardware capable of achieving and maintaining accurate temperatures may ultimately pay off."

Others who enjoy dabbing, however (including those who use a torch, which typically achieves excessive temperatures) must shoulder the potentially costly burden of upgrading their equipment and changing their routine.

For those seeking the enhanced potency of dabbing concentrates, an investment in premium hardware (the "dab rig") capable of achieving and maintaining accurate temperatures may ultimately pay off in terms of the avoidance of toxins that potentially harm health.

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