Inhaling vaporized botanicals as medicine

The use of plants as medicine has been and continues to be employed by cultures throughout the world in the treatment of numerous physical and psychological conditions and symptoms. It is estimated that 80% of the world’s population use plants as medicine. The most common routes of administration of these botanical compounds are oral, topical or inhalational (smoke), and they come in a variety of forms: concoctions, decoctions, salves, lotions, ointments, pills, tablets, powders, extracts and pure plant sources.

When smoking herbal/botanical compounds (think: cigarettes, cigars, pipes, etc.), an individual inhales a long list of toxins and carcinogens that are produced during combustion. Filters and water pipes (i.e. bongs, hookahs, etc.) remove only a fraction of these dangerous molecules.

Along comes the vaporizer:

The vaporizer is a safer inhalational option. The two main components of any vaporizer are: 1) a heating element (with or without a temperature control feature), 2) a chamber to hold the botanical compound.

Instead of burning (combustion), vaporizers gently cook the plant material in the enclosed chamber. Depending on the vaporizer, it typically takes between 5-60 seconds of heating before vapor is produced. Each botanical agent has a defined temperature range at which the desired bioactive molecules are released from the raw plant as a gas vapor (see the temperature ranges below).

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About Brian D. Lawenda, M.D.

I am an integrative oncologist. I trained at Massachusetts General Hospital (Harvard Medical School) in radiation oncology and through Stanford-UCLA (Helms Medical Institute) in medical acupuncture. I am the founder of IntegrativeOncology-Essentials.

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