CBD Vape Pens—What You Need to Know

By Josh Hall
Сlear Сannabis, Unsplash

Given the rapid rise in popularity of CBD, it’s no surprise that a multitude of devices and options for usage have flooded the market. Drops or sprays of CBD that users apply under the tongue, better known as oral tinctures, have historically been the most common method of consumption.

However, with the advent of new approaches like the CBD pen comes benefits that simply weren’t possible through tinctures. By using CBD vape oil and a vaporizer pen, users feel the CBD’s effects faster but also run the risk of experiencing issues with their lungs, as many health issues, even deaths, have been recently linked to vapes.

What is a CBD pen?

A CBD pen’s mechanics closely resemble those of an e-cigarette, a common replacement for smokers trying to quit tobacco. Though it’s small in stature, a CBD pen comprises complex parts that include a heating element called an atomizer, a tank, and sometimes automatic sensors.

These pens offer a discreet and convenient way for users to get their dose of CDB more effectively than other alternatives.

How to use a CBD pen?

Usage of your CBD pen will depend on whether it’s a rechargeable model or a single-use vape.

If your CBD pen is rechargeable, you’ll need to charge the unit’s battery before using it. Vapes with an internal battery component will come with an easy-to-use charger that connects via USB cable, while those with external batteries that look like standard AAs will fit in a compatible external charger.

Depending on the vape model, your device could take anywhere from three to five hours to fully charge.

Disposable devices don’t have the hassle of charging and upkeep, as they come with a pre-charged battery and a sealed tank of oil. However, if you’re environmentally-conscious, you should know that they can also result in an extraordinary amount of waste. Since the devices are purely for one single use, you must dispose of the entire device after using it as opposed to just the cartridge. Some disposable pen manufacturers do offer recycle programs, which helps to lessen the environmental footprint.

Your CBD pen will either have a tank or a pre-filled cartridge. These contain vape juice, or liquid. Tanks allow the user to add strain-specific or flavor options, though they need regular maintenance and cleaning.

Pre-filled cartridges are easy to handle and disposable after use but come with limitations to the strain or flavor included in that cartridge. Once you load your tank or cartridge, the battery power enables the atomizer to heat the device to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, which causes the oil to evaporate into vapor.

Some CBD pens have automatic sensors that the user triggers by inhaling, while more basic models have buttons that you must hold down prior.

How to measure a dose with a CBD pen?

One of the most important things to remember with dosing is to do what works for you. Each of has a different biomechanical make-up, which means our bodies will react in different ways to the CBD oil and the mechanism in which we administer it. Start small and watch for any side effects before increasing dosage.

Factors like the condition you’re trying to treat by using a CBD pen and the composition of the oil you’re using are important when deciding on a dose. Your medical history, diet, body weight, metabolism rate, and activity level can also all play a role in determining the right dosage level for you. A disposable CBD pen is the easiest and most convenient way to measure a dose with a vape because it comes pre-packaged with detailed labels that spell out the specifics of the CBD content.

For devices that have a refillable tank, you’ll first need to know the capacity of your tank. From there, a simple equation using the concentration of the CBD oil will give you a CBD content number measured in milligrams.

For instance, if the cartridge you’re using to fill your tank lists the oil as 1000 mg 20% CBD, you would multiply those numbers and arrive at 200 mg CBD content. This number may be able to help you determine how much or how little of a dose you should take each time you use the device, based on past experiences.

What are the benefits of using a CBD pen?

One of the biggest advantages to using a CBD pen is that the way the oil enters your body is fast-acting and more effective than other methods.

When it’s taken orally, like you would with a tincture, the CBD must first travel through the liver before entering the bloodstream. In what is known as the “first-pass effect” with oral CBD consumption, the liver can absorb much of the beneficial aspects of the oil—or it may even get stripped away by enzymes.

On the contrary, vaporizing enables a more effective ingestion since there is direct access to the bloodstream through the lungs. That means you may be able to get the same results with a smaller dose from a CBD pen than when using tinctures. Because of the way a CBD pen accelerates the oil into your bloodstream, you’re more likely to receive benefits faster and more powerfully.

Scientific research also links vaping CBD with a reduction in cigarette consumption. In one study, cigarette smokers took a puff from a vaporizer each time they felt an urge for a cigarette—though no one explicitly told them to try to quit smoking. The segment of the experiment which received a placebo in its vaporizer reported no change in the number of cigarettes smoked, while those who received CBD cut the number of cigarettes smoked by 40% throughout the week-long study. So, in addition to relieving pain and anxiety, using a CBD pen may be able to help you kick your smoking habit.

What are the risks of CBD pens?

Because CBD pens involve the inhalation of vapor, people with lung conditions should not use them. Depending on your experience vaping and the temperature of the oil, coughing fits can be common, which may be especially detrimental if you have a lung disease. Chemical agents used to thin the oil so that it can more efficiently pass through the vape device may also be a concern. Chemicals like polyethylene glycol and propylene glycol, two common thinning agents, can break down into carcinogenic compounds under excessively hot conditions.

Vaping has also been linked to a number of health concerns. The CDC has advised people to avoid vaping completely due to the number of illnesses and deaths associated with lung issues.

Other dangers of CBD vape pens include:

Addiction to vaping

As humans, we become conditioned to routines and rituals, and sometimes we enjoy them more so than the actual payoff or result. For example, some cigarette smokers don’t necessarily enjoy the taste but live for the ritual of lighting up immediately after waking, after eating, or while drinking alcohol. One could say the same for the sensation of using a vape pen, which shares the same mechanical components as an E-cigarette.

While the United Nations’ World Health Organization has said that CBD “exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential,” it’s possible to become addicted to the act of vaping. Along those lines, it’s easy to see how someone could transition from CBD to a more harmful product in order to meet that need.

Metal poisoning

Since it involves poisoning, this one probably sounds scarier than it really is, but it’s useful information to have. As mentioned, a vape pen is similar to an E-cigarette. That means it has an atomizer, which is a metal coil that serves as the heating element, along with a tank, and sometimes automatic sensors. Because so many different manufacturers produce vape pens, some have cautioned that the quality of the device can wildly vary. With lower-quality vape pens, there is a chance that the metal in the atomizer could melt and leech into what you’re inhaling from your pen.

Unsafe thinning agents

With a complex device like a vape pen, it’s imperative that the liquid used be of the right consistency. One of the ways that vape juice manufacturers achieve this is by using something called a thinning agent, with propylene glycol and polyethylene glycol serving as popular choices for CBD-infused (and nicotine-based) vape juice.

Though these agents are typically safe to ingest when used in food, they can become dangerous as the vape juice heats. In fact, they’ve been known to emit carcinogens like acetaldehyde and formaldehyde, which can worsen allergy and asthma symptoms, along with potentially causing cancer.

Harmful flavoring agents

One of the most enjoyable aspects of a vape pen is the flavors that the user receives from the juice. Name a flavor, and there’s a good chance a juice infused with CBD that tastes like it already exists. From chocolate to waffles and whip cream, to even a mild tobacco taste, there’s a flavor out there for everyone. But with such a broad spectrum of flavors, it would be impossible for each to carry the same safety standards and side effects. That means the way your body tolerates one additive may be a completely different experience from how it handles another.

And here’s something else: A good number of those flavor additives can suppress immune function. Many flavoring agents like diacetyl also have been known to cause respiratory diseases. One of the most debilitating of these is bronchiolitis obliterans, also called popcorn lung. This condition, which is closely linked to inhaling diacetyl, damages your lungs’ airways and makes you cough and feel shortness of breath.

Reactions with prescription drugs

Something to be cautious of regardless of the mechanism in which you choose to consume your CBD is how it interacts with your regular prescription drugs. CBD can influence the absorption and efficacy of your medication by unnerving the cytochrome P450 system in your body. That means your prescription drugs may remain in your system for longer than pharmacists recommended and make them less effective.

We always suggest you consult with your doctor before beginning to dose with CBD, but especially if you are on prescription steroids, antibiotics, beta blockers, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, as these drugs are likely to receive some effect from CBD.

Collection of cuticle wax

Remember how the temperature of the oil caused the metal to potentially poison the user? Well, when it comes to cuticle wax, the vape pen just can’t get hot enough. Cuticle wax is the slippery outer layer of lipids smeared across the surface of hemp and many other flowering cannabis plants. When they’re smoked, that waxy remnant burns away and causes no harm to the user.

But a vape pen doesn’t get as hot as the flame of something smoked, which means those fatty bits can lump together and settle in the lungs. There have been no clinical studies performed on the topic, but it’s believed that those groupings of wax could potentially solidify into granulomas, structures formed during inflammation that deal with the immune system.

What else should I know about CBD pens?

CBD pens and cartridges are readily available and legal in all 50 states; however, you must be at least 18-years-old to buy them. High-end vapes can cost several hundred dollars, but as with most products, you get what you pay for. Many of the inexpensive or disposable products are created in China and lack the same standards of a quality device.

Remedy Review does not recommend CBD vapes. But we understand some people want a smokable option. If you are going to buy a vape product containing CBD, please do not purchase from a questionable source, like an individual seller, convenience store, or vape shop. Buy directly from trusted brand with a history of thorough testing. Brands like Bluebird Botanicals, CBDfx, and Gold CBD are good places to start.

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