A vaporizer (also known as an evaporator) is a device with which the desired active ingredients can be vaporized. Vaporizers are used, among other things, in medicine (as part of anesthesia machines). However, this article deals exclusively with devices intended for the consumption of tobacco and pharmaceutical drugs (especially cannabis) but also other dried or fresh herbs, oils, and waxes.

The active ingredients and flavorings from the plant material are released through vaping and inhaled. Since the substances are not burned, neither smoke is produced nor does the vapor discharged contain unwanted, harmful by-products (such as tar, nicotine, benzene, hydrocyanic acid, formaldehyde, etc.).

Types of vaporizers

There are numerous vaporizer variants, which one can divide into three main groups:

  • Table vaporizer
  • Portable/Mobile vaporizer
  • Pen vaporizer

Desktop vaporizer

The home and desktop vaporizer (stationary vaporizer) is usually powered by electricity from the socket. One uses this in (aroma) therapy centers, health practices, and private households. You can divide the desktop vaporizer into two groups:

  • Direct inhalation vaporizer
  • Vaporizers with memory function

The vapor generated by the combustion or vaporization chamber of devices with direct inhalation is inhaled through a hose. From a purely visual point of view, these resemble hookah or shisha.

In the case of vaporizers with a memory function, inhalation works as follows: no hose is required for inhalation; the steam generated is blown into a balloon provided for this purpose using a storage function. The vapor is therefore inhaled from the balloon (which has a volume of several liters) and can continue to be inhaled after it has been switched off.

Portable/Mobile vaporizer

Portable or mobile vaporizers that can be taken anywhere and do not require electricity for immediate use. These only need a lighter or are battery-operated. Most vaporizers are powered by a rechargeable battery. Depending on the model, this is either replaceable or built into the vaporizer. Therefore, such mobile device users are flexible and can enjoy the selected herbs or oils (depending on the model) anywhere. The vast majority of portable vaporizers currently only have the option of direct inhalation (as described above).

Pen vaporizer

Pen vaporizers are compact and discreet pen-shaped vapes. These form a particular category of portable vaporizers that allow the vaporization of herbal extracts and oily and waxy concentrates. The size and shape can vary greatly; however, these are not to be confused with e-cigarettes or e-liquid pens.

The vaporizer types described can also be divided into mechanical and non-electronically operated ones:

Mechanically & non-electronically operated devices

Mechanically or non-electronically operated (battery-free) vaporizers usually do not have their vaporizer unit. Typically, these devices have an additional steam chamber installed. These must be performed using an external energy supply, for example, a lighter.

Construction and function

Vaporizers come in all sorts of styles, shapes, and sizes. These you can roughly divide into portable (pen) and desktop vaporizers. Depending on the type of vape, these also differ in structure. In general, however, it can be said that the system is relatively the same or very similar, at least for portable devices. A heating chamber, herb chamber, and mouthpiece are the rough components; electric vaporizers also have a rechargeable battery. With butane vaporizers, the chamber is heated with a flame; apart from the missing battery, the construction is otherwise the same.

A vaporizer usually works as follows: the plants are placed in the filling chamber provided, heated depending on the type of vape, and finally, the vapor produced during the process is inhaled through a mouthpiece.

There are two ways to heat the desired material:

  • by convection (using warm airflow)
  • by conduction (heating of the filling chamber by electricity or gas)

Depending on the vaporizer, either one of these techniques or a combination of both is used.

Standard sizes and gender

A water filter adapter is required to connect the vaporizer to a water filter. This is usually screwed onto the vaporizer (at the mouthpiece). Adapters are glass elements that have a glass-to-glass connection. These connect items that would not fit together without these adapters. There are certain standard (average) sizes (10mm/14.5mm/18mm) and adapter types (female and male).

Female vs. Male

For example, if the tube has a female connector (concave), all accessories with a male joint must be compatible. The reverse is the same: if the water pipe has a male joint, the female adapter (convex) is placed on the joint.

Standard adapter sizes

These are the standard adapter sizes. For example, if a female water filter has a 14.5mm joint, you will need a 14.5mm male adapter to fit the desired bong (water filter). So this means that the standard sizes match, while the gender must be reversed.

The 510 standard

The term 510 Standard was coined by an e-cigarette factory and describes the connecting part between the battery and the tank of a vaporizer. Most vape pens today are based on this 510 standard. It stands for ten threads with a thickness of 0.5 mm. The diameter of these threads is 7 mm.

Material & Temperature

Whether for health reasons, relaxation, or personal pleasure, almost any conceivable substance can be consumed with a vaporizer.

Vaporizers are also used in aromatherapy. Herb mixtures from naturopathy can often be found for the vaporizer. Medicinal herbs such as chamomile blossoms, valerian, or buckhorn are just a few examples. The effect depends, among other things, on which active ingredient is consumed and which vaporization temperature is used.

Which temperature should ultimately be set depends on which starting material is used so that the desired active ingredients can develop without the formation of toxic by-products. Various plants are listed in the table below, the recommended temperature (so that the active ingredients can best create) and, consequently, what effect and properties they have on the user.

Low temperature

(up to approx. 150 degrees Celsius)

Medium temperature

(up to approx. 175 degrees Celsius)

High temperature

(up to approx. 200 degrees Celsius)

The recommended temperature at which the respective starting material begins to evaporate should be strictly observed. The active ingredients cannot evaporate if the temperature is too low. If the temperatures are too high, combustion may occur, releasing toxic by-products.

Results from research

In recent years, the number of studies examining the medical use of a vaporizer for the benefit of cannabis has steadily increased. This reflects the increasing interest in this matter, not only on the part of the population.

In particular, certain studies from the United States are representative[1][2]; among others, the work published by D. Abrams in 2007 sets the tone[3]. In summary, the administration of active cannabis ingredients represents a sensible administration from a medical point of view. When consuming cannabis using vaporizers, no toxic combustion pollutants are produced due to the vaporization process.

This is underscored by the study by Lineke Zuurman[4] published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in May 2008. The scientists concluded that a vaporizer is an advisable form of administration for administering THC to patients.

The study “Medicinal Cannabis: In Vitro Validation of Vaporizers for the Smoke-Free Inhalation of Cannabis von” by Lanz C. et al. shows that vaporizers deliver almost pure cannabinoids (e.g., cannabidiol) with a deficient proportion of combustion by-products and thus reduce harmful gases resulting from cannabis smoke.[5]

Malouff’s research

In particular, the study “Experiences of Marijuana Vaporizer Users” from 2014 (by the Australian researcher John Malouff) deserves special mention.[6] This dealt with the perceived advantages and disadvantages of vaporizing marijuana using a vaporizer.

Consistent assessments were obtained from the study of 96 people who used a vaporizer on their initiative. The study came to the following conclusion:

Users identified four advantages and two disadvantages of consuming marijuana using a vaporizer versus smoking (through a joint) the same intoxicant.

Subjectively judged benefits

  • users think it is healthier (less cough)
  • better, cleaner taste
  • no smell of smoke
  • stronger effect with the same amount of marijuana

Subjectively judged disadvantages

  • vaporizers need maintenance and cleaning
  • a delay as one must prime the device before each use

One can draw the following conclusions from the study: Vaporizers attract marijuana users who believe that vaporizer use will reduce harm and other benefits.

Of the 96 subjects who participated in the study, 84 said they were satisfied or very satisfied with their vaping experience. A whopping 97.9% of participants said they now want to continue using a vaporizer.

John Malouff concludes that vaporizers are worthy of further experimental research, testing, and evaluating the health effects of their use.


Centuries ago, long before the dawn of the technological age, ancient cultures used glowing stones to vaporize various seeds and herbs to release an aroma. Vaping can therefore be seen as a big part of our past. However, the history and exact origin of vaping are hazy. Some sources say that the first traces lead back to ancient Egypt.

Others claim the “hookah,” believed to be the first vaporizer known as the hookah, was brought to public awareness by the Mughals of northern India and Afghanistan.

Eagle Bill designed the Shake & Vape vaporizer, a simple but innovative invention that consisted only of a glass pipe with a large filling chamber that could be heated from the outside. The invention gave the starting signal for a large industry and numerous innovations.



[1] Cannabis Vaporizer Combines Efficient Delivery of THC with Effective Suppression of Pyrolytic Compounds. By: Dale Gieringer, Joseph St. Laurent, Scott Goodrich, published in Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics.

[2] Cannabis Vaporization: A Promising Strategy for Smoke Harm Reduction. By D. Gieringer, published in Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics.

[3] Vaporization as a smokeless Cannabis Delivery System: A Pilot Study. By D. Abrams.

[4] Effect of intrapulmonary tetrahydrocannabinol administration in humans. By L. Zuurman. published in: Journal of Psychopharmacology

[5] Medicinal Cannabis: In Vitro Validation of Vaporizers for the Smoke-Free Inhalation of Cannabis by C. Lanz, J. Mattsson, U. Soydaner, R. Brenneisen

[6] Experiences of marijuana-vaporizer users by J. Malouff.