When it comes to managing anxiety and stress, many people prefer natural remedies as an alternative to medical prescriptions. Aromatherapy is one popular approach, and it involves smelling essential oils released from a diffuser, or absorbing the oils into your skin. Lavender, chamomile and bergamot orange are some common essential oils one can inhale to promote relaxation through scents.
As discussed in our related article, “Vaporizing Herbs: Benefits and Effects”, there are lots of relaxing herbs that can be ingested or vaporized. Experiences will vary, but herbs can help with anxiety and stress, sleep disorders, and other aspects of physical and emotional health. Of course, cannabis is one plant that is widely used for relaxation, and is probably the most common herb people vape using a dry herb vaporizer.
Since both aromatherapy and vaporizing are becoming more popular for their calming effects, let's dig deeper. We'll look at some of the differences between the two practices, and the emerging information around their health and wellness benefits. How do they compare? Can they be used in tandem with one another? And ultimately, is one more effective than the other?
Benefits of Using Essential Oils and Diffusers
Technically speaking, when you use essential oils in aromatherapy, they're being vaporized too. But it's different from the way it happens with dry herb vaporizers.
Essential oil vaporizers (or diffusers) are generally not intended for inhalation, but to release an oil’s aromas into a room as a fragrance. Depending on the type of essential oil being diffused, this can improve the room’s air quality as well.
Beyond diffusers, other versions of aromatherapy treatment involve aromatic spritzers, bathing salts, body oils, creams, or lotions for massage, facial steamers, hot and cold compresses, and clay masks. In addition to reducing stress and anxiety, aromatherapy has been used for thousands of years to manage pain, improve sleep quality, treat headaches and migraines, improve digestion, and boost immunity, among other things.
While inhalable aromatherapy has been experimented with and there are alternative vapor products for this purpose, there's a lot of concern around this practice in the medical community, largely due to a lack of research. Essential oils usually safe for inhalation can potentially become toxic when heated for vaping.
Safety of aromatherapy and essential oil
Aromatherapy is believed to work by stimulating smell receptors located in the nose. The receptors then send messages to the limbic system, the part of the brain in charge of emotion and mood. That's when its healing and relaxing properties can begin to take effect.
Aromatherapy might not be the right treatment for everyone, especially those who are prone to allergic reactions, skin irritation and sun sensitivity. Essential oil is very potent and must be used as directed. For example, you should very rarely apply pure essential oil directly to your skin, and you shouldn’t leave your diffuser on for more than 30 minutes, one to three times a day at the maximum. Otherwise, inhaling essential oils can result in an increased heart rate, blood pressure, and headaches.
It’s important to note that pure essential oils are made strictly from flower, herb, and tree parts. Since purely extracted essential oils are quite expensive, a lot of brands will blend a plant’s essence with other chemicals or fragrances. They’re produced through a process that doesn’t change the chemistry of the plant, but the additional components may be less beneficial to the body, especially when applied topically.
Vaping Cannabis for Anxiety and Stress
Let’s quickly refresh our understanding of the two active ingredients or cannabinoids that marijuana contains: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is the psychoactive compound which creates the “high” marijuana provides, while CBD is the non-psychoactive compound that is used more commonly for its therapeutic benefits.
Strains of cannabis also vary in terms of whether they are sativa or indica dominant. Sativa provides a more stimulating high than indica, which has a more subdued, relaxing effect. There are also countless strains of marijuana available, and each one is composed of different concentrations of cannabinoids.
When sativa and indica are more evenly combined within a strain, they are referred to as “hybrid” blends. All of this is to say that if you’re experimenting with cannabis use as a treatment for anxiety and stress, you won’t run out of options to try any time soon. Different combinations of these components work better for some than others in terms of reducing anxiety and stress, depending on the nature and level of your symptoms.
Can weed vapor help you relax?
Now, you may be familiar with the controversy surrounding the prevalence of anxiety disorders in marijuana users. It’s the age-old paradoxical problem: is it the chicken or the egg? Are those with anxiety disorders simply embracing the medicinal effects of cannabis, or are avid herb fans developing higher levels of anxiety as a result?
Many explanations have been suggested to account for this, and research has found there are neurobiological, environmental and social influences at play. This is a good reminder that circumstances vary, and there are any number of variables which impact a marijuana user's relationship with anxiety. There simply is no one-size-fits-all answer.
The Benefits of Vaping Cannabis
Marijuana's naturally subduing effects usually relax the mind and nervous system, releasing dopamine and produces a euphoric effect. Dry herb vapes are the most effective and efficient way to get cannabinoids from cannabis. Check out our article about the benefits of vaping dry herb to learn more.
THC takes the place of chemicals like anandamide in our brain, which usually keeps dopamine regulated into small amounts. This allows the dopamine neuron the freedom to produce larger amounts of dopamine, which is why cannabis is so effective for reducing anxiety and stress.
A 2018 study revealed data supporting this claim. Research found that at least in the short-term, “Medical cannabis users perceived a 50% reduction in depression and a 58% reduction in anxiety and stress following cannabis use.”
Additional studies provide support that both CBD and THC are helpful to many who suffer from anxiety, but the concentrations of THC and CBD will vary between patients. This is just some of the research conducted around this topic. But it helps to explain why countries like Canada, Uruguay, and soon, Germany have legalized cannabis and offer medicinal prescriptions to patients with anxiety conditions.
Other dry herbs to vape to help relax
Finally, let’s recall again that there are plenty of other herbs you can vaporize to help with anxiety, stress, sleep disorders, and the like. Here is a list of some natural dry herbs which provide similar effects to cannabis (except the psychoactive effects):
- Sweet flag
- Papaver somniferum
- Mulungu catnip
- Wild lettuce
Essential Oil Diffusers vs Dry Herb Vaporizers
So, when it really comes down to it, what are the big differences between these two holistic treatments for anxiety and stress? Let's compare aromatherapy and vaping in two ways: how fast you experience the effects and benefits, and price.
Immediacy and directness of effects
When you vaporize marijuana and breathe in vapor, the THC and CBD compounds enter your bloodstream, where they directly interact with internal receptors and activate chemical and physical responses which are characteristically therapeutic. This process happens rather quickly, providing immediate relief.
Aromatherapy is for the most part a lot more subtle. The pleasurable aroma will certainly help to shift your mood and behavior, but it doesn’t exactly have the same sense of instant gratification that comes with vaporizing the active compounds in marijuana.
Price and accessibility
Cost is definitely a factor when it comes to these two treatments. In order to obtain high quality, 100% pure essential oils, you’re going to have to shell out some money.
Doterra, for example, is a trusted provider of essential oils, but their prices may simply not be realistic for you, especially if you’re using them on a recurring basis. Investing in a dry herb vaporizer (a one-time purchase) is rather cost-effective considering the relatively low cost of cannabis.
Then there is the accessibility factor to think about. Cannabis is more accessible in some areas than others, but in places where the legal market is well-developed, there are often a ton of convenient options. Other dry herbs you might vaporize to reduce anxiety and stress are also fairly easy to get your hands on, at groceries and bulk stores.
In comparison, most pure essential oils have to be ordered online and otherwise, you have to be very careful that they are as pure as they are advertised to be, since knockoffs and blended oils are quite common.
Essential oil and vaporizers: why choose?
It should also be said that you can definitely use both essential oils and dry herb vaping in tandem with one another. Your enjoyment of the calming aromas will only be emphasized by the dopamine-charged high you experience when you vape cannabis.
There is even something called marijuana aromatherapy and it is understandably popular. When you inhale the aroma of your preferred weed strain, you breathe in terpenes, and these terpenes create a slight response in your nervous system. Each strain of cannabis has a different terpene profile and produces different behavioral or emotional responses in the brain.
At the end of the day though, choosing the right holistic treatment to help reduce your anxiety or improve a sleep disorder is more so a question of what is better for you personally – it depends on your individual comfort level and personal preferences.
Best Dry Herb Vape for Relaxation
If you're considering vaping, you want a vaporizer that can accurately heat your herb to the right temperature, letting you control the strength of the effects and get the most efficient use of your herb. Lower-end vaporizers almost always do a poor job on temperature control and vapor quality.
You can also choose between a desktop and a portable vaporizer. Check out our article comparing desktop and portable vapes to help you decide which option is better for you.
You also want a vape that is easy to use and easy to clean - otherwise, your device will be clogged often and will fail to deliver the full effects of the cannabis. Finally, you want a well-constructed unit that has enough power to produce high quality vapor, and is made from high-grade parts so that the flavor of your cannabis won't be changed by any plastic parts in the vapor path.
A new kind of vaporizer: best portability, best taste
With its swappable oven system, Furna delivers the most convenient vaporizer for portable vaping. You can load up multiple ovens before leaving the house, and easily keep track of which strain is in which oven. The ovens can also be flipped around inside the vape, protecting it from any dirt or lint entering the mouthpiece while the vape is in your pocket.
Whenever you're done with an oven, you can instantly swap in another, instead of having to clean out and reload the oven. Reloading can get pretty inconvenient and awkward when you're out and about. In addition to dry herb, Furna can also easily vape cannabis concentrates using specialized concentrate ovens, which are just as easy to swap. Check out Furna to learn more.