Herbalizer — smartest vaporizer ever? (review)

One of the few vaporizers to use a light bulb as a heat source, there are numerous perks in this well-thought-out device — at a price

This stoner is extremely excited about the weed inventors of the post-prohibition future. I mean, we’ve all been there, sitting in the circle passing around the pipe, when one of the crew shares an indica-inspired epiphany on how to craft a better bubbler or trim tray or hash maker, right? Not to suggest we don’t roll with a smart crew, but imagine that same scene playing out in a circle of neurosurgeons or theologians or theoretical physicists. Add a bevy of industrial engineers to your smoking circle and you’ll have one heck of a trim tray, guaranteed.But such Sour Diesel daydreaming doesn’t fully explain why I’ve decided we need more space engineers designing our pot paraphernalia. This new and strongly-held opinion stems almost entirely from an amazing device that arrived at my door recently: the Herbalizer.

The Herbalizer is a vaporizer like no other. It was designed by a pair of former NASA engineers which, beyond being great marketing fodder, helps explain the deliberate creation process behind the device. My stoner friends and I tend to dream up improvements on existing ideas: the water-filtered joint holder, the motor insert for Fiskars-brand scissors, or the ultimate weed cookie recipe. But these math-and-materials nerds didn’t seek to improve an existing vaporizer, rather they set out a few basic, deceptively simple design goals.

“It had to be instantaneous and precise, and it had to be beautiful,” says inventor Josh Young, CEO and president of Herbalizer.

Few vaporizers can come close to the Herbalizer’s five-second (or less) startup time, and that’s because the machine uses a heat source rarely seen in the vape world: a light bulb. Personally, as one of a hopefully-small number of people who have vaped using the heat from an incandescent light bulb in a table lamp (mediocre idea I got from the Internet, 2003 edition), the light-based heat source certainly isn’t foreign to me. But very few other vapes on the market, such as the AroMed, attempt such a vaporization engine.

Herbalizer vaporizer review
The Herbalizer with balloon attachment (Provided by Herbalizer)

But this is no everyday light bulb, it’s a tiny 300-watt halogen lamp. That’s like packing a small grow light into your vaporizer. “The outside surface of that glass reaches 800 degrees Fahrenheit,” says Young. That’s twice the temperature required for effective vaporization, so it’s crucial that the lamp turns on only when needed and for no longer than absolutely necessary.

To accurately control that powerful heat source, the Herbalizer relies on a heat sensor situated between the lamp and the safety screen to get a precise temperature reading just before the hot air flows into the magnetically-attached bowl. And to make sure the machine, which operates between 290 and 445 degrees Fahrenheit, is holding steady at your chosen temperature, it uses custom software to rapidly toggle the lamp on and off the split second more heat is required.

I’ve said before that vaporization isn’t rocket science, just heat plus some plant material. It doesn’t have to be exact — throw some herb in a frying pan on medium temperature and it will vape. But those who achieve exacting standards will be rewarded by the cannabis consumer markets. Anyone who’s waited 30 seconds or more for a vaporizer to start up, or waited between draws for a vaporizer to reheat, can understand the absolute awesomeness of constantly-maintained, near-instantaneous high heat. Turn on the fan and draw as hard as you like, and the Herbalizer will hold temperature within a 5-degree tolerance.

With such precision, the Herbalizer can be used to more effectively target specific ranges of cannabinoids present in one’s pot, which opens up a world of potential granularity in the everyday toking experience. Start the unit at low temperature in the morning for what could be a clearer high, then increase temperature later to unlock different cannabinoids that maybe produce a heavier high for your afternoon lifestyle.

In theory, you can run the device at the boiling point of delta-9-THC for a while, boil off that psychoactive compound (and anything that volatizes below that temperature), then run it at a slightly higher temperature to target mainly cannabidiol, a compound many patients believe has great medical value in the treatment of epilepsy and other conditions.

I’m not getting so scientific with my vape experience, but I am vaping whenever the hell I want and not waiting for a machine to tell me when it’s ready to stone me. Gone are those moments when I think, “Geez man, pot’s supposed to make you mellow, so why does it frustrate you to wait a minute to get high?” Never again will I mumble agitated barbs at my vaporizer: “I could’ve smoked a bowl by now, dude.” And I don’t worry that I’m turning into that crazy marijuana fiend in the famous Reefer Madness movie of yore who needs his weed and needs it now.All because the waiting is completely gone with the Herbalizer. What revolution! What magic! What simple goals attained!

The Herbalizer has a bunch of other neat features too. Open the pretty clamshell case and it turns on. Tip it sideways and it turns off. The color LCD screen provides light-hearted messages on startup, in addition to being an easy-to-read temperature meter, and it auto-dims in a dark room. It can be used with a whip, balloon attachments (four included), or without any attachments at all for a hotbox effect. The unit has a spot to hold its own whip, and a not-so-secret compartment that hides an herb container, grinder, cleaning brush and two stainless steel oil pads.

And those oil pads actually work, by the way. Unlike the VapirRise, which includes essential oil components but doesn’t reach a temperature hot enough to vape hash oil, I assure you, dear friends, the Herbalizer will totally vape hash oil.

Not that the machine is designed for such use. Young, a formerly “mainstream” professional with a well-founded respect for federal fearmongering, repeatedly insists the “hot air aromatherapy vaporizer” is intended only for legal purposes. And since I think he just baked the best sliced bread in town, I want to do the man a solid favor and not make light of the fear-based wordsmithing inherent in such industries. (I’m sure most of us can’t wait until the world’s peppermint huffers can stop riding on the coattails of the cannabis community.)

But he’s not blowing smoke on the aromatherapy front, because the Herbalizer, like a few other vapes, is actually designed quite thoughtfully for aromatherapy use. It has three separate fans, including a super quiet one dedicated to ambient diffusion of essential oils. Rather than dabbing hash onto the oil pads, dab a few drops of lavender or chamomile or whatever the Herbalizer randomly suggests to you on startup.

A few vaporizers can claim precision temperature control. A few can claim super-fast startup. A few are commonly considered beautiful. But none has so deftly married all of these features quite like the Herbalizer. Its design principals–and the software that binds it all together — will likely revolutionize the vaporizer industry. But for now, at least, joining that revolution won’t be cheap: at $729 the Herbalizer is one of the most expensive vapes on the market.

Young admits price is the No. 1 complaint received about the product, but offers no apology, explaining that roughly a million dollars went into development; it is manufactured in the United States; each unit is individually tested; and high-quality sensors, lamps and three-axis accelerometers and such are not cheap.

And he’s absolutely right. If you can’t afford it, you can simply accept slow starts and less-precise temperature control. But if you want the new gold standard — the vape that dethroned the Volcano king–you now want the Herbalizer. After all, if you want something that gets you really high, who better to talk to than spaceship engineers?


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