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It is important to understand what you consume, especially if you choose to vape weed. If you are not aware of what is really inside your weed vape cartridge, you will find it significantly harder to determine whether your cartridge is safe. To help you stay safe and better understand how you enjoy your vape, we will go through what is inside your vape cartridge. 

Basic Materials – Low Quality Vs. High Quality

Most vape cartridges will be either low-quality or high-quality, and this designation will affect the components inside them and what they are made of. 

Main Material

Low-quality cartridges are typically made from plastic, which can be problematic as terpenes can penetrate the plastic, and the plastic could leach chemicals from your vape oil. By contrast, high-quality cartridges are typically made using ceramic, metal, glass, or other premium materials. 


The O-rings in low-quality cartridges are typically ill-fitting or of poor quality, making them prone to leakage. In high-quality cartridges, the O-rings are properly sized to prevent leaking. 


The joints of high-quality cartridges are well-sealed to prevent the air from coming into contact with the contents of the cartridge. 

Pre-moistened Wicks

You tend to find pre-moistened wicks in lower-quality cartridges. These wicks will frequently contain propylene glycol or glycerin, which some people may be allergic to. 

Typical Ingredients of the Vape

Although every weed vape cartridge will have a slightly different combination of ingredients, there are some common ones that are likely to be present. 

Typical Ingredients of the Vape


The key ingredient in your vape cartridge will be the cannabis extract. Most of the higher-quality cartridges have extracts from distillation, hydrocarbon, or CO2, or some combination, along with flavors in the form of terpenes or artificial flavoring. 

Cannabis-derived Terpenes

The most important ingredient in your vape and the most common one is the terpene derived from cannabis. When a vape uses cannabis-derived terpenes, you get to enjoy the full-spectrum terpenes. Products with this type of terpene also typically have high monoterpene content that has not been heat-degraded or oxidized. 

Steam-distilled Terpenes

The alternative to cannabis-derived terpene and another incredibly popular component in vape cartridges is the steam-distilled terpene. Steam-distilled terpenes have a softer taste since many of the terpenes get lost in the water. 

Terpenes Not From Cannabis

Some vape cartridges will also feature terpenes that did not come from cannabis. These tend to be the same terpenes found in a particular strain of cannabis, but they come from a different source. While using non-cannabis-derived terpenes will not get the exact flavor of a strain, it can get reasonably close. 


These are floral waters or essential oils that only have small quantities of terpenes. They are a byproduct that results from low-heat and steam distillation. 

Artificial Flavors

It used to be common to find additional flavorings in vape cartridges in the form of artificial flavors. These are commonly the same ones used in e-cigarettes. While some vape cartridges still contain artificial flavors, it has become less common as health concerns about vaping rise. Some experts believe that these flavors can be harmful, while others simply argue against them due to their capability to appeal to minors. 

High-terpene Full-spectrum Extract

HTFSE, as it is abbreviated, is made using hydrocarbon extraction. It is commonly made using pressed rosin and is known for its strong aroma and flavor along with high terpene content. 

Terpenes From CO2 Extraction

It is also possible for your vape cartridge to contain terpenes collected during CO2 extraction. In most cases, however, most of the monoterpenes get lost during drying, so this is less common. 

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is commonly used as a cutting agent or additive in vape cartridges. Its status as a medium-chain triglyceride helps ensure the oils are sufficiently thin to work with most atomizers. 

Glycerin and Glycols

Glycerin and Glycols

Polyethylene glycol (PEG), propylene glycol (PG), and vegetable glycerin (VG) are common additives found in weed vape cartridges, as well. These additives help turn shatter and other thicker concentrates into liquid form that is ideal for vaping. 

Each of the additives has a different purpose, such as vegetable glycerin for neutralizing flavor and increasing the production of clouds when you vape

When you use a cartridge with these additives, there is likely to be harshness in your throat following your hits. These can be irritants. Some people will also be allergic to glycerin and glycols. This is a more common issue with propylene glycol than it is with vegetable glycerin. 

Potential Contaminants in Vape Cartridges

Perhaps the biggest concern regarding the safety of vape cartridges is whether contaminants are present. Pesticides are among the most prevalent contaminants, but other unwanted materials can also appear. These contaminants can be harmful to your health when inhaled, and some argue that they are likely the cause of the current vape health crisis. 

How to Choose Safe Weed Vape Cartridges 

You are responsible for ensuring that you choose a safe vape cartridge that only contains ingredients that it should. Since you likely do not have a laboratory in your home, the best retailers and manufacturers of vape cartridges offer lab testing results. These are typically completed by an independent laboratory. They not only confirm the concentration of THC, but they also prove that there are no harmful contaminants present. 

Look at the ingredient list of your chosen cartridge, and then check that the lab testing confirmed those ingredients. The extra few minutes you spend taking this step will be well worth it in terms of your safety


Every vape cartridge is slightly different, but all will start with a cannabis extract of some sort to provide the THC, and possibly, CBD content. There will also likely be terpenes added back in to provide flavor, and these terpenes can come from various sources. Weed vape cartridges can also contain cutting agents, thinners, and additives, some of which may cause irritation. Always check for lab testing to confirm that no potentially harmful contaminants are in your chosen cartridge. 

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