Vaping, Part 3: Combined risks – oils and TRP channel activators.

The risks of vaping may be additive, inhaling oils may increase risk of exogenous lipoid pneumonia (ELP), and inhaling TRP channel activators may increase risk of oxidative stress of cells or mitochondria. See part 1 Vaping and TRP Channel Activators, and part 2 Vaping Risks: ELP pneumonia and Oils, for the first two parts of the series.

Inhaling something accidentally is called aspirating and may occur while trying to swallow saliva, food or beverages, or during vomiting, especially for someone with weak muscles as may occur during chronic illness or with aging. Inhaling vape mixtures is purposeful and the original goal was to reduce health risks known to be associated with toxins caused by burning tobacco or an herb. Tobacco also has known carcinogens which would be removed from a product made with only the nicotine such as nicotine gums, lozenges or a nicotine patch.

Nicotine and cannabinoids can have health benefits, while toxins found in smoke can increase oxidative stress and may cause symptoms such as digestive problems, eczema, in addition to respiratory problems such as a chronic cough or bronchitis. Finding a safer way to consume nicotine or cannabinoids would be desirable however vaping may not be the solution, or not yet.

Flavorings that add odor are unnecessary for a product that isn’t inhaled through the nose, but an antioxidant preservative such as vitamin E and emulsifiers* such as glycerine are added to preserve and stabilize the mixture. Safer substitutes might not be available as other substances that preserve and emulsify might affect the lungs negatively also. Air is for inhaling, not emulsifiers. Vitamin E is oil based, antioxidants that are water based are available such as vitamin C, but then how would it stay mixed with an oil based cannabinoid or nicotine which dissolves better in oil or alcohol?

Nicotine can dissolve in water better than cannabinoids (2) and original vaping mixtures were made for nicotine rather than the cannabinoids THC or CBD. Vaping devices are available for powdered herb which heat the herb at a lower temperature than burning it, the problem with that method is that some of the beneficial cannabinoids in some strains of medicinal marijuana are only produced at higher temperatures so the vaped medicine may not provide the full symptom relief that smoking the strain would provide to a patient.

Trying to remove the glycerine from a nicotine vape mixture might not be fully protective against health risks either. The risk may involve a combination of the nicotine and the glycerine, as suggested in an murine based study of e-cigarette chemicals. Chronic exposure to a mixture containing nicotine and propylene glycol** (3 weeks for 20 minutes per day) was found to slow mucociliary clearing while exposure to the propylene glycol did not. Acute exposure (one week for 20 minutes per day) to either mixture did not cause slower mucociliary clearing. The size of particles effects clearance with larger particle size being more likely to remain in the lungs and smaller particles more likely to be exhaled. (4)

Nicotine also can act as a TRP channel activator (3) so the combination of some of the flavoring chemicals or the nicotine and cannabinoids may be opening the cell membrane’s TRP channels and allowing the glycerin or glycol to enter and accumulate to a level that inhibits cell function, causing Exogenous Lipoid Pneumonia or other health problems.

Pregnant women are advised to avoid use of vaped products (and to avoid smoke from tobacco or marijuana). An animal based study did find negative effects on lung alveoli development in newborn animals exposed to e-cigarette vape mixtures for the first ten days of their lives. Reduced weight gain was also noted. The negative effects were seen in the group exposed to nicotine and propylene glycol mixtures rather than the group exposed only to propylene glycol. (6)

If there is a take home point it may be that “Smoking is bad, mmmkay,”*** consider trying the nicotine patch, gum or lozenges, — but avoiding nicotine, smoking, or vaping during pregnancy is advised.

Cannabinoids are needed for fertility for females and males in a U shape curve – too little can cause infertility and too much can cause infertility. CBD is non-euphoria causing and is equivalent to the 2-AG form that is found in greater amounts during normal health than the THC equivalent called anandamide. Neither is recommended currently for use during pregnancy however genetic differences may cause a deficiency. Chocolate and some other legal food sources are available. Non-euphoria producing cannabinoids are the most abundant in plants and are also found in human breast milk and are important for stimulating the infant’s appetite and growth rate. We need cannabinoids in every cell of the body for many functions.. See the post Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency, (CED), and Phospholipids, for more information about symptoms or conditions that may be associated with a lack of cannabinoids and a list of legal food sources.


*Glycerine is a natural emulsifier, helping to keep a water and oil mixture mixed without needing to shake it – picture an oil and vinegar salad dressing that separates into two layers compared to mayonnaise which has egg yolk as the emulsifier to keep the oil and water mixed together. (1)

** Glycerine/glycerin is also known as glycerol and glycols are similar chemically to glycerol. Some forms are more toxic to humans or animals than other forms. They are sweet syrupy liquids and may be consumed by animals if spilled in the form of antifreeze which would be toxic. (5)

*** South Park, paraphrase of a quote by the school guidance counselor Mr. Mackey.


Disclaimer: This information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of Fair Use. It is not intended to provide individual guidance. Please seek a health care provider for individualized health care guidance.

Reference List

  1. Pat Thomas, Read the Label: Emulsifiers,, Dec 14, 2008,
  2. Nicotine, Chemistry Encyclopedia,
  3. Feng Z, Li W, Ward A, et al. A C. elegans model of nicotine-dependent behavior: regulation by TRP-family channels. Cell. 2006;127(3):621–633. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2006.09.035
  4. Laube BL, Afshar-Mohajer N, Koehler K, et al. Acute and chronic in vivo effects of exposure to nicotine and propylene glycol from an E-cigarette on mucociliary clearance in a murine model. Inhal Toxicol. 2017;29(5):197–205. doi:10.1080/08958378.2017.1336585
  5. 14.6: Glycols and Glycerol, The Basics of General, Organic, and Biological Chemistry, (Ball DW, et al.) Chemistry LibreTexts, Last Updated, Aug 12, 2019
  6. McGrath-Morrow SA, Hayashi M, Aherrera A, et al. The effects of electronic cigarette emissions on systemic cotinine levels, weight and postnatal lung growth in neonatal mice. PLoS One. 2015;10:e0118344.

I work for the children and the planet

“Don’t work harder than the client,” was something social workers in public health recommended – for sensible reasons. There was always more clients and more need and sad, sad stories in public health that couldn’t be helped with our limited number of staff and budget. It was also about common sense, you can encourage change and provide guidance but you can’t make people change when they aren’t interested or ready. The strategy helped with preventing work burnout too, not getting too emotionally involved in the difficulties instead focus on compassion for their difficulties.

However I did have difficulty with the recommendation because I also saw the children as my clients. In the book Timequake the author, Kurt Vonnegut, wrote as a repeated statement in different ways the theme that children don’t ask to be born – – – so underlying theme- – – we shouldn’t blame them for the circumstances of their birth or parents or whatever the example included in the section pertained to.

Currently in the U.S. also adults are facing grim odds – one in two men are statistically likely to develop cancer in their lifetimes and one in every three women — what odds will the next generation likely have? Currently almost two percent of children in the U.S. have autism and roughly twenty percent of the young adult generation have mental health diagnoses and roughly twenty percent identify as something other than heterosexual/customer gender. What will the numbers be for the next generation?  (for those interested in self care information the Nrf2 promoting foods and recipes (Nrf2 posts) are likely helpful for prevention and/or treatment for cancer – unless it is a form of cancer that has developed ways to use Nrf2  to resist chemotherapy – some types of leukemia  cancer strains may have that capability – mentioned at the end of this post:

If tobacco use is preferred but concern for health is also a preference then having a little extra attention to diet may help provide the nutrients that are depleted and that may include a depletion of Nrf2 (research article with animal based study: so the Nrf2 promoting diet tips may help protect the body when use of tobacco products is a choice – the nicotine itself can provide some benefits to some people. )

I personally am being helped by the health information that I’ve learned and if only twenty people read and use it then I will be glad for them or their children- even if only one child or individual is helped then it will have been worth sharing the information. Kurt Vonnegut cared and likely still cares in some form, in my opinion at least – I will work in his memory – because no child asked to be born and therefore they all deserve e our compassion and help

Disclosure: This information is being provided for the purpose of education within the guidelines of Fair Use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individualized health care guidance. Please seek an individual health care professional for the purpose of individualized health care guidance. Thanks