What’s the short answer?
You shouldn’t vape coconut oil, though it’s easy to see why one might think that good ol’ healthy coconut oil could be a safer alternative to commercial vape juices.
While coconut oil has its benefits, it’s not meant for the lungs. Inhaling its vapors could have detrimental effects.
What happens when you vape coconut oil?
Experts are still learning about the potential dangers of vaping, so as you can imagine, there’s nothing in the way of research specifically on vaping coconut oil.
That said, most experts, like Chris Airey, practicing physician in the United Kingdom and medical director at Optimale, warn against experimenting with vaping different oils.
“Simply put, your lungs aren’t meant to process fats and oils via inhalation,” Airey says. “Vape juice contains carrier oils that can cause serious health problems related to lipoid pneumonia.”
Lipoid pneumonia, also known as lipid pneumonia, is a lung condition that occurs when oil or fat enters the lungs.
In 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report on an outbreak of acute lipoid pneumonia associated with vaping.
Ailey adds that people have developed lipoid pneumonia from inhaling small amounts of coconut oil from oil pulling.
What about MCT oil?
There’s a hot debate online about whether MCT (medium-chain triglyceride) oil is safe to vape.
Many people say MCT is safe because it’s not a long-chain triglyceride. Others insist that it’s just as dangerous as coconut oil. And then there are those who point out that there’s just not enough research to know for sure (which is the most accurate answer).
What we do know is that both coconut oil and MCT oil have been found in samples of vape liquid in a small number of people diagnosed with e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury (EVALI).
MCT oil also produces several hydrocarbons and reactive aldehydes when heated. These compounds can irritate and injure the lungs.
There’s not enough evidence to say for sure that either are safe (or safer than alternatives), but Airey strongly advises against inhaling “any oils/fats or vapors that contain them, no matter how ‘healthful’ the oil may be.”
There’s no totally safe way to vape.
You can find all kinds of nicotine-free vape products designed for this exact purpose. Just make sure you buy them from reputable companies. Many of the vape cartridges linked to EVALI were purchased from underground sources.
But if you’re dead set on a DIY solution, you could use plain vegetable glycerin or propylene glycol, both main ingredients in e-cigarettes.
Neither of these are without risk, though.
According to a 2018 study, plain vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol — even when used on their own with flavors — are toxic to cells.
And a 2019 study found that propylene glycol and glycerol (another common e- juice ingredient) damaged blood vessels and affected blood flow.