Years ago, the only way to really enjoy cannabis was to smoke dry flowers, or buds. There were a few different types of dried marijuana out there, called shake or buds or flowers, or you could make some cannabutter for pot brownies with your buds. But plant matter was basically the only game in town. Now, that’s so not the case. With the rise of medical marijuana legalization, we’ve developed tons of different ways to enjoy the beneficial effects of cannabinoids besides using just the dried cannabis plant matter. The great thing is that they’ve opened the world of cannabis up to people who couldn’t have otherwise enjoyed it. If you haven’t already, welcome cannabis concentrates to the party.
What chemicals are in Cannabis Concentrates & Extracts?
These types of cannabis products are called concentrates or extracts because the active ingredients in marijuana, called cannabinoids, are extracted from the raw plant matter and concentrated in the product to the tune of 80% THC rather than the 15-20% found in marijuana buds. There are two main cannabinoids: THC and CBD. THC is the psychoactive chemical that produces the “high” in marijuana, and CBD produces many other effects like reducing nausea, seizures, and inflammation.
There are cannabis products that have various concentrations of these cannabinoids made from different cannabis strains. For example, many medical marijuana patients prefer CBD because it gives the medical benefits without the “high” associated with THC, and medical marijuana growers have developed medical strains that are very high in CBD and low in THC. When concentrates are made from these strains, you get an oil that is high in CBD that is useful for children with seizure disorders, for example. When purchased from a legal marijuana dispensary, concentrates will be labeled THC or CBD according to their contents.
Types of Cannabis Concentrates
Unlike cannabis infusions like oil or cannabutter, these types of concentrates are made by extracting cannabinoids using a chemical means. Cannabis concentrates come in many different names: dabs, BHO, shatter, honey oil, budder, wax, earwax, crumble, resin, and others.
Butane Hash Oil
AKA honey oil, BHO
BHO is made by using butane gas and high pressure to extract the active chemicals from marijuana. Butane gas is forced through cannabis plant matter, then allowed to evaporate. The material that’s left is butane hash oil or the pure oils that contain THC, CBD and other cannabinoids and chemicals that provide flavor and scent. The potency of most honey oil is around 80%, much higher than the average 20% of cannabis buds.
- CO2 Extracted CBD Oil
AKA CBD vape oil, hemp oil
Most of the CBD oil used for medical purposes such as anti-seizure medication is made through a process called carbon dioxide extraction. This method used high pressured C02 and very low temperatures to force the cannabis plant matter to release oils containing active ingredients such as CBD without containing other ingredients like chlorophyll. Many CBD oils are made from cannabis strains with high concentrations of CBD and low concentrations of THC, and some CBD oils are made with hemp, which has no THC so that you have a cannabis concentrate that is legal in all 50 states.
- Marijuana Wax
AKA budder, flake, earwax, crumble
Like many other concentrates, wax is made from butane hash oil. This oil is heated and then cooled, producing an opaque substance that can be as smooth as and sticky as peanut butter or as dry and crumbly as beeswax. Most cannabis wax has the consistency of coconut oil and the amber color of beeswax. It is generally used in vaporizers, or inhaled through a process called “dabbing.”
AKA glass, honey shatter, dabs
Resembling a sheet of amber or a thin candy brittle, shatter is so called because it breaks when dropped on a hard surface. Some kinds of shatter have a sticky consistency, while others are more shine and glass-like. Shatter is transparent because the high temperatures used during the extraction process that turns liquid BHO into this solid material. This concentrate is very high potency at about 90%, and it is shelf stable for longer than oil or wax.
How to Use Cannabis Concentrates
The blanket term for cannabis concentrates is “dabs,” and the process of burning and inhaling them called “dabbing” because of the process of dabbing bits of the concentrate to vaporize it. Many vaporizers and kits for “dabbing” can be found at medical marijuana dispensaries and online. Dabbing is considered controversial because it looks a little scary, and dabs have been called “the crack of marijuana” because concentrates are a highly processed form of cannabis instead of natural marijuana flowers.
- Dabbing – The controversial process of dabbing is somewhere between smoking and vaporizing. Like smoking, you are using high heat to unlock the chemicals in the cannabis concentrate, but you are also inhaling vapor instead of smoke. Dabbing involves specialized equipment including a glass pipe or bong fit with a “dabber” or a specialized ceramic or titanium “bowl” that holds the concentrate. The user then touches a heated metal tool called a nail to the concentrate, which vaporizes it. They draw the vapor into the pipe and inhale it.
- Vaporizing – Vape pens or even desktop vaporizing units are becoming the preferred way of consuming cannabis concentrates, as they provide vapor without many of the harmful side effects of smoking. The key is to find a vaporizer that will heat the concentrate to a suitable temperature to release the best vapor.
- Consuming – CBD oils and alcohol-based tinctures can be rubbed onto the gums or simply dropped under the tongue. Cannabinoids are then absorbed through the soft tissues in the mouth. This is the most common delivery method for CBD oil and other medical marijuana concentrates.
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