A Complete Guide to Cannabis ConcentratesWritten by Chris Weatherall on Sep 1, 2021
To first-time users of cannabis or even seasoned veterans, all the new products on the market can seem confusing or overwhelming — it might even seem like you need a degree in botany to grasp all the concepts but that is, mercifully, not the case.
The more mainstream acceptance of cannabis use has given way to a demand for new products, and, in turn, the industry has delivered in fine style. In this article, we will break down cannabis concentrates made from different types of extraction methods so the next time you go to the dispensary, you’ll be able to talk to the clerk like an expert.
THC and CBD: A Field Guide
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) are the most commonly found cannabinoids in cannabis plants. Both cannabinoids have the same amount of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms but are arranged differently from one another. The most famous cannabis plants are hemp and marijuana. THC is most prominent in marijuana and CBD is more prominent in hemp. THC gives people the “high” or euphoric feeling and CBD has more calming, tranquility-inducing effects.
At a legal dispensary, look for the certificate of analysis for each “strain” or type of plant/extract to find the right ratio of THC to CBD for you. You might decide not to have any THC in your product because your job does random drug testing and forbids the use of THC or you might simply prefer CBD to THC. Whatever your reason, analysis of the product is important.
For those who do want THC, a 10% THC ratio level is considered appropriate for beginners or for someone who does not want the psychotropic properties of THC strongly felt after consumption. A level of 20% or higher is for experienced users and is an extraordinarily strong “high.”
What Is Full-Spectrum Cannabis Extract?
While THC and CBD are the “rockstars” of the cannabis world, there are over 80 different cannabinoids that can be found within a cannabis plant. Rather than list all of them, some of the most common are cannabigerol (CBG), cannabichromene (CBC), and cannabinol (CBN). The chemicals that give cannabis its potent smell, terpenes, are also found to be holistically beneficial. When all of these cannabinoids work together harmoniously, it is referred to as “The Entourage Effect.”
Whenever you hear the term “full-spectrum,” it generally means that the whole cannabis plant (and all the cannabinoids therein) are used in the product for the highest efficacy in fighting certain ailments. For instance, one study found that full-spectrum versus CBD only was more effective in treating inflammation and pain.
Flower Power, Activate!
Before we get into the science and minutiae of extracts, let’s first discuss the other methods of imbibing flower. When someone says they use “flower,” or “bud”, that means they get their cannabis from the plant itself in a direct way. The most common delivery method with flower is smoking it dried for an instantaneous effect. Smoking can be performed by water bong, pipe, joint, or blunt.
A popular method for those who aren’t concerned about being discreet, a water bong delivers potency but doesn’t have the extreme heat or harshness of the smoke itself. Ask someone with experience before trying to smoke from a bong on your own.
This method is much like a tobacco pipe and is easy to carry around with you. Some pipes even have storage for flower built into them. Simply put the bud into the “bowl” of the pipe, light it, and inhale the smoke gently.
The most compact, disposable, and cheapest method of smoking marijuana is the time-honored joint. To make a joint, all you need is a paper that can be rolled around the flower securely like a cigarette. For those who do not want filters and want to smoke as much of the bud as possible, a joint clip to protect the fingers might be needed.
A blunt is a lot like a joint but the paper is generally thicker, like a cigar. Blunts are also bigger than joints and hold more flower. Cigarillos are popular “shells” for blunts because they come with a plastic mouthpiece and can protect from mouth burns.
What Is Cannabinoid Extract?
A cannabinoid extract is a term commonly applied to the myriad of products that are not purely cannabis flower/plant. They are substances “extracted” from cannabis plants for use in a variety of ways.
But… what are the different types of concentrates? And, how do you find the best cannabis oil?
While words like “oil” and “concentrate” might seem confusing, it’s all synonymous. For the sake of simplicity, we will apply the name “extract” as the umbrella term.
Think of coffee or alcohol — if one wants to feel the fuller effects of coffee and consume less of it, they simply will have an espresso in a small cup. For alcohol, the intoxication one might want from two or three beers could be achieved with one shot of hard alcohol like vodka, tequila, or gin. Cannabinoid extracts work in much the same way — a more potent delivery method without having to consume as much product. Unlike alcohol or caffeine, however, you cannot die from over-indulgence of cannabis in any of its varied forms.
Another reason one might choose cannabinoid extracts over simply smoking flower is not wanting to smoke. Some consumers of cannabis do so to alleviate symptoms of serious lung-related ailments like lung cancer or emphysema and cannot, for obvious reasons, inhale smoke. Extracts can be solids, liquids, or vaporized into gas. Vaporizing (i.e. water vapor with extract inhaled by mouth) might have less harsh effects on the lungs than pure smoke. For those with lung ailments, any substance inhaled orally into the lungs is not recommended. Here, we will run through the many uses and forms of extracts:
Vaporizing is an extremely popular method these days, not only for cannabinoids but also for those who want to try to quit smoking but are not ready to give up nicotine. By extracting nicotine, one can use that extract in a water vapor cartridge for smoking when heated by a coil in the device. Cannabis vaporizing works the same way.
Vape pens or pods are convenient and discreet methods for “vaping” and can come in many different flavors from fruit-based tastes to ice cream sundae. There is no limit to the flavor combinations one can find in a dispensary.
THC and CBD Tinctures
Tinctures are consumed orally and provide a great “smokeless” option for many. Tinctures are extracts that are alcohol-based and were the main source of cannabis medication until prohibition was enacted (as early as 1910 in some states, up to federal criminalization in 1956).
There are glycerin-based oil tinctures, but they tend not to be as potent as the alcohol-based variety. It is up to the consumer to decide the amount per dose, potency of the tincture (ratio of CBD to THC), and frequency of dose; in general, it is encouraged to try 1 ml of the tincture at first to see how it affects you.
The best part about tinctures is not only their discreet nature but also their wide variety of uses. Because it is consumed orally, tinctures can be used in juices, smoothies, soups, puddings, dressings, and the like to infuse your snack or meal.
Tinctures themselves have a long shelf-life (as does any alcohol) and can be stored for years if done so properly. Make sure to note the longevity of the product when purchasing and the conditions in which it needs keeping in your home.
Capsules are oral pills that dissolve and release cannabis-infused oil into the body. This method is good for those who don’t need their product to take effect immediately, as this method can take up to 2 hours before you feel anything. It is recommended, like with most cannabis products, that you take a small dose (5mg) to begin with to see how it affects your body, and then increase incrementally as needed.
Solvent Vs. Non-Solvent Concentrates
It’s a diverse and exciting landscape out there in the world of cannabis products. There are all sorts of concentrates that have sprung up — from shatter and wax, to rosin and bubble hash. But how are they made and which choice is right for you?
The two types of concentrates available are solvent-based and solventless. Let’s explore both.
Solventless extraction, which is any extraction process that does not use an organic solvent like butane or ethanol, produces the most flavorful concentrates and causes the least amount of harm to your cannabis plant.
Some of the most common solventless products on the market are:
- Kief: This is the resin glands, also known as trichomes, that come from grinding cannabis flower. The presence of kief is what makes cannabis feel sticky to the touch. This is a potent source of THC that can be sprinkled on joints, in bowls, made into edibles, or pressed into resin products like hash.
- Charas: Charas is a resin product, made from live cannabis plants. It is highly concentrated and can be used in a variety of ways. Many people choose to dab or vape, but charas can be used in topical products as well.
- Hashish: Many people confuse Hashish (also known as Hash) with Charas, and in many ways they are similar. They are both potent resins that can be used for dabs, vapes, and smoking. However, Hashish is created from concentrations of dried marijuana plants, while Charas uses live plants.
- Bubble Hash: Bubble Hash is a resin product as well, but it is distinctive because of the way it is made. In order to extract the resin concentrate, cannabis is added to ice water and agitated. The resin begins to come off and can be extracted for Bubble Hash. This product gets its name from the distinctive bubbling it does when smoked.
- Rosin Hash: As you may have guessed, Rosin Hash is a resin product too. It is considered by many to be the “purest” form of cannabis, and the concentrate is extracted through simultaneous high pressure and heat.
Hashish or “hash” has been around for a very long time. Hash is made from the resin glands, called “trichomes.” These trichomes are separated from the marijuana flower itself. Trichomes contain CBD, CBG, THC, CBN, and other active cannabinoids.
Hash is mechanically made by taking trichomes and adding heat, pressure (rolling it around in your fingers until the sticky part comes off) or combining it with water to ultimately form a solid (block, ball, bar, or brick).
What makes hashish a popular go-to is that you get straight to the trichomes for a potent product that works quickly. The strongest strains of cannabis out there can have a maximum of 50% THC or CBD — generally most strains will have 15%-30%. However, when separating the hash from the flower, you get 60-90% THC or CBD, dependent on the original strain. Hash is the best way to get the most potency from flower.
Hash is extremely versatile, even more so than tinctures, and can be smoked, vaped, or used in food. For food, you can mix it up into honey, butter, tea, candy, baked goods, or eat it directly. It is important to remember the potency when consuming — a little bit will go a long way.
Above we discussed several ways to extract resin from the cannabis plant. Those methods all involved a physical process (such as grinding, soaking, or pressurizing), where the resin was extracted from the cannabis plant. Those are all considered solventless concentrates because the process is physical.
In solvent-based concentrates, the resin is extracted using a chemical reaction of some kind. This may seem alarming, but “chemical” doesn’t necessarily mean that harmful chemicals are being used, it simply means that a reaction is occurring at the atomic level to separate the resin from the plant. Chemical reactions occur all the time, even inside of our bodies. The process is entirely safe.
- BHO & PHO: These acronyms stand for Butane Hash Oil and Propane Hash Oil, respectively. They are similar, as they both utilize liquidized hydrocarbons as solvents. In this process, the hydrocarbons strip the cannabis of its resin, successfully separating one from the other and making a usable product.
- Co2 Oil: Co2 can act as a solvent as well. Pressurize, carbon dioxide concentrations, and high temperatures are used to get the cannabinoids and resin out of the cannabis plant. This is an extremely eco-friendly way to extract resin, and it is the primary method for vape pen cartridges.
- Alcohol: This is perhaps the oldest method for making resin products. Hash makers have been using alcohol as a solvent for hundreds of years. Ethanol or Isopropyl Alcohol are added as the solvent to separate the resin extract from the plant.
In the above section, we discussed the methods of creating concentrates through different extraction methods. Within that umbrella, there are several types of concentrates to consider when you are shopping for cannabis products.
Solvent-based concentrates are the most common form of concentrates on the market and typically involve propane, butane, CO2 or ethanol to strip cannabinoids and terpenes from marijuana flower. Consumers find a variety of characteristics to be important in their choice of extract, for example its consistency, color and taste.
Some of the most common solvent-based concentrates include:
As you may have guessed, Co2 oil is the product of Co2 extraction. Many versions of this oil have high concentrations of CBD and THC. However, there are versions that have concentrations of other cannabinoid compounds as well. Co2 oil can be used in several different ways, including using vape pens or through a dab. To utilize the latter, proper dab rig equipment is required.
Shatter is commonly made via BHO but can be made in a variety of extraction methods. It gets its name from its fairly brittle and breakable consistency, though it can be stretchy depending on its cannabinoid makeup. THC shatter is usually more stretchable, whereas tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, or THCA, tends to be more brittle. Shatter is commonly used for dabs but can be smoked or vaped as well.
Wax, also known as Hash Oil, is sometimes made into a concentrated butter-like substance called “budder.” Both can be used in dabs or vapes and provide a highly concentrated product for those looking for it. It is important to remember that budder and shatter are similar potencies but have distinctive textures that make them unique.
Crumble is yet another wax product on the market. It has similar potency to the others mentioned above; however, it has a bit more flexibility than the other products. Crumble, known for its dry, crumbly texture, can be added to joints, spliffs, bowls, and other smokables for added THC or cannabinoid content.
Live Resin Sauce is one of the newest forms of concentrate on the market. Though it has similar functions to the products mentioned above, it has a much higher terpenes content. This means that it has a significant odor and taste as opposed to other concentrates. Though the cannabinoid and THC content is nothing to write home about, Live Resin Sauce gives users more of a sensory experience rather than an iconic high.
RSO is short for Rick Simpson Oil, and is an extract named after a pioneer in the cannabis extract field. RSO is a full extract concentrate. It’s created using the alcohol solvent method, often using grain alcohol. Interestingly enough, this oil can be used orally, but it can be administered topically as well (see more about topical cannabis below). Simpson’s research showed promise in treating cancers in lab mice, and the method for its administration in humans is spelled out as well. His regimen is developed for an individual to consume 60 grams of RSO over a three-month period, increasing doses on a scheduled and controlled basis.
These THC-rich products provide a unique and entirely special experience. This product has a very high THC content and provides an intense high for users. Many medical card holders who need higher THC levels opt for Moon Rocks for their potency.
Moon Rocks have been shown to be effective in treating:
- Muscle spasms
- Loss of appetite
Clearly, this version is a powerhouse when it comes to medical marijuana, but it can certainly be used recreationally for a truly out of this world experience.
Unlike the above extracts, these concentrates are created by dipping a cannabis bud in Hash Oil, and then rolling that in kief. As you can imagine, the stuff is pretty strong.
Sugar Wax, Shatter, Budder, Honeycomb, Etc.
These names may sound complex but it’s quite simple. These names just refer to different cannabis extracts and, based on the names, you can guess how they appear. “Budder” looks like what it sounds like – butter, and “shatter” looks like easily breakable glass. The names, while clever, are simply descriptive marketing as opposed to scientific. Like hash, these are extremely potent and can be ingested or “dabbed” (a vaporizing process).
These are cannabis oils that go through a refining process using a solvent such as butane or CO2. Because these processes require a great deal of chemistry knowledge and intricate processes, it is important to leave it to the professionals to make them.
Topical cannabis products are very unique and can do some pretty cool things for the body.
These products come in:
- Body oils
Topical products do not offer the psychoactive effects that ingestible oils do. However, there are cannabinoid receptors in the skin as well as inside the body. The cannabinoids from topical products bind with these receptors and help to reduce inflammation and offer pain relief. They can help with anti-aging and acne control as well and can even be used to soothe some forms of skin cancer and tumors.
Modern cannabis enthusiasts can’t take all the credit though. Topical cannabis products were used in ancient Egypt and China for soothing and inflammation. Many healers would use salves or oils on wounds and cuts, and Egyptian midwives often used it to help with childbirth pain.
All in all, topicals can be a great way to use cannabis without experiencing the high that most extracts provide.
Cannabis Extract Buying Do’s and Don’ts
There are a few things to keep in mind when you’re delving into the world of cannabis extracts, or cannabis in general:
- Only get your cannabis from reputable/legal sources — check your state’s laws about the sale of cannabis products, authorizations that need to be in place, etc. before shopping. Make sure you have the proper and legal authorization to purchase and consume cannabis products. It is also advisable to know your job’s drug policies and drug testing procedures.
- Read all instructions and labels carefully before using and make sure to ask the dispensary what they recommend. It is important to be honest about your use and experience with clerks, so they can recommend the best product for you.
- If you are a beginner to cannabis, do not dab. Dabbing is a very high concentration of THC/CBD and is not for those who are not used to its effects.
- A little at a time is the best way to go — until you know exactly how it affects you, do not consume large quantities. This takes trial and error but diving into the deep end is not advised.
- Long-term use of high-potency cannabis can cause dependency. While not as instantly chemically addictive as nicotine or opioids, long-term use (especially in high quantities/potencies) can cause dependence, cravings, and withdrawal.
Dabbing is a form of vaporizing but with concentrates like hash, resin, shatter, budder, sugar wax, and other solid extract products. Because the substances you are using are potent, the “high” or effect will be more intense.
Before more modern devices came about, people used to “hot knife.” Hot knifing was the practice of heating two knives to a high temperature and sandwiching the dab substance between them. The burn of the solid extract created smoke that would then be inhaled. Nowadays, people use glass pipes (which are also called “rigs”) or e-nails, which is a battery-heated plate of metal on which the dab rests for inhalation of smoke when it is heated to a specific temperature.
To Dab Effectively:
- Find a nice place to sit down and do not plan on leaving. Because of its potency, it is best to sit in a comfortable spot and plan on hanging out there for the duration of the effects.
- A small amount is a good idea at first.
- Make sure you know exactly how to use your “rig” or “e-nail” before you start.
The best type of concentrate to dab is up to the user but the most popular method seems to be hashish — probably due to its use historically and proven effectiveness.
Weaning Off of Prescription or Illegal Drugs with Cannabis Extracts
The great thing about cannabis in any form is there is virtually zero chance of a fatal overdose, which is common in prescription opioids/narcotics or over-the-counter painkillers. In fact, cannabis might be an attractive method for those trying to wean off or discontinue use of narcotic painkillers without the physical discomfort or dangers associated with withdrawal. Cannabis can help with the anxiety of withdrawal as well as the nausea, vomiting, and lack of appetite it can cause. Higher ratios of THC can also give the user a euphoria that mimics the feeling of their illicit drug of choice.
Speak to your doctor before you stop or attempt to wean off prescribed narcotics in favor of any cannabis product.
Discover Top Quality Concentrates in Mesa, Arizona
At Kind Meds, we offer premium cannabis strains and products for the discerning cannasiour.
Our professional and knowledgeable staff can take you through our different offerings and find the one that is best for you. Whether your pursuit of cannabis is medical or recreational, we can help you find your favorite strain and method of delivery.
We can’t wait to get you onto your path of wellness and happiness with cannabis.