The Diverse World of “Dabs”: A Closer Look at Cannabis Concentrates
BY GAURAV DUBEY (LEAD STAFF WRITER, THE MEDICAL CANNABIS COMMUNITY; CO-FOUNDER/PRESIDENT, KARMIK)
The world of cannabis concentrates is as diverse as it is powerful and potent! There are various different types of concentrates, each with a unique name, flavor, texture and cannabinoid/terpene profile. As if the choices weren’t endless enough when it comes to flower or edibles, the realm of cannabis concentrates (sometimes called “dabs”, “wax” or “shatter” to name a few—and we’ll discuss each of them in this piece) is often an added dimension of complexity and confusion for many new patients. From solventless options like rosin to solvent-based hash oils, such as butane hash oil, this piece will dive into the various extraction methodologies, types of concentrate and their benefits so the reader has a better understanding of what’s out there.
Solventless Concentrates versus Solvent-Based & Solvent-Free Cannabis Extracts
Cannabis concentrates can either be created without the use of solvents (known as “solventlesss concentrates”) or they can be extracted with solvents such as butane, propane, CO2 or alcohol (referred to as “extracts”). The use of CO2 is particularly interesting because it leads to a solvent-free product, as the final extraction contains no more CO2. It is important to distinguish this from solventless concentrates since a solvent is still being used. Further delineating and distinguishing the different types of concentrates are the various different parts of the cannabis plant used. This article will explore the various types of cannabis concentrates through the context of the two very different methodologies. We will begin by discussing the creation of solventless concentrates, which include: kief, various types of hash and rosin (to name some of the most common).
Solventless Concentrates: Kief & Hash
The very first concentrated form of cannabis created in history is popularly known as hashish or hash, which is made from a sticky, powder-like substance called kief. The entirety of the cannabis plant’s active cannabinoids and terpenoids are located in these sticky trichromes on the plant. While some consider kief a sort of concentrate as well, it is more commonly agreed that the first type of concentrate to ever be created was hashish, which is simply pressed kief. Throughout history and into the modern day, as extraction methodologies and technology evolved, so did the varities and quality of different cannabis concentrates. One popular type of hash, which entails the use of a water-based extraction method, is called bubble hash. Another popular type of hash is known as finger hash, likely named after the enormous amounts of kief caked on the hands of workers cultivating the cannabis grows.
Solventless Concentrates: Rosin
Another popular, solvent free cannabis concentrate is known as rosin. Unlike hash, applying heat and pressure to the entire cannabis bud (and not just the trichromes) creates rosin. The result is sticky, amber like product that is often very flavorful and potent.
Solvent-Free Concentrates: CO2 Extraction
Sometimes known as supercritical fluid extraction, CO2 extracts are solvent-free and yields a high-quality final product that is free of toxins (such as residual butane or propane in BHO’s and PHO’s respectively) and rich in flavor. In essence, the process entails forcing CO2 gas through specialized equipment containing cannabis filled chamber, liquefying and picking up the cannabinoids and terpenes on the way to a final chamber where the residue is collected. CO2 extractions are very costly due to the expensive equipment required, however, yields a very superior, solvent-free product if done competently.
Solvent-Based Extracts: Live Resins
If you’ve ever been around the cannabis plant, you can attest to the diversity and pungent nature of its aroma. The complex and nuanced flavor of cannabis isn’t easy to retain and recapture when creating concentrate. Live resins use a “flash-freeze” method when starting off to help create a final product that is rich in cannabinoids and terpenes. The use of solvents such as butane, propane and CO2 is common in the creation of live resin. When live resin is created successfully and professionally, it can yeild some of the most delicious concentrate on the market. Live resin also comes in various consistencies and thus has many names ranging from “live sugar”, “live wax”, “live budder” and more.
Solvent-Based Extracts: Butane Hash Oil (BHO)
One of the most common ways to extract the goodies from the cannabis plant is using a solvent, such as butane. When butane is used to create cannabis extract, the final product is known as Butane Hash Oil or “BHO”. Various forms of concentrate can be created with butane, including Rick Simpson Oil, “shatter”, “crumble”, “budder” and more. The name of the product is often determined after its creation and final consistency assessed. BHO is a very popular method of extraction since very high levels of THC can be obtained, however, one should not attempt this at home unless they are experienced and take proper precautions when handling a solvent as flammable as butane. Two other types of concentrate extracted with butane included “nug run” and “trim run” and, as per their name, are created with either the entire cannabis bud or just the trimmings, respectively.
Solvent-Based Extracts: Propane Hash Oil (PHO)
While not quite as popular as BHO, Propane is another common solvent used in the creation of cannabis extracts. Despite using a different solvent, everything here is pretty similar to what has been described above for butane based extractions. Some prefer the use of propane as a more creamy, consistent texture can be achieved following vigorous whipping.
Solvent-Based Extracts: Alcohol-based Cannabis Tinctures
Tinctures are created with decarboxylated cannabis by generally placing flower in a small glass container and adding high proof ethanol to it so the active compounds can be extracted. High proof alcohol such as everclear is preferable for this extraction process. With time, the active cannabinoids and terpenes in the flower will be leeched into the solution, after which the plant matter can be discarded.
What are the Benefits to Cannabis Concentrates?
There are various reasons why someone might opt to try concentrated cannabis products. From a clinical standpoint, it allows the consumption of much higher levels of cannabinoids and terpenes at one time, which is necessary for the treatment of some patients. For instance, patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI) have been shown to respond better to higher doses of THC, which can be more easily obtained by using concentrates 1. Of course, for the recreational user, the obvious benefit of using concentrates is the ability to experience a much more potent effect from cannabis than by using the equivalent amount of flower. Whatever the reasons might be, the world of concentrates is constantly evolving and expanding to suit the needs and tastes of people everywhere.
The Tip of the Iceberg
The world of cannabis concentrates includes far more than the most popular products and techniques mentioned in this article. Whether discussing the creation and consumption of hash, which began many centuries ago, or the more recent development of CO2-based extraction, there are certainly a wide variety of options when it comes to choosing the best concentrate for you. For now, feel free to begin exploring or going even deeper into your journey with cannabis by talking to your local budtener about cannabis concentrates today!
- Russo, E. B. Cannabis Therapeutics and the Future of Neurology. Front. Integr. Neurosci. 12, (2018).