While most people are aware of Cannabis flower and oils, you may not be aware of another category of cannabis products, concentrates and extracts. These products offer the cleanest, healthiest method of inhalation for cannabis products removing undesirable compounds leaving your flower’s terpenes, cannabinoids, and flavonoids. These are also the main ingredient used to infuse cannabis into products such as tinctures, edibles, lotions, and more!
To better understand these products(/ingredients), we first need to go over some cannabis basics...
Flower/Bud/nugs, they all mean a dried and cured, trimmed, cannabis flower, this is the part of the cannabis plant that consumed by patients and recreationally or used to produce higher quality cannabis based products.
The resinous glands on cannabis plants that contain the plants cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. Because of this strains that have a heavier coating of trichomes (said to appear “frosty”) usually produce a higher yield when extracting.
When the flowers are harvested they are trimmed, removing excess plant material, to reduce the moisture content, and be shaped. Sugar leaves, offcuts of nugs, trichomes knocked loose during the trimming process, are collected as they still contain cannabinoids and terps, however due to being less desirable than flower it is often used for extractions to make products such as edibles.
What is a concentrate/extract?
Now you know some of the basics about cannabis flower, lets cover the differences in some concentrates and extracts. These products are made through two core methods, Solvent and solventless, as well as being available in a wide range of consistencies, such as "budder" or "shatter".
Solventless concentrates are made through mechanical processes that isolate precious trichome heads. The resinous heads are then collected and often exposed to pressure and sometimes heat in order to process or finish the product.
Also known simply as “Hash” and has been made for centuries, various cultures around the world produce this handmade concentrate, developing their own techniques and methods. Traditionally hashish is made by rubbing fresh cannabis flowers between two hands and then the sticky resin left on the hands is formed into balls of hash.
The next step up from traditional hashish, here rather than rubbing the cannabis between your hands to get the resin to stick to yourself, the flowers are run over a number of sifting screens by hand or with a tumbler. These screens can vary in size resulting in different levels of quality, and the resulting product is sometimes pressed for form a solid puck or bar.
Where dry sift simply tries to knock off and sift out the trichomes, water or ice water hash uses water to help remove the trichomes as gently as possible in order to try and collect as little plant material as possible.
Differing from the before mentioned solventless concentrates, rosin is produced by applying heat and pressure too cannabis flower, hashish, kief, or ice/water hash. Depending on your starting material, pressures, temperatures, you can produce a wide range of qualities and consistencies. It is often regarded as a superior concentrate due to the work that some producers put into their process.
Solvent based extracts use a variety of solvents to chemically extract plants compounds. When considering solvent extractions it is also important to check COAs (certificate of analysis) in order to check that the product has had its solvents correctly purged.
Originally created by Risk Simpson to treat his own cancer, RSO (Rick Simpson Oil) is a decarboxylated, whole plant extract normally applied topically or orally, however can be dabbed. RSO is similar to producing ice/water hash, but with the need to purge or distil off the solvent. This basic crude oil can also be further refined in order to product different products.
The next level of refinement from RSO/Crude oil where it is distilled to separate the compounds. Distillate is often used in prefilled vape cartridges, edibles, topicals and tinctures as it is easiest to formulate into another product.
Utilising liquid CO2 as the solvent and pressure, cannabinoids and terpenes are extracted. Often considered to be a mid grade oil it is perhaps the most frequently used extract for vape cartridges and pens due to it’s consistency, and it contains cannabis terpenes while still being more cost effective than most full spectrum extracts.
This process uses liquid hydrocarbon solvents (primarily butane, propane, or a blend of solvents) to dissolve the plant’s trichomes. The resulting oil is then purged of solvents to leave the cannabis extract ready to consume, this purging process is an important one to remove the solvents which is why hydrocarbons such as butane are used as they have a low boiling point enabling efficient purging without exposing the terpenes and cannabinoids to heat.
What do I do with it?
So now you have your product, how do you use it? The most popular method of consumption is inhalation due to it being the most efficient method of absorption and fastest acting way to consume. Vaporising and inhaling is known as dabbing or “taking a dab” because the amount you consume at once is small, just a dab.
Dabbing traditionally done by heating a “Nail” or “Banger” on a water piece which the extract is placed on/in, the heat causes it to evaporate and the vapor is then inhaled. These are known as “Rigs” which vary in their design and will be covered in a future blog post.
We have also touched on vape cartridges and pens, but what exactly are they? They are a prefilled portable way to consume on the go, where a vape “cart” containing cannabis oil that is heated and vaporised by a heating oil. These are perfect for people who live busy lives, prefer discretion, or want a simple and easy to use option. These are very popular with medical patients with certain conditions as they are easy to use with reduced motility.