Cannabis Concentrate Options
The growing world of cannabis concentrates offers new and exciting product options alongside flower, edibles, and other classics. This expanding category includes products of many forms, all of which share one thing in common: heightened levels of cannabinoids, and particularly the intoxicating Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). They’ve become so popular, in fact, that the products have their own holiday: July 10th, also known as “Dab Day,” “Oil Day,” or simply “710.”
If you’re curious about diving into the world of cannabis concentrates, it’s important to learn what they are, how they’re consumed, and how they differ from other cannabis products. With the right guidance, you may just discover your new favorite cannabis product.
What are concentrates?
Concentrates are cannabis derived products that contain an elevated level of cannabinoids. These products are much more potent by volume than cannabis flower: concentrates contain anywhere from 60 percent to more than 90 percent THC, while cannabis flower typically contains anywhere from less than 10 to more than 30 percent THC.
Generally, concentrates mimic the compound profile of the source strain(1). In other words, a concentrate derived from the Bubba Kush strain would have similar proportions of THC to CBD as Bubba Kush flower. However, other cannabinoids and terpenes can be added to concentrates during the manufacturing process, creating different flavors, aromas, and consumption experiences.
Concentrates come in many forms: some are dry and soft, while others are a sticky liquid, and others still are fragile and glass-like. You’ll see them under many different names, like wax, crumble, budder, or shatter. No matter their final form, all concentrates have the same purpose: to deliver elevated levels of cannabinoids with just a little bit of product.
Consumers seek out concentrates for their potency. These significantly elevated THC levels contribute to a fast-acting and more intense cannabis experience(2). This can be used both recreationally and for stronger symptom relief in medical cannabis patients. Additionally, the potency of concentrates means that you’ll consume much less concentrate than you would the equivalent in flower for the same, if not more intense, effect.
Personal consumption preferences also play a role in why some consumers choose concentrates. Some find them less harsh to inhale, especially if they’re consumed with a temperature-controlled device to prevent the concentrate from combusting. Moreover, many concentrates don’t smell when consumed, making them an excellent choice for those who don’t like the telltale odor associated with cannabis. Consumption itself can also be discreet with the right devices, particularly dual-use portable vaporizers or dab pens that look nondescript and can be used on the go.
How to consume concentrates
As concentrates have evolved, so too have consumption methods(3). If you’re looking into concentrates, you’ll have several options for consuming them:
- Dab rigs: Dab rigs are the conventional way to consume concentrated extracts. This device is a pipe, typically made of glass or silicone, that’s fitted with a metal “nail.” The nail is heated using a blowtorch, and then a small amount (or “dab”) of extract is placed on the heated nail. It is instantly vaporized (and partially combusted) as you inhale on the pipe.
- Enails: These electric devices eliminate the blowtorch and allow for precise temperature control while dabbing. This helps you activate certain cannabinoids unlocked at varying temperatures and control accidental combustion.
- Vaporizers: Dual-use vaporizers let you switch between concentrates and flower, while select vaporizers such as dab pens or wax pens are exclusive to concentrate use. These vaporizers come in powerful yet stationary desktop units, or as portable and rechargeable handheld units. Check your device’s manual to confirm if your vaporizer is compatible with the concentrate you intend to consume.
- Added to cannabis flower: Depending on the consistency of the concentrate you are using, it could be incorporated into cannabis flower to enhance its potency.
Activated concentrates, like RSO, that do not need heat can be ingested directly to take effect. No special equipment is required to consume these types of concentrates.
What are your cannabis concentrate options?
Concentrates can be found in two forms: activated and non-activated. The latter requires heat to take effect; heating cannabis to a specific temperature is what activates the cannabinoids that help you feel better. Activated concentrates do not need heat.
Here are some of the most common concentrates you can find at the dispensary:
Activated cannabis concentrates
- RSO: Rick Simpson Oil is named for its creator, a Canadian medical cannabis advocate who developed RSO in 2003 after being diagnosed with skin cancer. RSO is made by reducing cannabis flower in an alcohol-based solvent. It is a whole plant extract that contains the full spectrum of compounds found within the source strain.
- Tinctures: Tinctures are liquid extracts of the cannabis plant mixed with a carrier oil and ingested. Tinctures are fast-acting, absorbed through tissues in your mouth rather than being metabolized through your liver. They are also available in a spray format.
Non-activated cannabis concentrates
- Wax: Wax is a concentrated extract that comes in several varieties(4). Wax’s final form depends on how it’s treated during the extraction process. For example, to create budder (also known as batter), the extract is whipped to create a fluffy and airy final product.
Types of wax include:
- Budder or badder
- Shatter: Shatter is cannabis concentrate left to dry in a long, thin sheet, creating a translucent and solid final product that looks like glass. Disturbing the extract as it dries results in “pull and snap,” a stretchy version of shatter.
- Vape cartridges: Cannabis concentrates formulated for vaping can be bought in pre-filled cartridges that attach to a battery called a vape pen. The battery activates a heating element inside the cartridge, which turns the concentrate inside into vapor. You can also find fully disposable units, which include the battery and concentrate in one device.
- Sauce: This sticky, liquid extract settles under a variety of pressures and temperatures during the manufacturing process, encouraging the separation and preservation of terpenes and major cannabinoids. For this reason, sauce is sought after for its distinct flavor.
Tips for consuming concentrates
No matter which concentrate you choose, it’s important to remember that the concentrates experience is vastly different from cannabis flower or edibles. Keep these tips in mind when trying concentrates:
- A little goes a long way: In this case, the adage “a dab will do” is literal. Concentrates are far more potent than cannabis flower, so use a very small amount.
- Start low and go slow: You can always increase the amount you consume, but you can’t undo what you’ve consumed. Gauge how you feel after using a small amount of concentrate. Let some time pass before consuming more.
- Expect significant effects: Concentrates’ heightened potency means the intoxicating effects of cannabis are amplified. Be prepared for elevated effects or intoxication. Be sure you are consuming in a place where you feel comfortable and with people with whom you feel safe.
- Concentrates aren’t for everyone, and that’s OK: While cannabis concentrates have a large and devoted fanbase, it doesn’t mean that it’s the right experience for everybody. If you find that you don’t like concentrates’ intense high, don’t be afraid to try something else. There are many other products that could be a better fit for you.
Whether consuming to manage specific symptoms or you just want to relax, concentrates deliver an elevated experience with a fraction of the equivalent of cannabis flower. But before you begin, it’s important to understand how the concentrates experience may differ from what you’re used to. You can bring any questions or concerns you may have to your budtender or dispensary pharmacist before making your purchase.
At Ethos, we know that the vast selection of cannabis products can seem like an impossible decision. How do you choose what’s best for you? That’s why we’re dedicated to being your partner in education, empowering you to make the right choice for your goals. Whether you’ve been consuming cannabis for years or you are just recognizing the benefits cannabis could offer you, we are here to guide, teach, and learn together.