Cannabis Concentrates 101 – What Are They and How Do They Work?

Whether it’s CBD oil or dabbing, cannabis concentrates have become extremely popular and can be found in numerous different products.

A cannabis concentrate is a product made from high amounts of a cannabis compound extract – also known as cannabinoids and terpenes. For example, concentrated cannabis oil (better known as dabs) contains large amounts of the cannabinoids tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

The purpose of cannabis concentrates is to increase cannabis’ potency. So, dabs will essentially provide you with the same effects as a marijuana bud, but will be much more intense.

Throughout this article, we’re going to take an in-depth look into cannabis concentrates. At the end, we invite you to ask further questions.

What Are Cannabis Concentrates?

Concentrates aren’t purely a cannabis phenomenon. A concentrate is taking the most desirable part of something and isolating it. For example, if you’ve ever taken a Wellness Shot, you’re already aware of the numerous natural foods and medicines people desire to concentrate.

When people discuss cannabis concentrates, they’re discussing a concentrated part of the most valuable cannabis phenomenon – cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are what’s responsible for making us feels something when we smoke a joint and there’s a large list of them. ¹

However, the two most desired cannabinoids are THC and CBD.

By concentrating these cannabinoids, we’re getting rid of the many unnecessary materials of the cannabis plant, such as leaves and stems.

Cannabis concentrates are made from the accumulation of trichomes found on the outside of the plant. These are what contain all the desired cannabinoids.

Image by Kale Worden (source)

In comparison to raw marijuana bud, a cannabis concentrate can:

  • Produce a more potent high
  • Cause the body and brain to react quicker to the cannabinoids
  • Be used in a variety of consumption methods

Due to these three factors, there are a number of different cannabis concentrate products on the market. Whether you’re looking to smoke a dab or eat an edible, there’s almost something for everyone.

Concentrates vs. Extracts – What’s the Difference?

To put it simply, all cannabis extracts are cannabis concentrates, but not all concentrates are extracts.

The only real difference between the two is how the cannabinoids found in the trichomes are collected. In an extract, technicians will use solvents (such as alcohol or carbon dioxide) as a means of collecting cannainoids. Whereas concentrates physically pull off the trichomes from the cannabis bud.

If you have a grinder you use to break up cannabis bud, then you most likely have seen what’s known as kief gather in the bottom container. Kief is a primary example of a cannabis concentrate that didn’t require any solvents to extract.

Aspects of Cannabis Concentrates

If you’re new to cannabis concentrates, it may be difficult to get around the jargon many use when talking about these products. There are a number of different terms that float around both cannabis culture and the professional industry.

These terms usually revolve around:

  • The cannabinoid from the cannabis plant that’s being extracted
  • What processing technique is required to get this cannabinoid
  • What the texture of the final cannabis concentrate looks and feels like
  • The way the cannabis concentrate is intended for consumption

The following are four different aspects of cannabis concentrates you’re going to want to make yourself aware. ²

Consistencies

A cannabis concentrate will take a few different textured forms that many cannabis consumers have a preference on. These forms don’t play any significance in the way the concentrate tastes or effects someone.

Equipment

In order to consume concentrates, you can’t use a traditional bong or bowl to get the full effect. It’s required you purchase a specific set of equipment in order to properly release the cannabinoids and terpenes upon inhalation.

Most people use what’s known as a dab rig. These come in various shapes and sizes and have a number of other components needed to operate.

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Input Material

Before we receive a cannabis concentrate, we must collect cannabis plant material in order to receive cannabinoids and terpenes. Cannabis plant material comes in a variety of strains, each of which produces slightly different effects. This is most notably observed in indicas (makes you sleepy) and sativas (makes you energized). The input material for cannabis concentrates plays a huge role the final material will effect someone.

Process Type

As mentioned, there are a number of different extraction methods in order to obtain cannabinoids and terpenes. Each of these comes with its own set of materials, physical actions, and methods.

How are Cannabis Concentrates Extracted?

There are a few different types of extraction process in order to obtain a cannabis concentrate. They are as follows: ³

Physical Separation

The most natural way to extract cannabis concentrates is through a physical separation. This involves removing the trichome glands through some physical action (such as shaking or pressing) and then creating a dry sift.

Liquid Solvents

There are a number of liquid solvents that can be used for the sake of cannabis extraction. These solvents separate the cannabinoids and terpenes from the trichome glands in order to produce a final product.

The Textures of Cannabis Concentrates

Once the cannabis is extracted, it’ll appear as one of the following consistencies:

  • Shatter – breakable, glass-like
  • Budder/Badder – oily, soft
  • Crumble – brittle, but still oily/soft
  • Sugar – wet, sappy
  • Sauce – thick and wet
  • Crystalline – a solid, crystallized compound

Many dabbers have their preference on the texture of the concentrates they smoke. Most stick to shatter as it’s the easiest to handle.

How to Smoke Cannabis Concentrates

Cannabis enthusiasts use cannabis concentrates in a variety of manners. As to what method is best for you all depends on your preference. The following is to give you an idea of how to use cannabis concentrates:

With Cannabis Flower

Since concentrates are highly potent, many don’t like to smoke it alone. Rather, they put it on top of a bowl or wrap the wax around a joint. This will give your high a nice kick, but shouldn’t overwhelm you.

This is one of the most popular methods for cannabis concentrate consumption as it doesn’t require any specific tools.

Dab Rig

However, if you’re looking to get the full cannabis concentrate experience, you’re going to want to invest in a dab rig. These are specialized equipment designed specifically for cannabis concentrates.

It works by first heating a nail (usually made from glass, ceramic, or titanium) and then apply that heated nail onto a concentrate. The heat will turn the concentrate into vapor and can be inhaled through these specialized rigs.

Vaporizor

If you’re looking to be discreet about your cannabis concentrate experience, vaping is the best way to go. You can by pre-filled cartridges and attach them to a battery designed to heat up the vapor. Though this method is initially expensive (you need to purchase a batter which can run anywhere between $50.00 to $100.00 along with the cartridges), it’s beneficial as it doesn’t leave a smell behind.

Final Word

Cannabis concentrates are hit or miss. Some people love them while others find they get them too high.

Admittedly, concentrates are extremely potent. The average marijuana bud contains around 20% THC where concentrates can contain upwards of 90% THC.

If you’re new to the cannabis industry, we suggest starting with something lighter first. However, if you’ve been around it for some time and are looking for a product that’ll get you higher, cannabis concentrates are a great way to go.

Your Questions

Still have questions concerning cannabis concentrates?

We invite you to ask them in the comments section below. If you have any further information on the topic, we’d also love to hear from you.

Reference Sources

¹ DOH: An Introduction to the Biochemistry & Pharmacology of Medical Cannabis

² Glossary of Terms for Marijuana Concentrates, THC Extractions

³ psi: Cannabis/Hemp Extraction Equipment

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