By: Bailey Rahn March 29, 2016
Cannabis concentrates are becoming an increasingly popular consumption method, but their potency and unfamiliar form can be intimidating at first. Many consumers will stick to what they know and never feel compelled to deviate from a jar of sweet-smelling flower. But cannabis concentrates and extracts have many benefits to offer you may not realize—for example, concentrates can offer cleaner, smoother, and less odiferous hits as well as discretion in the form of convenient, portable vaporizers.
These five facts may be enough to get the cannabis curious started, but be sure to leave any other questions or advice in the comments section below!
1. Concentrates Go By Many Names
Although the multiplicity of strains available can make one’s head spin, even beginners have a pretty good idea of what they’re getting with flower, regardless of its name. “Concentrates” is an umbrella term that refers to a variety of different cannabis extracts and their monikers – and that’s where things can get more confusing.
Imagine you’re standing at the glass counter of a dispensary. Inside you see the following items: shatter, rosin, BHO, CO2, wax, crumble, honey oil, dabs, hash, tinctures, and capsules. Don’t let the breadth of options drive you away–many of these are different names for the same thing. Here are some quick tips for narrowing your search down:
- Shatter, wax, crumble, sugar, honeycomb, sap, and oil often refer to a concentrate’s texture. While some people have a preference of an extract’s consistency, what’s important to many people is the solvent used and how compatible that extract is with their preferred consumption method. Also be mindful of potency and understand that a high THC content does not always equate to the best experience.
- Most concentrates are extracted using CO2, hydrocarbons, water, alcohol, and heat. Solventless extracts made using water (e.g., hash) or heat (e.g., rosin) are excellent choices for those wary of how consuming solvents might affect them.
- Ask your budtender which oils work with your delivery method of choice. Looking to dab something? Maybe try their recommended shatter, live resin, or rosin. Do you prefer vape pens? Choose a cartridge that’s compatible with your battery. Interested in ingestible concentrates? Ask about dosing tinctures and oil capsules.
2. Concentrates Are More Potent
The most important distinction to make between cannabis flowers and concentrates is potency. While bud potency tends to range between 10-25% THC, a concentrate typically falls between 50-80% though some exceptional extracts can even push past 90%. Those numbers may be enough to scare off any under-seasoned consumers, and for good reason: dosing gets trickier as potency increases.
A mildly or non-intoxicating CBD-rich concentrate would be a good choice for beginners (that’s right, not all concentrates get you high). Hash and tinctures also tend to have lower THC contents than other types of concentrates, so you might consider steering toward those before graduating to the more potent oils. Just remember to always start with a low dose and work your way up if you’re new to concentrates or have a low tolerance.
3. Concentrates Can Be Consumed In Many Different Ways
With bud, you can smoke it, vaporize it, and roll it, but there’s not much else you can do with it. Concentrates offer more options.
Dabbing—the process by which you apply an extract to a hot nail and inhale through a glass piece–is swiftly on the rise among cannabis veterans. Dabbing is an easy way to get a potent dose of cannabinoids, although the learning curve and equipment demands make it a less accessible option for new users.
Ingestible oils act like edibles in that they take effect slowly and last much longer due to the way they’re metabolized. These oils (or any extract, really) can be high in THC, CBD, or both. So if you’re interested in smoke-free methods – especially for treating medical symptoms and conditions–these capsules may be worth looking into.
Tinctures are a sublingual concentrate, meaning they’re dropped under the tongue and enter the bloodstream. They act faster than edibles and ingestible oils, though they’re often less potent.
Hash and oils may be also consumed using some of the same consumption methods as flower. Some vaporizers are compatible with “loose” oils, though some portable pens are specially designed to be used with specific cartridges of oil. The motivated enthusiasts can even roll their bud-packed joints with hash and oils.
4. Plant Matter Is Stripped From Concentrates
Here’s one benefit to concentrates perhaps you’ve never thought of: extraction processes strip out plant material and isolate the compounds you want like THC and CBD (…and potentially some things you don’t want, in the case of pesticides, contaminants, and residual solvents; make sure the products you consume are tested).
When you smoke flower, you’re also smoking the plant material that leaves your glass black with tar. That can take a toll on your lungs. However, you may have noticed that when you dab oils, the glass and water stay clean for much longer.
Vaporizers heat cannabis below the temperature of combustion, but hot enough to extract beneficial compounds. This delivery method is ideal for health-conscious consumers.
5. Flowers May Have More Flavor-But Not Always
If flavor is something you care about, this point is for you: some concentrates will lose their aromas and flavors in the extraction process. Terpenes are the volatile, fragrant oils secreted by the cannabis plant, and they give the flowers their smells from the sweet, fruity, and floral to the earthy, piney, and musky. Being so sensitive to heat, it can be difficult to preserve terpenes in many extraction processes.
For this reason, many producers have begun reintroducing these aromatic compounds afterward–which can result in products even more flavorful than the flower they came from. Some extracts like live resin often retain impressive flavor profiles without a need to reintroduce terpenes, and many consumers will tell you that this refined form tastes better and cleaner than the flower it was derived from.