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Into the Weeds: The HighHello Guide to Cannabis Concentrates

Into the Weeds: The HighHello Guide to Cannabis Concentrates

Long gone are the days when a bag of cannabis flower and a pack of rolling papers were the stars of the show. Hash would be the closest thing people will recognize from the early days of smoking. Today, there are so many forms cannabis takes it could send a cannabis-curious person spinning. So, if you were scratching your little head wondering, “what are these cannabis concentrates, and how do I use them?” prepare to be enlightened. In this guide to concentrates, we are diving into the lesser-known cannabis consumables such as wax, shatter, distillate, and live resin. We’ll tell you what they are, how they differ, and how to safely consume them. 

What are concentrates, anyway?

Concentrates are cannabis products made by carefully stripping away inactive ingredients like plant matter and leaving only the good stuff. This is often done through a distillation process using various methods, which we will dive into shortly. The resulting product is a concentrated accumulation of active cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. 

“Concentrate” is the bucket into which we put these types of products. But they come in many different cannabis shapes and sizes for your consumption pleasure. Often, they are used to accentuate other products like edibles, topical creams, and tinctures. But it all starts with concentrate.

A little dab’ll do ya!

Dabbing is not a complicated thing to understand. The term dabbing is jargon that refers to the inhalation of vapors derived from marijuana-based oils, concentrates and extracts. Most commonly, marijuana has been consumed by smoking (joints, blunts, pipes), inhalation through a bong device, and oral consumption (edibles). Dabbing is not partial to any particular type of concentrate. You “smoke” weed. You “vape” oil. You “eat” edibles. And you “dab” concentrates. 

What is cannabis shatter, and how is it made?

Shatter is the newest kid on the block. While mostly translucent, it can often resemble amber, honey or take on a hue of olive oil. Shatter can have a few different consistencies depending on the processing and cannabinol profile of the plant. It could be stretchy and feel like taffy or have a more thin, brittle feel. If the THC content is super high and potent, it could resemble tree sap.  

Making Shatter – Don’t try this at home.

The manufacturing of concentrates at home is not recommended. It is dangerous and, in most places, illegal. But in case you are curious, here is a broad overview. 

Most cannabis materials, flower and trim, can be used to create shatter. Heat and compression is used to separate the cannabinoids from the plant material is done through heat and compression. Any left-over plant products are then removed using a solvent. The butane hash oil (BHO) extraction method is most commonly used. Why? Because CO2, which is another standard extraction method, removes moisture from the plant, causing shatter to lose its signature texture. And if it didn’t have that, it wouldn’t be shatter! 

The purest of all concentrates

When it comes to concentrates, shatter is often praised as being the purest. But shatter can be finicky. If the elements are mishandled or stored improperly, it can lose its translucent, shiny appeal. It is also sensitive to high temperatures, the residual resin in the solvent, and moisture. The signature of shatter is it’s brittle, snap-off texture, which can be lost if something is incorrect. 

Many dabbers prefer shatter due to its high potency and ease of transporting. But remember! It’s really strong, so just a little dab will do.

What is live resin, and how do you use it? 

Live resin is a kind of concentrate extracted from fresh plant materials. This means the plant has not been dried or cured. Think “farm to table” of cannabis. Because it is made from live, fresh off-the-plant materials, it retains much of the active compounds, flavonoids, and terpenes that would be lost through the curing process. 

Live resin has been around since the cannabis boom in Colorado in 2013. it is famous for its full-spectrum extracts and the high-quality, incredibly flavorful experience it provides. So, if you like the smell of the fresh cannabis plant, you will love live resin. 

The extraction process of live resin is similar to other concentrates. It is similar to BHO but uses live or flash-frozen cannabis plants to preserve the compounds. Producers of live resin use liquid nitrogen or dry ice for this preservation process. Once the live plant is adequately preserved, it is extracted much like other concentrates. CO2 extraction is also a typical extraction process. 

Using your live resin

Vaping and dabbing are the easiest and most common ways of using live resin. Many people like to use the sticky, waxy stuff to top their bowls of dried cannabis flower or roll it straight into their joints. Regardless, a tool is often needed to apply it due to its stickiness. You don’t want to get this sticky substance all over your fingertips. Not only could it pass the epidermis and get into your bloodstream, but it is also a total waste of your live resin. 

What’s so special about live resin?

The goal of any concentrate is to preserve as many terpenes and flavonoids as possible. With other forms of concentrate, flower (the cannabis buds) is cured, dried, and otherwise prepared for the decarboxylation process. “Decarbing” is the heating process that activates the THC in the plant for its medicinal and recreational benefits. 

Often, through this process, valuable terpenes are lost. These terpenes play a role in aroma, flavor, and psychoactive effects. But their presence is also required for the entourage effect–a theory that various cannabis compounds work together to reach peak performance in the body. So, the more terpenes can be preserved, the better for the cannabis user and the effects they derive. 

Live resin concentrate is the best option for preserving the terpene profile of the flowers. This produces a flavorful yet robust psychoactive experience. 

Can you tell me more about distillate?

Distillate is a cannabis concentrate in the form of highly refined cannabinoid oil. Simply put, the THC is isolated from the other parts of the plant. It is the most common form of concentrate on the market today. This “liquid gold” contains nearly 100% cannabinoid and is pure THC. That means it lacks flavonoids and terpenes, which we have learned are highly beneficial. 

The making of distillate

Distillates’ journey begins with dried and cured cannabis leaves, which are turned into oil. From there, it is distilled further by vaporizing the crude cannabis oil. High heat is then applied to this oil to separate the THC from the CBD and other compounds, leaving only the THC or CBD.

This form of cannabis, known as distillate, is mainly translucent. It lacks taste, smell, and flavor. While this may be undesirable to those who enjoy the smell and taste of the cannabis flower, it is a welcomed solution for those that do not. Due to this flavorless and odorless aspect, it is the base for many edibles and vapes. This creates a playground for producers to be creative – adding flavors to make vaping more enjoyable or adding other cannabinoids for their own unique blend.

It makes sense that distillate is the most popular of the concentrates as there are many ways to use it.  

  • Smoke it
  • Vape it
  • Dab it
  • Eat it
  • Slip it under your tongue
  • Use it in creams and salves. 

What is weed wax? 

Each concentrate has its own signature–the thing that makes it special. For wax, it is all about agitation. Marijuana wax is agitated during the extraction process. This causes the oil to crystallize into a solid. This solid can be either gooey or flaky. The gooey variety is often referred to as budder, but don’t get it confused with cannabutter because that is a different thing entirely. When it is on the flaky side, consider it crumble or honeycomb. And just a hint, the more amber the color, the more potent the wax. We told you we would enlighten you, didn’t we? 

If you are looking for a cannabis product that gives you an intense high with incredible flavor, wax is what you will want to look for. The cannabinoid concentration is high, and the THC content ranks at around 60-80%. So, please don’t overdo it! Use sparingly at first before you know the effects. 

How wax is created

Wax is another type of butane hash oil (BTO). This means that butane is the solvent to extract the cannabinoids and terpenes from the buds and trim. As you can imagine, don’t try this at home! 

The marijuana (buds and trim) is stuffed into tubes and flooded with butane. This separates the resin from the plant material. Several cycles of heating, cooling, condensation, and vacuum purging are needed before cooling and hardening into wax. 

How do I consume my wax?

Wax is a pretty simple cannabis concentrate to use. It can be vaped or used with a dab ring. Dab rings are a cool kind of water bong. These bongs are specifically designed to smoke dense concentrates via water vapor. The big difference is having an apparatus (called a nail) made of titanium or quartz to apply the concentrate, making it easier to consume. But that’s not the only way to use your wax. You can also:

  • Use a nectar collector
  • Vape it
  • Add it to any rolled joint. 

Infused Pre-rolled joints

If all of this has made you dizzy trying to figure out how to best consume your concentrate, you might want to stick with one of the most common methods. Concentrates can often be found in infused rolled joints. Infused pre-rolls are joints infused with a cannabis concentrate. They can be rolled in with the ground cannabis flower or added to the paper itself. Hash, wax and live resin are popular concentrates for the pre-roll. 

Want to speak to a professional about the concentrate that is right for you?

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