The Ultimate Guide to Cannabis Extracts

Much like growing cannabis, cannabis extraction and creating cannabis extracts are incredibly involved and dedicated processes. The resulting products, when made correctly, are among the most popular items currently available on the cannabis market. 

The expertise and skill necessary to create cannabis extracts are supplemented by the advanced technologies used to facilitate the process. With more and more cannabis extracts entering the market, consumers may find it challenging to keep up with it all.

This article will uncover what cannabis extracts are and how they compare to standard dry cannabis flower. We’ll explore the history and benefits of cannabis extraction, outline various examples of cannabis extract products and take a look at the differences between solvent and solventless extraction methods.  

Finally, we’ll explore the various ways that users consume cannabis concentrates and extracts.

Without further delay, let’s begin. 

What are Cannabis Extracts?

marijuana extracts

The term cannabis extracts can be used to describe any product derived from the extraction of compounds from cannabis plant material. They typically come in an oil-like consistency, although this is not always the case.

You’ll likely hear about the extraction of cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD, and terpenes. Cannabis extracts are further processed and concentrated into potent varieties of products.

There are numerous methods used to extract the desired compounds of marijuana plant material. 

These broadly fall under two categories: solvent-based and solventless cannabis extracts. 

A solvent is any substance exposed to cannabis plant material that acts as a carrier for the extracted plant compounds. The most common solvents are water, butane, ethanol, propane, and supercritical CO2.

Dried cannabis flower has increased in potency over the years, with the highest potency forms of dry flower reaching THC levels of 30% and beyond. Nowadays, cannabis strains are easy to find that come with over 20% THC. 

Nonetheless, consumers and patients still either burn this plant matter or vape the material. These methods can agitate the lungs and throat. Furthermore, there are additional adverse health effects, such as coughing or wheezing. 

Thus, consumers wanting to increase their dosage without consuming vast amounts of excess plant matter are motivated to seek other alternatives. This shift in priority is one reason why there are so many modern cannabis extracts now available on the market. 

There are also practical reasons for the creation of cannabis extracts, as you’ll discover below.

History of Cannabis Extracts

Modern solvent-based cannabis extracts were largely developed within the medical side of the cannabis conversation. For medical patients who required large doses of THC, the use of dried cannabis flower was not sufficient. 

This limitation prompted the creation of cannabis oils, Rick Simpson Oil (RSO), and butane hash oil (BHO). Cannabis oil has been used medically in North America since the beginning of the 20th century. These products allow medical patients to dose precisely and in sufficient amounts to attain their various medical objectives.

That said, we should acknowledge that cannabis extracts have been used for hundreds of years. 

The best representation of this is hash or hashish, which is essentially compressed dry sift (kief) separated from cannabis buds. 

These early solventless solutions helped expand the lifespan of marijuana products and made transportation much more efficient. One even earlier cannabis extract came from India. This product is called ‘Bhang’ and is traditionally served as a drink or on a stick. Bhang is a mixture of milk, ghee, cannabis buds, and spices that first appeared around 1500 BCE.

More modern examples of solventless cannabis extracts varieties include rosin and bubble hash. 

Technically speaking, water is the solvent used to make bubble hash, but there are no additional solvents. 

Bubble hash is made by agitating cannabis buds submerged in ice water. The cannabis trichomes are knocked off buds and fall through a filter at the bottom of the container. Several layers of bubble filters are used to create various qualities of this concentrate.

On the other hand, users make rosin by compressing dried flower between two hot plates. 

There has been an explosion of cannabis extract offerings in the last decade. Newer scientific techniques and expanding global acceptance of cannabis have facilitated this rapid innovation. 

The methods for creating cannabis extracts have changed dramatically since people first developed the original cannabis extracts, such as hash. This diversification of methods has resulted in an ever-expanding catalogue of cannabis extracts and products. 

But why are consumers seeking out these concentrates and extracts, you may ask?

Benefits of Cannabis Extractions

The benefits of extraction relate to health, functionality, variety, and experience. Firstly, as mentioned, medical patients who require large or simply specific THC doses have significantly benefited from extracts. 

Secondly, concentrates have increased how consumers can utilize their cannabis and adjust the potency as needed. Thirdly, consumers often enjoy trying new forms of refined and potent cannabis extracts. 

Finally, these extracts allow consumers and patients to focus on the specific cannabinoids and terpenes found inside products. Whether they desire THC or CBD, and no matter their favourite marijuana terpene, they can find products to meet their specific needs. 

Furthermore, extractions have the benefit of cannabinoid purity. One concentrate may be filled with THC, while others contain CBD or minor cannabinoids. This precision helps consumers and medical patients tailor the cannabinoid profile of their products to meet their needs. 

It’s also worth mentioning that many consumers view consuming cannabis extracts as far simpler and more efficient than opting for larger amounts of dry cannabis flower.

Types of Cannabis Extracts – Solvent vs. Solventless

As we stated previously, the catalogue of available cannabis extracts is ever-growing. We cannot possibly go through them all, but we’ll try to share facts on as many of them as we can. 

To start, we’ll highlight examples of solvent-based extractions before moving on to discuss some of the solventless options.

Dabs and Butane Hash oil (BHO)

Lemon Legacy Badder

Dabs are a broad category that covers many of the newest and most potent cannabis extracts. Varieties include

Each of these concentrates is made using either butane, propane, or carbon dioxide. While they all vary in consistency and potency, what they have in common is that users can dab them. 

Another common feature of these products is the early extraction steps. Most of these concentrates start with butane honey oil (or hash oil). Closed-loop extraction technology is then used to remove the cannabinoids and terpenes from plant matter to create these products.

Oils and Tinctures

cannabis extracts oil

There is a nearly endless variety of cannabis oils and tinctures that are available for oral consumption. These products generally combine cannabinoids, terpenes, and a food-based oil. 

Some tinctures are made using alcohol, although it is evaporated away before the product is packaged and sold.

Vape Cartridges and Distillates

cannabis extracts distillate

The product inside vape cartridges can be quite similar to oral cannabis oils. That said, some minor differences are essential for functionality. Newer vape cartridges are made using distillates combined with thinning agents. 

Distillates are extract products that contain only a single cannabinoid (usually either THC or CBD). They can come in other product forms but are frequently used to fill vape cartridges.

Now that we understand the major solvent-based extractions, it is time to switch to solventless options. 

Kief or Dry Sift

acollecting kief

As mentioned, this early concentrate was made by physically knocking trichome heads off cannabis buds. 

You may recognize kief as the fine powder in the extra bottom chamber of a cannabis grinder. 

These products are naturally potent as trichome heads store the majority of cannabinoids and terpenes in dried flower.

Hash

bubble hash

Hash is a simple example of traditional cannabis extracts made by compressing kief under low heat. While many consumers are not familiar with this product in North America, it has been a massively popular global product for centuries.

Bubble hash is an off-shoot of hash that takes advantage of water and ice to create a concentrate. The appearance can be similar to many BHO products, but no chemical solvent beyond water are used.

Rosin and Live Rosin

cannabis extracts rosin

Rosin is made using a machine aptly called a rosin press. Two hot plates are used to compress the cannabis buds, and the sticky liquid that emerges is collected. 

This method essentially liquifies trichome glands and forces them to leak out. The mixture is then cooled and solidified. Live rosin is a variety of cannabis extracts made using marijuana that has been flash-frozen after harvesting.

How to Consume Cannabis Extracts and Concentrates

How users consume cannabis extracts will depend on the exact product. For example, many consumers reach for cannabis oils and tinctures because they can quickly ingest them orally. 

Consumers can find butane hash oil or distillates in vape cartridges for consumption using a vaporizer.  Pre-filled vape cartridges are among the most popular methods for consumers to use cannabis extracts.

Users can smoke dry sift and hash as they would dry cannabis flower. However, many consumers often combine one of these products with dried flower inside bongs, bowls, and joints. 

They do this because the cannabis extracts can increase the potency of the dried flower dramatically.

Finally, dabbing has become one of the most popular ways to consume various cannabis extract products. Shatter, budder, crumble, wax, and rosin are all examples of marijuana concentrates that are most commonly consumed through dabbing. 

To perform this task, users utilize a ‘dab rig,’ which is quite similar to a bong. The significant difference between the two is using a banger or nail instead of a standard bowl. 

Consumers use a blowtorch or lighter to heat the nail before dropping the concentrate inside. Dabbing produces instant vaporization, which the user inhales.

Cannabis Extracts – Potent & Versatile

With the sheer abundance of choice surrounding cannabis extracts currently available on the market, consumers need to be more informed than ever. 

By learning about the differences between these various cannabis extracts, users and patients can obtain the best products for their specific needs. That said, it is crucial to keep in mind that these products are much more potent than standard dry cannabis flower.

Therefore, users should consider their dosage accordingly. The primary advantages that consumers consider when choosing a cannabis extract are the creation method, specifically whether it is solventless or not, potency and versatility in terms of texture. 

Ultimately, it comes down to the materials at hand and the user’s individual preference. With so many options to choose from, they’re nearly guaranteed to find something to produce the desired effects. 

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