A cannabis concentrate is a concentrated mass of cannabidiol (CBD), tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and the plants terpenes that are highly potent and responsible for the effects, aroma, and flavours you might experience with any cannabis product. Let’s take a closer look at the basics behind Cannabis Concentrates.
There are two common terms when looking at these high potent materials: cannabis extracts and cannabis concentrates. Whilst very similar, there is a subtle difference between the two. Extracts are a specific type of cannabis concentrate created using solvents that separate the cannabis molecules from the plant material. Concentrates are made by using mechanical force, also known as solventless extraction. So, whilst all extracts are concentrates, not all concentrates are extracts.
To better understand this, let’s look at a common household item, orange juice. Just like the orange juice concentrate found in your fridge, cannabis concentrates are the product of concentrating down the most desirable parts of the plant. Extracts and concentrates contain both cannabinoids and terpenes found in the trichomes of the cannabis flowers and none of the excess plant material. Ounce for ounce, cannabis concentrates have a far greater concentration of cannabinoids and terpenes than raw cannabis flowers.
How are Cannabis concentrates made?
Cannabis concentrates are created in a commercial environment with modern equipment. [i] Solvent extractions methods that can produce oils, waxes, budders, pie crusts, shatter, and jelly hash include:
- Using flammable solvents, including butane, propane, hexane aka hydrocarbons or alcohol.
- Or, combining pressure with heat and using non-flammable carbon dioxide solvents, commonly known as CO2 Supercritical extraction.
Concentrates made without the use of solvents are produced using mechanical or physical means to remove and gather trichomes. Rosin, dry sift, and kief are all examples of concentrates made without the use of solvents:
- Dry processing by grinding or sieving produces kief, finger hash.
- Ice water-based processing produces bubble hash, ice hash.
- Low heat and high pressure produce rosin.
How do concentrates work?
The cannabis plant is covered by microscopic droplets of cannabinoid compounds called trichomes. These outgrowths surround and protect the cannabis flower with their cannabinoids and terpenes. There are different varieties of trichomes that can be collected. This results in cannabis concentrates which can contain very high levels of cannabinoids and terpenes. These concentrates can be administered via a vaporiser, orally via an edible, topically, on top of a flower, with vape cartridge or through a rig in a process known as dabbing[ii]
Now let’s look at the common types of cannabis concentrates.
Three ways cannabis concentrates are categorised are:
- The input method
- Extraction method
- Resulting texture
Below are some commonly known textures of cannabis concentrates:
Budder and badder
Budder and badder are soft in texture and slightly oily. They’re easy to handle, have a sun yellow to bright orange colouring and soft.
Shatter is commonly known for its brittle, glass-like texture. It can also have a snap-and-pull consistency. Shatters commonly have a bright amber to golden yellow colour throughout.
Crumble is a brittle version of badder or budder. As its name suggests, it has a crumbly consistency. The colour tends to be similar to budder, but instead of a glossy look, it is a matte or dull finish.
Sugar is a term used for any cannabis concentrate that has a similar consistency to sappy, wet sugar. It’s colour typically ranges from deep amber to bright yellow.
Sauce is thick and looks sticky. The colour of sauce ranges from bright mustard to deep amber. Sauce is similar to sugar in both its colour and consistency but has a more uniform and prominent crystal structure.
Crystallised cannabinoids which can vary in density and size from small rocks to powder.
Are concentrates safe?
Concentrates are not deadly; however, they are quite potent. Furthermore, how they are consumed may have potential side effects. In 2017, Portland State University published a study which found that terpenes vapourised at the high temperatures that the process of creating concentrates requires may produce toxicants methacrolein and benzene. In other words, if you dab cannabis there is potential risk that the high temperature could cause new toxic substances to be formed.[iii]￼ Additionally, concentrates are best used by patients who have a tolerance to cannabinoids and benefit from higher doses. To exercise caution, it is advised to always ‘Start low and go slow’; knowing one’s personal tolerance and limitations is the best way to have a beneficial experience with cannabis.
Furthermore, it is important to be aware of possible side effects of Cannabis.
CBD side effects can include but are not limited to:
- Dry mouth
These side effects are uncommon, and the most significant side effect from taking CBD may be the patient’s adverse reaction from the carrier oil or capsule coating in which the CBD is delivered in. In this case, your doctor can discuss which carrier oil offers the lowest potential to negatively affect you.
THC side effects can include but are not limited to:
- Increased appetite
- Impaired short-term memory
- Increased heart rate
Side effects are possible, not probable, but by being aware of one’s symptoms they are looking to control as well as ‘starting low and going slow’ and slowly building a tolerance to find the minimum effective dose is the best way to have a successful treatment plan with cannabis medicine.
The bottom line is that there are a range of cannabis concentrate medicines that may be beneficial for some patients who benefit from higher doses of cannabis. However, it is vital to consult with a medical professional to ensure that a cannabis concentrate is right for your condition, consider the risks and benefits carefully, and to monitor your health to ensure safe use of concentrates.