*Update: This blog was originally published on 7/10/2019 on our Awakened Topicals website. A few changes have been made to keep the information up to date.
This Sunday is July 10th! AKA 7/10! AKA OIL day! Basically, it’s the day that we in the cannabis community choose to celebrate all that is dabs. As a relative newcomer to the cannabis space, the rise of dabs can be traced to the modern availability of cheap, high grade butane. In the last decade or so, butane has allowed stoners to start making highly concentrated cannabis oil (dabs) at home with just a few simple tools that could be purchased locally (hold the excitement, this is not a dab-making tutorial).
I still remember my first dab—heating the nail with a blow torch, dipping my dental tool into a waxy substance, dropping it onto the red hot titanium plate and watching the wispy smoke blow up and into my lungs. At that time, I was already a daily flower smoker. Dabs allowed me to take things to a much higher level, literally. While most cannabis flower tests are under 30% THC, with concentrates, you can get 70%, 80%, even 90% and higher pure THC content. And clearly such potent products are in high demand—when you walk into a dispensary, the shelves are stacked with cannabis oil in all its forms: vape pens, RSO (Rick Simpson Oil), wax, shatter, diamonds, sauce, kief, live resin, rosin, live rosin, distillate, isolate, and more.
While the spread is impressive, what all these products have in common is that they are produced via one of the two ways of making concentrates: 1) with solvents like butane, ethanol, or CO2; or 2) by mechanical methods like rosin, kief and dry sieve (dry sift). I’ll go into detail about the specifics of each process below.
BHO, or Butane Hash Oil, is probably the most popular solvent used to make cannabis concentrates. This is because butane is a hydrocarbon, so as a nonpolar solvent, it’s particularly good at extracting other nonpolar molecules (like cannabinoids). BHO produces most of the wax, shatter, diamonds, sauce, budder etc. on the market today.
Moxie, a California cannabis concentrate company, was one of the first to perfect this method of hydrocarbon extraction. This “new world” process makes for some of the purest and most flavorful dabs available, but it does tend to leave behind trace amounts of the solvent base. So for medical patients, I don’t typically recommend this product type. But for everyone else—dab on!
Supercritical extraction uses CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) as a solvent to separate the cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant material. This method is “safer” than butane extraction because it leaves no residual solvents behind. That being said, the process itself is actually very violent and tends to damage or bruise the delicate terpenes found in cannabis. For that reason, it is not my first choice for quality cannabis extracts.
Rick Simpson Oil, RSO, is an extraction method using naphtha made popular by Rick Simpson, who gained notoriety for his Youtube videos demonstrating how to make this thick black cannabis or hemp oil at home. The practice has somewhat of a cult following, but to be honest, I have no clue why. Naphtha is a terrible choice for cannabis concentrate extraction for a few key reasons: 1) it tends to leave behind lots of the base solvent; 2) it imparts far too much chlorophyll into the finished product 3) the results taste gross and looks horrible. I personally do not recommend RSO, Phoenix Tears, Rick Simpson Oil or any other naphtha based solvent extraction method.
If you are looking to make your own version of RSO, I would recommend substituting naphtha with food grade ethanol. While you won’t get as pure a product as you would from butane, the residuals left behind from ethanol are far less toxic than from hydrocarbons like naphtha, acetone, butane, hexane, etc.
Mechanical extraction products like kief and rosin do not require solvents, but instead use fine screen filters or heated plates to remove the trichomes or press out the oil from the cannabis flower, respectively. In both cases, these products are solventless and very safe. The caveat here is that they also tend to be less pure than hydrocarbon extractions. I personally love rosin, but unless I’m hanging out with someone who has a rosin press, I shy away from it because it is expensive. And there’s a reason for the price—the yields from rosin tend to be very low; it takes a lot of plant material to get a decent amount of rosin. That’s why most manufactures favor the higher-yielding hydrocarbon or ethanol methods.
Hash or hashish is the “old school” method of cannabis concentrates and still tends to be one of my personal favorites. Ice water hash or pressed kief uses ice cold water to break off the trichomes from the plant or by pressing together kief to make a hash brick. Frenchy Cannoli is probably the most famous traditional hash maker of the modern era, may his soul rest in peace.
These methods predominate all over the world, from Morocco to Afghanistan, to the point where in such cultures hash and cannabis are synonymous. This method is safe, clean, and tasty, but you won’t get the 90% THC dabs like you would from hydrocarbon-based solvent extraction. Rather than firing up the dab rig, I find that hash is best smoked through a specialized hash pipe or sprinkled on top of your cannabis flower. User-friendliness is a plus here—if you are new to concentrates, hash is a good place to start.
Finally, when we are discussing cannabis oil, we would be remiss to leave out cannabis or hemp sublinguals. Sublingual tinctures typically come in THC- or CBD-rich variations or ratio products.. These products are made by mixing a cannabis concentrate with a base oil, like extra virgin olive oil, to a desired concentration, which is then administered under the tongue. The cannabis concentrate that ends up in your sublingual tinctures can come from BHO, CO2 oil, RSO, you name it, but the safest and most effective extraction process is a lipid-infusion. The infusion process takes the dried flower material and soaks it directly into the base oil. Generally, you can do a cold-soak to preserve the whole plant, or a heated soak to decarboxylate the plant material for a psychoactive product. Unlike concentrates, tinctures are typically between 1-3% cannabinoids, so you won’t want to dab these products. However, the addition of lipids from the base oil increases the bioavailability of the cannabinoids within the body, which is why sublinguals are hands down my favorite way to ingest cannabis oil. For an example of a whole-plant lipid infused cannabis oil, you need look no further than our own Raw Sublinguals. For more info, follow the links to our CBDA-rich and CBGA-rich tinctures.
Happy 710 everyone!