Plant Matters: Concentrates & Extracts

While JUUL’ing and vapes take over the tobacco industry, transforming leaf into oil for ‘safer’ and more discrete consumption, marijuana has taken the same leap. Cannabis concentrates’ popularity has risen over the years, showing a 600% increase in products on the cannabis database Leafly in 2018. To ‘keep up with the joneses’ or expand your variety of use, here’s a beginner’s guide to extracts and concentrates. From shatter, to THCA, batter to crumble…what are these fresh products and what’s the best way to consume?

Methods of extraction

By now, you’re probably aware of the components in your bud that provide medicinal relief, or psychoactive highs. Like, THC, CBD, terpenes and nearly 400 other compounds found on the trichomes of plants (crystals or ‘ice’ you may often see). The extraction process to create concentrates, is the isolation and separation of these compounds into a more potent product. While standard marijuana flower may contain THC amounts of 15-20%, extracts usually contain 90-100%.

The main difference in final extract or concentrate product depends on the extraction methods. Alcohol, Co2 and butane/propane extraction processes are the most commonly used.

But wait, are extracts and concentrates the same? Not quite. Extracts use solvents (like alcohol or Co2) that remove the trichomes by washing them away. Concentrates remove the trichomes mechanically or physically, without the use of solvents. By adjusting techniques in these processes, you’ll find varied products like tinctures, resin, crumble or batter.

What is what?

Cannabis oil, tinctures or distillates may be the most versatile of extracts. Marijuana is infused into oil or alcohol to create tinctures. In oil or tincture form, you can add dosages to foods, liquids or use sublingually – applied under your tongue. It’s recommended to start with 1 ml to start and increase as you interpret your high. Oils and tinctures kick in within 15-45 minutes and will keep you elevated or medicated for less time than an edible, but more than traditional smoking and vaping.

Through CO2 based processes, and an additional distillation technique, oil distillate is cannabis in almost a clear and liquid-like form. Distillate can be transformed into many products but is best known for being discrete, like in the use of vape pens. Cannabinoids in their purest form, are aroma-less after being broken down of flavors.

Crumble, shatter, badders, budders or live resin are all varied versions of concentrates or extracts with thicker consistencies. Known for dabbing, the golden end products deliver their beneficial compounds when heated to a certain degree. Shatter is like its’ namesake, and more glass-like and translucent in texture. Crumble, badders or budders are more wax-like concentrates due to their final forms being like that of a candle but differing in consistency or firmness.

If you prefer to smell or taste your favorite strain, live resin is the concentrate for you. For this products’ process, bud is frozen immediately after harvest. This conserves cannabinoids and terpenes, normally diminished during the aging process used for other concentrates.

THC-a or Crystalline is the emerging extract in recent trends. THCA-a, also known as tetrahydrocannabinolic acid is the most notable psychoactive cannabinoid found in the trichomes of the plant. The crystal-like product is the cannabinoid isolated into a compound similar to snow or salt. By heating the THC-a crystals through dabbing or vaporizing, the cannabinoid is converted to THC, which delivers your high instantaneously.

Why concentrates or extracts?

Most prominent benefit? Potency. Cannabinoid levels can range from 70-90%+ in concentrates versus 10 – 30% traditionally found in flower.

Convenience can be key with any extract as well. From scent-less to smoke-less, and hits, drops or smoke sessions taking less than a minute? ‘Lighting up’ has never been easier, quicker, or more concealing as concentrates has made getting high. Growth in necessary high heat options like vape pens, dab rigs, and torches have advanced these methods, and are the recommended devices for use of extracts or concentrates.

The purest of plant matter

What matters most is what’s inside the plant. Concentrates and extracts are providing the purest and most isolated forms of that plant matter that matters. While the new trend may be overwhelming in options, with the right tools and products your high can be extra elevated, or discretely designed. Light up and heat up, by adding concentrates and extracts to your cannabis grind.