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Cannabis 101Strains & products

What are cannabis concentrates, oils, and extracts?

June 17, 2019
Cannabis concentrates, oils, and extracts offer many unique benefits that you won’t find smoking flower. From easy, precise dosing to clean and refined flavors, concentrates focus on the ingredients in cannabis that matter most. In this 4-part series, you’ll learn the fundamentals of concentrates, explore product options, discover how extracts are made, and more.


Cannabis oils, concentrates, and extracts—these all serve as umbrella terms under which sits a warehouse of different products: vape oil, hash, tinctures, dabs, CBD oil, and every other product dreamed up by cannabis chemists.

An oil, concentrate, or extract is any product derived from cannabis flower that is processed into a concentrated form, but each type of cannabis oil is unique.

But why bother with concentrates when you have tried-and-true bud? Flower may be good enough for you, but there are many reasons to explore the many options—and medicines—offered in extract form:

  • You don’t have to smoke extracts. Most consumers choose to vaporize or ingest concentrates for a smoke-free dose.
  • Cannabis oils are efficient. It takes less product to achieve the desired experience.
  • Extracts are refined. Essential oils and cannabinoids are separated from plant material to create a smooth, clean* inhale when vaporized. (*Keep yourself educated on how to find high-quality cannabis oil and avoid unreliable, poorly crafted extracts.)


Types of cannabis oil

In this series, we’ll explore the many cannabis concentrate options available to you (depending on your local cannabis laws). Here’s a brief list of broad extract types to familiarize you with what’s to come in this series:

  • CBD oil refers to non-intoxicating products that are popularly used to treat a variety of medical conditions. It’s most commonly sold as a tincture or in capsule form.
  • THC oil refers to intoxicating oils that are also popularly used medically, but also deliver euphoric effects. THC-infused oils come in many forms, but the most popular are solids that can be vaporized (called dabs), tinctures, and capsules.
  • Vaporizer cartridges are portable, easy-to-dose oil attachments that pair with a battery. It’s essentially an e-cigarette, but with cannabis.
  • Ingestible oils refer to activated oil that you can consume with food/drinks or in capsule form.

Find the right cannabis concentrate for you

A variety of different cannabis concentrate types on a white background.

(Grant Hindsley for Leafly)

Every extract serves a different purpose and consumer type, so we’ve broken our recommendations down based on your experience with concentrates:

  • New to cannabis concentrates? Part 2 of this series will introduce you to the most common cannabis oils and extracts, and provide product recommendations for inexperienced consumers.
  • Ready to graduate past tinctures and vape pens? Part 3 will introduce you to additional extract forms that you can vaporize, dab, or ingest.
  • Are you a true extract enthusiast? Part 4 will guide you toward cutting-edge concentrates perfect for the oil connoisseur.

Leafly Staff's Bio Image

Leafly Staff

Leafly is the world’s largest cannabis information resource, empowering people in legal cannabis markets to learn about the right products for their lifestyle and wellness needs. Our team of cannabis professionals collectively share years of experience in all corners of the market, from growing and retail, to science and medicine, to data and technology.

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4 part series

  • Etidorhpa

    Don’t do any of these! You’ll flip out and go crazy. Stick with low THC products with at least 5% CBD. Demoncrats want you delusional ; don’t be fools.

    • groovynaut

      Hmmm, interesting. I’ve used all the aforementioned concentrations—with 90+% THC—and I’ve yet to flip out, go crazy or even become delusional. Perhaps “demoncrats” are immune to such deleterious effects?? 🤔😂

      • FlunkedAgain

        I’ve yet to flip out, go crazy or even become delusional.

        I agree with you, but how do you know you’re not delusional? If you were, you wouldn’t know it. That’s the funny (ironic) thing about it.

    • Jeffrey

      Wow what a Jamoke thing to say !! You totally are clueless dude !!

    • jerry withers

      i am 73 , partaking of flower in one form or another since i was 16. To all Repubs, i have voted both sides & proud to say that i have 4 wonderful grown children. They all have families & range from MBA to high school drop out. JUST LEAVE POLITICS OUT PLEASE.

    • Ivan van Ogre

      Just stick with the decaf and you’ll be fine.

    • Alexis Machine

      Politics have no place in any discussion about the medical or recreational healing properties of Cannabis. Quite frankly, hasn’t politics ruined the concept of this plant enough? Don’t be a fear monger just because your own understanding of the plant and its uses are lacking. Is it really necessary to exaggerate such claims?


      While there is some anecdotal evidence that suggests heavy, daily consumption of 90+% concentrates of any description over a long period of undisclosed time could lead to Psychosis or be a precursor to Schizophrenia by the constant stimulation of the brain’s reward centers. Primarily the repeated, over stimulation of Dopamine and Serotonin receptors in the brain. This information is like I said Anecdotal and has not been proven beyond reasonable doubt to cause permanent impairment. At one point, I consumed Shatter and Wax quite regularly for an entire summer camping in Northern Ontario and the biggest faux pas for me was impaired short term memory (typical with most Cannabis use but exaggerated with concentrate) and a little bit more than usual anxiety. These results are not typical and every user may experience different or none of the side effects I have felt.

  • Lora

    Riiiiiight…it’ all political. 🙄

  • Lora

    I don’t know why my comment came to you…sorry🤭

    • Carl Comstock

      Long live Spider-Man

  • BruceIshikawa

    Stop replying to the dummy.

  • Terry Morris

    I am a manga man and proud of it! Don’t compare that fool to a manga manor women I use cbd it is great I Am here to learn more about its value leave your judgemental bullshit out of here Dudogger58

  • russ heathcoe

    Flip out ? I do believe you have beaten everyone to the punch……I’ve smoked , bonged , vaped….enjoy RSO and FECO . Still waiting for the ‘ flip out ‘ after 40 years . Relax and stop the bs.

    • Chris Escareno

      I flipped out once…the first time I smoked, I was also drunk

  • Very interesting article.

    Keep some some Vitamin C (500 mg) pills with you. If you are too high and are unable to handle the trip, pop (or better chew) a vitamin pill and wait for 10 minutes.

    You will start coming down and feel better. 🙂

  • rls4605

    I thought your name was ‘Regina Forlefley’. Ha on me.

  • dogem123

    When making a tincture; you do use Everclear to dilute if your tincture is “too strong” (LOL) right?

  • Nerissa

    I am 55 yrs old been indulging in weed since I was 11, I have never flipped out or hallucinated on weed, I have smoked and indulged in every form never have I had any side effect that I found dangerous. I have always maintained on jobs, school and have to say that I was able to concentrate better when doing any kind of project. I find that it helps me focus. I also like the fact that it helps with pain wonderfully, which is great because I am am allergic to 85% of the pain meds that are prescribed today. So I am grateful that it has finally became at least medically legal. It should have became legal way before alcohol ever did. You never hear of anyone dying from marijuana, but look how many people have died from alcohol poison. I think that the only reason that it has not became legal before now because they did not know how to monopolize on it. What idiots!!! I’ve always said if you can ‘t band it tax it .But I’ve also have come to the conclusion if it makes sense they just are not gonna do it . They had rather go around their tail hole just to get to their elbow.

    • Alexis Machine

      I think Cannabis was prohibited because of political agenda as well as the concepts you described. Politicians are useless unless they are able to maintain power and influence over the people they govern. You couple this with a gross misunderstanding and unnecessary finger pointing by said government and you get prohibition. Many governments think that their people are so profoundly stupid as to believe anything they say, provided they get a guy wearing a lab coat to say it. More often than not, the guy in the lab jacket is not even a real doctor. I think the reason why Cannabis is becoming legal in more States and Countries is two fold. A) New generations are bringing new ideas forward and changing the way people think about certain things. B) the government has realized that the medical evidence of the plants power can no longer be ignored and in doing so realized the huge profit potential through taxes.

  • This really good I love this information lots of smokers can’t really tell what cannabis is all about!!

  • The guide was good thanks much!!

  • hahaha some of us smoke everything..

  • lol interesting comments

  • AJ

    Use an indica (v. sativa).

    • Gabbie

      Thanks, AJ. My Sis said the sativa made her ‘paranoid’, so I’m looking towards the indica strains more. Our doctor actually talked to us about it. My Doc’s Mom uses cbd. I would still like to try cbd drops with THC….so I’m still researching. Thanks again for your reply.

  • Billie

    If you don’t want to smoke you can use the RSO oil or eatables as well there are different was to take MM. I’m a 3 time Cancer Survivor and I cant smoke I do use the oil and it helps me. Thank you have a blessed day

  • Erin Bennett Hulett

    I just taught myself how to use shatter cause I was tired of the same old same.
    But something strange just happened, I use a quartz banger, glass water pipe and I have only tried shatter from one dispensary. Today I tried a different place and must’ve misjudged my dose. After my first hit, my lungs felt like fire and immediately started coughing and sweating, then I got really light headed – so I had to sit down (so I didn’t pass out.)
    Everything is ok. I’m fine but what did I do wrong? Was the glass too hot? It didn’t look burnt it was a clear yellow, not even a thick honey color.
    Pls don’t be mean – I’m almost 40 & have no one to show me except YouTube LOL

  • Andy Cignarella

    Is there a difference between oils and distillates?

  • Rut Retjes

    I am using marijuana oil for a very long time now and I love it!

  • Alexis Machine

    I don’t understand the rationale to mislead people by labelling a Cannabis oil as a tincture. Coming from the Pharmaceutical industry and having a close friend that happens to have a degree in Chemistry, we are both scratching our heads with this one. Most marketing in Canada that is not from a Licensed Producer is showing simple Cannabis extract mixed in MCT as being a tincture. It is not a tincture but merely oil, packaged with a dropper and probably commending a higher price tag. A real tincture is Cannabis extracted from high grade alcohol. Anyone familiar with Bach Flower remedies, specifically the Rescue Remedy would know that these are flower extracts contained in a mixture of grape alcohol therefore a tincture. A Cannabis tincture would not take 20-30 minutes to work but would work a lot faster. There is no difference with these faux tinctures that contain the MCT. The extract in the MCT would take about as long as regular Cannabis oil which is total misnomer as they are the same but in different packaging. This is because the MCT is a fat which would slow the metabolising of the Cannabinoids contain within through the liver. Tinctures on the other hand work much faster because the extract in diffused in alcohol the latter evaporates quickly allowing the extract to enter the bloodstream through the mucous membranes inside the mouth. There is no fat to slow the process down. I can only assume that Oils are being mislabeled as tincture to skirt current Canadian laws which forbid Cannabis from being mixed with alcohol.

  • Alexis Machine

    Best advice is to start low and go slow. As in pick a low THC % to start and use just a little. I do not recommend smoking for two reasons: A) the flame degrades up to 30% of the medical properties and creating toxins from heat degradation. B) the heat may irritate your lungs, make your chest heavy and make your mouth taste like ash.
    I would recommend using a vaporizer or consuming it as an oil extract.
    Vaporize and the effects can be felt in as little as 5 minutes post. Or, Consume the oil and feel effects in about 1.5-2 hours. Consuming oil has a slower onset but lasts longer. Vaporizing does not combust the plant material. It boils off the medicinal properties of the plant forming a vapor. The effects are more rapid but subside within a few hours. Depending on any established tolerance from prior, sustained use.
    Since you are diabetic you need to be mindful of the side effects with THC. It will promote sleep by acting as a sedative. It also has a lot of the same pain numbing/anti-inflammatory properties as CBD. More importantly though, it will stimulate your appetite. These effects can range from mild to wild so be prepared by having healthy, sugar free snacks available should the need arise to indulge. You can also try a 1:1 THC to CBD oil. The CBD will cancel out or nullify some of the negatives with the THC.