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The Great Wide World of Cannabis Oil and Concentrates

By Bailey Rahn — 2/26/2014

“Concentrate” is becoming an ambiguous word in the cannabis industry. It could refer to the wax you vaporize, the tincture under your tongue, or the orally administered THC-free cannabis oil that’s changing attitudes toward cannabis everywhere. The future of cannabis is steering toward these potent concentrated forms, especially as the therapeutic potential of non-smoking methods is realized by the public.

Under the umbrella of cannabis concentrates falls any product procured through an extraction process. Solvents (e.g., butane, CO2, ethanol) strip compounds from the cannabis plant, leaving behind a product with cannabinoids packed in every drop. Some types of extracts test as high as 80% in THC, while others are rich in non-psychoactive compounds like CBD deliver an altogether “high-less” experience.

This list of cannabis concentrates is by no means exhaustive, but it will introduce you to some of the most common extracts found in today’s market.

 

Hash

One of the oldest players in the cannabis game is hash, a concentrate made by compression of the plant’s resin. The powdery kief that coats your cannabis flowers can be collected and pressed together to form hash, or solvents like ice water or ethanol may be used to more effectively strip the plant of their cannabinoid-loaded crystals. Though not as potent as BHO and other cannabis concentrates, hash remains a staple of cannabis culture around the world.

 

Butane Hash Oil (BHO)

BHO, or butane hash oil, is an extremely potent concentrate popularly consumed for dabbing and other vaporization methods. Cannabinoids are drawn out of the plant through butane extraction, which leaves behind a wax that will either maintain its sticky consistency or harden up, resulting in a crumbly “honeycomb” or a glasslike “shatter.” Because its THC content stretches up to 80%, BHO is a popular remedy for chronic pain and other intractable symptoms. Always be sure that your oil is lab tested for purity, as improperly purged BHO may contain traces of butane.

 

CO2 Oil

Hot on the market is CO2 oil, a concentrate made possible by expensive botanical extractors that use pressure and carbon dioxide to separate plant material. This method, called supercritical fluid extraction, is one of the most effective ways of reducing cannabis to its essential compounds. The amber oil it produces can be vaporized in a variety of ways, one of the most popular being portable vaporizer pens. Among the industry’s best sellers are disposable cartridges containing CO2 oil and a medical grade solvent called polypropylene glycol which gives the oil its liquid consistency.

 

Rick Simpson Oil (RSO)

In 2003 a man named Rick Simpson treated his skin cancer using a homemade remedy made from cannabis. By soaking the cannabis in pure naphtha or isopropyl alcohol, the therapeutic compounds are drawn out of the plant, leaving behind a tar-like liquid after the solvent fully evaporates. Also known as Phoenix Tears, Rick Simpson Oil (RSO) can be orally administered or applied directly to the skin. Many other business now sell their own renditions of the Rick Simpson Oil, some of which are high in THC while others contain only non-psychoactive compounds like CBD.

 

Tinctures

Up until its prohibition in 1937, tinctures were the most common form of cannabis medicine in the United States. A tincture is a liquid concentrate procured through alcohol extraction, which pulls out many of the plant’s beneficial cannabinoids. A few drops under the tongue may be a sufficient dose, but patients can safely apply more as needed. Tinctures, which are now available in a variety of flavors, are a great way for patients to medicate without having to smoke.

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