With new cannabis extracts coming out every day, even veteran smokers have a hard time keeping up. This guide will teach you the basics of cannabis extracts. Cannabis extracts are made by extracting cannabinoids from weed plants. Some extracts use the whole plant, whereas others use only parts (such as buds or trim).
There are two basic methods for extraction:
- Solvent: Chemicals separate cannabinoids from plant matter
- Mechanical: Resins are pressed out of plant using machines
For medicine, or those concerned about their chemical intake, extracts that don’t use solvents are most desirable.
Some Basic Cannabis Extract Terms:
These terms refer to the consistency of the extract but are sometimes used interchangeably as names for types of extracts.
- Crumble: dry, crumbly chunks
- Wax: sticky, stretchy, stays together when cool
- Shatter: hard, candy-like
- Live Resin: Extract is taken from fresh plants instead of dried
Types of Cannabis Extracts:
- Solvents: None
- Process: Simplest extract, using only dried trichomes collected during trimming or by rubbing buds over mesh screens.
- Result: Fine, powdery dust
- Note: Can be smoked on its own, but burns up quickly. Kief makes an excellent material for making extracts.
- Solvents: Ethanol sometimes, but can be done without solvents
- Process: Pressed kief
- Result: Can paste like to solid chunks
- Note: One of the oldest extracts, using kief and pressure traditional hash is made. Many use hash as a generic term for extracts.
- Solvents: None, ice water is used
- Process: Buds or trim are run through a series of mesh screens, called Bubble Bags, after being soaked in ice water
- Result: Similar to traditional hash, but the ice bath extraction removes more trichomes
- Note: This is one of the more popular extraction techniques for DIY smokers since the process is safe and relatively easy
- Solvents: Isopropyl alcohol or Ethanol
- Process: Alcohol extracts cannabinoids and then evaporates
- Result: Tarry oil to shatter
- Note: Also popular among DIY smokers who don’t mind chemicals in their extract. Some believe the taste of extract suffers from this process.
BHO (Butane Hash Oil)
- Solvents: Butane
- Process: Cannabinoids are extracted from the plant using butane
- Result: waxy oil to hard shatter
- Note: make sure to test your BHO as residual butane may be present
- Solvents: CO2
- Process: Expensive machines using pressure and CO2, in a process known as supercritical fluid extraction, separate the cannabinoids from the plant
- Result: liquid (often used in vape pens) to waxy consistency
- Note: much cleaner than BHO, tends to be more expensive
- Solvents: Butane
- Process: Plant material is “whipped” like butter over a particular temperature
- Result: Soft, butter-like crumbles
- Note: This process preserves more terpenes than other methods, giving it a better flavor but it tends to have less THC than other extracts
- Solvents: Alcohol
- Process: Cannabinoids are extracted and suspended in alcohol
- Result: A concoction of cannabinoids and alcohol
- Note: Tinctures use food-grade alcohol making them excellent medicine
- Solvents: None, extracted through heat and pressure
- Process: A hair straightener, some parchment paper, and pressure
- Result: Clean oil or shatter
- Note: Increasingly popular due to its simplicity and the clean finished product
Rick Simpson Oil (RSO)
- Solvents: Pure Naphtha or Isopropyl Alcohol
- Process: The whole plant is extracted in alcohol
- Result: Sticky tar remains, containing high levels of various cannabinoids (depending on the strain of the plant)
- Note: Developed in 2003 by its namesake, Rick Simpson, RSO has become a popular alternative cancer treatment. RSO has also been found to be a highly effective topical ointment.