Who's This Guide For?
It seems like every day there’s a new kind of cannabis concentrate: oil, wax, shatter, rosin, resin, budder, badder, sauce, hash, bubble hash, diamonds, sugar, RSO, caviar…
The term “cannabis oil” alone has been used to describe a wide variety of different products—from extracts to cooking oil to essential oils.
Whether you’re a new consumer or a cannabis connoisseur, we set out to create a complete cannabis oil resource full of reliable information. We discuss the different types of cannabis concentrates, including extraction methods, dosage, benefits, and legality across the U.S.
What is Cannabis Oil?
Essentially, the goal is to remove the plant material and preserve the psychoactive cannabinoids and aromatic, flavorful terpenes in a concentrated cannabis extract.
Not all cannabis oil is created equal, though.
Different types of concentrates, extraction methods, and an increasingly wide range of terms can make marijuana concentrates intimidating for new consumers.
So before we dive into the benefits of THC/CBD concentrates, let’s take a quick look at the products and phrases you’ll need to know. Think of this as a cannabis concentrate crash course.
Types of Cannabis Concentrates
Cannabis oils, or hash oils, are a sticky, low-viscosity liquid produced from concentrated THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids that have been extracted from the cannabis plant.
Common extraction methods include CO2, ethanol, and other solvents (we’ll go into how these affect the finished product later).
Shatter is a popular high potency cannabis concentrate. Shatter has an amber color and glass-like appearance that can resemble sap when heated. “Shatter” that is somewhere between a sap and glass consistency is sometimes referred to as pull-and-snap.
Shatter is typically extracted using butane or propane as a solvent.
Wax & Budder
Wax is a softer and less-transparent cannabis concentrate, sometimes referred to as budder or crumble. Wax tends to be crumbly, while budder is more oily and shapeable.
Wax looks like its namesake due to molecules that crystallize during extraction. Budder is made by whipping wax until it’s fluffy and resembles butter. Wax is most often extracted using butane hash oil (BHO) or propane hash oil (PHO).
Types of Cannabis Oil
There are a number of other terms that relate directly and indirectly to cannabis oil. And understanding these terms can help you to get a better grasp of the cannabis products available and which ones are right for you.
Hash, or hashish, is the resin collected from the flowers of the cannabis plant, heated and pressed into a brick-like solid.
Hash is most commonly smoked from a pipe or rolled into a joint.
Hash oil is a potent concentrate often used for dabbing and vaping. It’s comparable to hashish, but is associated with a more refined and consistent extraction process.
Isolates are concentrates that contain only one cannabinoid. For example, THC isolates contains only THC, and CBD isolates contain only CBD.
Raw Cannabis Oil
Raw cannabis oil is cannabis oil extracted from the cannabis plant that has never been heated. This maintains higher levels of THCA and CBDA, which convert to THC and CBD when heated.
The sticky “sap” that sometimes gets on your fingers after handling cannabis flower is resin. It’s the gooey trichomes that house the plant’s cannabinoids and terpenes, and what produces many of the medicinal and psychoactive effects of cannabis.
Resin is commonly extracted for production of concentrates by using butane as a solvent.
If the resin has been dried and cured, it’s referred to as kief—a green cannabis “dust” loaded with cannabinoids and terpenes. Many grinders have kief catchers to preserve this concentrated cannabis for later use.
In some cases (especially with high-potency flower), resin can build up as a brown or black tar in your pipe or bong. In this case the resin has already been combusted for smoking. But, it’s still technically resin. And while we don’t recommend it, some smokers collect the burned resin for re-smoking.
Live Resin (Full Spectrum)
Live resin is often referred to as full spectrum oil on account of retaining a broad or full spectrum of different cannabinoids and terpenes. Typically extracted from freshly harvested, flash-frozen cannabis plants, live resin retains many of the aromatic terpenes for a more flavorful extract often sought by medical marijuana patients.
Rosin is a translucent, sappy cannabis concentrate you can make at home without expensive equipment or dangerous solvents (keep reading to find out how).
By pressing dried and cured cannabis flower under a combination of heat and pressure, a concentrated resin is released.
Granted, the strength of your extract will mirror the strength of the strain you used to make it. As such, a low-THC strain won’t yield a high-THC rosin.
What Are Vapor Concentrates?
Vapor concentrates are concentrates that can be vaped. For example, shatter, wax, budder, and traditional cannabis oil (including CO2 oil).
For the rest of this guide, we’ll be focusing on vapor concentrates.
How Are Concentrates Extracted?
Extracting concentrates isn’t a simple process. And just like making alcohol or baking a cake, there are a variety of methods used in the industry. Some boast higher concentrations of cannabinoids or flavorful terpenes in their finished product. Others are extracted without the use of solvents, making them a healthier, more organic option.
Here are just a few of the ways cannabis concentrates are extracted:
DIY Cannabis Extraction
Creating your own cannabis concentrate at home is a lot easier than you may think. You won’t have the range of products or the specific flavors and strains that are available at your local dispensary, but it’s a great way to put extra flower to good use.
While you’re likely to lose more cannabinoids and end up with a lower THC product than the industry experts, it’s safest to assume you’ll achieve maximum potency when making and consuming your own concentrate.
To start creating your own rosin concentrates all you need is:
- A Hair Straightener
- Parchment Paper
- Cannabis (flower, kief, or hash)
By lining the hot hair straightener with parchment paper, cannabis can be pressed. The heat will extract resin from the plant, leaving you with your own extracted concentrate!
- Break up your bud into ½ gram pieces
- Heat a hair straightener to medium-low
- Fold unsticky parchment paper in half and place a half gram nugget in the middle
- Place the folded parchment paper and cannabis in the hair straightener/iron and press the nugget very hard for about 3 seconds
- Carefully remove. There will be a small resin stain made from the bud. Now move the bud to another spot and repeat.
- Use your razor blade to scrape away the rosin
Why choose to make your own concentrates?
An argument can be made that you’ll save money by making your own concentrates—particularly if you already grow your own flower and rarely go to the dispensary. On the other hand, creating your own resin extracts can lead to an inconsistent product (in strength, flavor, and effects).
While trained professionals understand the chemistry of extracting cannabis oil, it’s just as important for consumers to understand the different extraction methods and the benefits (or risks) associated with each method.
Extraction method is only one way concentrates vary, though. Another is by targeting different cannabinoids and terpenes.
A World of Cannabinoids (& Which You Want in Your Cannabis Oil)
There are dozens of cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. Some are more prevalent than others, and they each affect the body differently. The majority of cannabinoids are NOT psychoactive. However, they do interact with one another when metabolized by the body. This is called the entourage effect (we’ll talk more about this soon).
Do you want THC or THCA in your oil? Or both? What about CBD or CBDA (or CBN and CBG)?
Let’s take a look.
How do cannabinoids actually affect the human body?
The endocannabinoid system and its receptors allow you to metabolize and reap the benefits of cannabinoids.
By attaching to CB1 and CB2 receptors located in the brain and throughout the body, cannabinoids are able to have a multitude of medicinal effects. These receptors are a natural and necessary part of how the body functions.
In fact, the human body even produces cannabinoids on its own.
The Differences Between THC and CBD
THC and CBD are at the forefront of conversations taking place in the cannabis industry today. To participate in these important conversations, it’s imperative to understand the differences between THC and CBD.
As cannabis legalization has spread across the United States, plants have been bred to contain higher amounts of THC and CBD. In doing so, users are able to cater their cannabis experience based on their needs.
THC is the psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis. This cannabinoid is responsible for making you feel intoxicated or “high.” While this attribute is what THC is notorious for, it also has an array of medicinal properties. Studies have shown that THC may be a powerful natural pain reliever, reduce nausea, help relieve conditions that affect the central nervous system, and even stimulate appetite.
According to one overview, “THC has twenty times the anti-inflammatory potency of aspirin and twice that of hydrocortisone.”
Cannabis products high in THC are available in many forms (both recreationally and medically) and can be consumed using various delivery methods, including edibles, sublinguals, and transdermal patches.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is the second most well-known cannabinoid.
In 2013, the news network CNN shared the power of cannabidiol with the world in its documentary Weed. Since then, it’s taken the cannabis industry by storm.
Research also suggests that CBD may help to regulate sleep patterns, alleviate symptoms of autism, manage seizures, regulate hormone levels, clear up skin conditions, and even inhibit the growth of cancerous cells. And that’s just to name a few of the potential health benefits being reported.
It seems as though the medical potential of cannabinoids are almost limitless.
Cannabis CBD vs Hemp CBD
CBD oil can be extracted from the cannabis or hemp plant.
While hemp is still biologically cannabis, it has a unique distinction; the federal government regulates hemp, which must contain less than 0.3% THC.
CBD oil from hemp contains only trace amounts of THC, making it non-psychoactive. Hemp naturally contains higher levels of CBD, which make it easier to extract and produce.
CBD oil can also be extracted from the cannabis plant and is sometimes known as marijuana CBD oil. CBD oil from cannabis contains terpenes and – in full and broad spectrum oils – small amounts of other cannabinoids, which some users report helps with their specific needs.
The additional benefit that some consumers attribute to the interplay of cannabinoids and terpenes is known as the entourage effect (more on that in moment).
Speaking of terpenes…
Within each cannabis plant there are terpene molecules which act like essential oils and give each strain its unique aroma (and may play a role in the unique effects each strain brings).
Hundreds of terpenes have been identified in cannabis plants, making it easy to understand how strains can bring so many different effects and flavor profiles. Just as each strain has its own cannabinoid makeup, it also has its own terpene makeup.
Terpenes are non-psychoactive, but studies show that they may have health benefits of their own – particularly when combined with cannabinoids.
The Entourage Effect
The Entourage Effect is the notion that the cannabinoids, terpenes, and other components found in cannabis interact synergistically to increase effectiveness.
What’s that mean?
A 100mg dose of CBD isolate won’t deliver the same effects as a 100mg dose of CBD-rich whole plant extract. It’s also why some consumers report stronger effects from “weaker” concentrates. A 75% THC concentrate that maintains the cannabinoid-terpenoid ratio can deliver a stronger high than an 85% concentrate that only preserves THC.
While many consumers look for concentrates with the most THC or CBD, a full-spectrum oil that preserves terpenes can increase desired effects while reducing unwanted side-effects, like THC-induced anxiety.
A Short History of Medical Cannabis & Cannabis Oil
For centuries, cannabis products have been used medicinally. As far back as 2737 BCE, Chinese Emperor Shen Neng advocated for cannabis-derived medicines.
Despite cannabis’ ancient medical history, the modern times have not been kind to the plant.
In the 1930’s, fearing addiction and abuse, the United States government began taking steps to ban cannabinoids for medicinal use. In the early 1970’s, under the Nixon administration, the “war on drugs” was declared in response to the rebellious hippy movement that occurred in the 60’s.
Today, the federal government continues to classify cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance (a harsher classification than cocaine, methamphetamines, and fentanyl). Despite dozens of research studies confirming the medicinal value of cannabinoids and challenging the belief that marijuana is addictive, only states with established cannabis programs are able to legally provide cannabis to the public.
While cannabis oil has been used medicinally for centuries, it has only begun to be thoroughly studied over the past few decades. In a relatively short time, studies have shown that cannabis has vast medical potential; from managing anxiety and stress to aiding cancer patients and improving skin care.
The Benefits of Cannabis Oil
The following studies suggest the medicinal value of cannabis oil. It’s important to note that this research is being presented for educational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice. If you are suffering from any of these or other medical conditions and believe you would benefit from medical marijuana, you should speak with your doctor.
Anxiety & Stress Relief
CB1 and CB2 receptors in the brain give cannabis oil access to chemicals that influence our anxiety and stress-induced response. Studies have shown that cannabinoids, particularly CBD, have anxiolytic (or stress-reducing) effects. In application, this research suggests that cannabis oil could help to naturally alleviate daily anxiety and stress.
Cannabis oil can have a variety of effects on sleep depending on its cannabinoid makeup. Studies suggest a multitude of positive outcomes. THC can help to address sleep disorders, like sleep apnea, while CBD may help to regulate REM and support higher-quality sleep.
Endocannabinoid receptors line the digestive tract, signaling that cannabinoids may help with digestive-related conditions. More specifically, studies have shown that cannabis can help to stimulate appetite. This is especially useful for those undergoing chemotherapy and radiation, as well as those who take medicines that interfere with appetite.
Millions of individuals around the world deal with pain-related medical conditions every day. Many studies suggest that cannabis many be a therapeutic alternative for those dealing with chronic and persistent pain. As the medical community and its patients continue to deal with the growing opioid crisis, cannabis is proving to be a less risky and all-natural alternative.
In one study, researchers found that cannabis (particularly THC) can help to prevent the cell progression and multiplication of breast cancer cells. As more cancer treatments are developed, cannabis may play a key role in helping treat cancer and its side effects.
Maintaining cardiovascular health is perhaps one of the most important things a person can do to improve overall health. Unfortunately, millions of Americans struggle with high-blood pressure, which is a precursor to many cardiovascular and heart-related diseases.
Studies have found that CBD may help lower anxiety-induced increases in blood pressure. And many athletes use cannabis before or immediately after working out, which can play a role in reducing tension, managing pain, and increasing focus and risk-taking behavior.
For decades, scientists have been exploring the connection between cannabis, cannabinoids, and Glaucoma. Interestingly, studies have found that cannabinoids lower intraocular pressure (IOP), which is one of the major risk factors for glaucoma.
Eye health can often seem out of our control, but these studies suggest cannabis is an effective therapeutic medium.
While cannabis has numerous effects internally, it can also affect the epidermis. As a well-known anti-inflammatory, it comes as no surprise that cannabis can be beneficial for the skin. In fact, studies show that cannabinoids can even help to alleviate persistent skin conditions like psoriasis.
Cannabis Oil Side Effects & Possible Drug Interactions
While cannabis oil has been linked to many potential benefits, it is important to recognize that any change in your regimen can have undesirable side effects and in some cases may interact with other prescription medications.
Common side effects of taking cannabis oil include drowsiness, increased appetite, dry mouth, and dry eyes. More serious side effects may reportedly occur if a user has a pre-existing lung condition or is prone to anxiety and paranoia. These side effects vary because different cannabis oils contain different types and levels of cannabinoids and terpenes. And even the same marijuana oil affects everyone differently.
Possible Drug Interactions with Cannabis Oil
Because cannabis enters the bloodstream and interacts with our endocannabinoid system, it may affect how the body reacts to some pharmaceutical drugs.
Studies show that cannabis oil can interact negatively with opioids, for example. Additionally, studies show that some cannabinoids can stimulate the production of serotonin, which is problematic for those taking SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). Cannabinoids can also lower insulin levels as well, which could lower glucose too much if you’re currently taking insulin.
These are just a few of the possible drug interactions between cannabis oil and pharmaceuticals. If you are currently taking medication (or you’re about to start a new prescription or different dosage) it’s important to talk to a medical professional to ensure there are no potentially harmful drug interactions.
What Other Products Are Made Using Cannabis Oil?
There are many different cannabis oil products to choose from. And understanding your options can help you to choose the best product for your specific needs. If you’re looking for a variety of organic, clean, and potent cannabis oil products, you can find reviews online or visit a dispensary that you trust.
So what are some of the more common products that use cannabis oil or hemp oil as an ingredient?
Vape Oil and Cooking Oils
Cannabis oil is a very versatile product, and can be integrated into your favorite cannabis consumption method with ease. Cannabis oil can be vaped, used in dabs, or added to a joint or bowl.
If you prefer edibles, you can also cook with cannabis oil. WARNING! You should never vape cooking oil!
Cannabis oil capsules are a discreet way to consume a consistent dose of THC or CBD oil. Oftentimes, these capsules also contain other supplements, vitamins, or minerals which can have a variety of positive health effects.
Cannabis oil tinctures are often alcohol-based or coconut oil-based cannabis extracts. Tinctures are great for those who are new to cannabis consumption and want a consistent dose and a more controlled flavor. Alternatively, tinctures offer a discreet and measured way to microdose throughout the day. Oftentimes, tinctures come with a dropper, allowing users to measure how much they’re consuming and easily mix in with your favorite food or drink.
Many individuals turn to cannabis topical products as an efficient way to treat localized aches and pains without the psychoactive effects of other consumption methods. Cannabis creams, lotions, and balms often contain moisturizers that allow the oil to permeate the skin, enabling it to provide fast relief to a specific area, muscle, or joint.
More than ever before, cannabis oil is being integrated into health and beauty products. For example, CBD hemp oil is used in shampoos and conditioners due to its ability moisturize and reinvigorate hair follicles. CBD oil can also be found in a variety of lotions and moisturizers due to its anti-inflammatory and reparative properties.
With cannabis oil found in so many products, you might be wondering where you can buy it (and if it’s legal in your state).
Is Cannabis Oil Legal (and How Can You Buy It If It Is)?
Cannabis oil has different levels of legality depending on the source it was extracted from. Before purchasing cannabis oil, it’s important to know what is and is not legal in your state.
THC Oil & Concentrates
THC cannabis oil is only legal in states with recreational and medical cannabis legislation.
CBD Oil from Marijuana
CBD oil extracted from the marijuana plant is only legal in states of recreation and medication cannabis legislation.
CBD Oil from Hemp
CBD oil from hemp is legal in all 50 states. Because hemp contains less than 0.3% THC, CBD hemp oil is non-psychoactive and therefore permitted (and regulated) across the country.
Marijuana Essential Oils
Cannabis (or marijuana) essential oils are essentially terpenes. Extracted from the cannabis plant using steam, marijuana essential oils contain no THC and are non-psychoactive, making them legal in all 50 states (and a common ingredient in many health and beauty products).
Where to Buy Legal Cannabis Oil
Legal cannabis oil can be purchased in a few places, depending on your location.
THC oil and CBD oil extracted from marijuana can only be purchased in state licensed dispensaries.
CBD hemp oil can be purchased online from sites like COHempExtracts.com due to its legal status. Marijuana essential oils—and products made from them—can be purchased online as well.
What's the Right Dosage?
Cannabis oil is unregulated by the FDA, meaning that there are no official dosing recommendations. States with legal recreational marijuana have implemented their own dosage standards, but these can be hard to apply to the range of products available. For example, one edible dose is considered 10mg. But does that same dosage apply if you’re smoking a bowl or hitting a vape pen?
If you’re consuming cannabis recreationally, it is important to start slow. Depending on a number of factors, one dose may not be enough to deliver the desired effects. On the other hand, a single dose could end up feeling too strong or lasting longer than you intended. And if you’re taking cannabis to treat a medical condition or disorder, its typically recommended you speak with a medical professional about dosing.
Until the US establishes regulations on cannabis oil, finding the right dosage is a matter of trial and error.
Ask yourself, “What are my needs?”
A person with epilepsy or chronic pain may need a higher dose than someone seeking to regulate their sleep or “get high.”
Keep in mind, there are many factors that affect dosage. Dosage is dependent on height, weight, metabolism, method of consumption, and medications being taken. Dosage can also be impacted by your diet, sleep patterns, and drug/alcohol consumption.
Cannabis Extract FAQs
Before beginning to use cannabis oil products (or changing how you use them), many individuals have questions.
Let’s look at a few frequently asked questions regarding cannabis oil.
How strong (potent) should cannabis oil be?
Because it is an extract designed to maximize the presence of cannabinoids (primarily THC and/or CBD) and terpenes, cannabis oil typically totals 65% or higher. That means every 1g (or 1,000mg) would contain at least 650mg of THC or CBD.
THC oil will have psychoactive effects and should be used similarly to how you would consume any other cannabis product—a little at a time. CBD oil will not have any psychoactive effects (unless it’s paired with a significant amount of THC, but should be potent nonetheless. To ensure that you’re consuming a product with sufficient cannabidiol, be sure look at certificates of analysis to determine potency.
Where can I learn more about cooking with cannabis oil?
There are many websites and blogs dedicated to cooking with cannabis oil. We created a quick primer on how to make your own cannabis oil, and we suggest seeking out websites with instructional videos so you can create the most delicious cannabis-infused recipes.
Can I vape in public?
Cities and municipalities have their own laws regarding vaping in public. Before vaping in public, know the laws in your city! And if you aren’t sure, it’s best to assume you’re in an area where public consumption (even vaping) of cannabis is illegal.
Can I use a cannabis oil tincture or salve in public?
Cannabis oil tinctures and salves are pretty discreet methods of consumption that can be used on the go. That being said, if your cannabis oil tincture is THC oil, then yes, you could still get into some legal trouble.
Can cannabis oil be given to pets?
THC oil from marijuana cannot be given to pets. In small doses pets may experience disorienting effects, with larger doses leading to marijuana toxicity, which is dangerous and often requires an urgent visit to the vet.
CBD hemp oil, on the other hand, can be given to pets. While dosing is different and you should speak to your veterinarian before beginning treatment, your furry friends can benefit from all of the amazing properties of CBD.
Can I travel with CBD oil?
While we can’t offer legal advice (you should consult with your attorney if you have questions), you should be ok to travel with CBD oil if the total THC is less than 0.3%.
CBD hemp oil is even easier to transport since it is legal in all 50 states (and isn’t considered the same as cannabis by the DEA or FDA). The next time you travel, check your CBD oil labels: if it is made from industrial hemp or it notes the THC levels are below 0.3%, you should be safe to fly (just make sure it’s in a bottle under 3.0 oz).
What’s the best way to store cannabis oil?
Store cannabis oil in an airtight container or bottle and keep it in a cool, dark place to maintain flavor and potency longer.
Light, heat, air, and time will all serve to degrade the cannabinoids and terpenes present in a concentrate. And while that may not make the oil, shatter, or wax unusable, it may affect the look and flavor.
Does cannabis oil go bad?
While cannabis oil remains potent, it can lose some of its appealing properties. Over time, flavorful terpenes can become dull and stale. Similarly, THCA can degrade into CBN. And while that won’t make the product unusable, it can affect the flavor, potency, and your overall vaping or dabbing experience.
If for some reason you find mold anywhere near your cannabis oil, dispose of it immediately—this should never happen and moldy concentrates should NOT be inhaled!
Can you overdose on cannabis oil?
Overdosing on cannabis oil means different things to different people, so let’s quickly clarify.
No one has ever died by overdosing on a cannabis product. Ever.
If you take too much, however, you might find yourself feeling stronger effects than you were prepared for. In many cases, a cannabis oil “overdose” means you’re in an extreme state of euphoria and hunger (if it’s THC oil), or you feel sedated and couch-locked. Some individuals do experience negative side effects from cannabis, however, and more potent cannabis oil can make these side effects more severe (or last longer).
For example, some strains may lead to a hyperactive mind, which could contribute to feelings of anxiety or paranoia instead of helping you relax. Other times, you may feel too high, to the point of severe dry mouth and possible nausea (more common when eating edibles).
These side effects can be all but eliminated if you start slow and choose a strain of oil that fits your needs. So for the average consumer using cannabis oil, you do not need to worry about an overdose.
Want to Learn More About Cannabis OIl?
There are many aspects to cannabis oil, and this guide is just a starting point. If you want to learn more so you can stop feeling overwhelmed and start taking advantage of the incredible options available, stop by a dispensary you trust.
At Karing Kind, we’re Boulder’s first recreational cannabis dispensary, and our award-winning budtenders are standing by to answer your questions and help you find the right product for your needs.