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5 differences between cannabis concentrates and flower

March 29, 2016

Cannabis concentrates are becoming an increasingly popular consumption method, but their potency and unfamiliar form can be intimidating at first. Many consumers will stick to what they know and never feel compelled to deviate from a jar of sweet-smelling flower. But cannabis concentrates and extracts have many benefits to offer you may not realize—for example, concentrates can offer cleaner, smoother, and less odiferous hits as well as discretion in the form of convenient, portable vaporizers.

Explore Cannabis Concentrates on Menus Nearby

These five facts may be enough to get the cannabis curious started, but be sure to leave any other questions or advice in the comments section below!

1. Concentrates go by many names.

Although the multiplicity of strains available can make one’s head spin, even beginners have a pretty good idea of what they’re getting with flower, regardless of its name. “Concentrates” is an umbrella term that refers to a variety of different cannabis extracts and their monikers – and that’s where things can get more confusing.


Explore the Diverse World of Cannabis Oil and Concentrates

Imagine you’re standing at the glass counter of a dispensary. Inside you see the following items: shatter, rosin, BHO, CO2, wax, crumble, honey oil, dabs, hash, tinctures, and capsules. Don’t let the breadth of options drive you away–many of these are different names for the same thing. Here are some quick tips for narrowing your search down:

  • Shatter, wax, crumble, sugar, honeycomb, sap, and oil often refer to a concentrate’s texture. While some people have a preference of an extract’s consistency, what’s important to many people is the solvent used and how compatible that extract is with their preferred consumption method. Also be mindful of potency and understand that a high THC content does not always equate to the best experience.
  • Most concentrates are extracted using CO2, hydrocarbons, water, alcohol, and heat. Solventless extracts made using water (e.g., hash) or heat (e.g., rosin) are excellent choices for those wary of how consuming solvents might affect them.
  • Ask your budtender which oils work with your delivery method of choice. Looking to dab something? Maybe try their recommended shatter, live resin, or rosin. Do you prefer vape pens? Choose a cartridge that’s compatible with your battery. Interested in ingestible concentrates? Ask about dosing tinctures and oil capsules.


What Are Cannabis Oil, Shatter, and Wax Extracts?

2. Concentrates are more potent.

The most important distinction to make between cannabis flowers and concentrates is potency. While bud potency tends to range between 10-25% THC, a concentrate typically falls between 50-80% though some exceptional extracts can even push past 90%. Those numbers may be enough to scare off any under-seasoned consumers, and for good reason: dosing gets trickier as potency increases.

A mildly or non-intoxicating CBD-rich concentrate would be a good choice for beginners (that’s right, not all concentrates get you high). Hash and tinctures also tend to have lower THC contents than other types of concentrates, so you might consider steering toward those before graduating to the more potent oils. Just remember to always start with a low dose and work your way up if you’re new to concentrates or have a low tolerance.


Calm Down, East Coast: Cannabis ‘Shatter’ Media Coverage Woefully Overstates Its Dangers

3. Concentrates can be consumed in many different ways.

With bud, you can smoke it, vaporize it, and roll it, but there’s not much else you can do with it. Concentrates offer more options.

Dabbing—the process by which you apply an extract to a hot nail and inhale through a glass piece–is swiftly on the rise among cannabis veterans. Dabbing is an easy way to get a potent dose of cannabinoids, although the learning curve and equipment demands make it a less accessible option for new users.


How to Dab Cannabis Concentrates

Ingestible oils act like edibles in that they take effect slowly and last much longer due to the way they’re metabolized. These oils (or any extract, really) can be high in THC, CBD, or both. So if you’re interested in smoke-free methods – especially for treating medical symptoms and conditions–these capsules may be worth looking into.

Tinctures are a sublingual concentrate, meaning they’re dropped under the tongue and enter the bloodstream. They act faster than edibles and ingestible oils, though they’re often less potent.

Hash and oils may be also consumed using some of the same consumption methods as flower. Some vaporizers are compatible with “loose” oils, though some portable pens are specially designed to be used with specific cartridges of oil. The motivated enthusiasts can even roll their bud-packed joints with hash and oils.


The different ways to smoke and consume cannabis

4. Plant matter is stripped from concentrates.

Here’s one benefit to concentrates perhaps you’ve never thought of: extraction processes strip out plant material and isolate the compounds you want like THC and CBD (…and potentially some things you don’t want, in the case of pesticides, contaminants, and residual solvents; make sure the products you consume are tested).

When you smoke flower, you’re also smoking the plant material that leaves your glass black with tar. That can take a toll on your lungs. However, you may have noticed that when you dab oils, the glass and water stay clean for much longer.

Vaporizers heat cannabis below the temperature of combustion, but hot enough to extract beneficial compounds. This delivery method is ideal for health-conscious consumers.


How to Customize Your Cannabis High With Temperature

5. Flowers may have more flavor—but not always.

If flavor is something you care about, this point is for you: some concentrates will lose their aromas and flavors in the extraction process. Terpenes are the volatile, fragrant oils secreted by the cannabis plant, and they give the flowers their smells from the sweet, fruity, and floral to the earthy, piney, and musky. Being so sensitive to heat, it can be difficult to preserve terpenes in many extraction processes.

For this reason, many producers have begun reintroducing these aromatic compounds afterward–which can result in products even more flavorful than the flower they came from. Some extracts like live resin often retain impressive flavor profiles without a need to reintroduce terpenes, and many consumers will tell you that this refined form tastes better and cleaner than the flower it was derived from.

  • Urban Mythslayer

    We have a friend who did not have much experience with pot, had inhaled a few times with positive results. One night, she took 10mm of a gel THC and had a negative, paranoid, horrifying experience that has caused her lasting trauma. Be careful, this is a powerful drug. Start slowly and use low doses, ingestion changes the chemistry of THC.

    • DarkstarG

      If you tend to have anxiety issues at all, smoking a Sativa will set it off and put you in a bad place. Better off sticking with Indicas and Indica dominant hybrids.

      • BleedingGums

        I thought I was dying from a hybrid I tried a couple months ago. I’m gonna dare to do it again but this time I have a CBD Flower I’m gonna smoke in case I get anxiety to get rid of it.

        • ed horton

          when trying a new strain, always start with a small hit. wait a while, 10-15 minutes. review where you are at. proceed at will. too much, too fast can knock your socks off. building the high slowly is the way to go. imo.

          • Dmember

            Excellent advice. I can know by 20 min whether I need another hit. So be sure to wait after the first couple hits (vape) before vaping more. Strains do like to creep….upward as time goes by until they reach their peak.

      • Jon Windle

        I have horrible anxiety and ADHD and bi polar. I prefer Sativa strains. The more I can do to stay busy the better off I am as far as thinking too much and worries. Lemon Thai is a preference.

        • Boris Badenov

          I’m with you. I have mast cell disease or some such and I require high doses to feel normal. If I do indicas, I become a zombie but sativas help me have some energy and actually reduce my anxiety. I’ve taken large doses, but have shied away from huge doses. I’ve had a couple of strains cause some increased anxiety, but I just avoid using high doses of those strains. Straight THC isolate in a tincture has NOT caused anxiety so I think it is the other cannibanoids or the terpenes.

      • Jake

        I hear that all the time too. So maybe Im just wired differently but I’ve always found that the head high of the sativas tend to make me more care free and loose while the indicas make my body/chest feel weighed down which makes me paranoid.
        I still prefer indica despite this lol.

      • Mike_Scarborough

        Everyone is different and you have to try both sativa and indica strain groups to know which you prefer. The 10mm gel incident was a dosing issue, not a strain issue, and almost everyone has had (or will have) a dosing issue; especially with any kind of edible.

  • Great article. Easy to understand and just what I was curious about.

  • Steve Deering Senator-Lampoon

    I prefer concentrate cartridges, but I’m not crazy about the flavor additives. Don’t know what you’re getting and what the health risks might be. So wondering how you get pure stuff from a highly goofy industry.

    • DarkstarG

      It depends on the company, some reintroduce only the terpenes from the flower strain itself, other times companies use the same terpenes, but from another source.

  • Bill Kratzer

    reintroducing terpins sounds like something where a bit of chemical misadventure will happen

    • Allie

      And that’s a good thing, yes? I’m up for some chemical misadventure after what I’ve been through to get the stuff from a dr.

    • disqus_UQ1kwnz3WM

      I agree, since I have learned that tureleive dispensery use limonene in all of there products here in Florida and I happen to be allergic to limonene products.. I asked the staff who had no clue, it wasn’t until the manager got in touch with the manufacturer that we found this out.. now I am wary of any dispensery products here in Florida

  • Daniel Ponce de Leon

    So guys i smoke about a gram of top shelf medical buds a day (id guess) going from flower too wax will the wax last me a long time ? i always assumed it’d be faster but then again its stronger then shit so i can do less. Like how long would 1 gram of wax last someone like me ?

    • Dante-the-cat

      Do you really want to up your tolerance? Not me.
      I’ll stick to flower.

      • Darla Parker

        Hey everyone need expertise with any advice on flower wax to smoke with major chronic pain

        • HFTONE

          YES, definitely. I have DDD in my low back and am getting off opioids. CBD alone isn’t really helping the pain but I am sleeping better. It’s helping get off the pills but now I’m hurting like hell.

          • Suzanne Adams

            I have DDD and Spinal Stenosis in my entire spine. I have been using CBD tincture at low dosages(about 30mg/day) and have found relief via less inflammation. I am also trying to reduce my opiate use but am new to using marijuana. I’m hoping a high CBD concentrate with low THC will be the key. I just ordered a high potency CBD tincture(50mg per ml) to see if it helps more than the lower dosage I have been taking. I hope you find the right THC-CBD combo for you!

      • Boris Badenov

        Really depends on what you are trying to treat. Don’t assume I am like you and treating the same symptoms. There are a lot of variables to consider, most importantly your own needs! If you are doing it just to feel high, then yes, keep doses low and take breaks to reduce your tolerance. If you need it 24/7 for symptom relief and don’t want to be high all the time then you do want to increase your tolerance so that you are not loopy 24/7. Of course it is significantly more complicated than that for many of us, but this is just a simple example to explain that I am different than you.

  • Stephen Sylvestro

    I am having a difficult time distinguishing the potency of CBD oil among the different products offered in CT. I am looking for a high CBD product with minimal THC. Am I able to distinguish the strength by looking at the flower equivalency? For example,

    THC: 2.29% | CBD: 5.13% | CBG: 0.02% | CBC: 0.05%
    Flower Equivalence: 1.37g
    Product: Tincture
    Strain: CBD, Indica Dominent
    Size: 15mL

    THC: 3% | CBD-A: 0.9% | CBD: 3.1% | CBG: 0.1% | CBC: 0.2%
    Flower Equivalence: 8.61g
    Product: Oral Solution
    Strain: CBD
    Size: 30mL Bottle

    The THC/ CBD ratio is fairly close, yet the flower equivalence quite different.

    Any help understanding this would be appreciated.

    Thank you,

    • Eric P

      What you need is a hemp-based CBD oil. The stuff you are quoting is derived from marijuana (mostly indica). It is roughly a 1:1 ratio of THC to CBD.

      Hemp based oil has only trace (essentially zero) THC, which is why it is sold in many stores, online and in most non cannabis states, are not dispensaries.

      To you question of strength, yes flower equivalency is a good way to compare!

  • Cathy Mills-Buchanan

    Thanks for the info. I’m a dinosaur toker….did I have something to smoke or didn’t I? Now there’s this whole world of concentrates….so much to try. I’m loving exploring this new world.

  • Dmember

    So… is doing Dabs, like vaping …easier on the lungs?

  • Enuf Alrdy

    I’ve tried both on and off for a couple years and flower is by far the best in my opinion.

  • Damian Bludvins


  • WorksopGimp

    Whole new industry if we could just get out of this EU dictatorship, all I see is opportunity and good benefits for all involved in new ways of thinking

  • oils dont give a good high. More like pills. Is flower different?