A drop of cannabis oil distillate sits perched on the edge of a dabbing tool. Taut like a raindrop, this viscus and opaque orb glimmers as it rests within the concave folds of titanium. Encased within this golden drop of goodness is a semi-translucent, 99% pure decarboxylated and distilled tetrahydrocannabinol sap: pure THC.
What is distillate?
Distillate is a cannabis extract in which the final product has been systematically stripped of all materials and compounds except one specific cannabinoid.
Distillate is the base ingredient of most edibles and vape cartridges, and typically lacks any flavor, taste, or aroma. It’s a potent cannabis oil that can be used on its own or infused in other cannabis products or goods. The most common forms of distillate on the market are THC oil and cannabidiol (CBD) oil. The name of the oil indicates the most prominent cannabinoid. In the case of CBD oil, CBD would be the most prominent cannabinoid. The name distillate refers to the cannabis purification process that removes and separates the cannabinoids, such as THC or CBD, into unique products.
Distillate is extremely potent, though it lacks the terpenes, or naturally occurring flavors and aromas, of the cannabis plant. One benefit of having the natural terpenes removed is being able to have complete control over the final product’s taste and smell. A drawback of removing terpenes is that without them, the final product may lack the therapeutic benefits commonly attributed to the entourage effect. Adding terpenes to distillate later in the process is possible, and many manufacturers do this, though it’s been theorized that any medicinal advantages are reduced by their initial removal.
Can you eat distillate?
Distillate oils can be applied many different ways, be it through oral, sublingual, or transdermal application, or even though vaporization and inhalation (e.g. dabbing). Raw distillates can even be used as-is or combined with other products to create powerfully medicinal combinations with broad applications.
Given the sheer versatility of cannabis distillate oils, it’s no wonder this product is worth its weight in gold. Distillation may be relatively new to the current cannabis concentrate market, but rest assured that this well-developed botanical extraction technique is suited to set the paradigm for cannabis extraction and refinement. If you desire the cleanest, clearest, and by far the most potent pure THC concentrate available on the market, cannabis oil distillate may just be the perfect product for you.
How Are THC Distillates Made?
As already mentioned, concentrates are usually produced by raising the pressure and/or temperature at some point during the extraction process. The focus of the solvent extraction is usually the cannabinoids THC or CBD.
The problem with focusing on just the cannabinoids is that the other beneficial chemicals in the marijuana plant — terpenes and flavonoids — have very different boiling points.
So in the process of extracting the cannabinoids, the terpenes and flavonoids are usually destroyed. This dramatically affects the purity and potency of the final concentrate.
But by using steam distillation and fractionation, ALL of the cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids can be collected in one final product without any leftover solvents. That’s how THC distillates can weigh in at 99-percent purity.
The complete process can get pretty complicated and requires some specialized equipment, so you really can’t do it at home. But to give you a general idea, here’s how steam distillation and fractionation are done:
- Combine a solvent and cannabis plant matter to extract the cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids.
- Raise the temperature of this solution to boil off the terpenes and flavonoids (they have a lower boiling point than the cannabinoids).
- Allow the steam from this boiling to pass through a water-cooled tube that causes the gas to turn back into a liquid. Those are the terpenes and the flavonoids.
- Raise the temperature of the solution even more to boil off the cannabinoids.
- Allow the steam from this boiling to pass through a water-cooled tube that causes the gas to turn back into a liquid. Those are the cannabinoids.
- You now mix the terpenes, flavonoids, and cannabinoids together, let it solidify, and you’ve got your THC distillate.
There’s quite a bit more sciency stuff that goes into it, but that’s the basic technique. Having trouble visualizing the whole thing?
Thanks to Wikipedia, you don’t have to use your imagination. Here’s a simple illustration of the distillation process (the action goes from lower left to lower right).
When all is said and done, you’re left with an amber liquid about the consistency of thick honey. You allow the distillate to harden (or keep it as an oil), and you’re good to go.
Again, there’s a lot of technical knowledge that goes into creating a distillate, so we don’t recommend trying it at home no matter how simple we’ve made it sound.
Stills can explode if not operated correctly, and we’d hate for you to get injured trying to make something you can (or soon will be able to) buy at your local dispensary.
Is distillate the same as oil?
Distillate is one of the most commonly made types of cannabis oil, often coveted by consumers for its potency. And because it has been stripped of virtually everything other than cannabinoids it is extremely versatile, capable of being consumed on its own or as the base of numerous other cannabis products.
While all distillates are oils, not all cannabis oils are distillates. A cannabis oil is only a distillate if all other materials and compounds, including terpenes, have been systematically stripped and removed. There are many other types of marijuana oils on the market that have not undergone that process.
WHAT ARE THE NEGATIVES?
As stated by High Times Magazine, there is a large misconception that distillates are the “hot dog” of concentrates, meaning they are produced from the “leftovers” of plant trimmings. This largely misunderstood concept is false because, as we’ve learned, producing distillate is a refinement of concentrate oil and not the other way around.
In some cases, however, THC distillate can be produced from a consolidation of leftover plant trimmings, and although most distillates have very high potency, the potency of the final product completely depends on its origin. Low-grade flower, for example, will produce low-grade distillate, and vice versa. To avoid these lesser quality THC distillates, search for higher potencies from reputable dispensaries, such as Grant Pharms MMC in Colorado Springs, CO.
Although distillates are the cleanest cannabis product on the market, some patients feel that it’s a bit too sterile. Increasing cannabinoid potency means decreasing terpenes—the compound that gives each strain its unique smell and taste—so, for users that enjoy the sensory experience of cannabis, this may not be the most favorable consumption method. On the other hand, this may be the very reason distillates are attractive to medicinal users who are purely searching for relief. The good news is, distillers are able to add terpenes back into the distillate at the end of the process, which would dilute the overall potency but add back the tasty flavor and smell that’s produced by terpenes.