What Is a Dab?

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Dabs are all the rage, but can you answer, what is dabbing? For starters, a dab is also called a concentrate. This means that it contains a concentrated amount of tetrahydrocannabinol. But unlike other forms of herb, there is a specific way you enjoy these concentrates: It's called dabbing.

At its core, dabbing is the flash vaporization of a cannabis concentrate, though the type of concentrate and method of extraction differ.

What Is Dabbing?

Not sure what this mysterious process is? We weren't either, at one point. Dabbing is the process of smoking a dab or concentrate. It typically involves heating that substance on a hot nail and inhaling the smoke through a dab rig or silicone bong with an addition.

This type of smoking has been available for a decade, making it one of the newer ways to enjoy everyone's favorite herb. With more mainstream weed tech on the market, dabbing is accessible to more people than ever before.

The following is not medical advice. It is written for educational purposes only.

What Is a Dab?

Okay, so we said that a dab is a cannabis concentrate, but what are the differences between different types of dabs? Excellent question. Keep in mind that there is no official definition or distinction between types due to the nature of the cannabis industry: Until very recently, the herb was universally banned or criminalized. This means that methods of ingestion — and the terminology surrounding them -- are far from standardized. It's also part of the fun.

In short, a dab is a concentrated amount of THC extracted using a solvent to separate it from other terpenes and cannabinoids, like CBD. There is one notable exception to this definition: rosin. Rosin is the heated sap from the cannabis flower buds. It does not involve a solvent like butane.

Is Dabbing Dangerous?

Since it became popular, concentrates have been demonized for their potency and the danger surrounding them.  In short, dabbing can be dangerous. The most potentially harmful aspect is when unqualified people try to extract their own cannabinoids. Playing with gas may result in an explosion, so don't try it at home.

At Home Extraction Is a Terrible Idea

That is not the only concern when it comes to creating concentrates. Oil, one type of concentrates, can be "dirty": This means that it contains traces of the chemicals used in its extraction, such as solvents. Dirty oil may be bad for your health — another great reason not to try extracting concentrates based on a YouTube video.

How do people who actually know what they're doing extract concentrates like oil? They are extraction professionals with access to high-grade lab equipment and solvents and are equipped with knowledge of safety and quality standards.

Dabbing Itself May be Dangerous, but Doesn't Need to Be

The O.G. way to dab involves a hand torch to heat the nail. This way is also the most potentially dangerous: using a hand touch may be perilous if the person using it has already smoked too much or has no experience. Additionally, if the nail is not secure, it can also pose safety issues. Dabbing does not have to be dangerous with the right precautions, concentrates, and a level head.

Are Dabs Themselves Unsafe?

The appeal of dabs for most people is their potency. In other words, if someone smokes too much, they will get uncomfortably high. Specifically, concentrates clock in between 60 and 90 percent THC. That is a lot of cannabis' leading psychoactive cannabinoid, i.e. the compound that produces a high.

There are zero reported deaths associated with dabbing too much, though the process may produce anxiety due to its intensity. Expert cannabis connoisseurs will advocate for starting with a small dab first.

Long term, are they dangerous? Dabbing is so new (around for about a decade) that, in short, no one knows. There is no research on the dangers of potential exposure to solvents and pesticides. Choosing to ingest concentrates is a personal decision.

3 Dabbing Extraction Methods

What is a dab? It can mean a lot of different things, all of which are high in THC. The main distinctions between concentrates are their texture, THC content and (some would argue) flavor, though keep in mind that types of dabs may vary in flavor from different strains. Here are 3 main types you should be able to recognize:

  1. BHO or Butane Hash Oil: A concentrate containing large amounts of THC that is extracted from the cannabis flower using butane gas. It's also called Butane Honey Oil because it has honey's golden brown color. There are many types of Butane Hash Oil based on the consistency, humidity, and heat applied to it. However, at their core, extracting, dabbing and feeling BHO is always about the same.
  2. CO2 or Carbon Dioxide: An extraction process that uses carbon dioxide to separate the plant and its trichomes. During this process, pressurized CO2 becomes a liquid, which is used to transform the plant matter into a concentrate. Typically, CO2 extraction results in a yellowish or clear dab.
  3. Rosin is the third type of dabbing concentrate. It differs from the other two because only heat and pressure are involved -- which in most cases means using a hair straightener. In essence, rosin is the process of separating resin from the plant without chemical solvents.

6 Dab Types

These three extraction methods can further be divided into different types of dabs, though many have overlap. Here are a few concentrates that you'll see in a dispensary.

  1. CRUMBLE or HONEYCOMB: Named for its appearance, crumble has a brittle, soft texture that will "crumble" if the user isn't careful. It's thought of as a subset of wax.
  2. SHATTER: It looks like a flat pane of glass and will -- you guessed it -- shatter if you drop it. Shatter is sometimes thought to be the most "pure" substance for dabbing because of its clear color, but the color does not necessarily indicate purity.
  3. SAP: Similar to shatter, except more like an oil than a piece of glass.
  4. Pull-and-snap: Sometimes thought of as a subset of shatter, a pull and snap is halfway between shatter and sap due to a high terpene content and heat.
  5. WAX: With crystalized molecules, wax is a non-consistent type of concentrate. It can vary far and wide depending on terpene content: A gooey wax is called budder while a brittle one is usually labeled honeycomb.
  6. LIVE RESIN: One of the most popular types of dabs, live resin is a subset of BHO that involves freezing. Unlike the other methods, live resin crops are frozen immediately following harvest and remain frozen throughout extraction.
  7. BUBBLE HASH: A hash-derived concentrate extracted using ice water, sifting, and sieving.

The above is not medical advice. It is written for educational purposes only.

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