THC Distillates 101: Everything You Need to Know About Production, Taste, Effects, Flavor & Storage

The advent of cannabis legalization and its increasing social acceptance within the United States has led to the development of several new and novel cannabis products and administration methods.

One of the most potent concoctions coming to light is cannabis distillate. This guide will explore what THC distillates are, their safety profile and how they are used, as well as their benefits and potential disadvantages.

What Are Cannabis Distillates?

Cannabis distillates are derived through a thorough refinement process that separates the compounds from the rest of the cannabis plant matter. This normally involves a process called "short path distillation" (discussed in more detail later in this guide) and produces a final product that is low in viscosity, translucent and devoid of all undesirable compounds from the plant matter. 

Cannabinoids are responsible for the psychoactive and medicinal effects of the cannabis plant and are found within the trichomes of the female inflorescent buds.1 These are first synthesized as acid cannabinoids and readily decarboxylate upon heating.2 Nonpolar solvents (such as butane and supercritical CO2) “are used to extract acid cannabinoids in an oleoresin that includes terpenes, waxes, fatty acids, steroids, lignins, etc”.3

While BHO (Butane Hash Oil) usually contains acid cannabinoids, superfluid extract (SFE) may contain acid or neutral cannabinoids. From here, vacuum distillation allows manufacturers to curate custom-made terpene and cannabinoid profiles that are commonly referred to as distillates.2

These distillates are commonly amended or “enhanced” with terpenes, which are added to the final mixture. New users should be wary, however, as THC concentrations of distillates can reach as high as 99%!

cannabis distillate crystals

How Are Cannabis Distillates Commonly Consumed?

Cannabis distillates are commonly “dabbed” using high-temperature dab rigs for consumption. The distillation process allows for the removal of non-medicinal and unpleasant aspects of the plant matter, allowing for a more therapeutic and satisfying medicating experience.

Patients have many options to choose from when selecting a device that can vaporize cannabis distillates for consumption. They can also be used in edibles, or to create “juice” or liquid for vaporizer pens.

 

Woman using dab rig to consume cannabis distillates

 

 

 

 

 


What Form Do Cannabis Distillates Come In?

Cannabis distillates are pure and refined products that utilize short-path distillation to create a clean, almost clear concentrated product. This technique utilizes a multi-stage, complex processes to isolate cannabinoids like THC and CBD. It is made by using cannabis extracts that have been winterized, decarboxylated and then distilled to isolate the final desired products. 

Concentrates that are considered distillates are considered “solvent-free” due to this form of extraction. They have zero parts-per-million (ppm) residual solvent, thus creating a highly-transparent and concentrated product that represents a high level of purity. Terpenes and cannabinoids (such as THC and CBD) are re-infused into concentrates to create pure distillate products with maximum potency for consumers.

This is the reason distillate products have been named “the Pure” or “the Clear,” as they are highly translucent and are generally more consistent than products like BHO, which leaves behind unpleasant residue. The texture of cannabis distillates is similar to that of honey, especially in viscosity (the thickness of the liquid product).

To learn more about the different types of cannabis extracts available, check out our article on the Diverse World of Dabs & Cannabis Concentrates.

What Consistency/Flavors Are to Be Expected from Cannabis Distillates?

Unlike other products, it’s important to understand that cannabis distillates generally don’t taste like other cannabis products. On their own (prior to adding terpenes), distillates have no flavor by themselves.

Thus, manufacturers generally add cannabis-derived terpenes for added flavor and therapeutic benefit. The following chart helps elaborate further on the different terpenes that can be added, their benefits, and how their additions affect the overall taste of the distillate.4

flavor consistency of cannabis distillates

CANNABIS TERPENE CHART AND HOW TO ADD THEM TO CANNABIS DISTILLATES

LIMONENE

PINENE

MYRCENE

LINALOOL

CARYOPHYLLENE

Citrus, lemon aroma

Pine aroma

Musky, earthy aroma

Floral, sweet aroma

Woody, spice aroma

Stress relief and elevated mood effects

Creativity, alertness and euphoric effects

Sedation, body high, relaxing effects

Calming, relaxing effects

N/A

Anti-anxiety medicinal use

Asthma, anti inflammatory medicinal use

Antioxidant, insomnia medicinal use

Anti-anxiety and sedative medicinal use

Chronic pain, insomnia medicinal use

Super Lemon Haze, Lemon Skunk strains

Trainwreck, Bubba Kush strains

White Widow, Blue dream strains

Skywalker OG, Headband strains

White Widow, OG Kush strains

Also found in citrus, peppermint

Also found in parsley, basil, rosemary

Also found in mango, thyme, lemongrass

Also found in lavender and rosewood

Also food in pepper and clove

 

What Are the Best Ways to Store Distillate Products?

It is generally easier to store cannabis distillates over flower when one learns the proper techniques.

The best containers are usually dependent upon the consistency of the extract. For instance, some distillates will get stuck to the sides of glass containers and require a nectar collector when attempting to consume the product.

Silicone Containers

Medical grade silicone is a good, short-term container, as it is malleable and will easily allow one to scoop out all of their available extract more easily. However, since it is not airtight, it is more suited towards short-term rather than long-term storage.

Parchment Paper

Parchment paper may be ideal for certain types of extract, such as shatter, but if the product is “runnier” then it may not be ideal. Plastic jars are also an option, but make it nearly impossible to remove the entire product from the jar, as it sticks to sides.

Cool, Dry Area

Overall, it is important to remember to store distillates and other concentrates in cool, dark places for longer periods of time. For people in warmer climates, the freezer may be the ideal storage location for long-term distillate storage, as it is cool and dark.

how to store cannabis distillates glass jar

Closing Thoughts on The Value & Utility of Cannabis Distillates

When it comes to THC distillates, seeking out high-quality distillates from licensed dispensaries and certified manufacturers is crucial in obtaining the best product.

Distillates have the benefit of providing a clean, pure, and highly concentrated dose of cannabinoids to the consumer—compared to other extract products—without unwanted byproducts. To learn more about the diverse world of dabs and cannabis concentrates, be sure to check out our article on cannabis concentrate science here.

Works Cited

  1. Kim, E. & Mahlberg, P. Immunochemical localization of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in cryofixed glandular trichomes of Cannabis (Cannabaceae). Am. J. Bot. 84, 336 (1997).
  2. Meehan-Atrash, J., Luo, W., McWhirter, K. J. & Strongin, R. M. Aerosol Gas-Phase Components from Cannabis E-Cigarettes and Dabbing: Mechanistic Insight and Quantitative Risk Analysis. ACS Omega 4, 16111–16120 (2019).
  3. Lewis, M. M., Yang, Y., Wasilewski, E., Clarke, H. A. & Kotra, L. P. Chemical Profiling of Medical Cannabis Extracts. ACS Omega 2, 6091–6103 (2017).
  4. What is Flavored Cannabis Distillate? 15 answers to questions you didn’t know you had! Weed Republic https://weedrepublic.com/blogs/how-to/what-is-flavored-cannabis-distillate-15-reason-why-you-need-to-try-it.

 

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