It is sometimes said that cannabis distillate is the future of the cannabis industry – it’s a pure, potent product that has no smell, and consists of almost pure THC. Like most other cannabis products, there is a pure CBD version as well, which is not psychoactive and is used for medicinal and anxiolytic purposes.
In this article, we’ll go more in-depth into what cannabis distillate is, how it is produced, how it is consumed, and whether or not it is better than all the other non-distilled and solvent-extracted concentrates available on the market.
What is cannabis distillate?
The aim of distilling cannabis is usually to produce a 100% THC product that contains none of the other compounds present in the flower. Of course, a distillation resulting in a 100% pure product is never possible and the actual THC (or CBD) content of the distillate is between 90 and 99%, usually around 95%.
During the distillation process, the active constituents of the flower are heated and decarboxylated. This means that unlike rosin, crumble, shatter, or any of the other solvent-based concentrates commonly used for dabbing, the distillate is ready to be consumed in edibles and doesn’t require prior heating to be ‘activated’.
How is cannabis distillate made?
All the commonly used, non-distilled concentrates, like shatter, batter and resin are extracted from the cannabis flower by the use of a chemical solvent, which passes through the flower-packed column and dissolves the active, oily compounds.
Other concentrates, like hash oil and rosin, are made by mechanically separating the THC-rich trichomes from the rest of the material and then pressing the oil out of them after applying heat.
Distillate, on the other hand, is produced by distillation. The material is heated, and the produced vapor is condensed, yielding the finished product. Because the material is heated only close to the boiling point of THC, most of the waxes and other volatile oils do not leave the heated material and are not present in the condensate.
A small amount of sugars and a tiny percentage of waxes still make it through, because they have a similar boiling point to the THC. Those ‘pollutants’ constitute around 1-5% of the finished distillate.
The distillation equipment to produce distillate is complex and expensive and if you want to purchase a distiller for home use, it can set you back at least $3000.
The equipment is so expensive because it has many complex features, like a vacuum pump and a mechanical stirrer that constantly moves the material around while it’s being heated in order to ensure even heat distribution.
The most popular type of distillation equipment is the short-path distiller, which features a fractionating column, designed to separate condensates with different boiling points.
A full-spectrum distillate can then be achieved by recombining the different condensates formed at different points in the column. This produces a product, which does not contain unwanted compounds (like chlorophyll or certain sugars) found in solvent-extracted concentrates, but which still produces the ‘entourage effect’.
How is distillate consumed?
Distillate can be vaporized in any equipment that is typically used for concentrates – dab rigs, vape pens, and vaporizers. Because it’s decarboxylated, it can also be directly consumed orally with no prior heating required to transform the THCA into THC. It can also be added to whole flower to make it more potent. CBD distillate can be added to high-THC flower to reduce its psychoactive effect or vice versa.
The disadvantages and benefits of cannabis distillate
The advantages of cannabis distillate are its lack of smell, it’s high, close to a 100% potency, and its low-residue vaporization when used in various vaporizing equipment, like a dab rig. Because there are no solvents involved in the extraction process, there is no risk of the concentrate containing any harmful residue found in the solvent.
Because by definition, distillate contains only compounds that can be vaporized at the boiling point of THC, dabbing or vaping it at the correct temperature leaves no residue behind, which reduces the need for cleaning your equipment. The lack of smell is obviously another great advantage, especially if you’re trying to vape discreetly.
The disadvantages of pure THC or pure CBD distillate are its lack of ‘entourage effect’, which is well known in the cannabis community. The entourage effect refers to the enhanced therapeutic effect that comes when all the waxy constituents, cannabinoids, and terpenes of the cannabis flower are consumed together.
Distillate aims to do the exact opposite – to purify the THC or the CBD as much as possible and get rid of all the other oily constituents. This may pose a problem, especially for people looking to take medicinal CBD. If you’re using CBD oil for its medicinal, anxiety-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects, you may find that a full-spectrum concentrate, which gives you the full entourage effect works better