What Are Dabs? All You Need to Know About Dabbing Marijuana

There are plenty of ways to consume cannabis, but dabbing has recently grabbed the community by the throat. This somewhat innovative way of THC delivery allows weed lovers all over the world to experience the true potency of marijuana extracts. Those on the medial bank of the river, on the other hand, have got yet another tool to combat their ailments.

If you’ve used up your weed consumption options, but you’re afraid of consuming dabs – don’t be. We’ve prepared a complete guide on what dabs are, how these goodies are made, what you need to start dabbing, and more.

Shall we?

What are Dabs?

As the popularity of THC-rich concentrates and extracts continues to rise, dabs are storming marijuana dispensaries. But what exactly are dabs in the first place?

Dabs are a type of cannabis concentrate, which is extracted from the dry buds a person usually uses to smoke or vaporize. Dabs are meant to be vaporized or smoked one dose at a time. Keep in mind the term “dabs” is not limited to just concentrates, as it actually refers to three things:

  1. A substitute for traditionally smoked cannabis flower
  2. An alternative method of using cannabis with a specific equipment
  3. The act of vaporizing extracts or concentrated form of cannabinoids.

Now, what most people call “dabbing” is the method of smoking or vaporizing the concentrate by applying (“dabbing”) one dose of it onto a hot surface. What the user inhales are the fumes produced during this act.

The reason behind the fast-growing popularity of dabs is the fact that extracted concentrates are definitely more potent than dry buds, making the user higher than a simple joint. Thus, if you have high weed tolerance, dabbing can be your last resort to take your marijuana experience to a whole new level!

As mentioned, dabs can come in several various forms, including:

1. Shatter

Shatter, also known as sheets, slabs, or glass, refers to an extract that looks like yellow or amber glass, with its semi-transparent, thin sheet consistency. This stable concentrate is made with cannabis oil whose molecules haven’t been agitated. When at or below the room temperature, shatter tends to break, which can lead to difficulties in measuring out the right dosage. Once you melt it, it will transform to a honey-like consistency.

2. Oil

Honey oil, hash oil or 710 – you name it. Oily dabs come in the form of a thick liquid, in dark-gold or amber shade. Usually, oils are smoked or vaporized, but it becomes more popular to produce ingestible varieties of this dab. Oils come in plastic syringes for easier transport and use.

Many people prefer oils over other dabs, as it’s easier to determine the proper dosage. Now, oils are very potent concentrates that can contain 80%+ concentration of THC. They are also used to make wax and shatter, which makes it a perfect transition between smoking dried buds and dabbing more ‘stable’ cannabis extracts [1].

3. Budder

Budder looks like peanut butter, which is where it got its name from. It usually comes in a golden brown, beige or yellow color.” and has a firm texture despite being very malleable.

4. Wax

Wax is a crumbly, coarse cannabis concentrate that often resembles earwax in both consistency and color. Also known as honeycomb, ear wax, flake or crumble, wax can actually come in various forms when it comes to texture and appearance.

Some of these concentrates tend to be sticky and have thick semi-solid consistency, while others come in a crumbly form similar to brown sugar. The main difference between wax and shatter is that the first one is not that soft to the touch, and it’s not as transparent as transparent as shatter.

5. Live Resin

These are usually really hard to find and many dab lovers claim live resin provides the ultimate dabbing experience.

What makes live resin so unique? Because of the unique production method, live resin provides an amazing opportunity to enjoy the nuances of a strain’s flavor and aroma. Usually, buds go through the drying process and this is where the production of extracts and concentrates starts. With live resin, it’s a different story. The concentrate comes in a form of oil, but it’s made from live, fresh cannabis plants.

How do People Make Dabs?

One of the oldest methods, which is mainly used to produce hash, is cold water extraction that involves using bubble bags.

As for more modern ways of making concentrates, the rosin method is perfect for those who prefer solventless extraction, as it only uses heat and pressure in the process.

Supercritical CO2 extraction is called the jack of all trades, but this technique is usually reserved for professionals, as the equipment is a very expensive investment.

And what’s the most popular way to make dabs? It appears that it’s butane extraction, which basically pulls out all of the terpenes and THC from the base material.

Professional manufacturers also make their extracts with a closed-loop method in a laboratory. The entire process is contained and sealed, which ensures safety and results in high-quality, potent dabs [2].

What about making dabs at home? Well, most people use the so-called “open-loop” technique, but it’s very dangerous, as the process is not sealed. When making dabs at home without sealed extraction rig, you can trigger accidental explosions because of the volatile gases accumulated in the air.

Basic Dabbing Equipment

Before you start your first dabbing session, you need to prepare some special equipment. Here is a quick breakdown of the most popular dabbing devices you can use.

Traditional Dab Rig

This is a classic piece of equipment for dabbing, also known as dab rig. In short, the oil rig is a water pipe designed for dabbing concentrates. The list of compartments includes:

  • a cannabis extract (duh)
  • a water pipe, which can be made with any bong once you get rid of the glass bowl pieces and replace them with your dabbing attachments
  • a nail that fits your water pipe. These are usually made of quartz, glass, ceramic or titanium. You can also find domeless nails, which are designed to use without having to replace or remove the dome.
  • a dome, which is placed around the nail and act as a trap for the vapor before you can inhale it
  • a torch for heating the nail
  • a dabber – it’s a simple tool for applying a dab. Dabbers can be found in a variety of materials but they’re usually made from metal, ceramic, or glass.

Vaporizers

When it comes to vaporizers, there is a wide range of options available on the market. You can either choose a more expensive, desktop model or stick to vape pens, which are usually much cheaper. Vape pens look like e-cigarettes and they work by heating the concentrate to the desired temperature. These units come particularly handy for dabbing shatter, oil, and wax.

Atom Bomb Rigs

If you’re looking for something that will be a combination of a traditional oil rig setup and vaporizing, consider atom bomb rigs. These devices are designed to heat your concentrates to the best temperature so you can inhale the vapor just like you would from a water pipe. All you have to do is load your dabs into the atomizer, which is powered by a battery to heat your concentrate. Atom bomb rigs are ideal for beginners, as they combine vaporization with water pipe dabbing.

Will Dabbing Get You High?

Some argue which kind of high is better: a dab or a weed high? Many users claim that the high after dabbing doesn’t provide the effects for as long as weed, may lead to abusing concentrates. This, in turn, can induce paranoid thinking due to the overwhelming amounts of THC inhaled every time [3].

However, one of the benefits of dabbing is how easy you can control the dosage. Plus, using concentrates is perfect for those who have developed marijuana tolerance. Although people still argue what is more beneficial: dabs or dry herb, these two methods are very different and there is no “better” option in general. Whether you prefer dabs over weed or the other way round, it’s up to you.

But yes, dabbing will get you high – and if you’re new to weed, you might have to find it difficult to land from that high.

How Much is Enough to Dab?

To be honest, dabs can be so powerful that some people have been hospitalized because of the excess amount used causing hallucinogenic effects. Even the weakest dabs are much more powerful than dry herb, so if you’re about to begin your dabbing adventure, you’d better start with the smallest dose of concentrate possible. Don’t be fooled by the tiny size of your dab – you will soon realize it’s exactly what you need to get a really intense high in just no time.

What determines the level of THC in a particular dabbing product? First of all, it’s the environment and whether the plant was grown outdoors or indoors. Next, the age of the plant material, when it was harvested, as well as the type of cannabis strain. Moreover, both the extraction method and the amount of time the material is exposed to the solvent can influence the THC percentage in a particular concentrate.

Do Dabs Really Come With More Flavor?

Usually, when choosing a dried bud for rolling weed in papers, people go with their favorite strains, depending on their aroma and flavor preferences.

And what about dabs? Do they come with more intense flavor than dried weed nuggets?  What things to look out for when choosing your next concentrate? Here are four things to write down and repeat a mantra when buying dabs:

1. Aroma

A good cannabis concentrate always has this specific weed-like aroma. Avoid dabs with pungent, foul odor or those with no detectable smell.

2. Taste

Top-notch dabs always taste like weed or like vaporized herb. If the concentrate tastes like solvents, steer clear not to potentially risk with your health.

3. Appearance

As for the appearance, it depends on the type of extract and can come in a glass form or be more similar to maple syrup.

4. Texture

Concentrates vary in terms of texture. A quality hash oil will have a syrupy consistency, while CBD-rich strains tend to be more crystalline.

How Much THC is in Dabs?

We already know that the level of THC depends on several factors, but usually, dabs come with 70% to 90% of this psychoactive compound. As mentioned before, there is a huge gap between the potency of dry herb and concentrates.

To start with, consider trying dabs with 70% of THC content before you work your way up. For more experienced users, the most exciting thing about concentrates is that they can even come with over 90% of THC in certain areas. For example, if you’re in California, you can find concentrates containing even 96% of THC!

Herbs vs. Dabs: pros & cons

We’ve already agreed that there is no straight answer whether or not dabs are better than the dry herb. Advocates of both make pretty good points, so let’s discuss all of the advantages and disadvantages of dabs when compared to dried bud.

Pros of Dabbing

One of the biggest advantages of dabs is the fact that they are way better for your health than smoking dried bud. When smoking a joint, there is a combustion process taking over and you inhale combusted plant matter, which goes straight into your lungs. As for the concentrates, these come with greater medical value, because they have less of this unnecessary material.

Speaking of smoking versus dabbing, the vapor inhaled from concentrates is cooler and smoother on both the throat and lungs when compared to the burned herb. Plus, when dabbing concentrates, you end up with far less second-hand smoke than while smoking a joint. Don’t have much time? Dabbing is way faster than rolling a joint and leaves no ash byproducts behind [4].

As for the medical use of concentrates, dabbing is definitely one of the fastest and most effective ways of using cannabis for health and wellness reasons [5]. Although concentrates are more expensive per gram than the dry herb, if you use top-notch products, the method will turn out cheaper in the long run.

People claim they prefer dabs over other methods of consuming marijuana because it takes fewer hits to get high and achieve the desired effects, which are usually stronger and different. Plus, concentrates seem to taste better than joints, as dabs have a cleaner and smoother taste than smoked bud.

Cons of Dabbing

With concentrates, it is a lot easier to go overboard with dabs. Moreover, the dab high is not only stronger and faster, but also more psychedelic than the dry herb high.

In order to start your dabbing session, you need to prepare specialized equipment, which can hurt your pockets. With joints, all you need is Mary Jane, decent papers, a tip, and you’re good to go.

Ironically, dabs can be problematic for people who need them the most, as some medical patients suffering from debilitating conditions may have serious issues trying to heat the nail with the torch.

And finally – storage. With dried buds, it’s easy because you can keep them in an airtight container, far from sunlight, and you’re good to go. However, concentrates can change their consistency depending on the temperature and air humidity, and they can also acquire flavors from the environment if you don’t store them properly.

How to Make Dabbing Safe?

The safest method of trying dabs is to start with a low dosage, as concentrates are way stronger than dry buds, but there are two golden rules to follow if you don’t want dabbing to become an ordeal.

First of all, always buy your goodies from a reputable retailer.  Buying dabs from a trusted source will ensure that you’re getting a concentrate that is safe for human consumption because licensed suppliers have their products rigorously tested for both quality and safety. And finally, there’s something your mom has always told you: keep your hands (and bong) clean – okay maybe without the bong part. No matter how good your dabs are, your session will be far from enjoyable if you keep inhaling the residue build-up from the dabbing equipment. With that in mind – always make sure that you’re dabbing from clean pieces, just for your own good.

To Dab, Or Not to Dab?

Recently, dabbing has been growing in popularity and it’s likely to continue to do so. Concentrates are best sellers these days; their potency – and various forms they can take – is what many weed lovers have long been looking for. Honestly, we can’t wait to see someone creating an almost 100% THC concentrate. Wouldn’t it be epic?

If you consider dabbing a bit over the top, try to look at them from the medical point of view. Dabs create more opportunities for medical marijuana patients to get faster and more effective relief from their ailments – if they can draw more benefits from weed, and at the same time, recreational users have yet another way to indulge in their green goodies, then who are we to judge?

Just out of sheer curiosity, are you Team Dabs or Team Flowers?

References:

  1. Giroud C., Cesare M., Berthet A., Varlet V., Concha-Lozano N., and Favrat B. E-Cigarettes: A Review of New Trends in Cannabis Use. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (2015); 12(8): 9988 – 10008. Published online on August 21st.
  2. Zhang W., Wang J., Mi Z., Lai C. H. Extraction and Analysis of Tetrahydrocannabinol, A Cannabis Compound in Oral Fluid. International Journal of Biology (2016); 9(30). Published online in December 2016.
  3. Freeman D. et al. How Cannabis Causes Paranoia: Using the Intravenous Administration of Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to Identify Key Cognitive Mechanisms Leading to Paranoia. Schizophrenia Bulletin (2015); 41(2): 391-399. Published online in July 2014.
  4. Loffin M., Earleywine M. No Smoke, No Fire: What the Initial Literature Suggests Regarding Vaporized Cannabis and Respiratory Risk. Canadian Journal of Respiratory Therapy (2015); 51 (1): 7-9. Published in winter edition in 2015.
  5. Miller B. L., Miller J. M., Stronger J. Exploring Butane Hash Oil Use: A Research Note. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs (2016); 48(1): 1-6. Published online in January 2016.
James Reed

James Reed

James is our in-house cannabis expert and foodie. He earned a Bachelor of Health Sciences with a focus on pharmacology several years ago and has since been working as a writer and editor for cannabis-related blogs and e-commerce brands. In his spare time, he enjoys exploring the landscape around his Crescent City home with his dog Gus.

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