A runny, translucent oil devoid of the waxes or undesirable compounds from the original plant. Distillate is desirable due to its potency and versatility. It can be used to dab, vaporize, and mix in as an ingredient in edibles, topicals, and other products. Distillate concentrates are achieved through an extensive distillation process that separates compounds from cannabis plant matter.
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.
Does distillate get you high?
Whether distillate gets you high depends on the precise cannabinoid you're consuming. The main benefit is that by removing virtually everything except for the desired cannabinoid, the final product is incredibly potent. For that reason, if you're consuming a THC distillate, you will probably get very high, as the resulting oil will be almost pure THC content. On the other hand, if you're consuming a CBD distillate, you will tap into the therapeutic benefits of CBD but, because CBD doesn't produce intoxicating effects, you will not get high.
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.
How is distillate used?
Distillates can be consumed on their own using a dab rig or portable vaporizer. You can also vape them using a distillate cartridge and vape pen. Dabbing or vaping distillates yields a nearly odorless vapor, depending on whether it's been flavored, with their effects typically being experienced instantly. Adding drops of THC distillate to flower in a rolling paper or bowl intensifies the intoxicating high without altering the flavor or smell.
As an alternative to vaping or smoking, you can make distillate edibles or topicals. In edibles, distillates provide the desired cannabinoids without any plantlike taste. For edibles prepared at home, the oil should be introduced with low doses, about 5 milligrams or less THC per serving, then slowly increase the dosage for the desired potency and taste. Distillates can be consumed on their own and dropped sublingually, or under the tongue. This type of oil can also work in topicals, which are applied transdermally, or applied to the skin and absorbed.
Distillates allow cannabis product manufacturers to separate the various cannabinoids and terpenes, then recombine them into specific ratios. For example, the starting material from a harvest of cannabis plants may not have enough naturally occurring CBD to produce a tincture to help treat anxiety disorders. With distillates, a more accurate CBD-to-THC ratio can be achieved.
Manufacturers also use distillates for producing cannabis edibles, both for the ability to portion the cannabinoids and terpenes into precise amounts, as well as for their flavorless quality. Cannabis butter is another common ingredient used for edibles, but it can add a dry, astringent taste. With distillates, manufacturers can have greater control over the taste of their infused edibles.
What is a distillate pen?
In today's market, you can easily find vape pens that contain pure distillate oil. These products feature a cartridge filled with THC distillate, a heating element, and a battery that powers the heating element. As with any vape pen, the heating element vaporizes the oil inside the cartridge, and the vapor is then inhaled through the mouthpiece. Because it contains such a potent form of extract, these vape pens tend to be very strong.
How is distillate made?
Distillates are, in essence, cannabis extracts that have been purified and processed to separate the cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD, into precise amounts. They're made from cannabis extracts that have been winterized, decarboxylated, and then distilled.
WARNING: THE MANUFACTURING OF DISTILLATS AND OTHER CANNABIS CONCENTRATES SHOULD ONLY BE PERFORMED BY PROFESSIONALS AS THESE PROCESSES CAN BE EXTREMELY DANGEROUS AND ILLEGAL IN MANY JURISDICTIONS.
For safety and health reasons, producing distillates should be left to professionals with proper equipment and in safely controlled environments, as the setup and materials require precision and accuracy.
The process typically starts with crude oil extraction, which is any process where the cannabinoids are separated from the cannabis plant material. A crude extraction involves either a physical means of separation or a chemical means of separation. Physical separation techniques, such as sieving or rosin, tend to yield concentrates containing more plant impurities than chemical-based extraction methods, namely Butane Hash Oil (BHO) or supercritical fluid carbon dioxide extraction. Whether the cannabinoids are separated by physical or chemical means, the crude extract produced contains impurities that must be removed before the oil can be separated into its individual cannabinoids.
The next major step in producing distillate is called winterization. It is a method to purify the crude extract of byproducts: plant waxes, fats, lipids, and chlorophyll. The crude extract is mixed with ethanol. The solution is then placed in a very cold environment for 24 to 48 hours. The impurities coagulate in the cold temperature and precipitate, or separate, falling to the bottom of the container. This is similar to baking a chicken: the excess grease and juices drip down into the pan and thicken when cooled. The crude extract and ethanol solution is then passed through a filter. After filtering, the ethanol is removed. Ethanol can be removed using a variety of techniques, such as a rotary evaporator or a falling film evaporator.
The extract at this point wouldn't be very potent. THC, for example, is the well-known compound and active cannabinoid that produces an intoxicating effect. However, it's tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), that's found at this stage. THCA doesn't produce an intoxicating effect. THCA becomes THC after heat is applied. This process is called decarboxylation.
THCA isn't the only cannabinoid that needs to be decarboxylated in order to interact effectively with the human body. All cannabinoids in their acid form must first be decarboxylated. In fact, there is no THCA in distillate because it's always decarboxylated.
Decarboxylation is the process of removing the carboxylic acid from a cannabinoid's chemical compound. A cannabinoid is decarboxylated when it's heated to the point of eliminating the carboxylic acid. By removing that acid group, the cannabinoid can readily interact within the body and bind to the receptors in the nervous system — specifically, the cannabinoid type 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid type 2 (CB2) receptors.
The point of decarboxylation depends primarily on time and temperature. For example, THCA begins to decarboxylate into THC when it's exposed to heat at 220 degrees Fahrenheit, or 104.44 degrees Celsius, or to an open flame. When producing cannabis edibles, extractors will decarboxylate cannabis oil, then mix the resulting concentrate with other ingredients to infuse foods, confections, and beverages with active cannabinoids such as THC and CBD.
The final steps for making this cannabis oil involves the actual cannabis distillation process. Using vacuum pressure and heat, individual cannabinoids and terpenes can be separated from the decarboxylated extract according to their unique boiling points and molecular weights. In a vacuum environment, where the pressure can be strictly controlled, the boiling point of can be achieved at much lower temperatures to help prevent the loss of potency.
Cannabis distillate can be an efficient way to get high or experience specific cannabinoids in their most distilled form. To get the most out of cannabis distillates, be sure to purchase them from legal brands and licensed dispensaries.