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 as an ingredient in Edibles, Topicals, and other products. Distillate concentrates are achieved through an extensive refinement process that separates compounds found in the cannabis plant.
“The CBD oil in these edibles are from distillate.”
“This brand has a Distillate oil vape pen cartridge that‘s worked wonders for me.”
More about Distillate
What is Distillate?
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 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 distillation process that removes and separates the cannabinoids, such as THC or CBD, into their individual portions.
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, Distillates may lack the therapeutic benefits commonly attributed to the entourage effect. Terpenes can be added back into distillate, though it’s been theorized that any medicinal advantages are reduced by their initial removal.
How is Distillate used?
Distillates can be consumed on their own using a dab rig or portable vaporizer, such as a vape pen or box vaporizer. Dabbing or vaping distillates yields an nearly odorless vapor, depending on whether it’s been flavored, with its effects typically being experienced instantly. Adding drops of THC Distillate to the flower in a joint or bowl intensifies the intoxicating high, without altering the flavor or smell.
As an alternative to vaping or smoking, Distillates are great in Edibles or Topicals. In Edibles, Distillates provide the desired cannabinoids without any plantlike taste. For Edibles prepared at home, Distillates should be introduced with low doses, about 5 mg THC or less 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. Distillates 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 occuring CBD to produce a Tincture to help treat anxiety disorders. With Distillates, a more desired 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.
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 DISTILLATES 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.
Distillate production typically starts with crude 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 (SFCO2). 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 undesirable byproducts: plant waxes, fats, lipids, 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 a 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 be decarboxylated prior to being distilled. 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 a Distillate involves the actual 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.