For the longest time, the number one thing I looked for in my cannabis products was the most amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) for my dollar. Back before I even knew what THC stood for, I knew that this psychoactive chemical compound elicited heightened sensory perception, boosts of creativity, sedation, and the munchies. All of those effects are great for a day of relaxation, but not all occasions call for drowning my brain in the THC cannabinoid.
When I first found out about THC distillate oil, I scoured Weedmaps for dispensaries that sold this moonshine of cannabis. For novice cannabis users, distillate oil has an overwhelmingly high concentration of single cannabinoids like THC or cannabidiol (CBD). Distillates can contain anywhere from 90% to 99% cannabinoids. Compared to traditional flower or other extract types, distillates provide users with a whopping amount of therapeutic chemical compounds.
While THC distillates can be a powerful treatment option for medical patients that require large doses of cannabinoids to relieve pain, inflammation, seizures, or muscle spasms, THC distillates can produce overpowering effects for many users. Without the other cannabinoids and terpenes in the final product, THC can cause a flurry of negative side effects including anxiety, paranoia, dry mouth, red eyes, dizziness, nausea, and confusion.
Most cannabis strains are bred for the highest amount of THC possible. Only recently has there been an uptick in popularity of CBD-rich flower and products. When taking CBD and THC together, CBD can dampen some of the negative side effects of THC. Many users take CBD-only products to avoid feeling “high.” CBD provides a significant amount of relief for many medical conditions, but some argue that all cannabinoids and terpenes are needed for the full “entourage” effect.
The distillation process takes advantage of the varying boiling points of cannabinoids and terpenes. By utilizing a process known as short-path distillation, growers can heat cannabis extracts at specific boiling points, collect its vapor, and cool it down to convert specific cannabinoids back into a liquid. The end product contains virtually no organic plant matter, solvents, pesticides, and terpenes. Without terpenes, however, you’re left with an odorless and tasteless (but potent) oil.
Some producers introduce cannabis-derived terpenes back into distillates in order to preserve the complete aromatic profile of the original strain. Other producers may use non-cannabis-derived terpenes or synthetic terpenes, which can alter the original scent to the chagrin of cannabis connoisseurs. A lack of terpenes has made distillate a preferred substance for incorporating into edibles to remove the “weedy” flavor that many people don’t like.
Distillates can be found in many cannabis products including pre-filled vape oil cartridges, edibles, topicals, and transdermal patches. The distillation process can transform a solvent-based extract into a pure and clear oil if done properly. My preference for distillates has waned in favor of full-spectrum products, but many concentrate users looking for the maximum high and relief turn to distillates for a powerful and unrivaled mind and body buzz.