A Medical Marijuana Concentrates Buyer’s Guide from Vytal Options

July 9, 2024by Keri Branch

Many medical marijuana patients require highly potent products to manage their symptoms, while others have developed a high tolerance to the point that flower just doesn’t cut it anymore. If that describes you, you might be in the market for medical marijuana concentrates. For the uninitiated, these product types may seem complex, varied, and confusing, but fear not because Vytal Options is here to help. This guide will help you understand the basics of medical marijuana concentrates and how they could be a useful addition to your health and wellness routine. 

Medical marijuana concentrates: the basics

Concentrates are among the most potent and varied types of medical marijuana available, including everything from bricks of hash to a litany of oil and wax extracts. You can expect to find concentrates ranging from 30% THC content to beyond 95% THC content, depending on the variety you choose. Concentrates are ideal for high tolerance patients, those who need significant potency to manage their symptoms, and those in need of fast-acting relief. 

Types of concentrates

Concentrates can be broadly categorized in two groups: extracts and non-extracts. Within each of these groups, there are multiple types of concentrates available. Below, we’ll take a closer look at each and provide some examples of the specific products you may encounter in a dispensary.

Extracts

Extracts are concentrates produced by separating cannabinoids and terpenes – the compounds that make medical marijuana “work” – from the plant material that contains them. They often contain more than 90% THC content, making them some of the most potent medical marijuana products available on the market. 

Extracts mostly appear as liquid oils or solid waxes, and they can vary a lot in their appearance, texture, and consistency depending on how they’re made. Here’s a closer look at some of the most common extracts you’re likely to come across when you visit a medical marijuana dispensary like Vytal Options.

  • Butane Hash Oil (BHO): This viscous, liquid type of concentrate can be sold on its own or in a vape cartridge, but it’s also commonly subjected to post-processing techniques to create other types of extracts, including the ones described below.
  • Budder: Sometimes also called badder or batter, budder is a wax extract with a creamy, whipped consistency that appears spreadable, much like the food for which it is named.
  • Crumble: Crumble is a wax much like budder, except its consistency is that of a brittle solid. When handling crumble, expect it to easily break into smaller granules.
  • Shatter: Shatter is a solid extract made by pouring BHO into a thin layer across a sheet and allowing it to harden. It is then broken into small shards, which is where it gets its name. 

Non-extracts

Non-extracts are the concentrates that have been around the longest. They tend to be less potent than extracts but more potent than medical marijuana flower, providing a great option for patients who want relatively strong relief without the overwhelming potency. Expect non-extract concentrates to range from 30% to 80% potency in most cases. 

  • Kief: If you consume medical marijuana flower, you’ll recognize kief as the fine, dust-like material that collects in the bottom segment of a grinder. Kief, sometimes called “dry sift”, contains a higher ratio of trichomes – the cannabinoid- and terpene-filled resin glands found on medical marijuana flower – to plant material, which means it’s more potent than medical marijuana flower.
  • Hash: Hash is produced by collecting dry sift kief and then pressing and heating it into a brick. The finer the dry sift, the more potent the hash. It may appear blonde, tan, brown, or black, and these bricks can be broken into smaller parts for consumption.
  • Bubble hash: Bubble hash is a variety of hash made from trichomes that have been collected through a process known as ice water extraction (which is explained in further detail below.) It’s similar to bricks of hash made by dry sifting, though it may appear a bit more airy or even porous, hence the name bubble hash. 

Ways to consume concentrates

How you consume your concentrates depends on the type you’ve chosen and your personal preferences. Here are some of the most common methods patients use when consuming concentrates, along with some examples of which concentrate types are appropriate for each.

  • Add it to flower: When inhaling medical marijuana flower, you can sprinkle a bit of concentrate into the mix to boost the overall potency. Solid concentrates like hash or crumble are ideal for this, since they’re a bit easier to handle and combust more readily than viscous extracts.
  • Use a dab rig or device: Dab rigs are the conventional way to consume extracts like budder, crumble, and shatter. To use a dab rig, you heat the “nail” or “banger” with a blow torch and then apply a small amount of extract, which is instantly vaporized. E-nails and other electronic dabbing devices are a modern, electronic version of a dab rig that provide precise temperature control and a user-friendly approach.
  • Use a portable vaporizer: Concentrate compatible vaporizers have made the process of consuming concentrates much easier. Simply load the chamber in accordance with the instruction manual, activate your device, and inhale.

However you choose to consume concentrates, expect significantly elevated potency. If it’s your first time adding concentrates to your routine, remember to start with a small amount and only gradually consume more over time as needed to avoid unwanted side effects like feelings of anxiety or discomfort. Should you consume too much, though, find a calm and quiet space to relax until these feelings pass; they should subside shortly as the effects of concentrates peak quickly but also dissipate shortly after.

How concentrates are made

There are a variety of methods used to produce concentrates, which is why there are so many types of concentrates available. We’ll start by examining at a high level how non-extracts are made, and then we’ll describe the processes by which extracts are made — sometimes, these processes overlap. 

Non-extract production methods

Non-extracts like hash are often produced through “mechanical separation”, a process of removing the trichomes from the plant without the use of a solvent. 

For example, manufacturers may employ a technique known as dry sifting, in which plant material is agitated over fine mesh screens until the trichomes fall from the flower and are filtered through the screens for collection. Once collected, the trichomes are pressed and heated to form a brick of hash, which could reach up to a rather potent 60% THC content.

Similarly, manufacturers may employ a method called ice water extraction to create a specific variety of hash known as “bubble hash”. In this method, medical marijuana plants are added to near-freezing water and agitated until the trichomes become brittle and fall off the plant. The water is then filtered through a series of fine mesh bags, separating the trichomes from the plant material. The trichomes are then scraped from the bags and pressed together into bricks of bubble hash. 

While these are two of the most common methods for producing non-extract concentrates, there are others you may encounter. The ancient art of making temple balls, for example, has re-emerged in the modern medical marijuana space.

Extract production methods

Generally, extracts are made through solvent-based extraction processes, which employ chemical solvents that can “pull” these compounds out of the plant material. Hydrocarbon extraction is one such method, which uses solvents like butane and propane to pull cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant. These solvents have low boiling points, making them easy to remove from the final product, leaving manufacturers with highly potent BHO exceeding 90% THC content.

Other solvent-based extraction methods include ethanol extraction and supercritical CO2 extraction, each of which has their own unique approaches to separating medical marijuana compounds from the plant. While the methods differ, these methods also produce a medical marijuana oil, which could be post-processed into other types of extracts as well. 

Additionally, there are some solventless extraction methods out there, which can be used to separate these compounds from the plant without the use of chemical solvents. For example, the bubble hash made through ice water extraction can be used to create rosin, a solventless extract that appears as a sticky, liquid oil. This is done by placing the bubble hash in a device called a rosin press that uses two heated plates to compress the bubble hash, melting the trichomes and squeezing out the rosin.

Looking for top quality solventless extracts? Check out our Solventless by Vytal products for some of the best live rosin and temple balls in Pennsylvania.

How to shop for concentrates in a dispensary

If you’re ready to purchase concentrates for the first time, keep these tips in mind to bring home the right choice for your needs.

1. Understand your goals

To make the best choice in a dispensary, you first need to understand your goals. Perhaps you’re looking for a product that excels at pain relief, or maybe you’re looking for something to calm the mind after a busy day. Whatever your unique circumstances, take some time to think about what success looks like for you before thinking about the concentrate you’d like to bring home.

2. Consider your preferred consumption method

Some concentrates lend themselves to certain consumption methods more than others. For example, if you want something to add to your flower to boost potency just a little bit, you might be more interested in a solid concentrate like hash, crumble, or even shatter. If you prefer vaporizing an oil, you might prefer to choose a concentrate like BHO or rosin. When it comes to consumption method, consider your personal preferences and how much cleaning and device maintenance you’d like to do before choosing a particular type of concentrate.

3. Check out the menu

Most dispensaries offer an online menu, so you can see what’s in stock before you stop in for a visit. We have six locations with their own menus at Vytal Options, each of which you can view online. Check out the link to view all our locations across Pennsylvania and see exactly what’s in stock at each dispensary.

4. Ask an associate for help

If you’re not sure which concentrate is best for you, just stop in and chat with an associate. Our team are experts on our products and can explain the ins and outs of each. We can even offer insightful recommendations for you based on your goals and preferences. Or you can dive deeper by booking a phone or in-person consultation with one of our on-site pharmacists, who can talk in depth with you about your medical history, prescription medication interactions, and product recommendations you can get from wellness associates. Don’t be afraid to speak up if you want some help. We’re always ready to make your medical marijuana journey easier and more enjoyable.

5. Try a few options

One concentrate does not fit all, and maybe one concentrate doesn’t even do all the jobs you need. Trying a few different concentrates will help you find your favorite, but it may also help you find a few choices for different situations in life. One may excel at alleviating pain, while another may give you a burst of energy when you’re feeling low. Managing your symptoms and boosting your quality of life is a holistic thing, and there may be multiple concentrates that fit into your routine to support your best life. 

Choose Vytal Options for concentrates and more

Whether you’re searching for top quality concentrates or another type of medical marijuana altogether, Vytal Options is your premier destination for Pennsylvania medical marijuana. If you’re ready to take the next step on your journey, we’re here to walk the road with you. Check out our vast selection at our locations statewide to see what we have in stock, and come be part of the medical marijuana community we’re all building together.