by Martijn on 03/07/2014 | Uncategorized

Dabbing medicinal cannabis – what do you need to know?

Dabbing is the use of a cannabis extract in the form of oil, wax (a honey like substance), ‘budder’ (sticky substance) or shatter (hard, glass like substance). These substances are also referred to as Butane Hash Oil (BHO). By using a powerful heat source the BHO is heated and the vapour that is released is inhaled.

A bit of wax on a skillet (photo: Errlqueen)
A bit of wax on a skillet (photo: Errlqueen)

Dabbing has been around for more than 10 years as a method to administer cannabis, but since early 2013, its popularity has steadily increased. Sensi Seeds would like to take a closer look at this method to see what the benefits and dangers of dabbing are for the medicinal use of cannabis.

Dabbing is the use of a cannabis extract in the form of oil, wax (a honey like substance), ‘budder’ (sticky substance) or shatter (hard, glass like substance). These substances are also referred to as Butane Hash Oil (BHO). By using a powerful heat source the BHO is heated and the vapour that is released is inhaled. This method looks like vaporizing; another medicinal delivery method that Sensi has reported on previously.

Dabbing versus cannabis smoking

The big difference between smoking cannabis and using a concentrate is its purity. Flowers of the most potent cannabis strains contain approximately 30 percent cannabinoids, the active ingredients in cannabis. In addition, the flowers also contain an amount of plant material that hardly contains cannabinoids. This plant material has almost no medicinal value, it does not promote the health of the body and it is stressful for the lungs. Finally, tobacco is often used when smoking cannabis and those health risks are well known.

These health issues can, however, be avoided with a variety of alternatives, such as for example the processing of cannabis in drinks or the evaporation of the active substances in a vaporizer. Dabbing also belongs to those healthier forms of cannabis use, and of all inhalable alternatives it is the purest one.

How does dabbing work?

The dabbing method includes the use of the aforementioned substances cannabis oil, budder, wax or shatter. These are all concentrates of the active ingredients in cannabis, such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) plus the terpenes that supply flavour. If the concentrate is produced correctly, the result is a literal extract of the properties of the plant. This means that the specific smell, taste, and effect will be retained in the concentrate, but are available in a much higher extent. Good concentrates contain about 75 to sometimes 90 percent active ingredients.

Dabbing includes advanced equipment.

When dabbing was invented, people only used a hot knife. Nowadays dabbing includes advanced equipment, including a special dabbing bong (a sort of water pipe). On this bong is placed a small element in the form of a tube that is called the “nail”. This element is usually made of titanium, ceramic or glass. A powerful butane lighter heats up the nail. Then the user needs to put a bit of BHO on a metal pin (known as a skillet) and dab this to the nail. The vapour that is released will be inhaled at the same time through the bong. The method of the dabbing prevents the BHO from burning at once, but practice is needed in order to get a feel for the ideal temperature range so that the dabbing happens in the most efficient way.

Benefits of dabbing

The biggest advantage of dabbing is that the effect is much stronger in respect to smoking a joint or using a vaporizer. This makes dabbing very suitable for those suffering from acute and chronic pain and severe nausea because of its direct and very effective work. Achieving a similar effect by smoking a joint or vaporizer is unfeasible.
With the rising popularity of dabbing, the Albany University, State University of New York, recently performed a study on dabbing. This study has shown that dabbing is a healthy way of cannabis consumption. The data collected also showed that there is no evidence of more problems or accidents during dabbing compared to smoking cannabis buds.

The investigators have also considered whether dabbing may lead to a higher tolerance, and withdrawal symptoms. ”This isn’t surprising given the higher dose concentration with dabs,” Loflin explains.

A skillet.
A skillet.

Explaining her interpretation of the study, Loflin had the following to say: “The results suggest dabs might lead more readily to a dependency-related syndrome than flower cannabis, but there’s no evidence that its use is interfering in people’s major domains of life more than what we see with the use of flower cannabis.” Unfortunately there are no results yet on the long term use of dabbing.

Disadvantages of dabbing

The administration of cannabinoids by dabbing is not dangerous in itself although caution is needed. Some find dabbing looks scary because the act is reminiscent of smoking crack. As a result, there are people who claim that it does not contribute to a positive image of cannabis.

The extract itself, however, can be a problem. Making the BHO is a painstaking job which involves chemical solvents such as ethanol, alcohol, propane or butane. Making a pure BHO that has no solvents in it requires a lot of knowledge and experience, but because of all kinds of manuals on the Internet, it is tempting for some to try making it at home. If the process goes well, the final product is still often of poor quality because there are remnants of the solvents. If that is the case, the BHO will also contain the smell of a combustible. If it goes wrong, the result is always the ignition of the solvents during the manufacturing process, with all the consequences of a solvent explosion and fire.
Another danger is overdose. Although it is still not possible to die from an overdose of cannabis, the effects can be very unpleasant if too large a dose is inhaled. Caution is advised.

Someone dabbing during Hanfburg Cannabis Cup.
Someone dabbing during Hanfburg Cannabis Cup.


Finding a good way to administer medicinal cannabis can be a quest. What works well for one may not work as well for others. Cannabis extracts have much potency to offer, and for many patients, dabbing is a good consumption method. If the use of medicinal cannabis is considered, Sensi Seeds advises to first consult a medical specialist.



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Dabbing is the act of consuming (vaporising off a hot surface) a cannabis concentrate.
Bubble hash is made by incremental filtration using water and often ice. The highest quality bubble hash can be called 'dabs' because it can be consumed in this way. Other viable concentrates can be made with many non-polar organic solvents (short chain alkanes such as butane, hexane, isopropanol, ethanol, acetone etc...) to dissolve the desired compounds. Thanks.



Nice article on dabbing!


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