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As cannabis has become legal for medical and recreational use in various states over the past 20 years, there has been a lot of experimentation and innovation in the ways marijuana is cultivated and consumed. One of the most popular developments in the industry has been the rise of cannabis concentrates.

Cannabis Concentrates

The first cannabis concentrate originated in ancient India in the form of hashish. Cannabis grows wild almost everywhere on the Indian subcontinent, and special strains have been specially cultivated for use in the production of hashish for thousands of years. Hash quickly spread throughout south and central Asia, and although considered haram (forbidden) for Muslims, hash has been an undeniable part of Islamic culture for centuries.

Today, the most popular type of cannabis concentrate is butane hash oil (BHO). BHO is a cannabis extract that is made by pushing liquid butane through a holding container full of marijuana. The liquid butane and the cannabis trichomes, which contain the THC and other cannabinoids, are both nonpolar, so the trichomes are quickly dissolved into the butane. This process creates a solution containing butane, trichomes, and other waxes and oils from the cannabis. The butane is then evaporated from this solution, resulting in BHO that varies in texture and color depending on the specific methods used in the extraction process.

BHO has a variety of nicknames based on its consistency: hash oil, wax, shatter, budder, crumble, glass, sap, sugar, honey, honey toast, honeycomb, comb, snap ‘n pull, erl, whip, ‘tane, the list goes on.  BHO is consumed by smoking it either in a vaporizer or by dabbing.

An emerging solventless technique of producing shatter-like cannabis concentrates known as “rosin” technology may soon become more popular than BHOs. Rosin refers to an extraction technique in which heat and pressure is used to instantaneously squeeze out the resinous sap from cannabis plant material. One reason for rosin’s newfound popularity is that the process does not introduce any foreign substances in the extraction process.

Dabbing Defined

Dabbing refers to heating a dose of BHO or rosin, known as a “dab,” on a hot surface, usually a nail, and then inhaling the smoke through a dab rig. When the nail is hot, the concentrate is pressed against the nail using a small tool known as a dabber. “Taking a dab” is the process of touching, or “dabbing,” the dose of concentrate against the heated nail, producing a vapor which is inhaled.

Dab Rigs

Dab rigs are a specific type of water pipe that are used for smoking concentrates.

Unlike a bong, a dab rig is not designed to catch anything on fire. Instead, it has a “nail” that gets heated in order to vaporize the cannabis concentrate. Nails are made out of glass, titanium, or quartz, with each type of nail having distinct properties that affect the way dabs are vaporized. Nails are heated using either butane torches or electric, temperature-controlled heaters known as e-nails. Always remember to let the nail and dab rig cool completely before touching them.

Many bongs and water pipes can be modified into a dab rig by simply placing a nail where a bowl would normally be, although many dab rigs are optimized for smoking concentrates.


Woody Brown is a longtime cannabis lover. He is the owner and operator of Woody’s Smoke Shop, an online headshop with a wide selection of well-made, affordable bongs, water pipes, dab rigs, and recyclers.