Photography by Connor Fyfe for Herb
Dabbing in the cannabis community refers to consuming a dose of marijuana oil, usually being heated on a nail and then inhaled through a water rig. When you dab, you are heating a highly concentrated form of cannabis and inhaling the vaporized oil which gives you an intense high. The actual dabs can be made with a variety of different extraction techniques, the most common being butane hash oil (BHO).
Dabbing is heating up a surface, usually a quartz or metal nail, to a very high temperature, usually between 600℉ and 710℉, and “dabbing” a small amount of cannabis concentrate onto the nail so that it evaporates into a gas. The concentrate is heated quickly, automatically transforming from a solid to a gas to be inhaled through a dab rig, which usually has a chamber for water to make the inhalation less harsh.
Dabs, or BHO (butane hash oil), are cannabis extracts that contain a much higher THC concentration (70-90%) than the plant alone. They are created in a process that isolates the active ingredient found in marijuana, THC, through the use of butane gas as a solvent. While dabs can also be produced via methods involving ice water and carbon dioxide, the butane gas method is what is most widely used.
Dabbing has become popular as of late because it can induce a high using a smaller amount of the substance than if smoking weed conventionally. Given its THC concentration, a bit is all you need to achieve the desired effect, so resist the urge to go in with a huge dab if you’re a first-timer!
If you’re an experienced marijuana user, then dabbing may be worth experimenting with, especially if you have developed some level of THC tolerance. However, the practice is not recommended for novice cannabis consumers, as the induced “high” is amplified compared to the effects of smoking a joint.
For anyone who’s ever introduced a newbie to marijuana, you should know that the first-time effects could be too overwhelming for some people to handle.
Research regarding the health implications of dabbing is still rather limited, though dabbers may be susceptible to developing a tolerance to marijuana. This can lead to withdrawal symptoms if you then downgrade back to your traditional joint.
Of all the ways to smoke weed, dabbing does require the most tools for a smoke session. And since you’re working with a lot more flame than you get from a Bic lighter, preparing to do your first dab can be all around intimidating.
But when you have all the right tools in front of you, dabbing isn’t as complicated or time-consuming as it could be. From a high-quality dab rig to a container to store and protect your precious concentrates, here’s everything you need to dab.
Of course, the number one essential tool for dabbing is a dab rig. Dab rigs come in an array of sizes and styles and are up for grabs at a variety of costs. But for those new to the art of consuming highly potent extracts, it’s always best to start off small. Not just with the size of your dab, but also the rig you use to consume it.
Something else you’ll need along with your dab rig is a nail, which is where your concentrates will be placed and burned. Most dab rigs already come with one in the package. But even if they don’t, virtually all types of nails can be bought at an affordable price.
Thanks to technology, you can now find electronic dab rigs that make the process much simpler. They heat up instantly and allow you to dab your favorite concentrates without any hassle and on-the-go.
To drop your concentrates safely onto the nail, you’ll want a dabber. A dabber is pretty self-explanatory. It enables you to pick up your dabs and avoid sticky fingers. Using your fingers to handle your extracts is not only dangerous as the nail is extremely hot, but it’s also bad for them as it transfers oil and bacteria from your hands to your beloved stash.
Being that dabbers cost next to nothing, can be found all over the web, and come in so many different designs, there’s no excuse not to spend a couple of bucks on a dabber, especially when you pay top dollar for your dabs.
Another tool you need to consume sticky oils and waxes is a torch. Unless you have an E-Rig, a device that delivers flameless dabs, or an E-Nail, a more expensive tool used for heating traditional rigs without a flame, a torch is a dabbing necessity.
That’s because it’s what you use to heat your dab rig’s nail and get it to the perfect temp for dabbing, which is ideally anywhere between 350°F and 900°F. But for the best taste and the best high, you’ll want to stick to low-temp dabs.
Torches are everywhere, from Walmart to Home Depot, but some are better than others when it comes to how long they last and how fast they can heat up your rig. The Blazer Big Shot GT8000 is one of the best dab torches on the market.
Although it’s more costly than most and requires a 35-gram butane canister, which is more than what most need, this torch will last a lifetime and lets you select your temperature, is super easy to use, and even comes with a detachable base to prevent mishaps. The Big Shot GT8000 is just the kind of torch a beginner needs to dab confidently and safely.
A carb cap, or carburetor, is what you use to cover the nail as you inhale. Carb caps reduce airflow to your nail, allowing your concentrates to boil to the fullest extent. The more your concentrates cook, the tastier and thicker the smoke, and in more massive quantities.
While a carb cap is a newer tool used for dabbing and isn’t something you necessarily have to have, it improves the experience of dabbing significantly by ensuring that the quality, flavors, aromas of your waxes and oils are preserved. On top of that, it makes it so that you get a full hit and never waste a drop.
You can store your cannabis concentrates a variety of ways, but silicone containers are ideal for the short-term. Dabbing newbs aren’t likely going to need to save their extracts longer than a week, but if so, wrapping them separately in parchment paper and placing them inside a mason jar or another airtight jar will do the trick.
The goal is to keep them in a small, dark place. That way, all the flavors and potency of your extracts can be maintained. To learn more about storing dabs, glance over
Silly Jars Silicone Concentrate Jars are just the right size for storing all your sticky substances. They are 4 cm in diameter, making it a spacious place for keeping your dabs safe. Not to mention, these concentrate jars are quite cheap. And since they are made of food-grade silicone, your extracts will stay in the same, perfect condition as when you first bought them.
While a dab mat isn’t a necessity per se, it is something you need to dab the hassle-free way. Dab mats not only keep your oils and waxes neatly in place, but they are also designed to slide under your dab rig and help keep that in place too.
No matter the size of your apparatus or how many tools or extracts you have, dab mats are available in all sorts of sizes and can keep even the vastest collection of dabs and dab essentials organized.
Beginners don’t need a large dab mat right away, just something small and simple, like a Debowler Dab Mat. It can be used for your at-home dab station or for travel. Both heat-resistant and microwave-safe, these silicone mats handle all concentrates regardless of their stickiness. And they are far more environmentally friendly than parchment paper.
Now that you have gathered the necessary tools for dabbing marijuana concentrates, take a seat at a table and get ready to dab. The following steps will guide you through the dabbing process.
Pro tip: Use a separate rig for dabs only—never the cannabis plant, as the resin will negatively alter the quality of your dab.
There’s a lot of debate about which is better: high-temperature dabs vs low-temperature dabs. For the most part, it’s a matter of personal preference. But, each style does have its fair share of pros and cons. Here’s the difference between the two methods.
For low-temperature dab, the nail is heated between 500 and 600°F (260 – 315.5°C). If you’re not using an e-nail, a good rule of thumb is to take away the heat once the nail begins to get red, then wait about 10 seconds for it to cool before taking your dab.
The boiling points for most terpenes (flavor molecules) found in marijuana loosely range from 310 to 400°F (154 – 204.4°C). So, sticking to a lower temperature gives you a full-bodied vapor without burning off as many delicate terpenes.
With a high-temp dab, the thermometer is typically set to around 1000°F (538°C). A lot of people really prefer the experience of a super hot dab. Overall, they’re more convenient and less messy, as much of the oil burns up pretty immediately after it touches the extremely hot nail. Some dabbers find that the high from ultra-hot dabs is more intense, making it more enjoyable.
Hashish is the earliest form of cannabis extracts and is a concentrated medicinal tar substance often black, brown, and sometimes green in color pulled from the female plants leaves. This process has existed for centuries first being believed to have originated in Eastern Asia then spreading to India, Nepal, The Himalayas, Afghanistan, Turkey, and Morocco as far back as 100 A.D.
The Brotherhood of Eternal Love was an organization of drug users and distributors from the mid-1960s through the late 1970s in Orange County, California. This group was also known as the “Hippie Mafia” and distributed as well as marijuana in hopes of starting a “Psychedelic Revolution” throughout the United States during the time.
John Griggs started the group as a commune but soon began to manufacture LSD and import hashish into the country. In the late ’70s, the Brotherhood hired the Weather Underground, a radical leftist organization, for $25,000 to help Timothy Leary make his way to Algeria.
Early marijuana experimentation among the Brotherhood lead to the first BHO extractions then called “Honey Oil” over 50 years ago, turning music and party scenes during the time into what would become the hippie and stoner peace movements, lending to passive protest against war, and ideas of free love.
This was the beginning of what would become the future of dabbing. A form that has grown to nearly 90% purity, and continues to become ever popular not only among stoners and hippies, but among the general public, medical patients, and medical sciences themselves.
The cannabis concentrate used for dabbing has many names, although the popular names are wax, budder, shatter, or depending on the extraction method, BHO. The concentrate can be extracted from the cannabis plant in two ways.
The most common way of extraction is through blasting butane through the plant, hence the BHO. Butane is pushed through the cannabis plant material, leaching out the essential oils. Those are collected and the butane evaporates.
Concentrates come in various forms. Some of the most common types are shatter and wax. Shatter, also known as glass, is stunningly beautiful. While transparency does not always mean a higher quality, shatter is one of the purest forms of cannabis oil.
Wax looks like wax because the molecules crystallize after extraction. This concentrate is extremely versatile – it can be used in a rig or crumbled as a topping to give your joint an extra kick.
The levels of THC in concentrates can range anywhere from 70%-90%, which is far higher than any bud you could roll up and smoke.
If you’re new to concentrates, it’s beyond important to recognize that concentrates are incredibly potent. Start with one hit of a concentrate and see how you feel. Don’t ruin the concentrate experience by rushing into it, getting too high, and freaking out.
Dab slowly! Dispensaries sell concentrates ranging in percentage of potency, so it’s not a bad idea to choose one in the 70% THC range when you’re just starting out.
Live resin is a “dabbable” extract, but the main thing that differentiates it from other types of cannabis concentrates is the plant material that’s used. Live resin uses entire plants that are frozen at critical temperatures soon after harvesting, meaning they aren’t cured.
Then, the frozen plants are used to make a solvent extract, similar to Butane Hash Oil (BHO), but at much lower temperatures with chilled liquid butane. The resulting product has a much richer terpene profile than regular BHO and even cured cannabis flowers.
Click here for our full guide on live resin.
Terpenes are fragrant oils produced in the resin glands of cannabis flower alongside cannabinoids like THC and CBD. They give weed its aroma and taste and also contribute to the herb’s medical benefits and overall effects.
When cannabis is cured, 55 to 85 percent of the terpene content can be lost, according to a highly cited 1996 study from the University of Mississippi. Most cannabis concentrates, like BHO shatter, are not only made with cured weed but also end up burning most of the remaining terpenes in the extraction process. But that’s how live resin is different: more terpenes are retained than in any other form of cannabis.
There are two types of terpenes that refer to the compounds’ actual, physical weight. There are monoterpenes, which are lighter, and there are sesquiterpenes, which are heavier. Many monoterpenes produce floral scents, and some popular ones include myrcene, limonene, and terpinolene.
Sesquiterpenes, on the other hand, have a more pungent aroma and give weed more skunk and diesel-like odors. Some common sesquiterpenes include caryophyllene and humulene.
What researchers University of Mississippi study found was that many monoterpenes evaporate more quickly, due to their size, during the curing process than sesquiterpenes. Then, the heavier sesquiterpenes that remain have a greater influence on the aroma and flavor of cured buds, as well as its medical benefits.
Again, this is how live resin is different. Because it’s freshly frozen, it should retain much more of the terpene profile of the original, fresh cannabis plant. That includes more monoterpenes and terpenes in general.
Live resin’s rich terpene profile not only gives it a superior flavor for dabbing but provides the maximum amount of medical benefits. That’s because many cannabis experts, including scientist Ethan Russo, believe terpenes actually account for much of cannabis’ medical properties and psychoactive effects. By providing more access to terpenes, live resin provides users more control over their experience and cannabis medicine.
Terpenes have an incredible array of potential medical value, from fighting cancer to providing anti-anxiety relief. For instance, studies have found the common terpene limonene to prevent cancer cell proliferation, and pinene is a bronchodilator that can help those with asthma. Check out our full coverage of cannabis terpenes here.
Live resin is especially beneficial to those who need fast relief from symptoms like nausea, migraines, and tremors. Dabs provide a strong and potent effect without the need for actual combustion, and so can also be a good option for those who want to avoid smoking.
Live resin is only as good as the fresh flower it’s made from, so look out for cultivators you know and trust releasing limited batches. The only downside of live resin is the steeper price tag than “regular” concentrates. However, its incredible flavor and robust terpene profile are worth the extra change, on special occasions at least.
Also, dabs didn’t get the nicknames “shatter” and “pot on steroids” for no reason. According to Stogner, dabs are four times stronger than your typical joint. Dr. Dustin Sulak, a physician that legally dispenses cannabis in Maine, told Healthline that a single hit concentrate is equal to 3 to 10 hits of herbal cannabis, depending on the potency.
Though expert dabbers tend to know what they’re doing and what to avoid, it’s important for everyone to know the potential risks of dabbing, many of which come from the extraction process or the equipment used to dab.
The extraction process is what makes experts so nervous because it sometimes involves the use of butane, a highly volatile and dangerous gas. John Stogner, the assistant professor of criminology at the University of North Carolina, put together a study that focused on the health hazards of dabbing that was published in Pediatrics.
He claims it’s all too easy to obtain severe burns and injuries during the extraction process. Being that butane is capable of heating up metal and glass, it can just as easily heat you up and cause an injury.
There are several tutorials and how-to guides available online that give people step-by-step instructions. Check out this article on extraction without chemicals to see how you can do it safely.
Not only could get hurt, but you might also run the risk of starting a fire and impacting those around you. In November 2013, 33-year-old David Shultz caused an entire explosion in his apartment building while using butane for extraction. Consequently, seven other residents ended up at the hospital and an 87-year-old woman died from injuries. In return, he got nine years in prison.
In Colorado alone, the number of explosions from dabbing increased from 2013 to 2014, rising from 12 to 32, according to USA Today. Obviously, this isn’t a one case situation, and people should take caution and be sure to avoid mistakes. Luckily, there are numerous ways to heat a dab that won’t leave you or anyone else with an injury, such as using an e-nail.
Dr. Sulak is more concerned about the potency of dabs than the fact that you could burn your house down. Dabs have such a strong dose of THC that you administer so quickly that your body could become accustomed to the high levels of THC.
If your tolerance increases, you will need larger amounts of herb to achieve a high. Worst-case scenario, you may have trouble getting high off herbal cannabis after your body gets used to dabs. However, there are many ways to combat a high tolerance, such as taking a tolerance break or simply doing smaller dabs.
The equipment you use during the extraction process may contain disgusting ingredients that could eventually enter your system. For example, your metal bong could be rusty and have solder on it, which would end up in your butane hash oil and straight into your body.
Smoking these anonymous chemical contaminants is avoidable, though. Buying high-quality equipment and cleaning your rig now and then will help prevent ingesting harmful ingredients. So make sure you keep your equipment clean.
As with anything, sometimes you can have a little too much, and it’ll leave you feeling not so hot. You may experience some nausea and maybe paranoia.
Controlling your dose is important but can be tricky. Always consult with your budtender or an experienced dabber as it will help avoid the rough experience of consuming too many dabs.
There are plenty of tricks to make sure that you’re dabbing safely and responsibly. It’s always good to make sure you take certain precautions and start slowly, as with any cannabis journey. There’s nothing worse than trying a new cannabis consumption method, only to quickly realize you’re in over your head.
Once you’re in that situation, there’s little to do but wait it out. Here are a few steps you can take to make sure that doesn’t happen.
This is crucial for having a good experience with dabbing. If you’re unsure where to start, it’s always a good plan to talk to someone with more knowledge than you—maybe a budtender, or a friend who loves to dab. Ask around, but always make sure to follow up with your own research.
Before purchasing a cannabis concentrate, the most important question you should ask is: does this company have a full report on what’s in the cannabis concentrate? The most reputable companies test all of their products for pesticides, fungicides, microbials, mold, contaminants, and potency.
These tests are especially crucial when it comes to cannabis concentrates. Why? As the name suggests, these products contain high concentrations of cannabis, meaning any additional pesticides or mold that were present in the original cannabis flower will be concentrated as well. Do your research, and make sure you’re not inhaling any nasty chemicals!
Closely inspect your cannabis concentrates. Here are a few cues to look for in a quality cannabis concentrate:
This is a common saying when it comes to edibles, and it is definitely applicable to dabbing as well. Cannabis concentrates are potent. There’s no need to take a large dose. Many beginners will accidentally give themselves an enormous dab without realizing it, and pretty soon you could find yourself out of breath, coughing, dizzy, sweaty, and overwhelmed.
A tiny dab will do to start. Begin with a dab that is half the size of a grain of rice, or smaller. Remember, you can always consume more, but if you accidentally take too large of a dose, there’s no going back.
If you found that initial dab to be agreeable or underwhelming, and you feel up for it, slowly increase the size of your dab over the course of several hours. No need to be constantly dabbing, either. Take your time and enjoy the experience.
There are many disagreements about the best temperature for dabbing. Many dabbing purists, for example, insist that the best temperature for dabbing is lower. With a lower temperature, there’s less risk of inhaling toxins, which is a plus for those concerned about health risks.
Another reason for dabbing at a lower temperature is for the terpenes. Terpenes are the cannabinoids that give cannabis concentrates flavor and aroma, not to mention potential therapeutic benefits. By using a lower temperature, the terpenes remain intact, while research suggests that an increase in temperature may result in terpene degradation. Toxicant formation happens between 322 and 403℃ (611.6℉ to 757.4℉).
Anything above 720℉ results in combustion, more smoke inhalation, and the potential to consume more toxins that pose health concerns.
Most dab rigs require the use of a blow torch to heat a glass, quartz, or metal nail. But newer technologies make dabbing easier and safer than ever before. Electronic nails and dab pens like the G Pen eliminate the need to use a torch, and the risk of ultra-high temperatures.
The G Pen Connect is a revolutionary alternative to standard dab rigs. With G Pen’s patented technology, your dabbing experience is always precise, consistent, and there’s no chance of burning yourself or your concentrates.
The G Pen Connect heats your cannabis concentrate to your desired temperature within seconds, without the hassle of a blow torch or nail. All of G Pen’s dab rigs also come with a hemp travel pouch for easy portability, making it easier than ever to dab on the go.
G Pen’s dab rig attachment works with most standard dab rigs, and the spring-loaded carb release button creates instant airflow so you can effortlessly clear the chamber.
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