Most people are familiar with the cannabis plant, with its telltale seven-prong leaf and pungent smell. But how do manufacturers turn a plant into an oil-based tincture, edible snack, salve, or vape liquid? The answer is the distillation process. A cannabis distillate, which is the result of this process, is the substance that comes from this refinement method of separating the plant material from the active chemical compounds that allow cannabis to impact the body.
Cannabis distillate often comes in two main forms. Most laboratories will separate out either the THC or CBD, two cannabinoids that are produced naturally in the cannabis plant. These chemical compounds offer very different reactions and are enjoyed both recreationally and medicinally.
How Distillation Works
Once the flowers, leaves, and some stem material are harvested from cannabis farms and delivered to a laboratory, the distillation process begins.
Some manufacturing companies have proprietary methods for their distillation process. In general, the plant matter is either soaked in oils for a lipid infusion, subjected to high pressure, or blasted with specific chemicals to extract the compounds. Distillation can also occur with the help of high temperatures or using alcohol.
Through this process, the laboratory professionals are able to precisely measure the amounts of cannabinoids in the resulting distillate liquid. This liquid, which lacks aroma or taste, is then used to make a product for consumption.
This process isn’t unique to the cannabis industry. It is also used in the production of fragrances, essential oils, and even cooking oils.
Cannabis distillates have distinct benefits, depending on whether it is a THC or a CBD product. CBD distillate has been used to help address symptoms of:
- Chronic pain
- Anxiety, PTSD, and other mental health concerns
- Hormone imbalance
THC distillates, meanwhile, may benefit:
- Suppressed appetites
- Inability to fall asleep
It is worth researching individual products to best understand the benefits of the distillate before purchasing, so you are aware of how your body may react. Look at the potency and number of servings in the product as well. Distillates can be extremely potent.
Ways to Consume Distillates
Distillates can be used in a wide variety of products available in cannabis dispensaries. These products can include:
- Cannabis oil, such as THC oil or CBD oil that is administered through a dropper sublingual
- Capsules that are filled with cannabis oil and digested
- Salve or cream, which is applied topically for focused treatment of muscle or skin concerns
- Edibles in the form of candies, baked goods, beverages, and more
- Vape pens that allow inhalation of vaporized distillate liquid
No “Entourage Effect”
While cannabis distillates offer focused benefits and effects on the body, they differ from the full cannabis plant in other ways beyond the form. Along with the cannabinoids of THC and CBD, cannabis plants also contain other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids.
These compounds have been shown to work together in what is known as the “entourage effect.” Scientists are still understanding the impacts of the different parts of the plant. In the meantime, cannabis distillates are an excellent way to know exactly what compounds you are consuming.