Shatter vs. Wax: Which Cannabis Extract Is Better?

Cannabis extracts are becoming increasingly popular among marijuana users. There are numerous different types available, with two of the most common being “shatter” and “wax.” They are named after their textures and consistencies. Collectively, shatter and wax, as well as other extracts like budder and badder, are sometimes known as butane hash oil due to the way that these products are produced. 

There are several differences between shatter and wax that you may consider before deciding which is the better choice for you to use. 

What are cannabis extracts?

Cannabis extracts are concentrated forms of cannabis that contain very high amounts of a cannabinoid, such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Generally, the concentration ranges from 40 to 80 percent. This means that these cannabis extracts are much more potent than ordinary cannabis, and can enhance the effects that it has on your body. Cannabis extracts can be used in a variety of ways, but they are most commonly administered via inhalation, through a process that is known as “dabbing.” 

Why do people use cannabis extracts?

Surveys have suggested that people use cannabis extracts for several reasons. Most commonly, people use shatter and wax to get high, aid sleep, control pain, and increase appetite. Cannabis extracts are also more common among medical marijuana patients in comparison to recreational users, suggesting that they do have medicinal benefits. 

What is shatter? 

Shatter resembles hard candy and has a translucent appearance with a golden to amber color. Subcategories of shatter can vary, depending on the exact consistency and texture. This is dependent on the temperature, humidity, and techniques that were used during extraction.

These subcategories of shatter can include:

  • A thin and oily consistency 
  • A brittle and glass-like consistency

Shatter can also be distinguished based on how translucent it is, but it’s important to note that this doesn’t affect the quality of the product. 

What is wax?

As the name suggests, wax extracts have a waxy consistency. Like shatter, wax has a very high THC concentration. Generally, wax has a light amber to brown color. In many circumstances, wax doesn’t have a full crystalline structure. This is because there may have been intentional agitation during the production process or accidental disruption during the extraction of THC. 

Wax also has subcategories, which include:

  • Sugar concentrates: These have a crystallized surface but a crumbly texture that easily falls apart. 
  • Wax crumbles: These have a smooth surface, however, still crumble easily. 
  • Butter waxes: These are creamy and silky. They are often described as being the most desirable texture when creating cannabis wax. 

How are shatter and wax produced?

Making a cannabis extract involves obtaining the cannabinoids from the plant without the other chemicals inside the plant, such as terpenes. Usually, these active cannabinoids are extracted from the cannabis plant material using a solvent, such as butane. 

The solvent is used to draw the trichomes from the rest of the plant. Within the trichomes are the terpenes, THC, and other cannabinoids. Liquid butane is passed through the vegetation, and specific compounds like THC can dissolve in the butane. They are then filtered out along with the butane, and the butane is then evaporated or purged with heat or a vacuum. 

Although very effective, this method of production can be dangerous when it is done at home, because the evaporated butane can cause a fire or an explosion, which can cause burns. The process is considerably safer when done in a regulated, closed-loop commercial environment. 

The Rosin-Tech Method

There is also another method of producing cannabis extract that doesn’t use solvents. Rather, it involves applying constant pressure and moderate heat. This is known as the “rosin-tech” method. 

Both shatter and wax can be produced in either one of these methods. However, there are a couple of differences in some of the steps required. 

Shatter is produced at a higher temperature. When the amber-colored liquid forms, it is left to cool down and solidify without applying further heat or pressure. This causes the butane to evaporate and also allows the molecules in the shatter to stack together neatly. The process gives shatter its characteristic brittle and glass-like texture. 

On the other hand, wax is produced at a lower temperature by agitating it with lower heat. Unlike shatter, the molecules aren’t stacked neatly together.  They’re more disordered, and this gives the extract a creamy consistency that resembles wax. Some people have found that shatter is harder to produce than wax and that you need to be more careful to achieve whichever consistency that you desire. 

Is shatter or wax better to use?

Although shatter and wax are similar, there are some key differences in their physical properties and their potential effects. These differences can impact which cannabis extract is better for you to use. 

Which type is easier for beginners to use? 

Most people find that wax is easier to use than shatter, so wax is recommended for beginners. The liquid consistency of wax means that it is easier to measure out, break off parts, and subsequently be sure that you are getting the right amount. Do consider, however, that if you are new to cannabis altogether, neither may be recommended for a start, due to the very high THC content. 

Does shatter or wax last longer?

Shatter generally lasts longer than wax. Since wax tends to be softer, it is more likely to break down, especially when heat is applied. On the other hand, all the molecules in shatter are tight and bonded closely together, so are more durable and more likely to withstand heat and time. 

In what ways can shatter and wax be used?

Shatter and wax can be used in similar ways, but their different textures and consistencies may influence how well the chosen method works. You should keep in mind that since wax breaks down more easily, some suggest that it doesn’t do so well in the dabbing method.

Dabbing involves heating a water pump-like device, most commonly an oil rig, and applying the cannabis extract onto an attached shallow bowl called a nail so that it evaporates. The vapor passes through a pipe, which allows you to then inhale it in one dose. Another inhalation method involves using a vape pen, which is similar to an e-cigarette. 

You could also sprinkle it on top of dried marijuana flowers before smoking it. This is similar to a method of inhalation known as “twaxing,” which is adding the shatter or wax to the cannabis flower and rolling paper before smoking it as you normally would.

Additionally, both shatter and wax can be added to edible products which you can consume orally. 

Is shatter or wax better for getting high?

Both shatter and wax are highly concentrated forms of cannabis with a similar THC concentration. This means that they will both give you a similar strong high. Because of this, if you only want to enhance or maximize the high that you get from using cannabis, your decision on whether to use wax or shatter will be less important. 

What are the side effects of shatter and wax?

The high THC content in both wax and shatter means that there is an increased risk of negative side effects. These can include physical dependence or addiction, psychotic disorders, cognitive impairment, as well as neurotoxicity, and cardiotoxicity.

The higher doses can also cause anxiety and paranoia. When using the butane method there’s also the risk of residual material causing further health risks, such as the possibility of developing lung impairment, tachycardia, hypertension, lethargy, and hallucinations. 

Is shatter or wax better for medical use?

Both shatter and wax will have a fast effect on the body (depending on the method of ingestion) since the high THC concentration means they can be rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream. Both can be used for medical purposes. 

The bottom line 

Based on the similarities and differences between wax and shatter, deciding which form of cannabis extract is better to use mostly comes down to personal preference.

Although wax is easier to produce and use for beginners, it is less stable and doesn’t last as long as shatter. On the other hand, while shatter is more difficult to produce and use compared to wax due to its brittle texture, it is more stable and generally has a longer shelf life. Both extracts can give you a very strong high, and both also have the potential to be used for medicinal purposes. Finally, both come with similar health risks. 

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