What is THC?
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the major psychoactive cannabinoid present in the cannabis plant. It is responsible for the “high” that you experience while using cannabis, but it also has several medicinal properties.
What are THC concentrates?
There is a myriad of ways to use cannabis, and there are several different forms that it can come in. For example, the THC in cannabis can be made into a highly concentrated form, with content that can reach anywhere between 90 and 99 percent. This differs from the amount of THC that is found in the whole cannabis plant, which typically reaches a maximum of 30 percent, although is usually less.
Two examples of highly concentrated forms are THC isolate and THC distillate. Although they are similar in some ways, there are some key differences in the way the two concentrates are produced, their purity, and their content. It is important to consider these differences because they can have an impact on the overall experience that you have with using the concentrate, as well as altering the effects that they have on your mind and body.
What is THC isolate?
THC isolate is a highly potent form of cannabis. It is produced by isolating THC from all other components in the cannabis plant. The THC content can range from 91 to 99 percent, which makes it the purest form of cannabis available.
Following production, THC isolate will be odorless and flavorless. This is because the terpenes and flavonoids responsible for creating these properties of the plant are taken out.
THC isolate comes in the form of crystals or a powder, both of which are white in color. This is because in the process of making the isolate, the components in the cannabis plant that are responsible for giving it its color are removed.
What is THC distillate?
THC distillate is another highly potent and pure form of cannabis due to its very high concentrations of THC. Unlike THC isolate, THC distillate can be distinguished by its appearance as a thick, viscous oil. Generally, its color appears translucent or golden– another important difference to be aware of when comparing THC isolate to THC distillate.
THC distillate will generally be odorless and flavorless due to the removal of terpenes and flavonoids in the distillation process.
Differences in the production of THC isolate and THC distillate
THC isolate is produced in a similar way to THC distillate, and some people refer to THC isolate as being a sub-type of distillate. The process of creating THC isolate happens after distillation has been completed and ultimately ensures the cannabinoids are separated so that only THC remains.
How THC distillate is produced
The distillation process separates other plant matter and components of the cannabis plant from THC. This begins with obtaining and extracting the crude oil from the cannabis plant, using CO2 or ethanol. This oil still contains other cannabinoids and components such as terpenes. Once the crude oil has been collected, some byproducts such as chlorophyll, lipids, and plant waxes are removed.
The next step involves decarboxylation, which is when the THC undergoes a chemical shift that activates it and gives it its intoxicating and psychoactive effects. At this stage, the THC needs to be removed from the other components in the cannabis plant, like terpenes, cannabinoids, and flavonoids. This involves the process of fractional distillation, in which all these components vaporize and can be separated based on their boiling points. When THC evaporates, it can be re-condensed in a distillation cooling system.
Sometimes the distillation process may not be perfect, which means there could still be some unintended components left behind in the THC distillate. In this case, it won’t be as pure as THC isolate.
How THC isolate is produced
To create THC isolate, a few extra processing steps are required after distillation. The distillate oil is combined with a solvent such as pentane. Then it is slowly heated and stirred until it reaches a precise, desired temperature. The temperature is then reduced, and this allows the THC to crystallize. If there are still any unwanted residues at this point, they can be removed by rinsing them with a cold solvent.
These crystals can now be used, but if powdered THC isolate is desired, the crystals can be broken down into white powder. One important difference to keep in mind is that by further processing the THC distillate to make THC isolate, you will reduce the output and final volume of your isolate. Additionally, it can make it a more expensive process.
Other components included in THC concentrates
You may notice that distilled THC sometimes has a light taste or aroma. This is because producers sometimes add terpenes back into the THC distillate after the distillation process has been completed. On the other hand, THC isolate always contains purely THC.
This is an important difference to take into consideration because it means that there is the potential for the entourage effect to occur in THC distillate. This is the mechanism through which THC synergizes with other components, like terpenes, to enhance its medicinal properties, alter your high, and change your overall experience with using the distillate.
How can THC isolate and THC distillate be administered?
Both THC isolate and THC distillate have similar applications and can be used in several ways.
Something useful to be aware of is that THC distillates can be placed directly into a vape cartridge and smoked because they are in an oil form. Alternatively, this distillate oil can also be smoked by dropping it into a pipe or a joint.
Both THC distillate and crystallized THC isolate can be dabbed using a rig.
A common way to use powdered THC isolate or THC distillate is to place it under your tongue for it to be rapidly absorbed.
Both concentrates can be added to a variety of foods and beverages to be consumed orally.
You can use the powdered THC isolate or THC distillate as an ingredient in lotions and creams, and then rub it onto your skin.
THC isolate and THC distillate can also be added into pills which you can consume orally.
Are there differences in the effects of THC isolate and THC distillate?
Since both THC distillate and THC isolate have very high concentrations of THC, they both have similar medicinal properties and effects on the body and mind. For example, THC has been shown to prevent seizures in animal models, prevent nausea, and reduce pain and inflammation.
Both THC isolate and THC distillate will give you a rapid (depending on the method of ingestion) and strong high, so they are often recommended for high tolerance cannabis users, rather than beginners.
Remember, if the THC distillate has had terpenes added back into it, the high that you experience can be impacted. For example, it might make you more relaxed or more energized.
One of the key benefits of using a highly concentrated and pure form of cannabis, THC isolate in particular, is having the reassurance that you can measure precise amounts of THC when using it. Since THC isolate only contains THC, the amount of isolate that you measure out will be very close to the amount of THC that you will ingest.
This can also be the case with THC distillate if you are certain that it is very pure. However, remember that terpenes and other compounds may be added back into the distillate oil, so it may not always be as pure as possible. In these instances, in a given amount of distillate, there would be less THC than the amount you measure out.
The bottom line
THC isolate and THC distillate are both highly potent forms of cannabis that have the potential to exert strong psychoactive effects on the body. You should be aware of the key differences, however, as these can have an impact on the overall effect that THC has on you.
The two concentrates can be distinguished based on their physical appearance–the distillate is a golden/translucent oil while the isolate is formed into white crystals or a powder. Differences in their production and the possible recombining of terpenes into the distillate can affect your high. Finally, the almost absolute purity of the isolate can help you obtain much more precise measurements.
Sponsored by KOLAS University