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Blog | Science

What is Dabbing THC Or CBD & Why Is It Popular?

Dr Abraham Benavides

MEDICALLY REVIEWED BY

Dr Abraham Benavides

Medical Doctor

Since working in a medical dispensary, I have had the opportunity to dab a huge variety of concentrates…Yup, I know. Lucky me! 

At first, I was intimidated and worried that it would be too harsh for me to handle, I was scared of using a torch and was worried that my lungs would collapse, but soon I learned how to use an oil rig. 

Though dabs may be confusing, even seem dangerous, or overwhelming, they’re not when the user knows how to do it with care. Electronic rigs can offer better temperature control without the need for intimidating and potentially hazardous butane torches.

Below, I’ll dive in deep and answer all your dabbing questions!

heating dab rig illustration

What is Dabbing?

Dabbing is the process of inhaling cannabis concentrates at temperatures most often higher than vaping; this allows you to feel the effects rapidly.

Temperatures for flash vaporizing, or “dabbing” THC can range from 140C to 480C. Beyond that, the THC will mostly disintegrate

But beware, this method of consumption delivers super high doses to your bloodstream and can feel overwhelming for newbies. This is because concentrates start around 60% THC but can be sold as high as 90%+ potency.

This way of consuming marijuana is pretty much akin to jumping aboard a rocket-powered spaceship seconds from take-off – especially if you’re dabbing pure THC; you’ll be entering space within 60 seconds after inhaling! 

You may not believe that until you try it, but trust me, you’ll find your mind in outer space after your first THC dab.

What is most surprising is how little of a dab you need to get a fast and effective THC high or CBD chill. 

But, unlike smoking a joint, dabbing requires specific tools to use, like dab rigs, torches, e-nails, dab tools, and, of course, your favorite concentrates.

Marijuana Concentrates

Types of cannabis concentrates made from a marijuana plant for dabs include:

  • Wax
  • Shatter
  • Budder / Badder
  • Butane Hash Oil (BHO/ Butane Oil)
  • Supercritical CO2 Oil
  • Live Resin
  • Live Rosin
  • Rosin
  • Hash and Kief
  • Sugar
  • Distillate 
  • Diamonds and Sauce
  • Terp Sauce
  • Crystalline
  • Honey Oil
  • Crumble
  • Applicators and tanker refill units

These THC extracts are made using various extraction methods and temperatures. It all depends on the concentrate in question.

For example, rosin is created by applying heat and pressure to starting materials such as kief or marijuana flowers. 

The materials are then pressed, and the rosin oozes out, ready for smoking dabs. Hash, or pressed kief, can also be dabbed at relatively lower dabbing temperatures by using a carb cap.

Wax Dab On Banger Illustration


Related Reads: Best Rosin Presses, Rosin VS Resin

If you were to make live resin, you first need to flash freeze marijuana buds, add solvents such as butane gas and propane, and then go through a closed-loop extraction process. 

It is quite a procedure, and if well-trained professionals do not monitor the extraction process, it can be pretty dangerous.  

Consumers who are environmentally and health-conscious most often choose oils extracted with superheated CO2. This is a breakthrough process in which carbon dioxide is used to readily extract plant materials without leaving behind minimal traces of solvent. 

Supercritical CO2 also allows for manufacturers to separate out specific cannabinoids and compounds, something not easily done with other methods.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a clean and readily available resource that does not add to greenhouse gases. It is also not toxic or flammable, and acquiring it does not involve extracting natural gases nor hydrocarbons from the earth. 

Additionally, the THC in supercritical CO2 products is always fully activated from the process, compared to about 1:1 THC: THC-A in BHO or other methods (THC-A is the acidic precursor to THC).

The Dabbing Process: Oil Rig

The process involves heating a nail (which is an electric heating element) or banger with a blow torch. A banger is the part of a dab rig or e-nail where you place your dabs, whether it is hash, oil, or wax

Bangers can be made from a variety of materials with different thermodynamic properties, allowing for different dabbing temperatures, cooling rates, and experiences. They can be made from ceramics, titanium, silicon carbide, and other fancy things.

If you are using a torch, heat the banger for 30-45 seconds and then wait until it cools. It will be the right temperature in about 30 seconds. 

Do not use it until you are sure it is cool enough. For example, if the banger is red hot, don’t use it yet. 

Electronically controlled rigs (also called “e-nails”) can give you the most control of dabbing temperature. E-nails are different as they use electricity to heat them, and you can adjust the e-nail to the perfect temperature to dab weed products correctly. 

Dab Oil Rig Illustration


Once it is at the right temperature, using a dab tool, you place a piece of the concentrate like wax dabs on the nail or in the banger and then inhale the vaporized marijuana concentrate.

After the dab has fallen off the dab tool, you then place a carb cap over the top of the banger, which will help generate more vapor. “Carb caps” are simply heat-proof covers that allow for flash vaporizing cannabinoids at lower temperatures.

The carb cap allows you to ensure all the marijuana concentrate is in contact with the banger, especially important for efficiency and tasting terpenes. They can be fun accessories, too!

Exhale and enjoy the rush and flavor of your wax, BHO, or other cannabis substance.

Keep in mind; you do not need a colossal dab to get the desired effects. Instead, start with small dabs and work your way up until you find the sweet spot. 

Dabbing may also not be suitable for all, particularly those prone to cardiac or respiratory issues or are adverse to high THC. Dabbing is not recommended for children, adolescents, pregnant, or elderly people and may carry unknown health risks.

Though it may seem complicated and intimidating, it is relatively easy once you know what to do. Having an experienced friend who knows how to dab properly could be helpful in showing how to get you safely started.

Picking Your Dab Setup

You can usually find deals on a whole dab rig or e-nail set up at your local smoke shops, but try to buy quality cannabis products for the best results. 

When purchasing a rig, you have few options. The first is what material you want your banger to be. The most popular are quartz bangers, but ceramic and titanium are also great options. 

Silicon carbide is a newly introduced banger material that can offer distinct advantages as well.

Wax In Banger Illustration


Then you choose whether you want a manual set up with a water bong-like rig, which includes the purchase of a torch, dab tools, and carb cap. With a manual setup, you are responsible for using a torch to heat the banger. 

I have a manual rig to take dabs since I like the fact that it has two water chambers to cool the vapor. 

These rigs are commonly referred to as percolators, and if you are worried about taking harsh dabs, I definitely suggest you grab one of these. 

Using a torch can generate temps up to 480C+, potentially disintegrating significant amounts of THC in the process.

If you go for an electronic e-nail, there is the added bonus that you can control the temperature of your dabs for the ultimate dabbing experience. 

Many people find lower dabbing temperatures to be as or more effective while less irritating for the airways.

People who are clumsy or understandably wary of handling a torch, especially while intoxicated, should definitely pick the electronic rigs for taking dabs. 

Electronic setups are also good for sessions with your friends because it is easier to pass the e-nail around safely.

Another option to take dabs is the use of a nectar collector. A nectar collector is basically a tube made of glass or silicone and metal that you use to dab weed.

You need to heat the end of the tube with a torch and then dip it into a glass or silicone container that holds your marijuana concentrate. You then inhale, and in moments you will be surprisingly high. 

Dabs from a nectar collector are also very mild on the throat and are cheaper to purchase than other options.

Wax Dab Hill Illustrated


The last route you can go, which is probably the easiest and safest, uses vape pens made for concentrates, commonly referred to as a dab pen

Related Read: Dab Pens 

Not only is it easy to use (you just put the concentrate in the pen), a vape pen to dab weed is also compact and perfect for you if you like your dabs on the go. 

There is much less risk of accidental burn or injury. However, these products are typically more expensive. 

Vape pens also use lower temperatures than torches, allowing for a smoother experience for users with sensitive airways. 

Vaping also offers a more efficient THC delivery method, and little to no tar release compared to smoking cannabis, up to a 10:1 cannabinoid: tar ratio. 

Why Do People Dab THC?

People dab THC because it is one of the best ways to consume a high dosage of THC cannabis, as it usually requires only one-three dabs for most users to get high. 

Survey studies report users like dabs because it uses less material and produces a subjective “cleaner” high.

Dabbing is commonly used by consumers with high tolerances and those with fast-acting or strong medical needs. Some users say that they even prefer it to edibles.

And, unlike smoking a joint, if you do it well, you’ll avoid most of the combusted plant matter and tar that’s common with smoking marijuana. Bonus!

Note – if you overheat your dabs, this will result in combustion somewhere between smoking and vaping, so getting the temp right is essential. 

Naturally, you get relatively pure THC content and the extracted cannabinoids and terpenes, which give the concentrates their flavor. Terp sauce, rich in naturally occurring terpenes, can be added for extra flavor profiles.

Most concentrates contain THC concentrations that range between 50-95%. High potency is one of the main reasons people choose to dab THC. Such high potency ranges cannot be achieved with any traditional flower.

Basically, dabbing could be considered smoking a whole joint in a single inhalation. However, if you’re sensitive to the harshness of a joint, pipe, or bong, you might find that dabs are the smoothest way to get the high you want.

What Are The Benefits of Dabbing?

Now that you know how to take a dab, what are the benefits? 

The first benefit is that the dab will hit you quickly, and due to the high bioavailability of smoking, dabs yield a high dosage at a lower absolute volume vs say, edibles. Vaping is an even more efficient THC delivery method than smoking.

Some people who do not find that smoking marijuana flower hits hard enough switch over to concentrates due to their strength

Also, many individuals who are looking for high dosages and want immediate relief find that concentrates are the simplest and quickest way to consume cannabis plants. 

Personally, as someone who suffers from chronic pain, I use dabs regularly to help ease my pain. I find them very effective, and marijuana puts me in the frame of mind to get on with my day.

My personal favorite product for marijuana use is live resin. I love the flavor of the terpenes, and I use either a nectar collector or a percolator for smooth hits. 

Dab tool with wax on

Can You Dab CBD?

Yes, you can dab CBD products that are made for dabbing. But, to be clear – you can’t just go ahead and dab regular CBD oil. 

Buy specially made CBD wax, shatter, or budder. Make sure that the cannabis substance is third-party tested with a Certificate of Analysis.

Related Read: Best CBD Concentrates 

What Are The Problems Associated With Dabbing?

Scientifically, the research on the effectiveness of dabbing is still in its early stages, and most of it has focused on the in-direct effects of high THC consumption in users not expecting such a potent experience. 

Overall, it’s clear there’s some concern about the potential toxicity of marijuana dabs due to the high THC levels and lack of education when it comes to the use of THC without the counterbalance of other cannabinoids. 

Such potential risks of dabbing or vaping may be psychiatric, neurologic, cardiac, pulmonary, or other. These effects need to be studied further to parse out THC effects from those of contaminants or toxicants.

Another of the most significant problems associated with dabbing is that many of these cannabis products lack third-party testing and nationwide regulations. 

As most dabs are extracted using solvents, cannabis products are at risk of containing elevated levels of residual solvents, pesticides, and other contaminants that may pose health risks for the user.

Cannabis products made outside of GMP standards are often made without the proper equipment or knowledge of how to create concentrates. 

This could lead to explosions at in-home extraction labs due to the use of solvents like propane or butane gas. 

dispensary illustration

For example, in the US, BHO in Colorado may contain only 50ppm of butane, while up to 500ppm is acceptable in Washington state. 

Such high levels of butane increase the risk of butane dependence, headaches, and many other neurological and memory issues. There are also some clinical case reports of serious breathing problems after dabbing butane-derived concentrates. 

The purity of the marijuana products may also be subpar and dangerous to be inhaled due to improper methods of making concentrates. You never know what will be in your concentrate if you don’t do your research.

Ensure proper manufacturers make your cannabis products with the right credentials, like a recent Certificate of Analysis.

Another downside is that the high from a concentrate can be very intense for newbies. If you find you are too high, next time, try a smaller dab. 

Every individual will respond differently to dabbing, and your THC absorption will depend on factors like weight, gender, or metabolism. New research suggests adolescents who start vaping cannabis are more likely to report new breathing problems. 

Remember that vaping and dabbing are not recommended for children and adolescents, nor pregnant or elderly people. Persons with cardiac, respiratory, kidney or critical illness should avoid inhalation methods and seek medical care before trying cannabinoids for any reason. 

Dabbing can also cause severe burns if you are not careful. I don’t know how many times I have had customers at the dispensary show me their burns. So, in short – be careful! 

Is High Temp Dabbing Bad? 

A Portland State University study completed in 2017 found that high-temperature dabs were harmful to your health. Researchers found toxicant formation increased in dabbers who used overly high temps.

These toxicants are potentially cancer-causing agents like benzene and methacrolein.

So if you are wondering what temperature you should use, opt for low-temperature dabs. This will be smoother and less likely to generate harmful toxicants.

Your best bet is to heat the banger to 800 degrees Fahrenheit and then let it cool down to 350-400 degrees Fahrenheit. 

You are also less likely to degrade your terpenes at this temperature, meaning more flavor and a smoother experience. 

Other more extreme and rare potential serious side effects include pneumonitis, pneumonia, or even a collapsed lung. 

Again, these are extreme events, but find your optimal temperature within those lower ranges if you want to dab safely. 

Wrapping Up

Of course, no one can fully guarantee every dabbing experience you have is 100% risk-free, including the possibility of unknown side effects and long-term effects that remain to be studied. 

Always seek local medical attention right away for any health concerns from dabbing or otherwise.

For the bottom line, dabbing can be a great way to get the high you want, whether for medical or recreational use. 

Just be sure to be safe about it, don’t burn yourself, buy a certified cannabis substance and take dabs at low temperatures. 

Have fun and enjoy the effects of the high THC ride from dabbing weed!