If you follow the latest trends in the medical cannabis world, then you already know that lots of patients are switching from buds to concentrates in order to effectively treat their ailments. At PCC, we get a lot of questions about what to do with concentrates, especially the high purity waxes, shatters and oils. The two most popular ways of consuming these types of medicine are e-cigarette type vapor pens, and the subject of this article: vaporizing on a heated surface or “dabbing.”
WARNING: The process described here can be dangerous, please use care when heating anything or using torches with pressurized gas. Medicating with the methods described in this article are not intended for patients with low tolerances to the effects of cannabis, and may cause drowsiness. Do not drive or operate heavy machinery. Not intended for non-patients or children. For medical use only. Not for recreational use.
There are numerous dab products on the market today, and it’s important to find the right gear in order to maximize safety and effectiveness. Here is what you will need:
- A glass water pipe (bong), preferably made from thick durable glass
- A nail with a glass dome (or dome-less nail) and a dab tool
- A handheld butane torch- think chef’s Crème brûlée style torch
The first and third items are easily obtained. Choosing the nail and dab tool takes more consideration. Dab nails are produced from several different materials, all of which must suffer the effects of constantly being heated to high temperatures. Among the most popular substances that are generally considered safe are Titanium (Grade2) and quartz. When a nail is heated to the point of glowing, it can give off toxic substances that are not safe to inhale, or break after repeated use. In order to make dabbing as safe as possible, a patient must make sure that their nail is of the highest quality. The dab tool will be touching both medicine and an extremely hot surface, so it also must be made of a high quality metal or tempered glass.
Dabbing is not really complicated, but it can be very dangerous. Nails with glass domes take a bit of getting used to. The nail sits in the water pipe where the bowl would normally be to smoke flowers. The first step is putting a small amount of concentrate on the end of the dab tool. The second step is to heat the nail with a torch up to the point where it is just glowing. Next, the glass dome, which has a hole in the top, is placed over the nail. Carefully place the dab tool with the small amount of concentrate through the hole of the glass dome. Inhale through the water pipe as you touch the medicine to the nail. The medicinal concentrate is “dabbed” on the heated nail while inhaling. The dome traps the vapor so it can be inhaled through the stem of the bong and not lost into the air. Many of the latest nails are “domeless,” eliminating the need for an extra glass piece. The vapor is simply sucked through strategically placed holes. The vapor expands once inhaled and the effects are immediate and extra strong.
Most patients who regularly dab agree the best medicines to use for dabbing are waxes, oils and shatters. More plant material in an extract usually means it is less pleasurable to vaporize. Many cold water hashes are not ideal for dabbing. The plant material left in these concentrates will smolder, taste unsavory when inhaled, or create thick irritating smoke. In response to the popularity of dabbing, some providers are using innovative ice processes to produce cold water concentrates that are much more like waxes than traditional hash. When dabbed in small amounts, these hashes (aqua dabs) are just as effective as other types of extracts.
SAFETY AND EFFECTIVENESS
So heat up the nail, dab while inhaling, and that’s it? Not quite. Here are some essential dab tips:
The nail needs to be heated to just slightly glowing, which will take a bit of practice. If under-heated, the oil will pool on the nail and bubble. A more common mistake is overheating the nail. Once it is slightly glowing, the nail is hot enough to completely vaporize a decent sized dab. Excessive heat will ruin the taste of the medicine. Too much heat can even make the oil splatter off the nail and waste medicine. It is best to only heat the nail up just enough to give a clean vapor.
Don’t accidentally touch or grab the nail, it’s really really hot. Seems obvious yet bears repeating.
Don’t over-dab. Too much medicine on the tool or too many dabs in a row is unnecessary. The idea is to feel better and get the medicinal effects of the concentrate, not see how close you can get to passing out.
Select your medicine wisely. Know who you are getting your concentrates from, and never continue to vaporize medicine that makes you choke, sparks on the nail, or tastes funny or like chemicals. The majority of waxes and oils are extracted using solvents, so extra care must be taken when deciding where to source such concentrates. PCC is very picky about the concentrates we get from providers, and you should be too.
Dabbing is one small part of the larger discussion about concentrates and how to use them effectively. For more information ask any of the PCC staff, and keep an eye out for the PCC reviews of our highest potency concentrates.