What Are Dabs?
Dabs are portions of cannabis concentrates that you vaporize using a dab rig, through a process known as dabbing. This concentrated form of cannabis is usually much more potent than marijuana flower.
Additionally, because these blobs are typically made up of highly concentrated cannabinoids and terpenes, dabs are sometimes known to be very flavorful. And because you’re supposed to vaporize dabs instead of combust them, dabbing also delivers a very clean taste, if done properly. Popular examples of THC concentrations that can be dabbed include budder, badder, sauce, crystalline, live resin, rosin, and butane hash oil (BHO), or honey oil.
More About Dabbing
Dabbing has quickly become one of the most popular consumption methods among cannabis users, offering a potent high and flavor-packed experience. Consumption is usually done with a dab rig — a glass chamber similar to a bong.
Rigs typically require a titanium, ceramic, quartz or glass nail, also known as a banger. Think of them as the bowl, but made for a rig. Consumers use a butane torch or e-nail to bring the banger to a temperature that almost instantly vaporizes the concentrates.
Dabbing typically offers a more potent high and more immediate effects than smoking flower. It will typically produce a strong flavor and terpene-rich aroma. If you’re concerned about odor, you might be wondering, do dabs smell?
To some extent, yes, but the scent of marijuana concentrates do not linger for very long at all. Moreover, dabbing arguably offers even more discretion when handheld vaporizers and portable e-rigs are used.
The overt disadvantages to this consumption method are the necessity for tools and accessories, and the learning curve involved in achieving the perfect vaporization temperature. The temperature of the nail at the moment that you take the dab will affect the flavor, ability to clean your nail, and according to recent studies, it could alter the desired effects of the concentrate.
High-temperature dabs — 340-700 degrees Fahrenheit, or 170-370 degrees Celsius — will scorch your concentrates, giving off an astringent and harsh flavor. Those temperatures also tend to leave behind residue that is very hard to clean. At low temperatures — below 340 degrees Fahrenheit, or 170 degrees Celsius — also known as “low-temp dabs,” the concentrate is not fully vaporized, leaving behind a small amount of oil that can be easily removed with a cotton swab.
A study from Portland State University published in September 2017 has also found that vaporizing terpenes at the high temperatures required for dabbing may produce the toxicants methacrolein and benzene. In other words, if you dab weed concentrates at high temperatures, it may turn terpenes toxic.
Can you overdose on dabs?
One factor all unseasoned dabbers should consider is the potency of THC extracts. Cannabis extracts often test between 60-90% THC, which means it doesn’t take much to become profoundly high. Exceed your personal limit and you may find the effects to be uncomfortable and overwhelmingly intense. And while it’s impossible to die from a cannabis overdose, it’s never a bad idea to start with a small dab of cannabis concentrate to ensure a positive and comfortable experience.
Lastly, it’s important to note that the long-term effects of dabbing cannabis wax and other concentrates are not well-known. Until research thoroughly examines the long-term risks of dabbed extracts (with individual consideration of residual solvents, pesticides, and cannabinoids), it’s not possible to characterize any dangers associated with prolonged use.
What are the benefits of dabbing?
When done safely with clean, tested products, patients and adult consumers find several advantages to dabbing as a delivery method, primarily in its swift onset and powerful effects. Patients dealing with severe or chronic pain or extreme nausea report that dabbing cannabis concentrates can be one of the best ways to get immediate and effective relief. However, you’d likely be hard-pressed finding a doctor who recommends dabbing as the first course of action.
Cannabis extracts that have been properly manufactured can also present consumers with a clean, pure product that’s easier on the lungs. When smoking cannabis, burned plant matter produces resin and hot smoke, but extracts eliminate most of this unwanted material while still delivering essential cannabinoids and other compounds like terpenes.
Another commonly overlooked benefit of dabbing marijuana wax and similar cannabis concentrates is the scientific and technological curiosity it has helped spur in recent years. The rise of dabbing has coincided with a boom in extraction and consumption technologies: cannabis distillates, terpene infusion, hi-tech dabbing tools, oil cartridges, full-spectrum extraction–and the list goes on. While not everyone will come to embrace dabbing as a method of consumption, the enthusiasm around cannabis wax and other extracts that has cropped up recently has pushed the limits of innovation within the industry as a whole.
One of the more surprising side effects of the dabbing trend is that it has created an interest in activism in the community’s younger members. Most popular among consumers in their twenties, extracts are under the same legislative crackdown as other forms of cannabis, and more activists are starting to get involved.
While dabbing may still be experiencing some growing pains, overall, concentrates have much to offer patients and cannabis consumers in the future, and dabs are just one option among many.
What dab tools are needed?
When learning how to use a dab rig, keep in mind that dabbing technology is evolving. The traditional setup includes the following items:
- Dab rig. This water pipe is like a bong except it will have a fitting for a nail.
- Nail. This is like the bowl for your bong and where you will put the concentrate. The standard today is a quartz banger, which has a bucket shape. Ceramic and titanium are other options, and e-nails are becoming more common. Be sure to get the correct joint size, where the nail slides into the dab rig: If your rig has a 14mm stem, you need a 14mm nail. Nails can be male and female as well—you need a male nail for a female rig, and vice versa.
- Dabber. Use this tool to apply the concentrate to the nail. They can be metal, glass, or ceramic, and have many shapes: ballpoint, needlepoint, scoop, spoon, paddle, etc. Pick a shape depending on the texture and consistency of the concentrate you’re dabbing.
- Carb cap. Although not necessary, we highly recommend one of these to help regulate airflow. Combination dabber/carb caps are increasingly popular.
- Torch. Mini-torches used for crème brulee are commonly used, but you’ll have to stock up on propane for them. Again, e-nails are increasingly common (but expensive) and cut out the need for a torch.
- Cannabis extract. These come in a variety of forms, but the most common ones used for dabbing are shatter, wax, BHO, and solventless extracts like rosin.
- (Optional): Dab mat. To keep your dabbing surface clean and not sticky.
- (Optional): Timer. To ensure you heat your nail up consistently dab after dab.
Always start small
Don’t be afraid to take the smallest dab that your tool will allow and use that as a reference point. Micro-dabbing offers many benefits, and you can always take another dab. Find a dab size that works for you.
It’s important to understand that different sizes of dabs—and different ratios of cannabinoids—will affect everyone uniquely. A 25mg dab of THC is not guaranteed to give you the same psychoactive effects as your friend; our endocannabinoid systems all operate differently. The best way to find out what dose works for you is to start small and work your way up.
How do you dab?
Once the rig is set up and your dab is prepared on the dabber, you’re ready to get started. We advise sitting down while taking a dab, since it might be intense.
- Step 1: Turn on your torch and aim the flame directly at the nail. Most people will heat the nail until it begins turning red hot. If you’re using an electronic nail, refer to the section below for more information on heating.
- Step 2: Once the nail is hot, turn off your torch. It’s recommended to let quartz nails cool for about 45 seconds (and about 10 seconds for titanium) so the surface temperature isn’t too hot—this is where a timer can come in handy. Check out this article for more tips on how to get the right temperature.
- Step 3: Apply the dab directly onto the nail with your dabber and begin inhaling slowly. Rotating the dabber tip on the nail can help prevent wasting any oil stuck to the dabber.
- Step 4: Cover the dab with a carb cap and finish inhaling—a cap will help regulate the airflow. Always cap your dabs.
- Step 5: Exhale and enjoy!
Safety note: Nails become extremely hot when dabbing. Take caution when handling them, and always wait for all pieces to cool down before you even think of touching them.