Cannabis concentrates, commonly referred to as cannabis extracts, are significantly more potent than your standard cannabis buds. Their applications as medicine have proven to be effective for patients suffering from all sorts of ailments. When made properly, a cannabis concentrate is reminiscent of the cannabis strain it was extracted from; the smell, taste, and effects are simply magnified due to a larger concentration by weight.
Cannabis concentrates can be divided into two main categories: solvent and solventless extractions. A solvent is a substance that dissolves a solid, resulting in a liquid solution. When we talk about cannabis concentrates, popular solvents include: butane, propane, CO2, and alcohol.
Many people refer to concentrates by their consistency, i.e. shatter, budder or wax.
Terpenes are a large group of organic chemicals produced by a variety of plants. They generally have strong flavors or aromas, and are often used by plants for defense against predators. You probably are already familiar with many terpenes such as limonene – a citrus terpene found in many products including food, pinene – a common pine scent, as well as many common fragrances.
Terpenes are also what give each strain of cannabis its distinctive taste and is partially responsible for what is known as the “Entourage Effect”, which is the aggregate effect of all the various cannabinoids and terpenes in found cannabis.
The mass use of cannabis extracts is such a new phenomenon that learning something new about its effects shouldn’t be too surprising.
Many new terpene-enhanced products are being added to new cannabis extracts to “improve the flavor and effect.” According to a study, though naturally occurring terpenes in cannabis have no known adverse health effects, adding terpenes to cannabis (a more recent very common practice for extracts) alters the chemical makeup of these terpenes and makes them toxic, at least to rats in a controlled study.
Specifically, these Brazilian scientist looked at what happens when beta-carotene, a common terpene found in many fruits and vegetables, is added to cannabis sativa. It should be noted that the process the scientists used was not the same as an extraction artist in Colorado or California. The researchers combined beta-carotene with the smoke of a cannabis flower, quite different from combining it with a cannabis extract.
Those toxic compounds were bad news for the lab rats. Those exposed to beta-carotene that had been degraded by cannabis showed higher frequency of kidney disease and experienced “alterations in liver weight.”
It’s uncertain whether the same toxic effect could occur in a dab with added beta-carotene, but it’s probably wise for users who like their dabs nice and terpy to know that there could be side effects to adding terpenes to their wax. The study concluded that, “BC [beta-carotene] intake together with cannabis smoke should not be encouraged due to toxicity and loss of antioxidant activity of the terpenes after contact with the Cannabis smoke”