Dabbing: what is it?

Never let it be said that cannabis smokers are not innovators because they have discovered yet another way to get high by ingesting their weed in highly concentrated forms.

Known as dabbing, weed smokers will utilize butane oil to increase the potency in their hits.

The dab is nothing more than a hard wax-like concentration that is created by extracting the potent THC from the cannabis.


This THC, otherwise known as the active ingredient in weed that gets you stoned, is extracted from the marijuana utilizing butane gas to be the solvent. Extremists will also create the dabs with ice water or CO2.

This increasingly popular way to get high contains up to 80% of THC, more than even the typical cannabis flower contains.

It’s a brave new world out there for cannabis and new trends like dabbing are becoming all the rage. You have probably heard the term, but do know about dabbing and all the tech behind to make safer than ever?

In short, dabbing is the process of heating up a concentrated dose of cannabis using what’s commonly referred to as a “nail” and then inhaling the vapor produced via a “dab rig” or “oil rig” which is a modified water pipe much like a traditional bong using a hot surface of a “banger” or “nail”. More on these later, but for now, let’s get some context by looking at some cannabis history.

Human cultivation and consumption of marijuana stretches back millennia. Ancient Egyptian and Chinese cultures championed the use of cannabis, smoking flower as both a medicine and a natural fiber. But it was the recreational smoking of cannabis, tobacco and plant material that led our ancestors to devise new, ever more elaborate ways to consume them.

From simple pipes to hookahs to the modern bong, the smoking device has evolved along with human cannabis use itself. In fact, it wasn’t until relatively recently in Thailand that the Bong or ‘Baung’ was invented. Crafted from a simple piece of bamboo filled with water, the humble bong has become a staple of modern cannabis culture; a progression from old to new. So when we ask the question: What is dabbing? The answer isn’t simply a new gimmick on the block, but the evolution of smoking itself. The 21st centuries gift to getting high.

Dabbing Cannabis Concentrates

What’s driven the dabbing method into existence is the creation of a new wave of cannabis concentrates. Wax, shatter, bho (butane hash oil) and rosin, to name a few, are cannabis extracts with phenomenal levels of potency, the concentrated forms of cannabis.. How high you may ask? These extracts can have upwards of 90 percent THC concentrations. And it’s this unparalleled strength that attracts many cannabis consumers and medical patients to dabbing. But in order to consume these concentrates we needed a new method of vaporization to do the job: enter dabbing. Let’s get into the nitty gritty of dabs, what it involves and everything you’ll need to get started.

Equipment and Method for Consumption

The first piece of the puzzle is the dab-rig. This takes the form of a bong-like water pipe and a separate heating attachment. These attachments generally come in two forms, and are referred to as either titanium ‘nails’ or quartz ‘bangers’. You can read our handy guide on the differences between the two here, but they both do the same job: retain heat in order to vaporize the cannabis extract.

Next up is the blowtorch. A blowtorch is used to heat the nail or banger up to around 360°F. Once it has achieved the desired temperature, a small ‘dab’ of cannabis concentrate is placed on the hot nail which immediately begins to boil and vaporize. At this point, the vapor is inhaled through the pipe, just like you would smoke a regular bong.

There’s a couple other pieces of equipment you’ll need to dab like a pro. One is a collection tool. Sometimes called a “wand,” a collection tool is recommended for moving concentrate onto the hot nail. This prevents it from sticking to your hands because extracts can be difficult to handle. There’s also a carb cap which is used to agitate the concentrate to ensure even vaporization and to control airflow through the pipe.

And that’s dabbing. The process may take a little time to get used to, and the blowtorch can be daunting for some, but ultimately, the high potency and sublime flavor make it all worthwhile.

What is dabbing? It has some pros.

The best thing about the vaporization method is that it is by far the healthiest way to smoke cannabis. The traditional burning of cannabis flower or hash to produce an inhalable smoke produces carbon monoxide and carcinogens, which are unhealthy but necessary to breath in whenever you smoke cannabis.

The vaporization method required to consume extracts is completely different. Instead of combustion, heat causes the concentrate to change state, from a solid to a liquid and then vaporize into a gas. No harmful fumes are produced in this process for you to inhale. And best of all, uncoloured by any burnt tastes, vaporized cannabis’ flavor is far superior to any other method of consumption.

How Does Dabbing Work?

The dab is usually smoked using a vaporizer pen or water pipe, to get the most effect from the powerful THC.

When smoking the dab with a water pipe, the blowtorch is used for preheating the surface which is commonly referred to as the nail.

This nail is made of either glass or titanium, and after properly heated, the concentrate is then dabbed onto the surface. The end result, the vapor that is given off can be inhaled for a powerful hit.

What Effects Result from Dabbing?

Dabbing is commonly referred to as the most efficient way to get a good buzz. Due in part to the extremely high concentration of the THC, only a very minute amount of BHO is needed to get the perfect high.

Many today refer to this process as the crack of smoking marijuana. Because of the high potency of THC, first-time smokers will get wasted quickly.

Recreational smokers will get a buzz unlike any, and those who smoke frequently will eventually develop a tolerance to the powerful after-effects.

Because of the extremely powerful punch, this smoking method is often left to the experienced.

Risks of Dabbing

The biggest risk that a person will have when they are dabbing is in the process of creating the BHO.

Many accidents have resulted from people trying to make this at home, and because that butane is extremely flammable, if you are not fully versed on the proper way to follow through, there is a significant risk of explosion or house fire as a result.

As far as the health effects, this type of smoking is still in its infancy and there have not been too much research conducted on the long-term negative effects of dabbing.

One study that was conducted by the University of Albany, showing that users can quickly develop a marijuana tolerance and suffer from severe withdrawal symptoms.

To contradict the research being conducted in Albany, the National Institutes of Health has released information stating that ingesting small amounts of the butane while dabbing does not pose any type of danger to the individual.

Dabbing is growing in popularity and allows users to get the biggest bang for their buck each time they want to get high.

The process is simple, the effects are quick, and the high is probably one of the better you will ever experience.

The Dabbing Phenomenon

As soon as something becomes common, people get bored and look for ways to make the mundane different and exciting to reinvigorate their initial interest. Dabbing, follows the same principle of evolution, it is the new way to use cannabis, in a form that gives a great high. This method has been around for at least a decade, but the advancements in the extraction process have led to newer more potent form of dabs, which exceed the strength and potency of the old dabs. Experts say that a single inhalation of from a dab concentrate is equivalent to 3-10 inhalations of herbal cannabis. The rich dosage also has a rapid reaction onset time and produce the euphoric feeling of cannabis much earlier. There are also fears of tolerance being developed as herbal cannabis will not give the same happy effect as the dab concentrates.

Methods of preparation of cannabis are diverse and have different raw materials as their ingredients. Butane Hash Oil (BHO), is one such ingredient, colloquially known as dabs, these are highly concentrated preparations of cannabinoids.

Dabs are hard and wax-like in their appearance.  They are made by selecting the THC which are the psychoactive part of cannabis in a process that has butane gas as the solvent. The percentage of THC in dabs can exceed 70-90%, which is extremely high and far greater than the content present in the naturally occurring cannabis flower. The average potent cannabis flower can boast up to 30% of cannabinoids present in it. As the production method is focused on extracting only the most beneficial compound from the flower, the resultant product has all the desired qualities magnified in relation to its weight, as all the trivial plant matter is eventually filtered away. Thus, even small doses can last a long time, because of a high cannabinoids to weight ratio, which makes them a super-concentrated source of cannabis.

Dabs are prepared by putting the substance on a metallic surface and heating them to high temperature, the dab is then inhaled through a dab rig, which is a bong like contraption. The response to dabs within the community of users is extremely divisive, while one camp is supportive of it and calls it the next phase in the use of recreational drugs, the other camp is wary of the intense high that it produces. They see the potency of this extraction method as surpassing the limits of what they understand as moderate cannabis use. They are worried that it may not portray them in a positive light to society at large, which is already ambivalent towards habitual cannabis users. They are afraid that becoming increasingly dependent on this stronger form of cannabis they will be placed in the same group as junkies, a title that they fiercely hate and contend with.

The Making Of Dabs

Dabs are rich doses of cannabis that are manufactured by extracting psychoactive compounds from herbs with solvents like butane and carbon dioxide. THC and other cannabinoids are the main psychoactive ingredients in the dabs and their method of preparation gives them a high ratio of cannabinoids per gram. The resulting product is a thick, viscous oil which has been called many names such as wax, shatter and butane hash oil (BHO). A prepared dose, that is incredibly rich in psychoactive compounds such as THC, is the fastest and strongest ways to get high using grass.

The dabbing apparatus has a bong along with a twist. The contraption called the dab ring needs a dose housing element which is retentive and conducive to heat. This element will allow the rig to vaporize the cannabis concentrates, the shape of this element is mostly in the form of a skillet or pad and the materials used to make these are either titanium or quartz.

The skillet is then heated with a torch, mostly a blowtorch, once it is hot enough, the skillet is put back in place. Then the dose can be dabbed from the center of the skillet. It is recommended to inhale the concentrate at the same instant that it touches the pad, which save a lot vapor from going to waste.

In other operations nails are also used. The best ones have the same material of construction that is, titanium or quartz. However, glass nails are the cheapest and widely available. The reason that they are made of glass makes them brittle, and they are very prone to break after periods of prolonged use. If longevity is your requirement, then these may not be right for you. A very sturdy glass nail can give you a couple of months at best.

Effective use with dabbing nails requires another piece of complementary equipment, called a dome, that fits over on top of the nail. These domes have tiny openings which prevents the highly prized vapor from escaping. The dome plus nail designs can be a little difficult for beginners to grasp and in cases in the past has also lead to burnt fingers. These novices can then be directed towards domeless nails, although have their own shortcomings, such as leaving the nail exposed.

The mechanism of using is similar to the dab rig usage. The first thing is to place the dab on the nail and heat it with a torch. Once the dose has been heated and starts giving off vapors, fasten the dome on top of the nail and start dabbing the concentrate while inhaling, to use up most of the vapors.

Some companies have also developed electronic nails which help you adjust the temperatures to heat up the concentrate, so that one can entirely do away with open flame torches. Asides for increasing comfort it can tremendously increase the level of accuracy and control which can never be possible with torches.

2 thoughts on “Dabbing: what is it?”

  1. I use to smoke dabs until I couldn’t move, pasted out. Next day I wake up feeling like I had the best sleep of my life. I ended up building a tolerance and now I can’t unless I smile quarter gram dabs.

  2. Yea well that’s unfortunately a personal trait/response to the concentrate and not indicative of its effect overall. As a frequent user, I wish i could get that high – it is a pursuit for many daily/lifelong smokers to push their limits and seek the highest of highs.

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