Updated on November 20, 2018. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Cannabis, a remedy used as a holistic healing elixir for centuries, offers many benefits to the human body and mind. Since its benefits have been known, different means of consuming marijuana have been invented. Since it’s a plant, drying and smoke seemed to be a natural fit, similar to tobacco.
Unfortunately, smoking marijuana isn’t always convenient, and if your medical condition reduces your physical abilities, it might not be practical, either. Eating marijuana also has its downfalls. Some people don’t like the flavor, and edibles can take time before their effects really kick in. A liquid might be easier to handle.
Making cannabis into a liquid is as simple as brewing tea. Steeping the fresh leaves in boiling water transfers some of the healing properties to the water which you can then drink. The taste is still there, but it’s muted. Much of the cannabis’ value is lost in this method because it remains in the leaves and is discarded.
The best way to extract the value from the cannabis leaves and make it into a liquid is by using a solvent stronger than water. You need a substance that will dissolve all the good stuff in those green leaves. Solvents like butane or carbon dioxide can do just that. They extract the cannabinoids and concentrate the value of the cannabis plant into a small amount of liquid.
By heating this concentrated liquid, the solvent can be evaporated. The result is a sticky substance known as wax, shatter or budder. This substance is used in a method known as dabbing, and what they say it true — a dab will do ya.
For some, the need for relieving symptoms is so intense that medical marijuana can be life-changing. People suffering from debilitating conditions can require a strong dose of cannabinoids, but they want to administer that dose as quickly as possible.
Dabbing is a way to make use of that sticky resin created from concentrates to quickly take in a large dose of cannabinoids. Heating cannabis wax releases the cannabinoids into a form that can be inhaled and quickly absorbed into the body. Once in the bloodstream, those cannabinoids go straight to the brain and begin working.
Dabbing requires some equipment to get it right and keep it safe. The wax is heated on a nail, which in this sense is a small, metal shaft with a tiny cup-like end on it to hold the wax. The nail is then inserted into a water pipe and smoked like a bowl. You’ll also need a heat source, usually a torch, to get the nail hot. It’s also possible to get an electronic nail that heats itself. Electronic nails can be very expensive, but are generally safer than using a torch.
Once you have your equipment together, follow these steps:
Dabbing delivers a dose of medical cannabis stronger than what you could ever get from smoking weed. It’s absorbed almost instantly to speed relief. For some medical marijuana patients, a high dose is necessary to relieve the extreme symptoms of their condition.
There are safety risks inherent to dabbing, so it’s best not to make your own wax at home. Solvents are flammable, and when accidents happen, they can be severe. Working with heat, open flames and certain solvents in the same space can lead to an explosion if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Instead, get your shatter ready-made at your registered dispensary. The professional means of extraction for concentrates are more efficient and safer than what you can accomplish on your own. Most cannabis wax sold in licensed dispensaries is lab-tested for contaminants to be sure unhealthy amounts of solvents don’t remain in the substance.
If you can afford an electronic nail for your dabbing rig, it’s easily the best option. Eliminating the open flame torch from the process of dabbing makes it much easier and safer to consume. Adding a dome to the top of your nail will also contain the vapors and increase the strength of your dose.
Despite the risks, dabbing does have medical applications. Medical marijuana can be more quickly and strongly administered through this method. When you use commercially produced concentrates in a controlled environment, dabbing is safe and very effective for relieving intense pain or extreme nausea.
The point of dabbing is to deliver a very strong dose of marijuana all at once. If your condition does not require such a strong dose, there might not be a reason to go through the process of dabbing. It can be cumbersome to assemble the dabbing rig for what’s only few seconds of inhaling.
There are other ways to inhale your medical marijuana without smoking, if that’s your concern. Vaporizing provides an alternative to smoking that doesn’t expose your lungs to the extreme heat and offers no danger of second hand smoke to the people around you. Plus, dabbing still affects your lungs similarly to smoking.
Dabbing is generally intended for those experiencing extreme symptoms that require a large dose of cannabinoids to relieve. If you’re unsure about whether you should be dabbing your medical marijuana, talk to your marijuana doctor or the staff at your dispensary. They can give you more information about the benefits of dabbing and whether it could be the right fit for you.
If you don’t have a marijuana doctor or a registered dispensary yet, use our search feature to find a doctor in your area.