Cannabis oil, or concentrated cannabis extracts, can be consumed in many different ways: you can puff on a vape oil pen, flash vaporize extracts using a dab rig, or simply sprinkle wax onto your next bowl for added potency. And those are just a few of the many ways to enjoy cannabis concentrates.
However, finding high-quality cannabis oil is not easy without knowing what it takes to manufacture good, clean oil. And with many brands to choose from in legal states, it’s easy to feel lost in a sea of options.
For this guide, we’ll look exclusively at raw oil products meant to be inhaled, such as oils found in vaporizer cartridges and dabbable concentrates.
What Makes Good, Clean Cannabis Oil?
A few crucial factors come into play when extracting cannabis oil: the quality of the starting material; a dialed-in extraction method; and proper post-processing.
1. High-Quality Starting Material
Great cannabis oil is sourced from clean, well-grown cannabis that is rich in cannabinoids and terpenes. Some things to consider when evaluated the source material include:
The quality of strain genetics
Freshness of the starting material
What part of the plant was extracted
How carefully the cannabis was handled after harvest
Not only will extracts consolidate the desirable qualities of the strain, but they’ll also concentrate any negative attributes or contaminants found on the plant; that means any defects will be amplified in the oil. That’s why the best cannabis oil comes from clean, high-quality cannabis flower.
2. Good Extraction Practices
Proper extraction preserves the chemical profile of the strain, creating a potent and flavorful iteration that accentuates the subtle nuances not always apparent in flower form.
If the extraction method isn’t fine-tuned, there’s a greater chance of the product taking on defects such as lackluster flavor, contamination, or other imperfections that lead to an underwhelming or negative experience.
3. Proper Post-Processing
Similar to the way an improper cure can ruin an otherwise prosperous cannabis harvest, the same can be said for post-processing cannabis concentrates.
Most cannabis oils go through some form of post-processing after their initial extraction. This involves drying and storing practices, purging excess solvents, and distilling or isolating specific cannabinoids, among other refinement processes.
Common Misconceptions About Cannabis Oil Quality
Myth #1: There is only one way to extract cannabis oil correctly. The truth is, each type of extraction has its own unique merits. There might be an extraction method that you prefer based on the type of oil it yields, but there isn’t an absolute “right” method. However, there are best practices for every type of extraction to ensure that the resulting oil is clean of contaminants and residual solvents.
Myth #2: Color and clarity will tell you the quality of your oil. Color and clarity can be manipulated and don’t tell a complete story when it comes to the quality of cannabis oil.
Darker oils may be viewed as less attractive than light or translucent concentrates, however there are a number of reasons that an oil might be darker colored. It could be as simple as the amount of light the packaging allows in, oxidation, or—at worst—poorly purged and worth avoiding.
Myth #3: Oils with more THC are better. This may be true if you are only after THC and the euphoric (and, for some, anxious) effects it provides. But if you’re looking for a robust spectrum of nuanced effects, you’ll want to find something that encapsulates the wide diversity of cannabinoids and terpenes found in the cannabis plant.
Myth #4: Oils with more terpenes are better. While terpenes are important for creating a wonderfully complex cannabis experience, they aren’t the whole story either. High volumes of terpenes can cause adverse effects or discomfort like a scratchy throat or itchy nose. The ideal oil will be a balance between flavor and potency, and should show a balanced mix of cannabis compounds as the strain has developed naturally.
Visual Cues of Quality Cannabis Oil
If color and clarity aren’t enough to judge the full quality of an oil product, then what can we tell from the appearance? First, we can look for visual defects like dust, dirt, and hair. Even though most extractors are meticulous about the way their products are packaged, visually inspecting for any contaminants is always a good idea.