Dabbing CBD: The Complete Guide


Dab pipe and CBD concentrates

Dabbing concentrated high-THC cannabis extracts has exploded into mainstream consciousness. This highly effective method of inhaling cannabis can be intimidating to those unfamiliar. The use of glass water pipes, blowtorches, and glowing hot metal has its roots in marijuana culture. As time passes, the CBD world has been adopting this method of ingestion due to its effectiveness.

This article is designed to lead someone with no previous knowledge through what can be a complicated topic. Below the article goes on to describe the act of dabbing, concentrates, and the equipment used - all based on a CBD user's needs.

What is Dabbing?

Dabbing is the act flash vaporizing a cannabis concentrate (in our case a high-cannabidiol hemp extract) through the use of a dab rig or wax pen. The vapor created is then inhaled. Dabbing became popular because it is a highly potent and effective means of inhaling cannabis.

Why Dab CBD?

Cannabidiol has been shown via research to provide a wide range of benefits to the end user. In order to receive these benefits, an adequate amount of CBD must be ingested.

Traditional sublingual and oral products like tinctures and capsules are very easy to use, yet suffer from low bioavailability. For example, when swallowing an oil-based CBD capsule, only 5-10% of the molecule has an active effect. The rest of the dose is flushed from your body as waste. Once ingested, it can take up to 90 minutes for the CBD to take effect. This requires a user to consume higher amounts of the compound the desired active effect when compared to a more bioavailable method.

Inhaling CBD has proven to be highly bioavailable with up to 50% of the substance being absorbed into the bloodstream. Additionally, the effects can be felt within 5 minutes giving the user nearly instant relief. For those with serious conditions like anxiety, depression, and pain - this short onset time can be a real gamechanger.

When it comes to inhaling CBD, dabbing is the most concentrated, direct form of vaporizing the compound. Compared to vaporizing an e-juice that uses thinning agents, dabbing is simply a more potent, more direct way to get a dose.

While dabbing is efficient, that does not mean that it is free of downsides. Inhaling vaporized CBD is not nearly as accessible as other more conventional means like swallowing capsules or eating edibles. Also, the effects of inhaling cannabidiol vapor may only last for 2-3 hours where swallowing the compound can last up to 7 hours.

For more information on bioavailability, onset time, and duration see our article outlining the various methods of taking CBD.

CBD Concentrates Explained

CBD Concentrates Example

Now that you understand what dabbing is, let's take a look at the CBD-specific products that are used when dabbing. This group of products is referred to as concentrates. As the name suggests, these forms of CBD are concentrated extracts derived primarily from hemp. The various types of concentrates are differentiated by the extraction and processing methods used to create them:

  • Isolate is a pure extract that contains only the CBD molecule in a crystalline form. Isolates can be made at up to 99% potency. Learn more.
  • CBD extract is an oily extract that contains a full spectrum of the molecules that were present in the plant. For dabbing, you'll want to ensure this extract was winterized to remove the fats and other plant material from the concentrate to avoid inhaling them. Learn more.
  • Terpsolate is the term used to define an isolate that has been combined with liquid-form terpenes. Learn more.
  • Shatter comes in slab form that is created by adding terpenes to CBD isolate slabs. Learn more.
  • Wax is a general term used to define a concentrate that takes on a sticky, waxy form. These concentrates range from full-spectrum to isolates. Learn more.
  • Crumble is a moist concentrate created by purging the oils from a cannabis concentrate. The resulting substance is named after its crumbling consistency. Learn more.

These various types of concentrates allow for more control over the dabbing experience. The main reason's you'd choose one concentrate over another include:

  • Full-spectrum vs isolate cannabinoid profiles to enable the entourage effect.
  • Terpenes for improved flavor and additional effects like relaxation, improved mood, increased energy, sedating feelings, & hunger control.
  • Consistency and form for ease of use when dabbing.

These CBD concentrates can be both dabbed alone or they may be combined with a high-THC marijuana extract. Many users find that CBD 'smooths out' and creates a more 'complete' high when combined with THC concentrates. Sometimes these concentrates are added to flower that is vaporized, smoked, or rolled.


CBD Oil is Not for Dabbing

Products referred to as 'CBD oils' are most often found in tincture form and are combined with carrier oils. It is worth pointing out that these products are not designed for dabbing.

Tools for Dabbing

Dabbing equipment varies widely in function, features, and price. You can find a simple, low-cost option or dive in as deep as you'd like. For the scope of this article, we are going to cover the basics of the two main options available to flash vaporize your concentrates: wax vaporizers and dab rigs.

Wax Vaporizers

Assorted Wax Pens

You'll find these electronic devices used for dabbing under many names including wax pens, dab pens, and dab vapes. The basic idea is that a battery powered coil is heated which is used to vaporize a concentrate that is then inhaled. The main components of every wax pen are similar:

  • A battery that is connected to the heating element.
  • The coil that is powered by the battery to create the heat. These coils come in various types including quartz with 1, 2, and even 4 coils and ceramic disks.
  • The mouthpiece which can range from a simple screw-on attachment to a large glass water pipe attachment.
  • The dabber which is usually a small metal wand used to place the concentrate into the coil cylinder.

These vaporizers come in a wide variety of forms, you'll find everything from minimalist pens that take only concentrates up to full-sized electronic glass dab rigs that are capable of vaporizing concentrates and flower.

Dab Rig

Dr Dabber Glass Pipe

The dab rig is constantly evolving, yet even today there are a standardized set of tools used in a dab setup:

  • A glass water pipe that functions in much the same way that a bong does.
  • The nail is a chamber made of ceramic, quartz, or titanium. This is the piece that is heated and vaporizes your concentrate.
  • A dome is placed on top of the nail after the concentrate is vaporized to trap the vapor to keep it from escaping. Not all rigs require a dome and some rigs may use an e-nail instead, though they require a larger upfront investment.
  • A blow torch is used to heat the nail. A standard lighter will not cut it.
  • The dabber is a glass, metal, or ceramic wand used to place the concentrate into the heated nail.

How to Dab CBD

The act of dabbing CBD is fairly straightforward in theory, yet it requires some practice to get the process down. The most important factor is controlling the temperature at which the concentrate is vaporized. Too little heat and the concentrate won't vaporize. Too much and it combusts, defeating the purpose of vaporizing altogether.

The ideal temperature for dabbing is somewhere between 300 and 400 degrees Fahrenheit. At the higher end of this temperature range, you'll begin boiling the terpenes found in the plant (if your concentrate contains terpenes).

The first step to dabbing is to get your concentrate out. You'll want to divide your dose out, most CBD concentrate users find that 1-2 rice grain sized pieces of concentrate is the average size for a dose.

Using a Wax Pan

Once you have your dose divided, you'll simply add the concentrate to the chamber, assemble, and turn on the device. Simple pens often use a push button to heat the element, you'll want to tap the button to heat the concentrate as you inhale, start slow and try to work your way up to larger hits without burning the concentrate. For larger vaporizers, you may be able to set the temperatures and wait for it to heat much like a traditional dab rig. As your concentrate vaporizes, inhale, hold for a few seconds and then exhale the vapor.

Using a Dab Rig

Woman Dabbing

image: NORTHWEST CANNABIS SOLUTIONS via YouTube

A dab rig is often a more complicated process than a wax pen. The first step is to make sure you have all the equipment you'll use set out. You'll be working with open flames and hot materials, so keep your space clear.

Have your concentrate ready, and use the torch or e-nail to heat the nail to proper dabbing temps. As a general rule of thumb, heat the nail for 20 seconds then wait for a minute before adding your concentrate. It is not necessary to heat the nail until it is red hot.

After heating the nail, use your dabber to get the concentrate ready to be added. Once ready, drop the concentrate into the nail or run the dabber around the nail as you inhale to vaporize the complete contents of the concentrate. Experienced dabbers may be able to inhale the entire hit at once. If that's not you, once you've finished adding the concentrate, you may want to cover the nail with the dome to keep the vapor from escaping. This way, you can come back and inhale the rest of the hit.

Once you get the hang of it, this entire process is quick and easy. It will take some time to find the perfect concentrate and dosage for your needs. Once you do, you'll join the ranks of many happy dabbers out there enjoying this unique way to use CBD. Hopefully, this guide was helpful in discovering the world of dabbing! Please leave any questions or comments below.


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