Cannabis wax refers to the softer, opaque oils that have lost their transparency after extraction. Unlike those of transparent oils, the molecules of cannabis wax crystallize as a result of agitation. Light can’t travel through irregular molecular densities, and that refraction leaves us with a solid, non-transparent oil.
Just as transparent oils span the spectrum between shatter and sap, wax can also take on different consistencies based on heat, moisture, and the texture of the oil before it is purged (the process in which residual solvents are removed from the product). Runny oils with more moisture tend to form gooey waxes often called “budder,” while the harder ones are likely to take on a soft, brittle texture known as “crumble” or “honeycomb.” The term “wax” can be used to describe all of these softer, solid textures.
The Complex Art of Cannabis Extraction
There’s a reason cannabis extraction is now as big a part of competitive Cannabis Cups as flowers; the knowledge and care that goes into extracting oils is as complicated as the art of growing the plants they are derived from. Every step of the extraction process demands a balance of art and science, beginning with the selection of starting material and ending with the purging and storage process. This simplified explanation of oil consistencies is only a scratch on the surface of this emerging craft, and it’s exciting to imagine how much further science and technology will carry its potential.
What is Wax?
The term “Wax” can be used to describe any marijuana concentrate that is soft and semi-solid at room temperatures.
It resembles wax in texture and is also crumbly at times, but it’s nothing but the soft oil that loses its transparency during the process of extraction.
As the cannabis molecules are agitated, they crystallize and turn opaque.
All the goodness of the plant that might otherwise be lost while simply smoking a bud is extracted into the form of a concentrate for ease of use.
Remember that the THC levels in cannabis wax can range from a whopping 40 to 99.99% compared to 15-20% found in traditional buds, so go slow because you really don’t want to rush into it and get messed up.
What is Cannabis Oil?
Just like wax, cannabis oil also contains several cannabinoids and is very potent.
It is dark and viscous in texture and is created because it gives the maker the ability to control the percentage of CBD or THC.
If a high level of THC that produces psychoactive effects is not appealing to you, you can opt for cannabis oil containing high concentrations of CBD – a non-psychoactive cannabinoid containing several medical benefits.
Wax can come in a soft, semi-solid form as the name suggests, but it can also come in solid forms as well. The types of wax that go by names like shatter, crumble, or honeycomb are brittle solids that will nonetheless melt and vaporize when exposed to high enough temperatures. Wax extracts that have names like sap, live resin, or budder are softer, more pliable substances, exactly what you would expect from a substance called wax.
Oil is, of course, a liquid that comes in various viscosity levels, some oils are thin and others are denser, but they are all ultimately liquids.
Wax is easily the more intense of the two substances because of the extraction method used to create it. When wax is extracted from the cannabis plant, the substance created has a very high concentration of cannabinoids and terpenes, in other words, it is highly potent and very intense and can have THC concentrations of up to 90%.
By contrast, the production methods used to create oil end up diluting it somewhat so that the concentrations of cannabinoids and terpenes are not quite as high. That is because cannabis oil is usually cut with other oils during the production process in order to attain its fluidic consistency.
As stated earlier, the type of wax depends on a lot of different factors, from the strain of marijuana used to the way that it is harvested to any special tweaks made during the manufacturing process. Here are some of the most common types of wax extracts.
- Live Resin
There are different types of oil as well and they vary based on the type of extraction method used in the process.
- CBD Oil
- THC Oil
Ethanol extraction is one of the oldest methods used to extract both oil and wax.
The plant material is soaked in Ethanol, and the resulting solution is heated to allow the ethanol to evaporate.
A machine such as Roto-Vap is used to heat the solution and extract the concentrate.
Butane is used to extract both wax and oil.
The process involves spraying the Butane into the extractor to get a solution that contains the cannabinoids and terpenes of the raw material.
The solution is then purged by heating the solution, and the final product is cooled down to produce either wax or oil.
While this method sounds simple, it’s extremely dangerous as 1) a small spark can make the Butane explode and 2) you fail to extract all the Butane from the wax/oil making it dangerous for smoking.
This method is known as the Supercritical Fluid Extraction where the CO2 is forced through an extractor containing raw plant material to strip all the cannabinoids, waxes and terpenes from it.
The CO2 process gives the user the ability to adjust the high and flavor by manipulating the temperature and pressure.
If you want to try your hand at extracting concentrates but don’t want to deal with any solvents, you could go the solvent-less route by utilizing only pressure and heat to make extracts like Rosin and Budder.
The Difference between Cannabis Wax vs Oil
Any extract that contains a good amount of THC or CBD can be referred to as cannabis wax or oil.
Since the extracts are known by several names, it can get confusing, but the differences lie in the texture, consistency and high.
The biggest difference between wax and oil is the purging process that derives either wax or oil.
If the chemical solvents are purged during the extraction, it results in a gooey liquid otherwise known as cannabis oil, but if the extract is whipped while being heated, the final output is wax that’s flakey due to the air bubbles that accumulate while it’s whipped.
The first difference is the texture where cannabis oil is runny, dark and viscous while the wax is crumbly or sometimes soft to the touch.
Hash oil, CBD oil, or BHO oil is available in syringes since it is liquid, but wax is more crumbly and comes in pouches or small containers resembling lip balms.
Ease of extraction
Another difference is that while it’s easy to prepare CBD oil at home using alcohol (commonly known as Rick Simpson Oil), it’s not so easy to make wax at home unless you use a technique that doesn’t require a solvent at all.
The Easiest Way to Make Cannabis Oil at Home (RSO Oil)
Your friends might even tell you that it’s super easy to make wax at home because all it needs is some Butane, but unless you’re prepared for an explosion that might occur even if something goes slightly wrong, avoid making wax at home.