Medically Reviewed by
Jason Crawford

Article Last Updated on January 2, 2023

Even if you’ve raided the shelves in your local dispensary, you’ve probably missed some types of cannabis products that you don’t normally use. Well, time to change that! If you’ve never used cannabis crystals, it’s time to get acquainted.

Of all types of cannabis crystals, the so-called THC crystals are the more popular of the bunch due to their potency. THC crystals are even more powerful than cannabis concentrates, so if that got your attention, stick around. In this article, we’ll talk all about cannabis crystals and THC crystals, how they’re made, and how you can use them.

Cannabis Crystals, the Isolates You Didn’t Know You Needed

Cannabis crystals are a form of cannabis that has been purged and purified many times, leaving only the desired cannabinoid in the form of small crystal structures, akin to coarse sugar. It’s one of the most complicated production processes, but the final product has an insanely high potency of about 99.97%.

This form of cannabis is also known as an isolate, as during the extraction process the desired cannabinoid is isolated from the rest of the compounds found in the plant matter, including the terpenes and other cannabinoids. The lack of terps makes the isolates tasteless and odorless, and while this can be an advantage, some of the additional benefits you get from the other compounds will be lost.

Cannabis crystals are often used as a base for other cannabis products, but they can also be consumed on their own, especially if you don’t like the smell of weed.

Types of Cannabis Crystals

Cannabis crystals, also called diamonds or crystalline, contain a single type of cannabinoid, such as tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), or cannabidiol (CBD). 

CBD crystals are referred to as CBD isolate, a product you may be already familiar with. CBD and CBDA are inherently non-intoxicating, so they don’t produce any psychoactive effects whatsoever.

THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), on the other hand, is not available in crystal form simply because it cannot hold a crystalline structure. When we say THC crystals, we actually refer to pure THCA crystals, as this is the original form. Though not psychoactive, THCA is a cannabinoid that has many medical benefits – it has anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and neuroprotective properties.

THCA converts into pure THC only when exposed to heat – a chemical process also known as decarboxylation. This means that as long as you don’t smoke or dab the crystals, or cook them in food at a high temperature, they won’t get you high.

So to recap, none of the types of cannabis crystals produce psychoactive effects, apart from THCA when exposed to heat.

Pure THCA Crystalline and Its Pros and Cons

THCA crystals (or THCA crystallines) are a powerful cannabis extract because of the high cannabinoid concentration, whether you use it as it is or smoke it as THC to obtain the psychoactive effects. Like all other cannabis-derived products, THCA crystalline has its pros and cons, depending on what you’re looking for and what works for you personally. 

The pros:

  • The high THCA concentration is insane. You only need a small amount of product for it to start working, whether to get the medical benefits of THCA or both the medical and psychoactive effects of THC;
  • THCA crystals are non-psychoactive unless heated, making it perfect for medical users who are only seeking the medical benefits of THCA without getting the euphoria associated with THC;
  • THCA crystals can be used in two ways – for recreational use, you can heat them so that the THCA can turn into the psychoactive THC that gets you high, while for medical use, you can use consume them as they are, without applying heat;
  • As they’re flavorless, THCA crystals can be incorporated into any kind of food and beverage. 

The cons:

  • There is no entourage effect. Since THCA crystals are devoid of other cannabis compounds, the THCA is left to work on its own. Normally, when all other cannabinoids and terpenes are present, they work in synergy and the effects you get are broader. However, not everyone appreciates this and for many users, the effects of THCA alone are enough, even without the added benefits of the other compounds;
  • If you’d rather dab THC crystals, you might find the lack of flavor uninviting. Other forms of cannabis extracts that contain terpenes can boast some amazing flavors and aromas, something that THC crystals lack. Usually, users add liquid terps to boost the flavor;
  • THC crystals are for experienced users, period. Beginners shouldn’t mess with this type of cannabis extract because its potency is off the charts and way beyond a beginner’s ability to digest it. 

What’s a THC Crystal High Like?

The crystalline high isn’t that much different from a “normal” high, but the experience will somewhat differ. First, if you dab it, there will be no flavor due to the absence of terpenes. So, basically, it’s tasteless. However, the potency is on another level. Users describe the high as “fresh, clear, and sharp,” as you’re only experiencing one cannabinoid as opposed to the whole cocktail of ingredients in the cannabis plant. 

Maybe you’ll enjoy this type of high or maybe you won’t. But, either way, using THC crystals is a great way to reap the benefits of THC, whether recreational or medical.

How Are THCA Crystals Made and Can You Make Your Own?

Heads-up: The production of THCA crystals is a complex and extremely dangerous process because it involves the use of caustic chemicals which can cause great damage if handled improperly. We strongly advise against attempting to handle these materials yourself as it is a safety hazard. The information provided below is for educational purposes only.

Okay, so, making THCA crystals is serious business. It requires handling not only professional machinery but also several different chemicals that are caustic and explosive. It’s very different from, say, making a DIY e-juice for your vape or a simple tincture in your kitchen where you just use your appliances. 

If you were hoping you’d be able to DIY some crystals as well, we’re sorry to say you can’t, as there’s just no safe way to simplify this process and make it DIY-friendly. Once you learn how crystals are made, you’ll understand why the process is best left to trained professionals.

How It’s Made

Here’s an overview of how professionals make THCA crystalline.

Extracting the Cannabinoids

The process begins by taking a THCA-rich cannabis strain and blasting it with a solvent such as butane and propane in order to separate the plant material from the rest of the cannabinoids and terpenes, very much like how BHO is produced. 

The crude material resulting from this process is then purified by freezing it and filtering it several times in order to remove the remaining compounds, such as lipids and starches. The product you’re left with is a typical cannabis concentrate in a soft form that still contains terpenes and other cannabinoids. 

Purifying the Concentrate

In order to extract the THCA from the cannabis concentrate and prepare it for the crystallization process, the concentrate is mixed with acetic acid and hexane, which is a chemical combination that dissolves all other compounds but preserves the THCA. Once everything is combined, the mixture is filtered and put into a rotary evaporator so the hexane and acetic acid can evaporate. 

The remaining fluid will primarily be THCA, but it won’t be pure enough yet and will need further refinement. Plus, there is no crystal formation yet, which requires more processing and more chemicals.

Chromatography and First Crystallization

The next step involves chromatography, which is a chemical technique for removing more impurities from the liquid. To get pure THCA and get rid of all the remaining compounds, the solvents Sephadex-LH20, dichloromethane, and chloroform are added to the liquid. Laden with chemicals, the solution is once again put into the rotary evaporator so the chemicals can once again evaporate. 

This is when crystallization occurs. In the absence of all other compounds, the THCA molecules start bonding and forming crystals. However, it’s not ready for consumption yet – there is one final round of chemical treatment before they’re finally ready.

Final Purification and End Product

To make the THCA crystals consumable, they need to be purified one last time. To do this, they are dissolved in methanol, and then once again filtered and put into the rotary evaporator to remove the methanol. 

Following this, they’re dissolved once again, but this time in pentane, which removes every remaining minute speck of non-THCA material, and is then put back into the rotary evaporator for the last time where they crystalize once again. 

After this long and exhaustive process, the final product is pure THCA crystals that clock at roughly 99.97%.

How To Use THC Crystals

THC crystals are more versatile than you might think. You can incorporate them into food and make edibles, or you can use them to make oil-based tinctures and topicals. You can also use them for dabbing if you want to achieve an intense high because, as we said, when THCA comes into contact with heat, it’ll convert into THC.

Also, remember that if you’re making edibles that need to be baked or cooked, the THCA will go through decarboxylation and turn into THC. If your goal isn’t to get high, avoid using it in food items that require heating and incorporate the THCA crystals into a different form of edibles.

The Takeaway

Cannabis crystals are some very powerful cannabis extracts that are very versatile and more beneficial than you might expect. THCA crystalline, in particular, is great because it can be used in two ways – as non-intoxicating medical marijuana or as a powerful cannabis product that’ll get you high in a jiffy. However, its production process is very complex so it can’t be converted into a DIY project. Therefore, it’s best to buy it from a reputable dispensary and enjoy it wholeheartedly.

A passionate advocate for the benefits of cannabis. Fraser Horton, who has a background in botany and a strong love of nature, has spent years researching how cannabis affects the body and mind. He established Leaf Nation in 2020, where he has devoted himself to educating people about the legalisation of marijuana and its safe and responsible use. Fraser is committed to highlighting cannabis’ potential for improving wellness and working to dispel the stigma associated with its use.


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