Medically Reviewed by
Jason Crawford

Article Last Updated on December 27, 2022

As the cannabis market expands, there’s always interest in new marijuana products, and cannabis distillates are the latest such products that are becoming more popular by the day. While you can buy these ultra-refined cannabis plant extracts in your local dispensary in the form of vape cartridges, topical products, and edibles, the process of making these marijuana products is really interesting.

For those of you who are interested in this subject, we’ll give you information about the types of cannabis distillates, the distillation process, as well as how you can use them medically or recreationally. If you’d like to know how this cannabis product is made, you only need to read until the end of this article to find out.

What Are Cannabis Distillates?

If you’ve been a cannabis user for a while and you enjoy learning more about weed, you probably know that cannabis is made up of a variety of cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes which are responsible for the therapeutic benefits of cannabis.

Cannabis distillates are one type of cannabis extract that is made through a distillation process that separates the THC or CBD from other components in weed such as lipids, the undesirable plant matter, and the solvent. The end product has a translucent look and has almost a pure potency of cannabinoids (about 98%) which is significantly more compared to undistilled extracts (60% – 80% potency).

The Difference Between Oil and Distillate

These marijuana products have undergone short path distillation which is why they consist of one core compound and don’t have a taste, flavor, or aroma. Remember that all cannabis distillates are oils, though not all cannabis oils are distillates since distillates need to be stripped of all other compounds to qualify as distillates.

Even though cannabis distillates look similar to cannabis oils, they’re not the same products. Distillates are products that have been extracted, winterized, and decarboxylated, while cannabis oils, such as hemp-derived CBD oil, butane hash oil (BHO), or Rick Simpson Oil (RSO), use a different production process.

Types of Cannabis Distillates

There are two main types of cannabis distillates – THC distillates and CBD distillates. Each can be used either medically or recreationally, depending on the user’s needs.

THC Distillate

This cannabis product is generally intended for medical marijuana users or users with a high tolerance to THC and has an almost pure THC content. It gives patients potent and intoxicating effects while also reducing inflammation. THC distillates are used to treat conditions such as muscle spasticity, chronic pain, nausea, glaucoma, insomnia, low appetite, and other medical conditions.

CBD Distillate

Compared to THC distillates, CBD distillates don’t produce intoxicating effects but are used for the wellness benefits they provide as well as the sedative and relaxing experience without the high. These products may help with inflammation, nausea, pain, seizures, migraines, anxiety, and depression.

Cannabis Extraction Methods

There are a few main methods which are used to produce distillates, and all of them include pre-processing and post-processing steps that remove the flavonoids, terpenes, and cannabinoids from the leaves, flowers, and stems.

Extraction Process

Prior to the distillation process, the cannabis plant needs to be harvested, dried, and cured. After drying and curing the cannabis plant, you can start extracting by using solvents such as ethanol, butane, carbon dioxide, or others. To remove the waxes and fats from the product when using ethanol and cold temperatures, the process of winterization is necessary, and to use carbon dioxide, a CO2 extraction is required. Additionally, using the decarboxylation process, the THCA and CBDA acids will be converted into their psychoactive and sedative counterparts – THC and CBD.

After the cannabis extraction process, the product has a cannabinoid concentration between 60% – 80%, and the rest is made up of vitamins, antioxidants, terpenes, and essential oils. To transform the oil into a distillate, further purification is needed.

Distillation Process

The distillation process uses the lowest possible boiling point to purify the cannabinoids. The device heats the cannabis oil in order to evaporate the cannabinoid from the remaining oil and then condense the vapor into a liquid. Remember that exposure to heat may degrade the quality of the cannabinoid compounds, though equipment with a better quality provide more uniform evaporation and heating to prevent this side effect.

Types of Distillation Equipment

Depending on the price of the equipment and the scale of the model of the equipment, you can choose between:

  • Short path distillation;
  • Wiped film distillation;
  • Rotary evaporation;
  • Falling film evaporation.

Short Path Distillation Process

Fractional distillation, or short path distillation, is a gentle distillation method that uses vacuum pressure to decrease the boiling points of terpenes and cannabinoids in weed without damaging them. The extractors separate the fractions of the distillate starting with the solvent and the terpenes, and each fraction is collected in a collection flask. The first collection flask is intended for highly volatile compounds and terpenes, the next one is used for cannabinoids (THC or CBD), and the final one is used for cannabinoids that have high boiling points. 

Wiped Film Cannabis Distillation

Wiped film distillation is another type of short path distillation that also uses a vacuum. The cannabis oil is added to a rotating vertical cylinder that’s heated under a vacuum. The wipers wipe the extract and create a thin film on the surface while the chilled condenser located in the center of the wipers condenses the cannabinoid vapor. The THC or CBD distillate is then collected inside a collection vessel and the other, heavier compounds are collected below (salts, wax, chlorophyll, and others).

Rotary Evaporation

This evaporation method uses rotary evaporators, or roto-vaps, that remove the solvent from the final product. The boiling point of the solvent is reduced when the pressure drops in the vacuum pump. The rotating distilling flask is heated with a water bath and the rotation creates a thin film of cannabis concentrate. This thin film speeds up the evaporation rate due to the increase of its surface.

Falling Film Evaporation

These evaporators have an evaporator and a condenser that separate the cannabis concentrates from other compounds by using different boiling points. The cannabis oil is drained into a heated column and when it falls downward it creates a thin film on the surface. The evaporated cannabinoids are collected in a chilled condenser. This process is great for cannabis products that have a lower viscosity.

Using Cannabis Distillates

The versatility of these products is the reason why so many people consume them. You can vape them, cook with them, smoke them, or even make lotions and creams for topical application of CBD or THC.

Dab Rigs

The most commonly used method of consumption when it comes to distillates is a dab rig. They’re a great option since they can maintain consistent temperatures and vaporize the cannabis oil perfectly. The best thing about dabbing is that dab rigs deliver large doses of THC or CBD, and they’re perfect to use at home. 

Vape Pens

The best option for on-the-go consumption of distillates is definitely vape pens. While some are single-use, others can be reused with different types of vape cartridges that either contain a CBD or THC distillate. Some vape cartridges come with a variety of flavors so you can pick your favorite.

Joints, Blunts, Pipes, Bongs 

You can also use this versatile cannabis product on top of other cannabis products in order to enhance the potency. A lot of users top their dry cannabis flower with a drop of cannabis oil for a more intense effect.

Cannabis Edibles

Another way in which you can use cannabis distillates is to make cannabis edibles. To do this, you need to add it during the cooking process, or add it on top of a finished meal. This will enable you to make your weed edibles more potent without having the tell-tale smell or taste of the cannabis plant. You can also add the distillate sublingually if you’re looking for a faster absorption rate and a faster onset of the cannabinoid effects.


The final option is infusing the distillate into a topical product such as a cream, lotion, or salve. Remember to pair the distillate with a carrier oil as well as an essential oil to give some aroma to your product. Apply the topical lotion on the affected area for localized pain relief.

Final Thoughts on Distillates

Distillates are versatile cannabis products that can be used in a variety of ways and suit the needs of every cannabis user. These scentless and flavorless products administer high percentages of cannabinoids which are not only good for treating medical conditions, but also for users who have a higher tolerance to cannabinoids. To get the most out of cannabis distillates, be sure to purchase them from legal brands and licensed dispensaries.

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.


The information presented on this page is provided as a public service to aid in education and is derived from sources believed to be reliable. Readers are responsible for making their own assessment of the topics discussed here. In no event shall Leaf Nation be held reliable for any injury, loss or damage that could happen if using or abusing drugs.