Medically Reviewed by
Jason Crawford

Article Last Updated on December 31, 2022

Over the past decade, conventional marijuana use, like smoking a joint, has been swapped with more popular cannabis consumption methods, such as vaping and dabbing. This is why cannabis products such as concentrates, topicals, moon rocks, weed edibles, and tinctures have taken the cannabis market by storm.

While we’ve previously discussed topics such as making dabs, THC shatter, and ISO washing cannabis, we have yet to go over dabbing in further detail. So, let’s get right to it and define dabbing, list the benefits and side effects of dabbing, as well as go over how you can dab weed and get an intense high.

The 411 on Dabbing

Dabbing is a cannabis consumption method that heats cannabis concentrates and cannabis extracts to a very high temperature (between 600°F and 710°F) and evaporates them into cannabis smoke which is then inhaled. 

The cannabis dab is placed on a hot surface (a piece of quartz or a metal “nail”) and is heated using a blow torch. The smoke is inhaled through a special glass bong which is called a dab rig or an oil rig. This method of cannabis consumption is quite popular since the effects of dabbing are felt instantly and more intensely.

This method of weed consumption originated in Eastern Asia, and even though it existed for centuries, it has become quite popular in the last few decades. Dabbing became especially popular 50 years ago when The Brotherhood of Eternal Love, an organization of distributors and drug users, made a butane hash oil (BHO) extraction and called it “Honey Oil.” Since then, dabbing has become especially popular among young adults and weed aficionados, who smoke BHO in water pipes, glass bongs, e-cigarettes, dab pens, vaporizers, and vape pens. 

What Are Dabs?

Dabs are cannabis extracts with a high THC concentration (70-90%) that produce an intense high. In fact, dabs aren’t recommended for first-time users since they’re four times stronger than your regular joint, which has about 10% to 15% tetrahydrocannabinol.

They’re extracted from the cannabis plant in two ways: by using solvents, or with a solventless extraction method. The method used most often is the butane extraction process which pushes butane through the cannabis plant material and extracts the butane hash oil (BHO). Apart from using butane, dabs can be produced with methods using ice water, carbon dioxide, and even physical extraction. These methods give us the THC concentrations that can be dabbed such as budder, badder, live resin, rosin, and butane hash oil.

Dabbing Essentials

Even though dabbing isn’t a time-consuming way of smoking marijuana, it does require the most tools. Hence, the equipment you’ll need if you want to try dabbing yourself is the following:

  • A dab rig and nail (to place your dabs on);
  • A dabber (to drop the concentrates and extracts safely on the nail);
  • A blow torch (unless you have an E-Nail which heats up dabs without a flame, you’ll need a blow torch to heat up the nail of your dab rig);
  • A carb cap (which covers the nail when you inhale);
  • A container (for storing your cannabis concentrates);
  • A dab mat (which is placed under the dab rig to keep it stable).

How To Dab Cannabis?

If you’re a first-time user, dabbing may not be the right cannabis consumption method for you since it provides intense effects, however, if you’re not new to consuming potent weed, dabs may be your cup of tea. After you’ve purchased all your necessary equipment as well as your dabs, it’s time to start dabbing by following a few simple steps:

  1. Add the marijuana concentrate to the dabber and keep in mind to use as much as you can tolerate (you can always add more if you need more).
  2. Turn on the blow torch and heat up the nail until it’s red.
  3. Wait for about 15 seconds after you’ve heated the nail and touch the dabber to the nail.
  4. After the concentrate has been vaporized, pull the mouthpiece from the rig and inhale as if you would inhale from a bong.
  5. Exhale the concentrate, and wait for the psychoactive effects of your dabbing session.

The Side Effects of Dabbing

People who are in support of cannabis legalization would say that dabbing is just another marijuana consumption method. But as we already said, this might be the most potent method out there, which is why it’s different from the rest and can even be dangerous for some. Let us explain.

Dabbing Increases Your Tolerance to THC

While a lot of users believe that dabbing is very safe since you only take one hit to get high, any amount of drug use is, in fact, still drug use. Even though dabbing is similar to smoking a joint because you’re essentially inhaling cannabis smoke, dabs are four times more potent than the flower. Moreover, by consuming potent, THC-rich dabs, you risk developing a higher tolerance to tetrahydrocannabinol, which means that you’d probably need higher doses in the future. To prevent this, users need to take tolerance breaks or do smaller dabs every now and then.

Physiological and Psychological Effects

According to a review and a study published in Pediatrics, dabbing can lead to more serious withdrawal symptoms. Its side effects on users range from nausea, rapid heartbeat, blackouts, and even psychosis, paranoia, and hallucinations. Dabbing has also been connected to cases of chronic lung impairment, like pneumonitis, pneumonia, and acute hypoxemic respiratory failure. Finally, since dabs are very potent and provide intense highs, dabbing has been associated with numerous falls and accidents in cannabis users.

You Can Get Exposed to Harmful Substances

According to a study by Portland State University, dabbing may expose cannabis users to carcinogenic compounds and other toxins since the dabs are exposed to extremely high temperatures. Another study concluded that more than 80% of marijuana extracts that are available on the market have been exposed to a number of harmful chemicals, such as poisonous solvents and pesticides.

The Extraction Process Used to Make Dabs Is Dangerous

The dangers of producing homemade dabs are another reason why dabbing is dangerous. To make most dabs, you would need to use a solvent in order to extract the cannabinoid substance, after which you proceed to evaporating the solvent. This procedure is highly flammable and even the smallest spark can cause an explosion.

Final Thoughts on Dabbing

If you do decide to give dabbing a try, do it responsibly and safely. So, before you take out your dab rig and start heating up cannabis concentrates, remember to:

  • Choose high-quality concentrates (check for third party testing, look at the color of the concentrate – amber color is always a good sign, and check for a pleasant terpene aroma);
  • Start with a small amount (it’s easy to overdo dabs since they’re even more potent than weed brownies and you only need one hit, so starting with a lower dose is a good idea as you can up the dose in a few hours);
  • Use an adequate temperature (try to aim for a temperature of about 600°F to prevent toxicant formation and more terpene loss).

Enjoy your dabbing experience!

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.