Buds Vs. Concentrates — What's Best for Medical Cannabis Users?

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Added 28 November 2021

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Recreational cannabis users have many options among the best cannabis products, but it’s not the same for medical cannabis users. 

Although medical marijuana is easy to source, the users have to consider various factors. For example, they need to pick specific strains to manage their ailments and worry about purity and potency. 

In addition, the dosage is a big concern for medical cannabis users — the strains may not produce any effect if they aren’t potent. 

Many medical cannabis users have switched to concentrates, considering their efficiency and potency, but choosing something that suits you can be confusing. 

On the other hand, many users shy away from concentrates for that very reason — it can be too potent. Thus, they stick to buds. 

If you’re a medical cannabis user trying to decide between buds and concentrates, you’re at the right place. 

In this article, we will explore the differences between buds and concentrates and also explain how to make several concentrates at home!


Buds in a dispensary

Cannabis buds are flowers that come straight off the cannabis plant to your table and are full of nutrients.

What matters in the buds is the resin containing all the cannabinoids that give the plant its therapeutic and healing benefits.

And out of over 400 cannabinoids present in the resin, you want to focus on CBD, which is essential for treating diseases and does not make you high. The resin also contains terpenes — aroma molecules that amplify the herb’s medical value when combined with other cannabinoids like CBD and THC.

This is not to say that THC is devoid of medicinal values. There’s a reason Marinol — a THC-based medication — was approved by the FDA in 1985. If you need THC to manage any problem, you can use strains high in THC, but most medical cannabis users generally use CBD. 

Coming back to the resin, you can identify resin glands by touching the buds — if they are sticky, they have resin. And resin is crucial for medical and recreational users as the glands are chock full of terpenes and cannabinoids. 

So, if you’re going to purchase buds, take a good look at the resin content. 

But, there are various pros and cons of buds, so let’s take a look at them.

Why you should choose buds

Dispensary buds

Buds are super easy to find in most cannabis dispensaries. Since they are abundant, they are relatively inexpensive and won’t leave a dent in your wallet.

If you’ve got some gardening experience, you can even grow buds at home; with home-grown buds, you get complete control over your strain.

Home-grown buds are not processed — they are full of natural resin and terpenes that enhance their medical qualities.

In other words, they are perfect for medical users looking for organic cannabis. 

Why you shouldn’t buy buds

Strains high in THC or CBD can benefit many, but if your treatment requires high concentrations of cannabinoids, you’re simply out of luck. In such cases, using buds may prove futile since they don’t meet the criteria needed for cannabinoids. 

So, what should you do when faced with such options?

Well, you can always switch to concentrates. 



Concentrates have been around for quite a while now. Although many users hesitate to try them because of extreme levels of cannabinoids, they work great for medical users looking for potent cannabis. 

Essentially, concentrates are extracts of the cannabis plants available as Hash, Wax, Oil, or Kief. Thanks to legalization, many companies extract concentrates from plants in various ways. Most manufacturers primarily use buds, but it’s not uncommon to use trim or sugar leaves either. 

If you choose concentrates, full-spectrum extracts should be your first choice since they are used mainly by patients to treat severe conditions like Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, and cancer.

A crucial distinguishing feature of concentrates is that they contain high levels of CBD and THC — hence the name concentrates. Concentrates are condensed extracts of the essential oils of the plant, and to get the same levels of CBD or THC in buds, you’d have to smoke a ton of them.

Medical cannabis concentrates are also quite expensive, given the meticulous production process. Thus, it can be a challenge for most patients to get the correct type of concentrate without shelling out a lot of money.

Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of concentrates. 

Why you should choose concentrates


Medical cannabis concentrates are ideal if your treatment requires you to consume high levels of CBD per dose, as concentrates contain up to 80% CBD and THC. High THC and CBD levels make concentrates highly potent, perfect for intensive treatments.

For various treatments like chronic pain or stress that require quick relief, concentrates are the best option as they work quickly.

Doctors recommend using CBD oil to treat the side effects of various illnesses like cancer and epilepsy as they offer the full medical benefits of cannabis. You must use full-spectrum CBD oil for such treatments as it contains all the essential cannabinoids and terpenes.

Why you shouldn't choose concentrates

There are hundreds of different concentrates you can buy, but finding the right one can be tough. If you want an easy-to-find cannabis solution, buds are your best friends.

Some concentrates can contain various chemicals or adulterations. Therefore, we recommend purchasing concentrates through reputed or certified sources.

In regions without rigorous pesticide regulations, concentrates can contain more impurities than conventional cannabis buds. Thus, buying concentrates from lab-tested organic sources can help you avoid impure concentrates.

While concentrates offer the full spectrum of medical benefits, they can still be expensive. This is one significant disadvantage that puts off most users. 

However, you can cut costs by making many concentrates at home. In subsequent sections, we will explore various types of extracts and techniques to make them. 

Types of Concentrates

cannabis concentrate

For medical cannabis users, manufacturing techniques used to create concentrates matter a great deal. Over the years, many extracts have made their way into the industry, but only the ones offering real value have stayed. 

Extracts can be made with or without solvents. Medical cannabis users usually choose solventless extracts to avoid ingesting any residual solvents that may remain in the concentrates. 

You will hear various terms, including solvent-based, solventless, and non-solvent extracts, time and again when purchasing concentrates. 

Let's take a look at the differences between them so you can make a better choice.

Differences between solvent-based, solventless, and non-solvent extracts

Manufacturers use many terms, including solvent-based, solventless, and non-solvent extracts, confusing users.

Typically solvent-based extracts are made with chemical solvents such as ethanol, butane, and carbon dioxide. Solvents are used to separate the plant components from the primary source material, including flavonoids, cannabinoids, and terpenes.

On the other hand, solventless extractions use mechanical processes to separate the trichomes from the material. Solventless extractions have become extremely popular over the years with medical users who want to prevent using concentrates with residual solvents. 

However, most solvent extracts are safe to use and contain very few traces of residual solvents due to strict laws and regulations.

Like solventless extracts, non-solvent extracts are also made without using solvents.

On the other hand, solvent-free extracts describe extracts that were made after purifying or purging the solvents to remove traces of residual solvents. In simple terms, this means that although solvent-free extracts use solvents to make the extracts at the beginning, they are thoroughly purged to eliminate all traces of solvents.

In conclusion, non-solvent and solventless extracts are made without solvents, whereas solvent-free extracts use solvents that are eliminated at the end of the process.

Types of Solvent-based Concentrates


As the name implies, solvent-based concentrates use some sort of solvent to separate cannabinoids from the plant. Isopropyl alcohol was one of the most popular solvents, but many users have shifted to butane and ethanol over time. Since the solvent is purged at the end of the process, they are generally safe to use. 

Although you can make them at home using solvents, it’s best to leave it to the pros. Over the years, many people have suffered fatal injuries due to butane and other highly flammable solvents. 

There’s a reason companies charge so much for such extracts — they are not easy to make, and you certainly shouldn’t try them as you shouldn’t experiment with unknown sources at home. 

Some of the most popular concentrates in this category include shatter, BHO, and RSO. 

1. Butane Hash Oil


BHO or butane hash oil refers to a range of extracts produced using butane. These concentrates can be differentiated based on their consistency and texture. Any concentrate, including Wax, Budder, Sauce, and even Shatter, can be considered BHO provided the manufacturer uses butane as the solvent.

BHO is mainly used for recreational purposes, but even medical cannabis users can take advantage of its abundant cannabinoids and terpenes. However, BHO can do more harm than good if it’s not appropriately manufactured. 

The final product must contain no residual solvents. The quality of the BHO also depends on the starting material or the type of cannabis strain used to make the extract. 

In simple terms, a combination of the potency or purity and the quality of the flower used will separate high-grade BHO from low-grade ones. Medical cannabis users can use BHO extracts provided you buy from a reputed manufacturer who offers lab tests from a third-party laboratory.

Use BHO only if your specific condition requires using high THC levels since most BHO concentrates consist of more than 90% THC. If you are not comfortable using BHO, you can use other extracts that do not use solvents (we will get to this later).

Various BHO extracts include Crumble, Shatter, Badder, and Sauce, and they are differentiated based on their consistency.

For instance, Shatter appears like glass while Crumble has a crumbly texture with visible bumps. Other types of BHO concentrates include Budder and Batter. Although they are almost the same, you will find a few differences in their consistency. Both Batter and Budder can be manufactured using cannabis trim, buds, and raw cannabis.

Most of these concentrates can be visibly different, with colors ranging from green and brown to shiny gold. But, ultimately, it is all about taste and the concentration of the terpenes in the final product.

Key Takeaway ‒ Medical cannabis users requiring high THC can use BHO, but it’s best to use other concentrates that are devoid of solvents. 

2. Shatter


Shatter gets its name due to its structure resembling glass. And just like glass, it can break and shatter into many pieces.

Shatter with high concentrations of THC or tetrahydrocannabinol will have more oil, whereas high levels of THCA will appear more like glass in comparison. This is because THCA has a crystalline structure, so they are used to make weed or THCA diamonds

Bear in mind that THCA is not psychoactive on its own unless exposed to heat. And since you will have to induce heat no matter how you use it, it will be highly psychoactive.

Shatter can contain about 70-80% THC, depending on the way it is manufactured. Unless you have a condition that requires THC, you can switch to CBD shatter containing high levels of CBD. CBD shatter can serve as an excellent option if you seek health benefits with very few psychoactive effects. 

Key Takeaway ‒ Medical cannabis users with high THC requirements can use Shatter, but it’s best to use other concentrates that are devoid of solvents. Or, you can go for Shatter that is made without solvents. 

3. Rick Simpson Oil


RSO or Rick Simpson Oil became popular after Rick Simpson introduced it. RSO is a highly concentrated full-spectrum cannabis extract containing high amounts of both THC and CBD. Rick Simpson claimed that the concentrate cured his skin cancer. Likewise, thousands of users across the internet supported his theory.

RSO is usually prepared with indica strains. Apart from ingesting it, you can also apply it topically, making it extremely versatile compared to other cannabis products.

According to Rick Simpson, RSO can be used to treat various ailments, including cancer. The concentrate is highly regarded across the world for its medicinal effects. However, it contains high amounts of THC, so it may not be suitable for someone that cannot tolerate THC at all.

Side effects of high levels of THC include nausea and vomiting, but RSO proponents claim that the impact subsides once your body develops a tolerance to the concentrate.

Although many companies supply RSO nowadays, you can also prepare it at home, provided you access cannabis indica strains. We have a full guide here that shows you how to make RSO at home.

RSO contains lots of THC, but recreational users rarely use it. If anything, it is used to treat severe conditions when other medications fail.

RSO supporters' primary claim is that it helps to manage diseases like cancer. Rick Simpson's journey with cannabis began when he was diagnosed with skin cancer. Once he applied the oil to the cancerous spots, he claimed they disappeared in just a few days.

Although the claims seem dubious at first, you'll find numerous user testimonials all over the internet praising RSO's potential. But, unfortunately, there is a severe lack of research on RSO and other THC products due to limitations in legality.

Apart from cancer, RSO is believed to help with other ailments, including arthritis, inflammation, multiple sclerosis, asthma, insomnia, and high blood pressure.

If you want to use RSO, we recommend that you consult your physician first so you can manage the psychoactive side effects effortlessly.

Key Takeaway ‒ Medical cannabis users can use RSO, but it’s best to purchase it instead of making it at home. 

4. CBD Isolates

CBD Isolate

CBD isolates, as the name implies, are nothing but CBD isolated from other cannabinoids. Typically, CBD isolates are made by using solvents like pentane; however, the end product doesn’t contain any solvents. 

If you don’t want to use full-spectrum products, CBD isolates are best for you since they don’t contain anything other than CBD. Note that the effects take place only if you consume high doses. 

CBD isolates are available as CBD tinctures and oils, but you can also purchase isolates and infuse them into your own products. For example, you can combine carrier oils like hemp seed or coconut with the isolate and make CBD oil or add them to creams and lotions to make CBD topicals. 

Key Takeaway ‒ Medical cannabis users can and should utilize CBD isolates if they cannot tolerate full-spectrum products. 

Types of Solventless Concentrates


If you want to avoid solvent-based and solvent-free extracts at all costs, you can go for solventless extracts that are completely devoid of solvents of any kind. What makes solventless extracts extremely popular is that you can make them at home because they don't require any sophisticated equipment.

Here are a few common extracts you can purchase or make at home easily:

Let's take a look at different types of concentrates and how you can use them.

1. Rosin


Rosin is one of the most popular solventless extracts. Most users induce pressure and heat to either buds, Hash, or Kief, to produce Rosin. If you use fresh frozen cannabis that hasn't been dried or cured, it’s called Live Rosin.

With just a few materials, including cannabis, a hair straightener, and parchment paper, you can make Rosin at home. Here's a guide that shows you how to make Rosin.

Make sure you don't apply too much heat, or you risk burning the terpenes.

To make the rosin, turn on your press iron or hair straightener to its lowest setting, preferably 280°F-330°F. Take a parchment paper measuring 4x4" and fold it in half. Stuff your material in the paper and place it in between the hair straightener. 

Now press the material firmly for about 7 to 10 seconds. Remove the paper as soon as you hear the buds or Hash sizzling, indicating that the resin is melting. Repeat the steps until you do away with all your material.

The Rosin initially sticks to the parchment paper. Then, you can use a dabbing tool or steel tool to pick all the Rosin. And, that's it, you're done!

Key Takeaway ‒ Medical cannabis users can make Rosin easily at home using strains high in THC or CBD. 

2. Ice Hash/Bubble Hash

Bubble Hash

Also called Bubble Hash, Ice-water Hash, and Wet Sift, Ice Hash is a very popular concentrate. With no requirement to use solvents, it is one of the easiest concentrates you can make at home.

In addition, Bubble Hash is exceptionally potent — perfect for both medicinal and recreational users. Since you will be making the concentrate at home, you can swap high-THC strains with high-CBD strains to create CBD Ice Hash. 

To make Ice Hash, you will need a few bubble bags or silkscreen bags to filter the trichomes.

First, line your bucket using the bubble bags on top of each other, starting with the smallest microns ascending to the largest. Next, start filling your bucket with ice. Finally, cover the ice with a layer of plant material, and repeat the process until you reach the top. 

Once the bucket is filled with several layers of cannabis and ice, let it sit for a while until the plant material is completely frozen.

Next, start stirring the mixture to agitate the plant material and encourage the trichomes to break off easily. Again, it is important to keep the water as cold as possible. Once you stir for a while and the plant material disintegrates, lift the first bag containing the plant material and strain the remaining liquid into your bucket until you are left with only flower and ice.

Repeat this process with all the bags and collect the material stuck in the screens. The final step is to dry the material. You can eliminate the moisture with kitchen towels. Next, cut the Hash into smaller pieces and spread them on parchment paper to let the remaining water evaporate. 

Once the Hash is completely dry, it is ready to use.

Key Takeaway ‒ Medical cannabis users can make Bubble Hash at home using strains high in THC or CBD. 

3. Dry Ice Hash

Dry Ice Hash is another popular concentrate that is very similar to Bubble Hash, with one exception that it doesn't take a lot of time and effort to create it. Some users report that Dry Ice Hash isn’t as potent as Bubble Hash, but it makes one helluva concentrate since you don't even need to wait for it to dry.

You only need some dry ice, some bubbles bags, and cannabis to produce Dry Ice Hash. Unlike Bubble Hash, you don't need ice water to separate the trichomes from the plant material. Dry ice is frozen carbon dioxide that transforms to dry vapor once it is exposed to air.

To start, gather your bubble bags with various micron sizes to produce different types of Hash. Or, you can just go with one size and collect all the Hash in one go.

Do not touch the dry ice with your bare hands — it can give you a nasty burn! Always wear your safety gloves when dealing with dry ice.

First, layer your bucket with the bubble bag. Next, pour the dry ice into the bubble bag in the bucket. Now add your buds on top of the ice. Finally, add another layer of dry ice to ensure the buds freeze completely. Let it sit for a couple of minutes.

Next, grab the bubble bag containing the ice and the buds and start shaking! It's best to agitate the buds on top of a clean and smooth surface such as glass, so it's easy to collect the Hash later.

You will see the trichomes fall onto the glassy surface along with the vapor released from the dry ice. The more you shake, the more hash you collect. If you desire to use pure and potent Hash, you can stop shaking the material once it changes color.

For example, the Hash that collects at the beginning is golden brown, but it slowly turns greenish at the end due to the presence of chlorophyll in the plant matter.

You can now collect your Dry Ice Hash and use it immediately.

Key Takeaway ‒ Medical cannabis users can make Dry Ice Hash at home using strains high in THC or CBD.

Summary: Buds Vs. Concentrates — What's Best for Medical Cannabis Users?

No hard and fast rule says whether buds are better than concentrates or vice versa. Eventually, the decision lies on you and your doctor. 

If you don’t require high levels of CBD or THC for your treatment, you should go for buds, but if you need high doses of CBD or THC every day, concentrates should be your first choice.

You must understand the nature of your treatment thoroughly, consider your preferences of consumption, and budget, to choose your form of cannabis for medical treatments. 


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