If you follow the fast-paced developments in the world of cannabis, you’ve likely come across the term “dabbing” and wondered what is dabbing? No, not the international dance craze that swept the internet in 2015 before quickly fading into oblivion. But, rather, the increasingly popular form of consuming cannabis.

Simply put, dabbing is the rapid vaporization of cannabis concentrate on a hot surface. But behind that bullet-point definition, this article will help to familiarize yourself with some simple cannabis vocabulary.

Vaporization and Cannabis Concentrates

“Vaporization” is not the same as “smoking.” The idea is to heat the compounds in cannabis to the point at which they become volatile and inhalable, but not to the point that the plant matter combusts, releasing harsh, bitter and potentially harmful irritants into your lungs. (That said, dabbing does not employ plant material, or “flower.”)

And “cannabis concentrates”—often known by such names as wax, shatter and BHO, among others—are very different from the plant matter you’re likely already familiar with. Created by one of several physical and chemical extraction processes, they’re a highly refined and highly potent form of cannabis. It’s important not to use alcohol-based extracts for dabbing.

The Pros and Cons

This presents pros and cons. On the upside, carefully produced concentrates offer a clean, smooth administration experience with a uniquely focused and fully expressed terpene profile. (Terpenes, you may recall, are a large class of aromatic organic compounds that give cannabis strains—and many other plants—their characteristic diversity.)

A potential downside—depending on your intentions—is that it’s easy to administer more THC than you intended, given the high potency of concentrates (typically between 50 – 80% THC, compared with 10 – 25% for cannabis flower). That’s the principal reason we caution new users to familiarize themselves with other administration methods, such as traditional vaporizers, before diving into dabbing.

The Equipment

The equipment required for dabbing isn’t significantly more involved than that needed for smoking flower, but it is somewhat specialized. In addition to the cannabis concentrate (remember, no alcohol-based extracts please), a more-or-less standard setup would include:

  • Water pipe: Or, as known in some forms as a “bong”
  • Nail: Not the variety used for carpentry, but a specialized element specifically for this use
  • Dome: Again, purpose made to trap the vapor before inhalation
  • Torch: Such as those used for browning food like crème brûlée
  • Utensil: “The dabber”—with which to apply the dab

The Process

The process is similarly straightforward:

  • Use the torch to heat the nail until starts to glow red-hot.
  • Place the dome over the nail to allow it to cool somewhat (you’ll want to ask your budtender about specific times for specific materials).
  • Lift the dome and, using the dabber, apply a tiny—as in crumb-sized—speck of concentrate to the nail. Inhale slowly as the oil vaporizes.
  • Exhale and enjoy the experience! (We recommend you stay seated during this entire process as the rush of THC, especially for new users, can be intense.)

Of course, there are many variations: There are electronic and domeless nails, for a start. But the principles and basic mechanisms remain the same.

If you’re looking for a new perspective on cannabis, we’re excited that you’re curious about exploring the world of dabbing. Do remember to “start low and go slow”—especially if you’re new to cannabis and it’s your first time dabbing—give yourself plenty of time to savor the bodily and cerebral sensations. It’s thrilling to contemplate that after so many millennia of its use and appreciation by humans, we’re still finding new and intriguing ways to experience cannabis.