Consumer Education: The Difference Between BHO Shatter and Wax

slab of bho shatter

The rise of cannabis concentrates over the past five years is the source of a wild consumer frenzy happening in the market today. Dabbing and vaping are quickly becoming two of the top methods of cannabis consumption amongst new and veteran consumers. While many experienced consumers are all about dabbing concentrates, there are still a plethora of consumers questioning the purpose of cannabis concentrates. It may be common knowledge to seasoned consumers, but a majority of the nation is still unaware of what concentrates even are and how they are created. Consumer education is critical to ensure safe, effective, and enjoyable consumption of cannabis products. For this reason, let’s take a look at the most common concentrates on the market and breakdown the differences between BHO shatter and wax.

The Definition of BHO

bho shatter glass

It is best first to explain what BHO stands for and why it is used to describe cannabis concentrates. To produce a cannabis concentrate, the marijuana plant must be put into a sealed tube and mixed with a solvent. The solvent reacts with the cannabis plant and combines with the trichomes from the plant’s material. Trichomes are what contain the terpenes and cannabinoids found within the marijuana plant. These compounds cause the psychoactive (THC) or non-psychoactive (CBD), effects with consumption.

Regardless, there are multiple solvents used throughout the cannabis industry to produce concentrates. When discussing BHO, it is referring to a concentrate that uses butane as the solvent for extraction. BHO stands for butane hash oil or butane honey oil. It gets this name from the fact that butane is the solvent used in the extraction, and that the final product commonly has a yellow-brown color and consistency similar to honey. Anytime a consumer sees BHO shatter or BHO wax; it just means that it is a butane solvent extraction. The term shatter or wax are merely referring to the consistency of the final product.

BHO Shatter vs. BHO Wax

Now that it’s understood what BHO means, understanding the differences between BHO shatter and wax is relatively simple. In a gist, the only thing that makes BHO shatter different from BHO wax is the consistency. To obtain different consistencies, it all comes down to the purging process. Purging occurs after the plant material soaks in the butane solvent and begins to separate into the desired oil containing the terpenes and cannabinoids. That oil is then sent through a purging process to remove as much of the butane solvent as possible. The method of purging is what determines the consistency of the final product.

BHO Shatter

BHO shatter, or, for the sake of education, butane hash oil shatter, is a form of cannabis concentrates extracted using butane as the solvent. The term shatter describes the consistency of the final product. Shatter is what it sounds like. Once purged, shatter has a glass-like consistency which should look translucent or glassy to the eye. Shatter is commonly a clear gold or yellow-brownish color. To purge shatter, it goes through a heated oven at high temperatures to remove the butane from the final product. Leaving too many residual solvents in the final product is unsafe to the consumer and potentially harmful to medical patients. The purging process is vital before consumption.

BHO Wax

BHO wax is practically the same as BHO shatter. The primary difference in BHO shatter and wax is the final consistency. The initial soaking process is practically the same, and the overall potency (60% – 80%) is usually close to the same depending on the material used. Wax is a consistency similar to a candle or ear wax. It often has many holes in the product from the purging method. Wax is also known as budder and crumble from time to time. Regardless, the only difference from wax to shatter is its purging method. To remove butane from the wax, the wax is agitated by stirring or whipping the solvents from the oil. The final product, when adequately whipped or agitated, is what people refer to as wax.

What Determines the Quality of BHO Shatter and Wax?

bho wax

When it comes to determining the quality of concentrates, there are many factors unknown to the consumer. Quality concentrates are not all about the final THC content. It comes down to the method of extraction, the solvent used, and remaining terpene content (smell or aroma). Here are some things to think about or ask when buying BHO shatter and wax from a dispensary.

  1. What type of material was used in the extraction?
    a. Whole Plant
    b. Trim
    c. Buds
  2. What is the PPM (parts per millions) or residual solvents left in the final product?
  3. Does it have a distinct and pungent aroma?
  4. Is it a stable consistency?

Of course, consumers should still pay attention to THC content. However, if a gram of BHO shatter or wax does not meet the above standards, it is best to pick something else.

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Other Questions

Again, the average consumer is unaware of the differences between BHO shatter and wax. Below, are a few common consumer questions relating to BHO concentrates.

Can you only make shatter with butane as the solvent?

BHO shatter is the most common method of extraction for shatter. However, other solvents are capable of creating a shatter-like consistency. Other solvents like propane or CO2, are both capable of producing shatter consistencies. It is all the same product; however, the potency, flavor, and residual solvents tend to vary per extraction method.

Is BHO shatter the same as regular shatter?

Yes, BHO shatter is regular shatter. It just adds the term BHO before the consistency to tell consumers the type of solvent used in the extraction.

Can other forms of concentrates come from butane extractions?

Yes, there is a multitude of concentrate consistencies that can come from a butane extraction. BHO shatter and wax are just two of the possibilities. It is possible to get an oil or sappy consistency, as well as, a budder or even crumble consistency. Even live resin is most commonly extracted using butane as the solvent.

Does putting BHO on the label in front of anything mean it is a butane extraction?

Yes, BHO is just an easy way of letting consumers know that the concentrate extraction method was using butane as the solvent. However, many extraction companies use a combination of both butane and propane but still will use BHO on the label. Most concentrates on the market today tend to have a mixture of both butane and propane for cost reasons. Regardless, if you see BHO on the label, it is safe to assume it is a butane extraction.

Dab with Caution

wax jar

Cannabis concentrates are continuing to grow in popularity every year. While they are an ideal product for seasoned consumers, new consumers should ease into the dabbing game. Dabs are extremely potent and often hit above 80% THC. Be sure to start slow and do not dab too much the first few times around. Concentrates are not for everyone, and there are still many low-quality extractions done in the legal industry. For this reason, it is essential to make sure your concentrate of choice is low in residual solvents, using high-quality plant material, and maintains a stable consistency.

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Justice Council
Justice Council is a freelance writer, CBD specialist, and cannabis enthusiast located in Denver, Colorado. His wide range of experience as a budtender, delivery driver, and CBD sales rep has given him a unique look into this new world of cannabis. Throughout his career in the industry, Justice has written many pieces on culture, economics, product knowledge, and career opportunities within the cannabis space. He takes pride in being part of a truly pioneering industry.