What is BHO? A Guide to Butane Hash Oil
Cannabis concentrates have a long history and perhaps none are more illustrious than BHO.
BHO, otherwise known as butane hash oil, is a versatile substance that serves as a crucial building block for a wide range of cannabis concentrates and cannabis extracts.
Manufacturers utilize butane hash oil in several different extraction methods to create some of the most popular items available on the market today, including cannabis extracts such as shatter, budder, wax, and many others.
That said, what is BHO, how is it made, and is it safe? This article will explain all this and more.
Without further ado, let’s get to exploring the begetting characteristics of butane hash oil.
What is BHO?
As we previously alluded to, BHO is an acronym that stands for butane hash oil. While contextualized as an oil, it can be used as an ingredient to produce a catalogue of products with a wide range of consistencies.
Manufacturers utilize BHO and combine it with various solvents and techniques to generate different cannabis concentrate or cannabis extract products.
That said, simply saying that a particular item was created using ‘BHO’ is far from self-explanatory, even for more knowledgeable users.
It’s important to note that starting materials also directly impact how the finished product will turn out.
In this case, by starting material, we mean the specific type of cannabis producers utilize to create a concentrate.
In this way, the overall quality of the cannabis flower will influence how pure the final product comes out to be, so the higher the quality of the starting flower, the higher the quality of the resulting concentrate.
BHO is a cannabis concentrate in itself created by using a butane solvent extraction.
We’ll outline this process in greater detail below, but, essentially, the butane separates cannabis compounds, including cannabinoids and terpenes, from the remaining plant material, producing a concentrated oil free of any excess undesirable plant matter.
The resulting cannabis oil may significantly vary in appearance, resulting in multiple colours and consistencies.
Most frequently, it appears as a light gold to dark amber hue. This colouration leads some users to refer to BHO as butane honey oil.
Depending on the desired outcome, some BHO may be hard and translucent or what most users know as “shatter.” However, other variants may also be soft and malleable, typically described as “wax.”
That said, BHO can also fall somewhere in the middle, having a sticky yet stretchy consistency that some users call “pull-n-snap.”
However, it can also be integrated into bowls of cannabis flower or used to enhance the potency of joints or blunts.
How is Butane Hash Oil Made?
Butane hash oil and BHO extracts are created using butane, a solvent. Butane is highly flammable and colourless. It’s an easily liquified gas quick to vaporize when kept at room temperature. Typically, it has a faint, petroleum-like odour.
Below, we’ll highlight some of the most common BHO extraction methods.
Initially, the extraction process to create BHO was performed using an “open-loop system,” a method where the cannabis plant matter was placed in an open-ended extraction tube and rinsed with a liquid solvent, in this instance, butane.
From there, the butane worked to extract the desired cannabinoids, terpenes and other compounds and separate them from the rest of the plant matter.
However, several issues were raised surrounding this method.
Namely, there was no follow-up procedure for ‘purging’ the remaining butane solvent from the concentrate.
In other words, there was no way to ensure that the final product was safe from any residual butane contamination.
Additionally, since this is an unsealed system, there is no way to regulate the exposure of butane into the air or the gasses escaping during the process, creating an unsafe environment not just for the risk of inhalation but also for potential explosions.
Professional extractors utilize a more controlled, safety-cautious extraction method known as a “closed-loop system.”
During this process, the butane travels through cannabis plant matter in contained chambers, which hinder the flammable solvent from entering the air.
The butane separates the desirable compounds, including cannabinoids such as THC and CBD, terpenes and other desirable substances, from the starting plant material, creating a potent oil that can then be further refined.
Compared to an open-loop system, a closed-loop system also contains the additional step of purging any residual solvent from the final product using a separate vacuum oven.
The BHO is exposed to heat and pressure within this vacuum to evaporate any remaining butane from the oil.
Once this step is complete, the concentrated BHO may be collected and refined further.
The final steps that precede this initial extraction process will vary based on the desired cannabis concentrate.
The winterization process is required to remove the plant lipids and waxes during the final stages of processing. Winterization involves using pure ethanol and physically agitating the BHO/ethanol mixture.
From there, the mixture is placed in a freezer where the cooling process prompts the lipids to coagulate. This process separates them from the rest of the concoction. Then, producers use a filter to catch these bits of lipids and remove them.
This process may undergo 3-5 rounds. After the cooling and filtering are finished, the ethanol is evaporated from the mixture, leaving only the desired cannabinoids, compounds and terpenes behind.
Is BHO Safe to Consume?
Since making BHO comprises handling hazardous materials, it’s only natural to question whether it is genuinely safe to ingest. Ultimately, it comes down to where users purchase their products.
Essentially, regulated cannabis markets and Canadian Licensed Producers have stringent policies to warrant that all cannabis concentrates are tested for any lingering traces of butane.
These routine screenings make sure all products stocked at legal dispensaries and retailers are refined for purity while not exceeding the legal limit for residual solvent levels.
In this way, so long as consumers are purchasing their cannabis concentrates from reliable, legal establishments, they should be safe to consume. The same sentiment does not extend to unregulated products.
In other words, the most risk associated with BHO is not from a consumption standpoint but rather, production.
As we outlined earlier, most at-home production houses utilize unsafe, open-loop systems that lack proper ventilation or confinement, leading to higher contamination rates and increased risk of explosions, which, in some instances, have been fatal.
Without the proper specialized equipment, handling corrosive substances, including butane, is an unnecessary and dangerous endeavour that users should avoid entirely.
Types of BHO
One element that many consumers appreciate about BHO is its versatile nature. BHO can be enjoyed in a variety of ways and forms including:
Shatter is by far the most popular and well-known BHO variety. As we previously mentioned, it receives its name due to its hardened, glass-like texture and tendency to ‘shatter’ when broken apart.
Not only is it one of the most flavourful and potent, with THC levels as high as 80% or more.
Due to its aesthetically pleasing honey-gold hue and semi-transparent consistency, shatter is also one of the most visually alluring cannabis concentrates available on the market.
Budder, also known as badder or budder wax, is one of the most highly sought-after concentrates due to its desirable texture, similar to classic cooking butter.
This pliable consistency is practical and moulds to pressure, serving as an advantageous quality in users’ eyes as it can be utilized to suit a wide range of different cannabis consumption methods, making it very versatile to suit a wide range of different desires and needs.
Curious for more information? Read our budder guide to learn more about how it’s made and how it’s consumed.
Weed wax is a potent cannabis extract with a THC potency of 60-80% or more.
Typically, its texture is akin to flakey clay with an opaque appearance. While its colour variation may vary, it is typically some resemblance to amber.
Many users appreciate wax because it contains all the terpenes present in the cannabis plant, giving it a full flavour profile. This extract’s title is largely due to its malleable consistency, similar to beeswax.
Wax is available in a variety of consistencies. The texture can range from crumbly to creamy, depending on the post-processing techniques used. Wax that is drier and more cake-like in texture is known as crumble while more creamy varieties are often referred to as budder.
Discover more in-depth details about weed wax, including extraction methods and how to use it, by visiting our comprehensive wax guide.
BHO – A Versatile Cannabis Extract
BHO has a wide range of uses, which is why it and its various products remain among the most popular available on the cannabis market today.
However, while production methods have evolved to become far safer and more regulated, BHO products, in particular, are best left to the creation of certified professionals and dedicated, specialized equipment.
Along the same lines, users desiring to purchase BHO products are advised to only do so through licensed, legal entities to ensure that these items are genuinely safe to ingest.
With this newfound information in mind, stay mindful, and be safe.