What Are THC Crystals? (Pros & Cons of Crystalline)

crystalline
By Andrew Ward Updated October 20th, 2022

You may have heard about the entourage effect, the widespread belief that cannabis is most effective when consuming a strain’s entire plant profile, including cannabinoids, terpenes and more. The entourage effect is why so many products are labeled full spectrum. 

While many support the full spectrum movement, others are on the opposite end of the spectrum. For several reasons, scores of consumers champion pure THC, with no other compounds included. 

Crystalline, sometimes known as THC crystals, allows consumers to enjoy one singular compound from the plant. In this article, we’ll chip away at THC crystals to show you what they are, their pros and cons, and how they stack up to other THC-based products.

What are THC Crystals?

THC crystals are known by several names, including crystals, diamonds and isolate. The term “isolate” can also work for other singular compound products, making it a less specific descriptor than the other two mentioned. 

In any case, the product lives up to its name. The singular compound consumable resembles the gems they’re named after, both in look and feel. Crystals can vary in size and clarity based on various factors, including temperature and solvents used during extraction. The crystals’ size, shape or look do not appear to indicate their quality. 

When consumed, be it through eating, drinking, smoking, vaping, or otherwise, THC crystals deliver just one cannabinoid and its effects. In contrast, full spectrum products provide more or most of the plant’s profile. 

That said, the name and the product aren’t entirely correct. While we commonly refer to crystalline consumables as THC crystals, they are actually the cannabinoid THCA. Unlike its acid compound counterpart, THC does not crystallize when isolated. Instead, it forms a white powder. Crystals only become THC once converted through decarboxylation. This chemical reaction creates THC by taking one carboxyl group from the original cannabinoid.  

It’s worth noting that while we call isolates diamonds or crystals, they can take on other textures, depending on the production process and other critical factors. Read on to learn more about how crystals are made and how their surfaces can vary depending on the process. 

How are THC Crystals Made?

THC crystalline comes from an acetic acid extraction process, where the cannabis plant’s compounds, including cannabinoids, terpenes, lipids and others, are reduced and extracted from the final product. Remember that this is not isolating THC but THCA

Even more important to remember: Never do this at home or without the expertise required. This cold extraction process involves highly volatile chemicals that can destroy property and take lives. Always proceed with caution. 

Once the THCA is on its own, processors use different closed-loop machinery to remove the remaining solvents used during the extraction. Machines vary in function and performance, but overall use heat, pressure and movement to rid the THCA of any chemicals. 

Chemicals are removed, but unwanted compounds remain. To extract the THCA from the undesirable elements, chromatography is used, introducing new chemicals to the mixture. The new concoction is re-run through the machinery, where all remaining chemicals are removed and THCA begins to crystallize. Plant compounds extracted during the process can alter the final product. Rather than appearing as a crystal to the naked eye, the end product may take on a different consistency or texture, including a goopy – yet still potent and effective – option. 

What are THCA Diamonds?

As discussed above, what we consider THC crystals aren’t actually THC. Once extracted, and until they’re decarboxylated, diamonds contain the acid precursor THCA. Similarly, what we call isolated cannabinoids – or isolate – may actually include additional compounds. 

Let’s take a closer look.

Whether crystals are labeled as THC, THCA or otherwise, they come from a terpene-rich refined oil commonly known as sauce. Producers may leave diamonds coated in the sauce, giving the isolated crystal a glossy coat containing additional plant compounds. If so, the product is considered more of a terpene-rich extract than a true isolate.

Consumers (or producers) can add diamonds or sauce to various consumables, mainly bowls, bongs, joints or smoked options. 

Regardless of your preferred method of consumption, THCA diamonds and sauce-coated extracts may serve various reported medical benefits, including multiple types of pain relief. However, the effects of cannabinoids on different medical conditions are a complex subject. We are beginning to uncover more answers, but additional analysis is required to confirm most reported effects. 

Pros and Cons of THC Crystals

No matter the cannabinoid of interest, crystals have several potential benefits and drawbacks.

Pros 

✔ “Purity”: The term can be loaded, but in its best sense, cannabis purity provides consumers with the assurance they are only consuming the compound they desire and nothing else. 

✔ Powerful Effect: Consumers experience the effect of one compound rather than having the experience possibly altered by other cannabinoids or terpenes. As such, the effects are often more predictable in isolates. 

✔ Easy to Combine: Isolate is a typical base for many edibles, vapes and topicals. When broken down from its crystal structure, isolates work well in boosting an item’s potency. In powdered form, isolated cannabinoids become an easy-to-use edible or beverage enhancer. 

Cons

x Lacks the Full Spectrum: Proponents of the entourage effect typically steer clear of isolates, citing an incomplete plant profile in the product. Without any other compounds, they feel the product fails to deliver the plant’s full potential.

x Lab Made: Some pot purists dislike consuming products made in labs, especially when using solvents. This subject is an ongoing debate in the cannabis community.

How to Use THC Crystals

Consumers can enjoy THC crystals in just about every conceivable method known today. 

THC crystal uses

Eating and Drinking: You could eat a crystal on its own, but most consumers will melt crystals into butter or oil to be used in edible recipes. Many companies make isolate-infused products for people unable or uninterested in making their own at home. 

Dabbing: Dabs and extracts are about as linked as possible. Crystals are no exception to the rule. With crystal dabbing, consumers not only receive an immense, nearly immediate effect but experience it all via a single compound. 

Smoking: Like vaping, crystals work as a great add-on to flower. Alternatively, THC crystalline can serve as the prime smokeable component in a bong, bowl or similar pipe (though consumers should be prepared for stronger, more pronounced effects). 

Topicals: Isolates are often infused into lotions and other topicals to create products that offer localized relief without the psychoactive effects (since they typically won’t reach the bloodstream).

Conclusion

Once you get past the potentially confusing name, THC crystals have a lot to offer consumers. Crystalline – diamonds, sauce, THCA crystal – offers pure cannabinoids that can be enjoyed through smoking, vaping, edibles, or topicals. And while they aren’t going to become the extract of choice for every consumer, it’s no surprise they’re sought out by both recreational and medical cannabis users alike. 

The information in this article and any included images or charts are for educational purposes only. This information is neither a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional legal advice or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about laws, regulations, or your health, you should always consult with an attorney, physician or other licensed professional.

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