What is Butane Hash Oil (BHO) and is It Safe?

As marijuana becomes legalized in more and more places for recreational and medicinal use, consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the different ways THC can be introduced to the body, other than smoking the flowers of a marijuana plant. Concentrates are getting to be popular with those seeking a more intense high than what is produced by smoking the raw plant. BHO is said to have been made for the first time in the 1970s, but has only recently been incorporated into mainstream marijuana knowledge as of the early to late 2000s.

What is Butane Hash Oil (BHO)?

Butane Hash Oil is a product made from extracting high concentrations of THC from a marijuana plant. Butane Hash Oil is known by different names depending on the region, some of which include:

  • nectar
  • wax
  • budder
  • crumble
  • shatter
  • honeycomb
  • moon rock

or more simply, “honey oil,” “hash oil,” “hashish,” or even just “oil.” The more creative names for the substance are derived from the final product’s physical appearance, since different extraction methods will yield different results.

What’s the difference between different forms of BHO?

The different forms of BHO are the result of different temperatures used to evaporate the solvent out of the mixture, or different finishing techniques. For instance, wax, or budder (known for its earwax-like consistency) is made by whipping the extract as the solvent is purged from the mixture. This allows air bubbles into the mixture, causing the substance to become more solid than the traditional oil form as it cools. Nectar, wax, and budder, and crumble tend to be flaky in appearance with an earwax-like consistency. Shatter is like a fragile, thin, glass that can easily be broken into pieces. Honeycomb, or moon rock, comes our looking like a beehive with craters on its surface.

No one form is more potent than the other on a consistent basis. People seek out different forms of BHO for personal preference reasons more than anything. However, different forms can be ingested in different ways (see below), which may affect how “safe” the substance is.

How is BHO Made

Without going into too much detail, BHO is made using a solvent extraction method that uses butane. Different solvents can be used for extraction, such as chloroform, ethanol, isopropanol, and more recently, carbon dioxide. Solvent extraction happens by taking pieces of the plant, mixing them with one of the solvents, letting that freeze, then straining the liquid product into a container. After this, the liquid is boiled until the solvent used for extraction evaporates from of the mixture. What is left is the oil, wax, shatter, crumble,  etc.

How is BHO Used

People can introduce BHO into their bodies in a number of ways, including:

  • smoking the most liquid forms via a wax/dab vaporizer device
  • smoking liquid or wax-like substances by placing it in a pipe, or dabbing it onto the end of a cigarette
  • smoking the most solid forms by rolling pieces of the substance into a marijuana joint
  • digesting the substance after it has been cooked into some form of edible
  • mixing the substance with a topical solution for direct skin contact

Why Do People Use BHO?

The substance contains a much higher percentage of THC—anywhere from 60-90 percent–, whereas marijuana in its most natural form contains anywhere from eight percent to 20 percent. THC is the cannabinoid (chemical compound) in marijuana that produces a “high.”

Is BHO Safe to Use?

Advocates of BHO use will make claims that the substance is safer to use than smoking raw marijuana because of the other consumption options this form of THC allows. As everyone knows, smoke, in general, is not good for human lungs. However, some people will still smoke the substance; this is known as dabbing(see above).

Because BHO is manmade, the possibility of error is always a factor when considering whether a substance is “safe.” One important thing to keep in mind is that substance is no longer straight from nature or just a plant; it is a concentrate that may or may not have been made correctly. It is possible that some of the solvent used to make the oil could still be left in the substance and it would be difficult for the typical user to determine exactly how much.

Can a person get addicted to BHO?

As with any drug, there is always potential for abuse. Though coming off the substance may not produce any dangerous withdrawal symptoms and dependency is an issue for many users. Some warning signs of dependency to watch out for are:

  • fatigue/lethargy
  • poor concentration/inability to “stay on track.”
  • short-term memory loss
  • lowered inhibitions
  • lack of motivation
  • reduced motor skill function

If you, or someone you know, is exhibiting any of these symptoms, help is available.