Home/Articles/What is cannabis shatter and how do you use it?/

What is cannabis shatter and how do you use it?

cover image for article What is cannabis shatter and how do you use it?
Table of Contents
  • Share:

Shatter is a cannabis concentrate that is often confused with similar varieties of concentrates. It looks a lot like fossilised amber and can easily break or “shatter” when handled. Aside from this characteristic for which it’s named, there are a few steps of processing that uniquely increase the shatter’s overall quality, flavour, and shelf-life.

Like other concentrates such as budder, crumble, vape juice, and wax, shatter begins as butane hash oil (BHO). Once all remaining solvents have been removed, you’re left with a product that’s heated into a golden purified cannabinoid vapour. This is far more potent than the smoke of a dried flower. Many recreational and medicinal cannabis consumers are turning to concentrates for this reason.

Before diving into this new branch of cannabis culture, it’s worth keeping in mind that this form of cannabis is a bit too intense for some. It’s also important to be aware of how these extracts are made. Since the ingredients involved can be dangerous, it’s best to know your batch was made by a professional.

What is shatter?

Shatter by definition has a smooth, molten glass-like consistency which snaps and breaks when handled. Shatter's texture is primarily what visually sets it apart from other concentrates. In chemical terms, the difference between shatter concentrate and others involves how the molecules are distributed and settled after extraction has taken place.

"the difference between shatter concentrate and others involves how the molecules are distributed and settled after extraction has taken place"

With other concentrates such as wax and crumble, individual particles are jumbled together after extraction. This traps air between the particles and blocks light from reflecting through the final product. These types of processes result in a lighter and cloudier golden colour and softer textures which give the individual product types their different names.

In the case of shatter, the same molecules are manipulated in a way that doesn’t interfere with the more natural texture or consistency of the original extracted product. This allows the particles to bind together in neat, even layers.

Once the shatter is solidified, it has a rich golden colour similar to honey and a glass-like texture. Due to the uniformly-layered particles, this form of concentrate is more brittle than others.

This chemical layering of molecules acts as a purification process that has earned shatter a place above other BHO concentrates. Shatter’s chemical composition allows it to be stored for longer periods of time. Although it is more distilled than other BHO concentrates, the effects of shatter are still largely similar to its concentrate cousins.

Are there risks to solvent-based extraction methods?

Butane is a highly flammable solvent that is used to strip cannabis plants of their essential oils in an effort to isolate and preserve the plants’ vitamins, lipids, and cannabinoids. Other solvents such as CO2 and propane can also be used for this process, however, butane is the most commonly used.

shatter extraction

A process known as purging[1] allows the chemicals to evaporate, leaving the full spectrum of terpenes and other healthy cannabinoids in their most pure and concentrated form. If done incorrectly, larger traces of chemical solvents can be found in the final product. For this reason, eating shatter is not advised.

These chemical solvents are dangerous to work with and should not be made by anyone but a professional. In large amounts, these can be toxic and have a serious effect on your health.

Not only do you want to avoid the risk of dealing with potentially flammable compounds, but improper removal of residual solvents can pose a long-term risk.

How to use shatter

Just like its concentrated cousins, shatter is intended to be heated and inhaled. Dabbing shatter is the easiest way to enjoy the full effects, and this is recommended over using it in a vaporizer or as an addition to dried herbs.

Because dabs require a bit of an initial investment, some people prefer to add pieces of shatter to dry herbs in a joint, pipe, bong, or vaporizer. These methods may not require specific equipment, but if not done mindfully could result in wasting your precious concentrate.

Dabbing shatter

dab rig

Dabbing requires only a tiny amount of concentrated cannabis to deliver a powerful high. The process is similar to that of a water bong, except that the plant material is vaporized instead of combusted.

The effects of dabbing are as instantaneous as other inhalation methods, except with a much higher concentration of cannabinoids. Similarly, the active compounds can remain in your system for up to a few hours.

Similar to cannabis vaporizers, dab rigs are designed to heat concentrates and oils to a temperature high enough for decarboxylation. This is the process that converts the raw cannabinoid compounds into molecules our bodies can metabolise.

Without combustion, the extracted terpenes and cannabinoids are protected from breaking down into chemicals our bodies can’t use. This results in a terpene-rich inhale with a smoother pull, a fuller flavour, and up to 90% concentration of your cannabinoid of choice.

Side effects of smoking dabs

Dabbing concentrates is an exciting new way to experience the therapeutic effects of cannabinoids and terpenes. However, it’s vital to understand before trying for yourself that this means of consuming cannabis can cause physical and emotional discomfort, especially if you’re a beginner using too much shatter in a serving.

Possible side effects of dabbing include:

  • Irritation to sensitive airways

  • Increased heart rate

  • Sleeping problems

  • Increased tolerance leading to more frequent use

  • Emotional dependency

Potential side effects of dabbing depend on your personal tolerance to cannabinoids as well as pre-existing conditions. For those who suffer from symptoms of anxiety, it's advised to start with a less intense concentration of shatter in a tiny amount. This way you can gently introduce your body to the effects of dabbing, without experiencing unwanted discomfort.

Medical shatter

While concentrates may be overwhelming for those who are not used to the effects of dabbing, there are many people who are using concentrated cannabis medicinally. This method is especially useful for anyone who has a strong tolerance to cannabinoids, which could be a result of treating a chronic condition or natural disposition.

"Vaping and dabbing concentrates are considered by many cannabis enthusiasts to be a cleaner and more comfortable smoke"

Vaping and dabbing concentrates are considered by many cannabis enthusiasts to be a cleaner and more comfortable smoke. This is, technically, because you’re not ‘smoking’ at all. Vapour is absorbed into your system as quickly as smoke, except it contains no products of combustion. Instead, it is saturated with flavour and much less dense.

Since its concentration of cannabinoids is so much stronger than dried flowers, you only need a small amount to achieve a profound effect. If stored in cool and dark conditions shatter can be stored for months.

CBD shatter

Pure cannabidiol shatter is similar to other types of CBD concentrates that contain 0% to 0.3% of the psychoactive cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC).

The therapeutic effects of concentrated CBD are essentially the same as those of other CBD products such as CBD oils, edibles, vaporizers, and topicals. Like such products, there is no psychoactive effect induced by inhaling CBD shatter vapour.

This form of CBD can be used for:

  • Pain[2]

  • Multiple sclerosis[3]

  • Inflammatory-related pain[4]

  • Muscle spasticity[5]

  • Managing stress and anxiety[6]

The effects of CBD shatter are far more acute than those of burning a CBD-rich flower. This method is beneficial for those looking for fast-acting relief with minimal effort. Simply add a few small shards of shatter to your dab rig after heating it with a torch for a few moments.

THC Shatter

THC is an infamous cannabinoid. It has long been held responsible for the full brunt of negative connotations associated with cannabis. While there have been many studies that demonstrate the medicinal value of CBD, there has been an abysmal amount of work dedicated to uncovering the benefits of THC.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. There are many promising scientific findings from medicinal CBD studies, which has greatly encouraged research into its sister cannabinoid. There is also a massive economic incentive to engage with public demand for medical cannabis products.

Aside from the psychoactive effects associated with THC, there are a few common side effects to THC which can vary from dry mouth to paranoia. Prescription medication may also interact with the cannabinoid which can have varying effects ranging from mild to severe physiological effects. In this case, it is always necessary to speak with your doctor about possible medical interactions with THC and other cannabis products.

If you’re comfortable with the psychoactive effects of THC, you’re likely to benefit from the individualistic effects of the cannabinoid. Existing research suggests that THC can be used to manage a number of conditions, including:

  • Pain[7]

  • Insomnia[8]

  • Loss of appetite[9]

  • Nausea and side effects of radiation and chemotherapy[10]

Using THC-rich shatter also delivers additional health benefits thanks to a full-spectrum of cannabinoids which collectively contribute to what is known as the Entourage Effect. This is the natural biochemical synthesis of compounds which work together to deliver stronger therapeutic benefits than one individual type of cannabinoid.

Final thoughts on cannabis shatter

Like any new and potent form of cannabis, it’s always best to err on the side of caution. Scientific studies are gradually gaining traction in the medical industry, but if you don’t feel like waiting a few years before trying out shatter for yourself, it’s important to remember a few points.

"Cannabis shatter is extremely potent and terpene-rich, delivering a greatly heightened smoking or dabbing experience"

Cannabis shatter is extremely potent and terpene-rich, delivering a greatly heightened smoking or dabbing experience. Always start with a small amount of shatter with a low concentration of cannabinoids for a smoother maiden voyage. Also consider what medication you might be taking which could negatively respond to a higher dose of cannabis.

A word of warning - making shatter is a complicated and dangerous process, and illegal in most Australian jurisdictions. Ensure you do plenty of research if you are thinking about attempting it at home

As long as you take the necessary precautions and carefully introduce yourself to the invigorating effects of cannabis shatter, it can prove to be an efficient and mighty potent method of consuming cannabis.

Jason Lu | BudHerd

Jason Lu | BudHerd

Jason is one of the lead editors and founder of BudHerd. He spends his days writing, designing, developing and researching all things cannabis. Jason is passionate about destigmatising and educating Australians on the therapeutic and recreational values of cannabis.
  1. Al-Zouabi I, Stogner JM, Miller BL, Lane ES. Butane hash oil and dabbing: insights into use, amateur production techniques, and potential harm mitigation. Subst Abuse Rehabil. 2018;9:91-101. Published 2018 Nov 2. doi:10.2147/SAR.S135252

  2. Iskedjian M, Bereza B, Gordon A, Piwko C, Einarson TR. Meta-analysis of cannabis based treatments for neuropathic and multiple sclerosis-related pain. Curr Med Res Opin. 2007;23(1):17‐24. doi:10.1185/030079906x158066

  3. Iskedjian M, Bereza B, Gordon A, Piwko C, Einarson TR. Meta-analysis of cannabis based treatments for neuropathic and multiple sclerosis-related pain. Curr Med Res Opin. 2007;23(1):17‐24. doi:10.1185/030079906x158066

  4. Nagarkatti P, Pandey R, Rieder SA, Hegde VL, Nagarkatti M. Cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs. Future Med Chem. 2009;1(7):1333-1349. doi:10.4155/fmc.09.93

  5. Multiple Sclerosis Research Australia. (2020). Medicinal Cannabis and MS. https://msra.org.au/medicinal-cannabis-ms/

  6. Bergamaschi, M., Queiroz, R., Chagas, M. et al. Cannabidiol Reduces the Anxiety Induced by Simulated Public Speaking in Treatment-Naïve Social Phobia Patients. Neuropsychopharmacol 36, 1219–1226 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1038/npp.2011.6

  7. Therapeutic Goods Administration. (2017). Guidance for the use of medicinal cannabis in the treatment of chronic non-cancer pain in Australia. https://www.tga.gov.au/publication/guidance-use-medicinal-cannabis-treatment-chronic-non-cancer-pain-australia

  8. Kuhathasan N, Dufort A, MacKillop J, Gottschalk R, Minuzzi L, Frey BN. The use of cannabinoids for sleep: A critical review on clinical trials. Exp Clin Psychopharmacol. 2019;27(4):383-401. doi:10.1037/pha0000285

  9. Therapeutic Goods Administration. (2017). Guidance for the use of medicinal cannabis in Australia: Patient information. https://www.tga.gov.au/publication/guidance-use-medicinal-cannabis-australia-patient-information

  10. Tramèr MR, Carroll D, Campbell FA, Reynolds DJ, Moore RA, McQuay HJ. Cannabinoids for control of chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting: quantitative systematic review. BMJ. 2001;323(7303):16-21. doi:10.1136/bmj.323.7303.16

The statements made on this website are for information and educational purposes. BudHerd and its affiliates are not recommending anyone to use or cultivate cannabis for medicinal or recreational purposes. Please consult with your doctor before using medicinal cannabis to learn about the associated negative side effects. Medicinal cannabis is regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration in Australia and more details about cannabis as a scheduled drug can be found on their website.