thc crystals

What are THC Crystals, and How Do You Use Them?

Even though you love and use cannabis, you may not know that there is a pure form of THC crystals on the market called crystalline. If you want to try your hand at experimenting with pure THC, now you can.

For some, the appeal of cannabis is that it is 100% natural, and our body engages with the hundreds of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids in cannabis that trigger our endocannabinoid system. THC crystals and crystallines eliminate all of these different compounds, leaving you only with THC-A, not THC. But how does that turn into THC?

This post covers the process of creating THC crystals and the potential benefits and dangers of crystalline so you can make an educated decision if pure THC is for you.

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What are THC Crystals, a.k.a. Crystalline?

Crystalline, also known as THC crystals, diamonds, or isolate, is a form of concentrated crystallized THC-A. This non-psychoactive acid form of THC must be heated or decarboxylated to give you the THC high we’re all familiar with.

Crystalline gets its name because the final product looks like coarse sugar crystals. It can be purchased at some dispensaries and is also used as the basis for some edibles or concentrate products. Being pure THC-A, it can be more easily measured out and dosed.

What Cannabinoids Are Available In Crystalline Form?

THC-A isn’t the only cannabinoid available in a pure crystalline form. CBD-A and straight CBD are also both available in a similar texture. CBD-A, like THC-A, needs to be decarbed to receive the benefits of CBD, but CBD crystalline is also available. Pure CBD is sometimes known as CBD isolate.

How To Make THC Crystals

Crystalline is harvested from cannabis extract, so it’s not extracted from the plant itself but from a derivative. There are a fair amount of chemical processes used to create crystalline.

Cannabis extract is often made by exposing cannabis plant matter to butane. That chemical reaction causes the cannabinoids to start being released from the plant where they can be harvested. That mixture is then refined multiple times to remove impurities and harmful chemicals.

To make THC-A crystalline, a cannabis extract is combined with acetic acid and hexane to dissolve all of the plant matter, terpenes, fats, and unwanted cannabinoids. Then, that mixture is placed in a machine to separate the compounds.

A rotary vessel or reactionary vessel is used to apply heat, pressure, and motion to evaporate the chemicals leaving behind only THC-A.

Given the number of chemicals used in this process, some unwanted and potentially dangerous chemicals must be removed through chromatography. Chromatography? Flashback to any crime lab on television with the different beakers and apparatuses.

Chromatography uses different pieces of glassware to let chemicals evaporate at different levels and separate the chemicals you want. This mixture is then put back in the rotary or reactionary vessel, and the process is repeated until the THC-A forms into crystals that can be harvested.

Photo by Jimmy Chan

Are Kief (Trichomes) and THC Crystals the Same?

Crystalline (THC crystals) should not be confused with kief. While both are potent and crystalline, they are vastly different. Kief can sometimes be described as crystals on cannabis, but they are much different.

Kief is made up of the trichomes of the cannabis plant. As cannabis matures, these hair-like glands can become filled with cannabinoids, including THC. As a result, Kief can sometimes look like crystals based on how they look on cured cannabis flowers.

Trichomes are also where the THC is located, so when you hear THC crystals, you may think of kief. But kief is naturally occurring while crystalline a.k.a. THC crystals, are the pure crystallized form of THC-A.

Does Crystalline (THC Crystals) Get You High?

Crystalline in its raw form will not get you high. It requires heat to decarboxylate and convert from THC-A to THC. THC-A is not psychoactive on its own; it’s the acid form of THC. So if you were to eat it, you might not feel anything.

When used in cooking to make edibles or smoked, crystalline can get you very high as it will become pure THC. Given that it is pure THC-A when heated, it creates pure THC and carbon dioxide, so when smoking it or eating a heated version, there will be a lot of THC.

Does Crystalline (THC Crystals) Give You a Different High?

The short answer is yes. There is no telling how pure THC at that high dose will affect you. People are often so excited about THC and the “high” they may not understand the entourage effect.

The entourage effect is the idea that the full blend of the 100s of cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes all work together to provide the full effect on your body. This means your “high” includes the psychoactive, physical, and emotional benefits of the entourage working together.

For example, the blend of terpenes and cannabinoids can be used to treat anxiety and mood disorders. The CBD and terpenes can temper some of the anxiety you can get from consuming too much THC or prevent any potential hallucinatory effects.

When using crystalline, all of the effects on your body and the full spectrum of your “high” will be based on your body’s reactions to THC. That being said, THC crystals can offer you a cleaner high as you are exposed to only one cannabinoid affecting your body at a time. Therefore, you can easily find out if you enjoy it and if it’s for you.

How Can Crystalline Be Used?

Crystalline can be consumed orally and can also be added to oil to make tinctures or used in pill form to get the full benefits of the THC-A or CBD. However, it will not have the psychoactive effect of getting you high or the benefits of CBD if the crystalline is not heated until it has decarboxylated.

THC crystals can be added to other cannabis products like extracts, dabs, joints, or flowers before smoking to increase their THC content.

THC crystals can also be smoked directly using a dab rig. Instead of using concentrate, wax, or shatter, you can simply use crystalline. The dab rig would allow you to heat the THC-A, letting you inhale the pure THC.

Is Crystalline Better Than Other Concentrates?

Crystalline is more potent than other concentrates. It’s essentially 99.9% THC when heated, cooked, or smoked. Better is up for debate. Many concentrates include other cannabinoids and terpenes, increasing their health benefits and offering a different experience.

Crystalline is made from other extracts and concentrates, so it can be said to be more distilled and chemically processed. Given the number of chemicals, solvents, and processes used to make crystalline, you get further and further away from the natural plant.

There hasn’t been adequate testing with cannabis legalization being so new to know if there are any long-term health concerns or effects of using crystalline.

Is Crystalline Dangerous?

When using crystalline, you can control how much you are using and manage your dose. That can make for a more controlled experience, but it is still essentially pure THC.

When smoking crystalline, there’s no telling how much THC you’ll actually be taking in when inhaling. If you overdo it, you’re consuming much more than the amount of THC in most flowers, edibles, or vapes.

There’s also not been an adequate amount of study to determine crystalline use’s long-term effects. You also run the risk of developing an addiction or marijuana use disorder. Unlike other cannabis products, you want to be 100% careful when consuming crystalline.

Can You Make Crystalline on Your Own?

Given the amounts of harmful, toxic, and flammable chemicals involved in making crystalline, you should not attempt making it on your own. There is the potential for fire or creating a toxic final product that can be harmful. Given their toxicity and public hazard, these chemical processes are also illegal in many states. If you’re not clear on the process, trying to make crystalline at home exposes you to similar risks as people making crystal meth.

Expand Your Options with a Medical Marijuana Card

Crystalline or THC crystals allow you to explore the full scope of benefits of THC and THC-A. That being said, you cannot deny that it is akin to crystal meth or crack cocaine, as it’s a chemically distilled form of something that gets you high.

It’s obviously not on par with those narcotics, but special care should be taken as there are no guarantees that all crystalline products are made in the best conditions and with the most testing. Again, there’s no harm in trying THC crystals, but it may be problematic to make a habit of using something so chemically treated this early in marijuana legalization; there’s not enough adequate information on the effects on your long-term health.

Play it safe with medicinal marijuana! If it’s legal in your state and you meet any of the qualifying conditions, you can apply online for a medical marijuana card right now.


Dr. Anand DugarThis article is reviewed by Dr. Anand Dugar, an anesthesiologist and pain medicine physician. He is also the founder of Green Health Docs. Graduating from medical school in 2004 and residency in 2008, Dr. Dugar has been a licensed physician for almost 20 years and has been leading the push for medical cannabis nationwide.