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What is Hash?

What is Hash?

Cannabis hash

Hash is a traditional cannabis extract known for its powerful high. Today, there are many types of hash available.

Hash is a cannabis concentrate made from the resinous glands of the female plant, called trichomes. Trichomes are found primarily on cannabis flowers. They are responsible for giving a frosty appearance and sticky finish.

Trichomes contain the all-important compounds known as cannabinoids, including CBD and THC, and terpenes, the oils that provide cannabis with its aromas and flavors.

Hash is a potent extraction of these active ingredients that can be smoked, eaten, or dabbed.

The Basics

Hash Cannabis Extract
(Photo: Shutterstock)

Hashish, or hash, is one of the oldest preparations of cannabis, representing centuries of history and global popularity.

Hash can take many different forms, from dry to sticky to oily. It is made by separating the trichomes from the mature female cannabis plant. Because of this, hash contains a concentrated amount of THC, making it more potent than whole cannabis flowers.

Pressed hash has around 50% THC compared to the 15-30% found in most cannabis flowers today, says Dr. Jordan Tishler, a Harvard physician and cannabis therapeutics specialist.

The traditional techniques for producing hash entail rubbing the dried plant with one’s hands or over a sieve. This action loosens the trichomes (crystals) from the flowers. The isolated resin is then gathered and pressed into hash cakes or rolled into a dark ball.

These original methods for making hash trace back hundreds — if not thousands — of years. But new methods of hash extraction have become more popular in recent years.

Types of Hash

Types of Hash
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Hash can be prepared using many different methods. Traditional methods include finger hash and dry-sieved hash, but modern methods like bubble hash and BHO extractions are more common today.

Traditional Hash

Hand-rubbed and dry-sifted hash are the traditional methods used to make hash.

The old-world method of making hash by hand is known as “charas”. The hash appears as dark brown balls with a greasy film. This variety is common in India and Nepal.

Hand rubbing is a simple process that is easy to do at home, but it is also messy and low-yield.

It is sometimes referred to as “finger hash” because the trichome-rich resin on the plant sticks to the handler’s fingers, coating them in a sticky powder that can be rubbed together to form hash.

The other classic variety is dry-sieved or “Moroccan” hash, in which dried buds are sifted over a screen, shaking the trichomes loose. The separated material is pressed into hash cakes that are often yellowish-brown in color.

Bubble Hash

A popular, but more modern preparation of hash is bubble or ice water hash.

“This [method] essentially consists of washing the trichomes off of the buds and then filtering them through a fine micron bag, resulting in pure trichomes or hash,” says Dylan Osborn, founder of GreenBox Grown, a California-based purveyor of cannabis growing starter kits.

“There is a drying process that separates the water from the hash, [which] can take several days.”

Bubble hash can vary in color from light or golden brown to black and may be pressed and sticky or a dry, unpressed powder.

Dry ice hash, on the other hand, is more convenient to make. “[It] is similar to bubble, but instead of washing the trichomes off, you freeze them and then break them off by shaking,” Osborn says.

“This is more convenient than bubble hash, as there is no moisture left in the hash so you don’t have to dry it out.”

BHO and Solvent Hash

Also carrying the hash name are newer, and wildly popular, solvent hash extractions.

These extractions use alcohol, CO2 or hydrocarbons (like butane or hexane) to extract the plant’s compounds. This leaves behind a highly potent product that can range greatly in texture and appearance — from liquid oil to hard, glass-like shards to crumbly wax.

Solvent extraction methods are not recommended for home hash-making, as they can be extremely dangerous, and pose a risk of explosions. It’s also hard to control quality in home operations, which can result in unpurged chemicals in the hash oil.

Consumption Methods

Consumption Methods
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Hash can be ingested orally, smoked, vaporized or dabbed. When smoked in a joint, pipe or bong, hash can be used alone or mixed with cannabis flowers or tobacco. Mixing improves its ability to burn.

When selecting a hash product, it is important to note the strain of marijuana used, as this will shape its effect.

“The strength of the hash depends on the genetic background of the plant it is made from and the climate where the plant was grown,” says Simone Baker, assistant curator of the Hash, Marijuana & Hemp Museum, which has locations in Amsterdam and Barcelona.

The quality of the cannabis and the purity of the extraction will also influence the end product.

Hash goes well with butters and oils and is thus well suited to culinary applications. It can also be added to drinks like tea and coffee.

With hand-rubbed charas, says Baker, “a small quantity of tea or water is added to the resin, so that the hash becomes very elastic and gives off a strong smell.”

Modern hash extracts like BHO can be included in edibles, vaporized or consumed by dabbing. Dabbing has earned a reputation as an extreme method of consumption, because it’s known to produce an intense high.

“Dabbing is a trend where a [bong] is fitted with what’s called a nail instead of a bowl,” Dr. Tishler explains.

“The nail is usually made of quartz or titanium and is heated with a torch. The hash is then dropped with a tool onto the nail where it vaporizes and is inhaled.”

Uses of Hash

Uses of Hash
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Like most forms of cannabis, hash is used for both recreational and medical purposes. Because hash is made from isolated trichomes of the cannabis plant, the high is stronger than that of whole cannabis flowers. This contributes to its recreational popularity.

From a medical perspective, the benefits and applications of CBD and THC have been studied for decades.

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However, there is little to no medical research that specifically focuses on hash, explains Dr. Stephen Brenner, chairman of Diagnostic Lab Corporation (DLC), a cannabis and food safety company.

Baker, of the Hash, Marijuana & Hemp Museum, points out that “hash has been consumed for centuries for medical purposes: to soften pain, to reduce spasms and to regain appetite.”

Some patients prefer concentrates precisely because of the greater dosages of THC, which allows the ability to obtain the amount needed in less time.

But Dr. Tishler urges medical users to exercise caution when consuming hash.

“Given the high concentrations of THC in modern hash, it is very potent,” he says. “It is very easy to overdo it. If you are treating medical illness with cannabis, low doses are most beneficial for most patients. Hash is not a good way to medicate, as it is hard to control the dose.”

History and Origins

Hash was first used in India, Persia and Arab countries, with production methods that are now thousands of years old, says Baker.

The word “assassin” may be derived from the word hashish, adds Dr. Tishler.

“There are stories about hashish being used by mercenaries in the Middle East who became known as hassassins or as well now called them, assassins,” he says, noting that this myth, while widely circulated, is unsubstantiated.

Hash made its way to Europe in the late 1700s. “Hashish was first introduced to Europe after the French Emperor Napoleon and his troops had invaded Egypt at the end of the 18th century,” Baker says.

“They saw that the Islamic population didn’t drink alcohol to relax, but [rather] smoked hash.”

In the mid-19th century, hash became a fixation for a group of well-known Parisian writers and poets. The self-proclaimed “Club des Hashischins,” or, in English, “Club of the Hash-Eaters,” was intent on writing about drug use and, specifically, hash.

Victor Hugo, Honoré de Balzac, Charles Baudelaire and Alexandre Dumas were members of the club, which operated from 1844-1849.

Hash’s popularity spread around the globe over the years. According to National Geographic, the majority of hash is produced in Morocco, Pakistan, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Nepal.

It is extremely popular in Europe, where it outpaces cannabis flowers in usage. In recent decades, hash has risen in popularity in the United States thanks to the advent of extracts like butane hash oil.

Summary

Hash is an ancient cannabis extract that can be prepared in a number of ways.

Traditional preparations include finger hash and dry-sieved hash. Newer methods include bubble hash and the extremely popular BHO. Hash can be consumed by smoking, dabbing, or oral ingestion.

Hash has a rich history stretching back thousands of years. Originally from the Middle East, hash is now enjoyed all over the world and continues to be innovated.

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