What is Hash?

Dabs, shatter and rosin are just some of the new cannabis extracts that are beginning to dominate the market. But for some cannabis enthusiasts, you just can't go past the classics. Read this article to find out more about hashish – the original cannabis extract.

Despite the economic uncertainty that lingers all around us, it appears as if the cannabis industry is booming and consistently reaching new heights. For example, it is estimated that the US cannabis market will reach a value of $37B USD over the next three years, with the state of Colorado recently hitting a monthly cannabis sales record of $192 million.

With this demand comes innovation and product development as manufacturers aim to differentiate themselves from their competitors. By the same token, cannabis consumers are always looking for new and exciting methods of consumption

In the current landscape, cannabis concentrates are all the rage. Extracts such as oil, dabs, shatter, rosin and more are all readily available on the market and are extremely popular with cannabis aficionados. 

But spare a thought for one of the OG cannabis extracts. While it may seem like it's getting left behind by a new generation of cannabis products, this particular extract has a long history of use and is still widely enjoyed by many different cultures and consumers today. I'm of course referring to hashish, which is also commonly known as 'hash'.

Hash is a cannabis concentrate made entirely out of trichomes, which are resinous glands that line the surface of cannabis plants. These trichomes can be found all over the plant, from the stems to the leaves and of course, the flowers. 

While methods of resin separation and hash creation have been practised for centuries, the rapid rise of legalisation in certain parts of the world has brought about the resurgence of one of the most popular cannabis concentrates in history.

A brief history of hash

The history of hashish is thought to share a similar timeline to the history of cannabis use since hash is made from the resinous glands of the plant. While records of cannabis use for both medicinal purposes and textile manufacturing date back several thousands of years, evidence for the creation and use of hashish didn't appear until much later.

The first known period of hashish use occurred around 900 AD, where it was consumed throughout Arabia. Between 1000 and 1200 BC, stories began circulating about Arabian assassins that consumed hashish, some of which were featured in the manuscript of One Thousand and One Nights (aka Arabian Tales).

While the popularity of hashish grew throughout the Middle East during the 12th Century, it eventually made its way to Europe around the early 1800s. Napoleon may have had a big influence in this migration, as it was documented that his troops were exposed to hashish during their campaign in Egypt.

European interest in hashish began to grow, with botanists and doctors alike beginning to promote the use of cannabis and its different compositions. In 1839, an Irish doctor published the results of his studies on the use of hashish in the treatment of disease and proclaimed that is was an effective anticonvulsant. After this initial discovery, several prominent writers and doctors throughout Europe began to experiment with hashish, with some believing that it could be effective in psychiatric practices. Shipments to Europe subsequently increased.

The second half of the 19th Century saw cannabis and hashish rise in popularity. Only a few medical practitioners at the time were concerned about any potential risks involved with the consumption of these substances. European and American pharmaceutical companies began to manufacture and patent new cannabis preparations.

As the 19th Century progressed, pharmaceutical companies turned towards more sophisticated drugs for disease treatment (e.g. vaccines, sedatives, painkillers, etc.). In conjunction with the beginnings of prohibition in 1937, this shift led to a decline in the use of medicinal cannabis. 

Some parts of Asia, such as India and Nepal, saw an influx of Western tourists who were interested in experiencing new and exotic drugs, such as hashish. By this time, the use of hashish was largely viewed as recreational rather than medicinal. 

Currently, the countries that are responsible for most of the world's hashish production are Morocco, Afghanistan, Nepal and India, while new methods of hash creation are constantly under development in legal markets such as the U.S and some parts of Europe.

How is it made?

The traditional method for making hash involves getting your hands dirty (literally). When handling cannabis buds, rubbing the blooms can coat your fingers in a sticky resin. Friction and heat transfers this resin from the plant to your skin. This resin can then be scraped off your hands and fingers and moulded into a ball of potent 'finger-hash'.

While this isn't the most efficient method of creating hash, it is one that has been around for centuries, from times when cannabis was abundant and free from prohibition. One of the biggest negatives with this method however, is that all the sweat and dirt found on your hands can end up in the hash.

Hash can also be made from kief, which is the name of these resinous glands that fall off the buds. If you've used a grinder before, you may have noticed kief collecting at the bottom after grinding cannabis up. It has the appearance of a green to light brown dust.

This kief can also be turned into hash by squashing it with your fingers. The heat from your fingers melts the oils and accelerates the process. Some novice hash-makers invest in a small hash press (aka pollen press) that mechanically squeezes the kief into a block of hash using pressure.

Dry sift hash vs. Bubble hash

While these traditional methods are effective in creating hash, modern techniques tend to be much more efficient. The most common ones utilised by consumers and manufacturers alike are the dry sift method, used to create dry sift hash, and the ice/water method used to create bubble hash.

In the dry sift method, cannabis buds are frozen to make the trichome resin glands brittle. These buds are then shaken through a series of silk screens until the kief falls through into a collecting tray. This particular method is very effective at collecting high yields of kief from cannabis buds. The kief is then collected and turned into hash by an industrial hash press or a similar apparatus.

In the ice/water method, cannabis buds are added to a bucket of iced water and stirred vigorously. Similar to freezing the buds in the dry sift method, the cold temperatures of the ice water make the trichomes more brittle and easier to break off. Stirring this mixture results in these resin glands falling to the bottom of the bucket. 

The water is then passed through a fine mesh filter that collects the resin glands. This residue is then air-dried, resulting in a collection of kief known as 'bubble hash'. While this is a process that requires preparation and time, it is solvent-free and makes high-quality hash. This method is especially popular with consumers looking to make high quantities of hash at home.

How is it consumed?

The main modes of consuming hash are via ingestion, smoking or vaporising. Eating it and smoking it are the most traditional methods, with both offering different pathways for absorption by the body. The effects of hashish are noticeably varied between the different methods of consumption, with ingestion inducing the most intense experience.

For this reason, the majority of hashish that is consumed worldwide is typically smoked. Smoking hashish is associated with feelings of relaxation and euphoria, similar to cannabis products that contain THC. One method of smoking hash involves rolling it into a joint, while others simply mix it with tobacco and roll it into cigarettes.

The alternative to eating or smoking hash is to vaporise it. When hashish is heated to temperatures between 200° C and 450° C, the consumer is able to experience both the potency and the flavours of the extract without any of the smoke. The increase in potency is due to an increase in THC levels, as smoking hashish can cause some of the THC to burn up.

While a new wave of cannabis extracts has hit the market which are becoming increasingly popular with consumers, there are many reasons why hash will continue to be a mainstay in the cannabis community. Thanks to its long history and significance in certain regions and cultures, hashish has secured its place in the cannabis extracts hall of fame.

As prohibition is coming to an end in the US, many new practices are being developed (such as the dry-ice method) for the creation of high-quality hash. This resurgence has seen hashish growing in popularity from region to region, allowing new consumers to get a taste of an iconic piece of cannabis history.

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Josh Griffin
Josh Griffin

Josh is a Perth-based writer with a background in psychology and pharmacology. Through his studies he has gained an interest in abnormal psychology, mental health and psychopharmacology and has reported on these topics. Currently, his main focus is on cannabinoids and their medical potential.

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