On a cannabis plant, there are tiny hairs that give the plant a crystal-like sheen and a sticky feel. These hairs are called trichomes, and they produce and hold the plant’s cannabinoids and terpenes. Concentrates basically isolate and accumulate these compounds from the plant’s trichome glands. This allows high potency without adding heat. Otherwise, cannabis needs to be heated to provide most of its effects, either by smoking or decarbing before putting it into edibles and other non-smokable options. Simply eating flower does not provide the same potency.
Sometimes concentrates are interchangeably called extracts, but there is a difference. Extracts are the most common way of making concentrate — where a solvent is used to dissolve the essential oils and resinous cannabinoids from the plant material. The resulting product has very high levels of THC. The other way to make concentrate is to physically separate the trichomes from the plant material. This is done through centrifuges, gravity separation, and filtration.
Once made, concentrates can then be infused into edibles, tinctures, and topicals without the need for heat.