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Understanding the Difference Between Distillate and RSO

By Danyal Swan December 22, 2021

There are numerous ways to enjoy cannabis for medicinal purposes. Due to the decreasing stigma associated with marijuana use and its rise in popularity, growers and manufacturers have made great advancements in the cannabis industry. Dispensaries feature a wide variety of options, making consumption easier than ever and helping patients truly customize their experience.

Cannabis oil is one method of use that continues to grow in popularity and demand. Its high potency and versatility make this product the preferred choice of many cannabis users. Whether you are new to cannabis or looking for new strains to try, determining the difference between RSO and distillate can help you decide which option is best for you.

What Is a Distillate?

Cannabis is composed of hundreds of individual compounds, including cannabinoids, flavonoids, and other essential oils. The distillate process removes these compounds to create a highly refined extract that contains only a single cannabinoid in a pure, potent form. Terpenes are responsible for the final product’s taste and smell, so removing them provides complete control over the final product and produces an odorless, flavorless, translucent, and amber-colored product.

While all distillates are oils, not all cannabis oils are distillates. Distillates contain up to 98% cannabinoids, making them more potent than other extracts - undistilled cannabis oil extracts usually sit between 60-80% cannabinoid content. One of the drawbacks of distillation is the loss of some of the therapeutic benefits that the terpenes provide. Distillates are found in numerous cannabis products, including vape cartridges, edibles, and topical products.

Understanding the Difference Between THC and CBD Distillates

Distillates are available in THC and CBD forms. THC causes the psychotropic effects that cannabis is known for, while CBD produces wellness benefits without the characteristic “high.” Medicinal patients with a high tolerance often turn to THC distillates for their euphoric effects. These effects can help alleviate the symptoms of many medical issues, such as chronic pain, muscle spasms from MS or paraplegia, insomnia, and nausea, vomiting, and low appetite common among cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.

CBD distillates offer an alternative for those who seek wellness benefits without the cerebral effects associated with THC. CBD can reduce inflammation, pain, arthritis, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and migraines. It also reduces the frequency of seizures in patients with epilepsy and shows promise in improving the quality of life of patients with Parkinson’s disease. Regardless of whether you prefer THC or CBD, knowing which is best to take in these distillates can actually improve your experience and the efficacy of your product.

How Are Distillates Created?

Creating distillate involves a multi-step process of cultivation, extraction, and processing to remove all excess compounds from the cannabis plant. In the extraction process, the raw material from the marijuana plant is dried and cured after harvest. The compounds are then extracted by utilizing a solvent, often carbon dioxide, butane, or ethanol. Some processors take it a step further and perform a winterization on their extracts to remove fats and waxes using ethanol and colder temperatures.

This initial process creates oil with a concentration of 60-80%. Post-extraction, manufacturers take further steps to purify the crude oil, including exposing it to heat. The oil is placed in an apparatus to purify the cannabinoid at the lowest possible boiling point, causing the desired cannabinoid to evaporate without degrading it. At the end of this process, you are left with a translucent and potent distillate.

How Are Distillates Used?

Distillates are incredibly popular because they are versatile. This oil can be smoked, vaped, dabbed, used in cooking, or applied to the skin with lotions and creams. In fact, it is already a base ingredient for many edibles and vape cartridges. In sum, Distillate can be used on its own or infused in other cannabis products for different effects.

What Is RSO?

RSO, abbreviated from Rick Simpson oil, is a high THC oil that can be used in a multitude of ways and for numerous purposes. In appearance, it is a sticky, gooey black oil with almost a tar-like consistency. The appearance can vary slightly in color due to the variety of marijuana strains used to create the oil. You’ll often find RSO packed in syringes for easier consumption, application, and storage.

Who Is Rick Simpson?

When discussing what RSO oil is, it helps to understand how it came to be. Rick Simpson is a medical marijuana activist located in Canada. Rick Simpson was diagnosed with a form of skin cancer known as basal cell carcinoma in the early 2000s. Throughout his life, he had turned to cannabis as a natural form of managing other health conditions.

After his diagnosis, he began to formulate his own oils to help treat his cancer symptoms, and the trial-and-error process began. He would apply his oil to areas of his skin with cancerous growths and cover them with a bandage. Within days, he noticed his skin clearing up. From that point on, he tried to get RSO out to the public to help others with similar conditions - in fact, he gave it away for free in his native Canada, calling them “Phoenix tears.” Simpson’s trial and error created new options for those looking for medical marijuana strains.

How Is RSO Created?

RSO is a whole plant extract that retains all the compounds of the cannabis plant, including cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. RSO is created using a solvent, most commonly grain alcohol, although other solvents such as ethanol, CO2 or butane can be used.

In this process, the cannabis buds are placed in a large container and the alcohol added. This cannabis and alcohol mixture is stirred and crushed until well combined. Then, the alcohol is drained, and the container is heated to further remove any traces of solvent. This leaves a dark, tar-like oil with a high THC potency.

It’s important to note that RSO oil can vary when it comes to potency, largely due to the strain extracted.

How Is RSO Used?

RSO does not require heat - in fact, it should not be combusted or vaporized because of the inclusion of the plant’s natural fats, lipids, and chlorophyll. Instead, RSO  is commonly consumed sublingually (placed under the tongue), ingested orally, or applied topically. It is important to start slow with RSO, and there are often dosage guides that come with utilizing this potent oil. The main suggestion is to make sure that you consume a low dose. This allows you to see how you feel, and add more to your dose if needed to find the effects that best suit your medicinal needs.

RSO can also be used for cooking. Since RSO doesn’t remove any of the compounds of the cannabis plant, it can be an off-putting flavor, so you may want to focus on infusing RSO as a base, or with sauces that are strong enough to mask the taste.

Is RSO Oil the Same as Distillate?

While these are similar aspects to these products, RSO is not the same as a distillate. Both RSO and distillate oil deliver a potent amount of THC for the intended user. They both go through a complex process of cultivation and processing through solvents to break them down to a purer oil form, but this is where they begin to show distinct differences.

RSO is considered a full-spectrum oil because it maintains all elements of the cannabis plant, such as cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes. Many are drawn to full-spectrum oils for the perceived entourage effect, in which the different elements found within the oil work together to boost each other’s effects. Since none of the elements are removed, this can impact the look, smell, and flavor of the finished product. Distillate oil is not full-spectrum because it removes all elements of the cannabis plant until only the primary cannabinoid, THC or CBD, remains.

Is Distillate or RSO Better?

Understanding the similarity and differences between distillate and RSO oil can still leave many users unsure of which one is a better choice. One of the most amazing aspects of cannabis culture is that it really does come down to personal preference.

Distillate offers a level of purity that RSO does not. This appeals to a lot of consumers because it opens the door for versatile use. Distillate oil is already found in many of the cannabis products that you would see on your local dispensary’s shelves, including vape cartridges, and it acts as the base for many store-bought edibles. If you enjoy infusing food with cannabis, distillate oil allows you to do so without compromising flavor. Still, for some users, distillate oil doesn’t seem like the best choice because of its level of purity. They feel that by removing many of the compounds in the cannabis plant, some of the therapeutic benefits are lost.

RSO oil is also extremely versatile. While it is most commonly used orally, RSO oil can also be used in cooking, ideally by using RSO to infuse an oil base to further mask the cannabis taste. Since

RSO oil is often found in a syringe, which is one of the easiest storage methods for monitoring your doses as well as preserving the longevity of your oil.

So, which one is better? If you want the purity of a flavorless, odorless, and tasteless product, distillate oil may be the best option for you. If you seek the entourage effect, RSO may be a better choice due to its inclusion of all the different compounds found in the cannabis plant.

Remember, both distillate and RSO oils have high potency and are intended for users with a high tolerance or for those who utilize these oils for their medicinal purposes. Both oils should be introduced slowly to ensure that you get the most out of your experience without becoming overwhelmed.

How Do You Take RSO or Distillate in a Syringe?

Because both RSO and distillate are sticky and viscous, light warming (not heating, as it will degrade the active ingredient and could potentially shatter the glass syringe) makes dispensing from the syringe easier. This can be achieved by either placing the syringe’s cap on tightly and placing it in a bowl of warm water, or by holding the syringe in the crook of your elbow for 10-15 seconds.

Be sure not to press too hard on the plunger, as the glass may break.

Cannabis Methods of Consumption

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Alt: Cannabis Methods of Consumption

Cannabis is available in numerous forms to meet a wide range of consumer needs, and selecting the right form comes down to personal preference. The great part is getting to experiment to find which method you prefer.


As the cannabis industry grows, new and exciting methods surface that change the user experience. Many of these changes reflect the need for clear, proper dosing, as well as ease of use. In recent years, the appeal of syringes has grown. Both RSO and Distillate oil can be found in syringes which raises the question, what’s the difference between RSO and Distillate syringes?

Most RSOs come in a syringe that allows for precision dosing, making it easy to ingest orally or apply topically for sedating or medicinal purposes. Distillate syringes work in essentially the same manner and make it easy to add oil to your flower or food. When it comes to strength, RSO oil is often considered stronger because it involves all the different elements of the cannabis plant working together.


If you prefer vaping for immediate effects, distillate is a better choice, as RSO should never be inhaled. In fact, smoking RSO can have negative health impacts such as coughing and even pneumonia due to the presence of fats, lipids, and chlorophyll. You always want to check with your Cannabis Consultant first to ensure that they way you intend to use the product is correct, and that it’s a good cannabis item for your medical needs. Distillate oil is already the primary ingredient for vape oil, and there is no risk in vaping or dabbing distillate oil. Many choose this option for the quick onset of effects.

Oral Consumption and Edibles

RSO is great for users who prefer to consume their THC orally. It was created for oral use, and it’s perfect for the sublingual method. RSO can be added to food, but it may require extra finesse to make sure that it doesn’t alter the overall taste of your meal too much. Distillate is more versatile since it doesn’t have any taste or flavor. However, for users with stomach issues, distillate may not benefit you as much as RSO would. As with edibles, consuming a meal high in fats will help the cannabinoids break down more quickly to enter the bloodstream.


RSO and distillate oils are both excellent for topical care. Both can be used on their own or mixed with oils and lotions. This method provides localized pain relief and can help with a variety of skin concerns, including eczema, psoriasis, pruritus, and acne, as well as reducing pain and irritation resulting from inflammatory conditions

While each option depends on the user’s preference, few methods of consumption offer as much control as a syringe. You have power over the volume, and thus, its potency. Though some people are concerned about the aesthetics of syringe use, it’s a great opportunity to transform the stereotype of needs and illustrate their virtue and efficiency.

Which Cannabis Product Option Is Right for Me?

RSO and distillate oils are popular options for users who enjoy their cannabis with high potency and versatility. For those who prefer the tasteless, highly purified concentration of oil, distillate is the best choice. If you are someone who believes in the idea of full spectrum experiences, RSO may be a better choice for you.
Additionally, distillate provides users with a wider range of experiences since it can be smoked, dabbed, or vaped and doesn’t alter the taste of edibles or food. Turning to a cannabis expert can help you decide which oil is best for you and your needs.

Tell MÜV About Your Distillate vs. RSO Experience

We can offer you some guidance on which product is best for you. We look for insight from our customers as a method of recommending strains and other products. If you have a particular response you want to share to help other users, join our Patient Pioneer program, where you can measure the success of your medical cannabis products for your personal symptom flare ups.

Have more questions about distillate vs. RSO? Contact our Patient Care Team Monday through Saturday 9:00 AM until 8:00 PM EST and Sundays from 10:00 AM until 6:00 PM EST. We are here to answer any and all questions you have about MÜV, our products and the medical marijuana laws in Florida.

Content Manager for MÜV Florida and Contributor for Zen Leaf Dispensaries. A cannabis connoisseur with a passion for explaining the miraculous possibility of the plant, Swan began her journey with cannabis as a recreational user and quickly realized its positive impact on her depression and severe anxiety. She joined the cannabis industry as Receptionist and MedTender and witnessed first-hand the immense potential of the plant for a wide variety of ailments, deepening her passion for alternative medicine. Swan is dedicated to self-education on the plant and sharing its potential with all. She holds a Journalism degree from the University of Iowa.

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