Full spectrum vs. live resin: What's the difference?

Discover what full spectrum and live resin are and how they compare. 

Full spectrum vs. live resin: What's the difference?
minute read

The cannabis plant is a natural wonder, containing hundreds of unique compounds ranging from cannabinoids and terpenes to flavonoids and trichomes. The variety of plant matter is incredible on its own, but things get even more interesting when an extraction process is introduced to create a modern, effective, and new formula.

Of the many concentrates and distillates that can be derived from cannabis, full spectrum and live resin are the two making headlines in the industry. What is the need-to-know info on full spectrum hemp extracts and the live resin products making a splash in the cannabis world? This article will clear up any questions you may still have about these goods and what they mean for your wellness experience with cannabis.

What is full spectrum hemp extract?

If you’ve looked into cannabis or CBD at all, you’ve likely already encountered full spectrum hemp extract products. The idea behind full spectrum hemp extract is simple: harnessing the power of the whole cannabis plant to deliver balanced therapeutic benefits to the user.

With full spectrum extract products, you’re tapping into the natural resources of the cannabis plant material and getting a balanced formulation of the cannabinoids within. The highest-quality full spectrum hemp extract contains mostly CBD by volume, but can include dozens of other cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, a small amount of THC, and more. 

Full spectrum products are not concentrates or distillates, meaning you won’t get an overwhelming amount of THC. In fact, full spectrum products have a maximum THC concentration of only 0.3%, meaning you can still enjoy the entourage effect without experiencing psychoactive sensations. 

Because full spectrum extracts have been on the market for so long, they are now available in a wide range of formats, making them a pillar of the modern cannabis industry. The variety, versatility, and consistent quality of full spectrum products explain why this category has remained in the spotlight for years. As such a reliable representation of therapeutic cannabis, these products will continue to set the standard for manufacturers present and future. 

Why is full spectrum preferred by some users?

The simplicity and efficacy of full spectrum hemp extracts explain why these products are the go-to category for so many cannabis users. With full spectrum cannabis extract, users know exactly what they’re getting, especially when manufacturers use third-party lab test and clear certificates of analysis to verify their formulations.

Therapeutic benefits are the name of the game with full spectrum products — they are not typically used for recreational purposes. That’s because the lower THC content doesn’t induce a high, and users can take full spectrum extracts while going about their daily lives.

For instance, you can start your morning with a full spectrum hemp product that features CBD and CBG, which can support wakefulness, focus, and energy to jumpstart your day. The same can’t be said for products like live resin, which contains higher amounts of THC and may not be a suitable option for everyone.*

With that in mind, users still need to take full spectrum extracts wisely and pay attention to the amount they take and when. That’s why we recommend starting with a small amount of full spectrum extract and discovering the “sweet spot” that adheres to your daily needs and wellness challenges. 

It’s also worth mentioning that full spectrum hemp extracts can be formulated for relaxation and sleep, such as those with higher concentrations of CBN. This reiterates the point that every full spectrum extract is slightly different, and you should always go into your cannabis experience with a set of intended effects and purposes.* 

What is live resin?

We can see why full spectrum hemp products are so popular and continue to dominate the market. But where does live resin fit into the picture, and why is it making such a splash in the cannabis community?

Live resin is technically a cannabis concentrate, which separates it from an extract like full spectrum hemp or CBD products. It is made by flash-freezing hemp plants immediately after harvest in order to better utilize the active ingredients contained in live cannabis. Because it doesn’t undergo the drying or curing process, live resin is considered a more accurate and complete representation of the cannabis plant in concentrate form.

The extraction process can vary based on the desired end product, but methods typically involve the use of solvents to strip the cannabis of its active compounds and isolate them in a concentrated form. While live resin extract is usable on its own, it can also be shaped into various formats (waxes, butters, vape oils) or incorporated into edibles like gummies or candies.

However, regardless of its final form, live resin is popular for its potency and richness, drawing from the resources of the live cannabis plant and including them in a concentrated form. 

How does live resin differ from other extracts?

At first glance, live resin might not look very different from the cannabis products you already recognize. However, the differences are clear when we examine how live resin is produced and its composition compared to other extracts.

Most cannabis extracts start with the plant being dried, cured, or otherwise dehydrated to allow for a smoother and more comprehensive extraction process. This is understandable given the previous generation of extraction technology, but when new flash-freezing techniques were introduced, live resin was finally made possible. 

Because flash-freezing preserves the cannabis in its purest live state, the resulting concentrate contains a more robust array of active ingredients. Rather than just CBD and a few other cannabinoids and terpenes, live resin can contain dozens of these compounds in much higher concentrations. The terpene profiles are more varied, the cannabinoids are more powerful, and the resulting entourage effect is amplified as a result.

Compare live resin to other extracts that don’t utilize flash-freezing, and you’ll see that the chemical profiles are incomparable. This isn’t to say that other concentrates don’t have their time and place, but in terms of potent effects, they may fall short compared to live resin. 

What are the key differences between full spectrum and live resin?

Full spectrum hemp products and live resin are often compared as two of the most promising cannabis extracts available today. Both can deliver great benefits to users, though there are key differences to note when choosing between them. Let’s look at what makes these products unique and offer some insight into getting the most from each one. 

Extraction

The extraction process makes all the difference when comparing full spectrum hemp extracts to live resin products. While full spectrum hemp extract is derived from dried or cured plant material, live resin is extracted from a flash-frozen plant that hasn’t undergone this dehydration process. As a result, live resin contains more of the bioactive ingredients found in cannabis, compared to a more limited range of compounds in full spectrum extracts. 

The precise extraction process can vary between manufacturers, of course, and you should always look for producers that use safe and non-toxic methods in their extractions. While natural processes may take longer and cost more, the end product is healthier and more sustainable. 

Terpenes

Cannabinoids often take center stage when comparing cannabis products, but terpene profiles should not be overlooked. Both full spectrum extracts and live resin contain considerable terpene diversity, though the terpenes in live resin are thought to be more potent and effective as a result of flash-freezing. 

Because some terpenes are lost in the drying process required to obtain full spectrum extracts, some manufacturers add extra terpenes to oils or gummies to supplement the natural profile. Remember that exact terpene levels will vary between products and batches, meaning you should look at third-party lab tests to see what’s contained in the products you buy.

Potency

In terms of potency, live resin may contain higher amounts of THC in contrast to full spectrum hemp products. That’s because THC concentrations must be limited in full spectrum extracts to legally attain this label for distribution.* 

This is good news for people who enjoy the psychoactive experience —live resin THC content can range from 45 to 90 percent. On the flip side, cannabis newcomers should be extremely cautious when consuming live resin and be sure to start with a very low amount. There are some innovative new broad spectrum live resin products, which would be best-suited for a new cannabis user. 

Usage

Usage always depends on the individual, but there are two important points to note when comparing these products. Because of the THC levels in live resin, it’s not typically recommended as a productivity or focus enhancer. Full spectrum extracts, conversely, can be formulated for daytime use and may improve focus in some cases.

Additionally, live resin is often found in its pure extract form, similar to rosin or prepared for consumption via vape pens or dab rigs. Full spectrum products, however, tend to be only found in oils, gummies, or topical creams that are more accessible and safe to use.* 

Consumption experience

For those who enjoy smoking cannabis flower, live resin offers the next closest thing in terms of consumption experience. Many of the flavors and aromas are maintained in live resin, which is appealing for many cannabis veterans. Even live resin gummies tend to deliver more flavor as a result of the active ingredient profile.*

Full spectrum extracts can still be enjoyable, but products like oils and gummies may not pack the same punch in terms of user experience. Still, if you’re only in it for the therapeutic benefits of hemp, full spectrum is an exceptional choice.

The bottom line

The cannabis frontier is ever-changing and always exciting, with new discoveries made every day. The introduction of live resin is yet another leap forward for cannabis research, and there’s plenty to be excited about. 

Just be sure to approach live resin products with caution and know that these higher THC concentrations should not be brushed aside. As you gain familiarity with full spectrum hemp extract and level up your cannabis lifestyle, live resin may soon become your new go-to. 

Sources:

Advancing the science on cannabis concentrates and behavioural health | NIH

Exploring cannabis concentrates on the legal market: User profiles, product strength, and health-related outcomes | NIH

The Cannabis Terpenes | NIH

Processing and extraction methods of medicinal cannabis: a narrative review | NIH

Cannabinoids: Extraction Methods, Analysis, and Physicochemical Characterization | ScienceDirect