What's the difference between live resin and distillate?

Learn the key details about live resin and distillate so you can be an informed cannabis customer.

What's the difference between live resin and distillate?
minute read

Humans have been using cannabis for millenia, and how we interact with and consume these plants' compounds are constantly evolving.

Live resins and distillates are just two of the many cannabis concentrates preferred by curious newcomers and experienced users alike.

This article will help you understand the distinct processes that create these concentrates, their unique properties, and how they can benefit your lifestyle. 

What is live resin?

Live resin is a relatively new cannabis concentrate made from the highest-quality fresh hemp plants that are flash-frozen immediately after harvest. 

Unlike other concentrate processes, live resin utilizes fresh hemp flower, which does not undergo the drying and curing process. The post-extraction product results in a more flavorful and aromatic concentrate. Live resin captures the full spectrum experience of fresh cannabis, including all the desirable flavors, aromas, and beneficial plant compounds.

Live resin products can be named after their textures, such as badder, budder, sap, sugar, and sauce. The concentrate is usually typically deep amber, yellow, or white in color.

For instant effects, live resin is commonly smoked using a dab rig, an inhalable vape pen, or is added to a joint or bowl. Many of these live resin concentrates are very high in THC content and are likely not third-party tested, meaning the consumer cannot gauge the concentrate potency or safety.

Synthetic cannabinoids and unregulated THC products are flooding the hemp market, which allows for a negative consumer experience  especially for first-time users.

 We recommend live resin products with third-party test results, ensuring a safe and reliable experience without any harmful pesticides, metals, solvents, or other unnecessary additives.

Sunmed's live resin gummies are long-lasting, convenient, and third-party tested with batch-specific results. This wellness brand's premium gummies come in varieties of formulas for different effects  potent cannabinoid ratios for relief from daily tension, terpene-rich CBD formulas with a steady incline of relaxation and wellbeing, Indica live resin blends for sleep, and Sativa live resin blends for focus and creativity. 

How is live resin extracted?

Live resin is extracted by flash-freezing fresh cannabis plants immediately after harvest. Once frozen, these plants are processed in a hydrocarbon machine using a combination of solvents to extract the oils from the plant. These solvents are favorable in creating live resin because they efficiently capture the full spectrum of the plant, including all the flavonoids, cannabinoids, and a broad terpene profile

Once extracted, the mixture is lightly heated to purify the oil and purge any remaining solvents. At this point, the resulting oil can be whipped to create viscous butter-like badder or budder, or left in its original form, which is slightly wet and sugary.

What is the terpene and cannabinoid content of live resin?

Since the live resin extraction process begins with flash-frozen plants, the final product is distinct from other cannabis concentrates. Drying, curing, heat, and light can all cause loss of color, flavor, potency, and aroma in fresh plants.

Since live resin forgoes all of these steps, the end product is a full spectrum concentrate, comparable to the plant at its peak freshness. Live resin aims to achieve the most therapeutic benefits of the plant, providing an enhanced entourage of wellness benefits for the mind and body. 

Live resin extracts are rich in terpenes, typically in the range of four to 12 percent, yet this number varies depending on the product. Regarding cannabinoids, most live resin includes 45 to 90 percent THC — which is much too potent for a first-time user. If fact, too much THC for anyone can bring about a very negative cannabis experience, which is why premium brands recommend a live resin product with balanced cannabinoid ratios.

Go for a live resin concentrate with lots of terpenes and cannabinoids like CBD, CBG, and CBN. Terpene-rich, balanced cannabinoid ratios makes for a comprehensive live resin product and an enhanced entourage effect — which means more benefits for the user.  

What is distillate?

Distillate is a cannabis concentrate that most often contains one specific cannabinoid (THC, CBD, CBG, CBN) in a highly concentrated form. 

Stripped of all plant material in favor of isolating a specific cannabinoid, distillates are most often used in vape cartridges, edibles, topicals, and infused joints.

Unlike the live resin process, the goal of distillates is to concentrate a specific cannabinoid in its purest form rather than to preserve all minor cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavor compounds of the fresh plant. This makes for some some dangerously potent products that lack the balancing attributes of terpene-rich, whole plant cannabinoid concentrates. 

How is distillate extracted?

Distillates are made in the following process:

  • Drying and Curing: After harvesting, cannabis plants are dried by hanging or laying on racks. Once dried, they are cured in airtight containers to remove bacteria and age the plant. This process can remove flavorful aromas and beneficial wellness qualities from the plant material, unlike the plant material used in live resin concentrate. 
  • Extraction: Once cured, the desired cannabinoids, typically CBD or THC, are extracted from the plants using chemical solvents, including butane, ethanol, and propane.
  • Winterization: This extract then undergoes the winterization process, or exposure to cold temperatures. Winterization separates out plant compounds such as chlorophyll, waxes, and sugars.
  • Decarboxylation: From here, the extract is heated in a process called decarboxylation, which activates acidic CBDA and THCA into their parent compounds CBD and THC, creating a more potent concentration of these desirable cannabinoids.
  • Distillation: The last step in creating distillate is distillation, a repeated process of heating and cooling that removes any remaining solvents, plant compounds, terpenes, and other impurities, leaving behind a highly concentrated cannabis oil.

What is the terpene and cannabinoid content of distillate?

Since distillates aim to create an isolated form of a specific cannabinoid, they are highly potent cannabis concentrates. They typically have cannabinoid contents between 90-99% of the isolated cannabinoid.

As the distillate progresses through the steps of drying, curing, winterization, decarboxylation, and distillation, all but trace amounts of terpenes have been stripped away.

Is live resin or distillate more potent?

Due to the distinct processes that distillates and live resin undergo, the resulting products are unique in their potencies. 

To be clear, both of these concentrates are usually highly potent, unless one is consuming a wellness live resin product. Appropriate use and serving size depend on several factors, including experience level and tolerance. 

Because of its flash-frozen and concentrated properties, live resin provides a high cannabinoid and terpene potency. Many premium brands like Sunmed attempt to mimic the original flower's plant material, with bountiful flavor, aromas, and effects. 

Distillate, on the other hand, is much more potent than live resin, with cannabinoid contents as high as 99%. Isolating single cannabinoids is an unnatural process that often makes for highly potent, negative cannabis experiences. 

How can you choose between live resin and distillate?

Since these two concentrates are crafted with different intentions, your decision to choose one over the other will primarily come down to the experience you want. 

Although there is no wrong answer to which concentrate is right for you, these factors will help you decide which direction you want to go.


To fully understand the effects of these concentrates, one must learn about the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Discovered only about three decades ago, the endocannabinoid system is a network of receptors throughout our bodies located in our brains, nervous system, organs, and immune cells.

Humans and other mammals have naturally-occurring endocannabinoids in our bodies. These endocannabinoids bind to CB1 and CB2 receptors and help regulate various bodily processes, including our digestive and immune systems. 

Consuming hemp products provides our bodies with a boost of cannabinoids that we may lack in our bodies. This helps to create balance in our ECS, a key to overall wellness.

Live resin products are rich in cannabinoids and terpenes, which contribute to receptor balance in the ECS. There are live resin CBD products for everyday wellness without any intoxicating effects, as well as powerful THC cannabinoid ratios for an amplified experience. 

One of the major appeals of distillates is the potency of the single cannabinoid within these concentrates. While this may be appealing for some users, the distillate potency levels may lead to overconsumption and an overall unpleasant cannabis experience — especially for less experienced cannabis users.


The bottom line

When it comes to choosing a cannabis concentrate, one thing is certain: what's right for one person may not be right for every person. From different extraction methods to varied effects, there is quite a difference between distillate and live resin cannabis concentrates. 

Live resin is the go-to route for those seeking to experience the full potential of the cannabis plant, with therapeutic benefits, botanical terpenes, and a comprehensive cannabinoid ratio. 

Sunmed offers premium live resin products, from CBD-rich wellness gummies to potent THC sleep formulas. Sunmed's modern wellness franchise has third-party tested wellness products, extensive educational resources, and in-store wellness experts at 400+ storefronts to help guide your cannabis journey. 


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