The legalization of marijuana, be it medicinal or recreational, has introduced a new practice into the mainstream that was once hidden from prying eyes. That practice? Improvement.
For the longest time, the science of marijuana was relegated to basements, backrooms, and other dark corners. Now, though, it’s been thrust into the light. Because of marijuana’s new-found acceptance, the burgeoning cannabis industry has experienced a rapid acceleration in advancement over the past decade.
Novel methods of consumption (e.g., dabbing and vaping) have become popular. And along with those novel methods have come novel substances like wax, shatter, and liquid THC.
Now an even newer form of marijuana has been introduced and is suddenly growing in popularity. What is that new form? It’s live resin.
But what exactly is live resin? How is live resin made? How does it relate to other concentrates like oil, wax, and shatter? And is live resin worth the extra money? This article will answer those questions.
What Is Live Resin?
Live resin is a concentrate, like wax or shatter, that is higher in terpenes than other cannabis material. What exactly are terpenes? Terpenes are oils secreted by the cannabis plant that give each strain its unique taste and smell.
The cool thing is that terpenes are produced by the very same glands that produce THC and CBD. So you know there’s gotta be something good going on there.
So far, more than 100 terpenes have been identified. And, like snowflakes, each one is different. Common terpenes include:
- Delta 3 Carene
- Alpha Bisabolol
Best of all, each and every one has its own distinct medicinal property. So whether you’re struggling with anxiety, cancer, depression, insomnia, nausea, lack of appetite, or some other ailment, there’s probably a terp to treat it.
Terpenes are so cool, we could do a whole article on them alone. Oh wait, we have! If you’re so inclined, you can delve into the details here while we switch our focus back to live resin.
We’ll go into this in detail in the next section, but, essentially, live resin is extracted from fresh, sometimes frozen, whole cannabis plants instead of plant material that has been decarboxylated (dried and cured). In fact, that’s where the product gets its name: the “live” in live resin refers to resin extracted from live plants.
Because live resin is processed without first decarboxylating the plant, the resulting concentrate more accurately captures the terpene profile of the living plant. This can result in better aromas, better flavors, and better medicinal effects. All good things if you ask us.
Where Did Live Resin Come From?
The marijuana plant has a long and storied (and often hazy) history on this planet. So while ganja-nauts have been dealing with the plant itself for thousands (yes, thousands!) of years, live resin is but a zygote (not even a fetus yet) in comparison.
Back in 2013, a small group of growers and extractors had the inspiration to try using fresh-frozen plant matter in their extract instead of the dried and cured variety. They followed that vision into the development of a special butane extractor.
This new piece of equipment still functioned as an extractor, but now it was also capable of maintaining the very low temperatures necessary to keep the plant matter frozen. With that new function (keeping the plant frozen), the inventors were then able to produce resin that was much closer to the chemical profile of the live plant. Thus, live resin was born.
But there’s much more to live resin than just a fancy new machine. Let’s delve a bit further into the extraction process.
How Is Live Resin Made?
First off, live resin is not something that can be made at home. It requires specialized equipment and knowledge to get it right. Maybe someday someone will come out with a do-it-yourself live resin kit. Until then, this process is best left to the professionals.
We’ll describe the gist of how live resin is made, but keep in mind that this should not be considered an instruction manual. As all the cool kids know: “Don’t try this at home, man!”
The extraction of live resin begins immediately after the plant is cut from its growing medium. Once cut, the plant begins to lose terpenes almost immediately. In fact, normally-processed plant material (i.e., dried and cured) can decrease in terpene content by as much as 60% before it reaches your bong or brownie mix. That’s a significant loss of these important compounds.
To stop the loss of these important terpenes, the whole plant is quickly frozen. That, though, introduces some other difficulties into the mix.
First, the trichomes—the resin glands that produce terpenes, TCH, CBD, and other cannabinoids—become very brittle. Because of this, the plant must be handled with extreme care so as not to damage the delicate heads.
And if you’ve seen how big some of those cannabis plants can be, you understand that you’re going to need a seriously large freezer to get everything in and out of there without breaking things. That in itself deters most people from giving live resin extraction a go. But if that wasn’t enough, try this next difficulty on for size.
Second, the fresh-frozen plant now has a much higher water content than decarboxylated plant matter. Because of this new variable, extracting the live resin has to be done at very cold temperatures.
And when we say very cold, we mean well below zero. Butane—the chemical most often used to extract the cannabis plant’s oils—that has been stored in your freezer won’t cut it. That’s because the average freezer in your house is set at 0℉, while the butane needed for live extraction has to be between -20℉ and -50℉. That’s seriously cold.
Only specialized, commercial freezers or cold rooms have the barest inkling of reaching such low temperatures.
For those who are curious about the chemistry, it’s important to remember that butane is slightly water-soluble at room temperatures. That means the potentially harmful butane, along with other toxins, will remain in the oil unless forced out by heat or cold. How is that done?
In this case, decreasing the temperature close to, or below zero makes the toxins water-insoluble. This means that they will separate themselves from the cannabis oil. In technical jargon, they will precipitate out of solution. Those toxins can then be removed to ensure a much cleaner final product.
Just to reiterate and underscore the point, that precipitation usually can’t be done at home without special equipment.
The easiest and safest way to produce live resin is through the use of a closed-loop extraction system. These systems can run close to five figures so not everyone is going to be able to afford them. And even if you do have $10,000 burning a hole in your pocket, these systems require loads of special knowledge to operate safely.
These closed-loop extractors work by putting the solvent—most often butane—under pressure and then cooling it down to cryogenic temperatures (the -20℉ to -50℉ or lower mentioned earlier). The chilled liquid butane is then passed through a materials tube that holds the fresh-frozen plant matter. It’s in this chamber that the butane bonds with the cannabinoids and terpenes and pulls them from the plant matter.
The liquid butane (which now contains all the good stuff from the cannabis plant) then passes into the dewax chamber where the lipids, fats, and waxes are removed. This serves to purify the extraction so that it can be ready for human consumption.
Finally, the solution passes into the collection chamber where light heat is applied to boil off the butane. When the boiling is complete, you’re left with a concentrated oil filled with pure cannabinoids like THC and CBD, as well as plenty of tasty terpenes.
The butane that was boiled off is then returned to the storage chamber where it is again put under pressure and chilled to cryogenic temperatures so it can be used again (hence the name “closed-loop”).
How Is Live Resin Similar To Other Concentrates?
First and foremost, live resin is produced in much the same way as other concentrates like honey oil, shatter, and wax. As we described above, a solvent is forced through the plant matter to strip out the THC, CBD, terpenes, and other chemical goodies that make marijuana so appealing.
The most common solvent is butane, which is why most concentrates are referred to as butane hash oil or BHO. But butane isn’t the only solvent available and some live resins are produced with these alternative liquids. Other possible solvents include carbon dioxide (CO2), isopropyl alcohol, and chloroform.
Live resin is also similar to other concentrates in that it has a much higher THC content than bud you might smoke or mix into edibles. Concentrates like live resin can weigh in at 80-90% THC. Compare that to plant matter that is smoked which can go as high as 25% THC, and you can quickly see why live resin is becoming so popular.
Having said that, the point of live resins is not THC content. In fact, some live resins might actually be slightly lower in THC than conventionally-produced concentrates. The real purpose of live resins is to preserve the terpenes that are lost through the regular decarboxylation process. That brings us to our next question.
How Is Live Resin Different From Other Concentrates?
The primary difference between live resin and other concentrates is terpene level. Live resin has a much higher terpene level. This difference can be as much as five times more by weight. Typically, though, the cold-extraction process necessary to produce live resin yields less actual product than other, more conventional extraction methods.
So you’re getting a trade-off with the cold-extraction process mentioned above: you get less product but much higher terpene levels (i.e., more accurate flavor). Let’s talk about those terpenes in a bit more detail.
The terpene molecules can be further classified into monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes. Monoterpenes like myrcene, limonene, and terpinolene, are “light” terpenes (think weight). These light terpenes are responsible for the more floral scents that the cannabis plant gives off, like geranium, rose, jasmine, kiwi, and apple.
Sesquiterpenes like caryophyllene and humulene are “heavy” terpenes (again, think weight). These heavy terpenes are responsible for the more pungent scents that the cannabis plant gives off like skunk, musk, patchouli, tea tree, diesel fuel, and sandalwood.
Because they are lighter, monoterpenes evaporate faster after the live plant is cut from its growing medium. A University of Mississippi study showed that dry curing (decarboxylation) can reduce monoterpene count anywhere from 55-85%. This reduction in monoterpenes means that the heavier sesquiterpenes that remain behind more readily influence the flavor, aroma, and medicinal impacts of the resultant concentrate.
So, for the most part, decarboxylated cannabis products are going to skew more toward the pungent end of the aroma because the monoterpenes have already evaporated.
The immediate freezing of the newly-cut plant preserves those delicate monoterpenes and keeps them from evaporating. Then when the plant matter is processed through butane extraction at cold temperatures, those monoterpenes that would otherwise have been lost, end up in the resin.
Ultimately, this is better for you because the live resin contains more of what was present in the whole plant. In fact, when asked to describe the experience of live resin versus other concentrates, many consumers compare it to the difference between eating fresh fruit and dried fruit.
Just think about that for a moment. You may not be getting the full flavor of your favorite strain because the absence of monoterpenes in your joint-ready cannabis completely changes the flavor profile. How sad. The only way to get a taste of your favorite strain the way nature intended it, is to try a live resin.
How Do Live Resins Differ From One Another?
Live resins differ from one another in two distinct ways:
- Terpene profile
We’ll examine each individually in the sections below.
Live resin depends, in large part, on the original strain used in the extraction process. More specifically, it depends on the terpene profile of the live plant. That means that live resin produced from a Cherry OG strain will differ dramatically from a live resin produced from a Sour Diesel strain.
There are even differences between the terpene profiles of plants from the same strain. A live resin from one batch (or even a single plant) of Yoda OG will be different than the live resin produced from a second batch of Yoda OG.
Live resins come in a variety of forms (e.g., soft or hard and everything in between). The most common viscosities include:
Because terpenes are just chemicals, they can have an effect on the viscosity of the live resin pulled from the plant. But most often, the more liquid live resins will be altered after the fact.
For example, the more “sappy” (as in sap-like, not excessively sentimental) live resins are hard to store and transport. So manufacturers will whip the live resin sap into an easier-to-handle live resin butter.
Because the extraction process is so difficult, live resins are often more expensive than regular concentrates. In fact, some live resins can sell for upwards of $100 per gram. Ouch!
That brings us to our next section.
Is Live Resin Worth The Extra Price?
The straight answer to this question is maybe. I know, it’s not so straight after all. That’s because it all depends on what you like. Remember, the live resin extraction process yields less product than regular extraction methods.
You are, however, getting a much more complete and accurate chemical picture of the cannabis plant when you use live resins. For these two reasons—smaller yields and more complete chemical profile, live resin will likely cost more than regular BHO.
But that cost may be worth it to you. The presence of those monoterpenes lost during “normal” butane extraction may interact with the other cannabis compounds to produce something you’ve never experienced before. The only way you’re going to find out is to try it.
Just remember that you’re not getting something with a higher THC or CBD content. You’re getting something that is essentially fresher than anything else on the market. That may appeal to you and it may not. Again, the only way you’re going to know for sure is to try.
For more information on all things cannabis and to check out our 100-percent all-natural marijuana products, visit HonestMarijuana.com today.