What is Cannabis Live Resin?

By Gooey Rabinski | September 18, 2015

Cannabis consumers are always seeking innovative and high-quality ways of smoking or vaping the dried and cured buds that they grind and drop into a glass bowl, bong, or roll into a joint. But with technology and cannabis science merging in new and powerful ways, novel methods of ingestion are becoming available.

One of the most popular and practical methods of consuming the herb is concentrates. Ranging from old school kief and pressed hash to BHO (Butane Hash Oil) and its various iterations (such as budder, wax, shatter, and glass) and CO2 oil, fans of the culture have no shortage of ways to get cannabinoids and terpenes into their bodies, be it for medicinal or recreational purposes. Because they are vaporized and typically not smoked, concentrates also offer harm reduction and rapid onset.

High-Tech, More Terpenes

The newest, and arguably more promising, new development in concentrates is live resin. With even many seasoned marijuana consumers unaware of this method for extracting the resin-bearing trichomes from the plant, it promises to make available to users a cleaner, more potent, and even more flavorful spin on concentrates.

Live resin is a process by which a freshly harvested plant is immediately flash frozen using professional laboratory equipment to cryogenically freeze the plant at very low temperatures. Because it is fresh frozen, live resin captures more complete cannabinoid and terpene profiles, delivering to the user more of the medicinal efficacy of the plant. For recreational vapers, it also delivers superior flavors, aroma, and potency. All users get an improved cannabinoid and terpene profile, meaning a different, arguably better psychoactive effect and enhanced medical value.

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This enhancement of the concentrate is especially true when it comes to terpenes. Kenneth Morrow, author of the Handbook of Essential Oils, writes that the majority of the terpenes contained in a particular freshly harvested cannabis plant degrade and, thus, are largely lost during the drying process. Because terpenes are also destroyed during most extraction processes, this means that most cannabis flowers and concentrates — because they employ herb that has undergone drying and curing — have lost the majority of the terpenes that were present in the plant at harvest.

Said Morrow:

“As much of 60 percent of a plant’s terpene content is lost during the drying process.”

Basically, live resin, due to the use of cryogenic freezing and whole plant extraction methods, better preserves the “intentions” of the plant in terms of its collection of cannabinoids and terpenes, ensuring that they don’t become degraded via the drying and curing process and simple exposure to oxygen and light.

Probably the most amazing aspect of live resin is that it produces such a pure and exact replica of the original plant in terms of its terpene profile while investing zero time in drying and curing (normally a 30-70 day process). Because of this, processing and manufacturing facilities and laboratories that extract live resin are able to more quickly get product to market, helping their bottom line and better satisfying the demands of consumers in legal states like Oregon, Washington, and Colorado.

Better Flavor and Aroma

Some industry experts claim that live resin offers the most flavor and best terpene profile of any extraction method available. Due to the ironically negative effects that drying and curing can have on the plant, live resin provides a very different twist on capturing and delivering a more robust and pure collection of cannabinoids and terpenes from the trichomes present on the buds and leaves.

For example, Addison DeMoura of Steep Hill Labs believes that the aroma released by one-gram of live resin equals that of “a whole bag of weed.” He also reports that most samples of cannabis concentrate contain about four percent terpenoids, whereas some live resin samples his lab has tested offer as much as 20 percent terpenes.

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Technically, live resin is typically a type of BHO, but can also be created via CO2 extraction. In the case of BHO, laboratories take frozen plants and use a closed-loop extraction machine employing butane, after which it is purged of impurities, including any residual solvent (decidedly not healthy), using a vacuum oven that employs low heat over several hours. The fact that live resin contains more terpenes gives is a sappy, more liquid quality than many other concentrates. It’s simply not as stable (or as rigid) as BHO products like shatter or glass.

The Downside

The only downside of live resin is the fact that it is relatively rare, more difficult to produce than other concentrates, sometimes quite expensive (like any connoisseur-grade concentrate), and can’t be made at home (unlike BHO). Because of its potency, those new to live resin and concentrates should “start low, go slow” to avoid getting too high and spun out. Users should strive to be familiar with not only concentrates and live resin, but also the particular sample they are dabbing or vaporizing, which may be notably stronger than others they have tried.

Like most high-potency concentrates, a little goes a long way. Typically sold by the gram or half-gram, live resin is perfect for dabbing. With THC volumes ranging from 65 to 95 percent, live resin offers patients and recreational consumers the ability to suck down about a joint worth of THC and other cannabinoids in a single inhale. For patients suffering chronic pain or nausea, this instant relief and dramatically decreased smoking burden are a welcome sign of the future of cannabinoid and terpene consumption.

However, a high THC level isn’t the appeal of live resin; plenty of this psychoactive cannabinoid can be obtained from more traditional concentrates that employ top-shelf cannabis, including the very common BHO and also CO2 oil. Even old-school kief, if obtained from high quality, well-cultivated strains of cannabis, can deliver up to 60 percent THC to users.

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Concentrates like live resin offer the ability for those with busy schedules suffering from severe pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea, migraine headaches, epilepsy, and other severe conditions to efficiently medicate, gaining quick relief. Live resin also offers the ability to go mobile, using a vape pen or pocket vaporizer to consume this 21st century extracted form of “Indian hemp.”

Promise for Patients

Live resin is especially promising for patients. While many consider terpenes to offer only aroma and flavor, much research points toward the synergistic effect produced when cannabinoids and terpenes work together to deliver medical efficacy for a wide variety of ailments — something called the entourage effect. Less degradation in the active molecules of the plant (cannabinoids and terpenes) means a sometimes significantly greater ability to treat ailments for which traditionally dried and cured cannabis flowers might not be the best solution — especially if potency is the goal.

Those in prohibitionist states lacking legal dispensary networks will be hard pressed to find any concentrates, let alone live resin. But for those lucky patients and recreational vapers in states like Alaska, California, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, experimenting with live resin may be as simple as a drive to one’s local dispensary or retail outlet.

Photo credit: Tokecity.com, Hightimes.com

Gooey Rabinski

Gooey Rabinski is the author of Understanding Medical Marijuana.

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