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Live Resin: Preservation of Terpenes

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Over the last decade, there have been significant technological advances in the cannabis industry that have helped push the boundaries of cultivation and extraction. There are now numerous high-quality extractions available that can provide the cannabis connoisseur with a full-spectrum cannabinoid profile while keeping the original essence of the strain.

Throughout the hobby-grower community, there are many ways to extract specific cannabinoids. However, in the cannabis industry, there are three main extraction techniques used: 

  • supercritical carbon dioxide
  • hydrocarbon
  • ethanol

Throughout all methods, the raw plant material is subjected to a solvent, which removes the active cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant into a chemical solution before being purged of impurities and cooled. Post-production techniques give the extract its texture and consistency. 

Throughout this article, we will be focusing on an advance in terpene preservation and discussing live resin. This is a high-quality extract renowned for its immaculate terpene profile and full-spectrum cannabinoid content.

What is live resin?

Cannabis extractions are often named for their aesthetic appearance or texture, and this terpene-heavy extract is no exception. It is called live resin because the whole plant is cryogenically frozen directly after harvest, which differs from traditional extraction methods, where trichomes are aged before being processed further. 

Responsible for flavour and aroma, terpenes are volatile unsaturated hydrocarbons found within the cannabis plant. For years, many cannabis enthusiasts have known the importance of terpene preservation. As terpenes and cannabinoids degrade when exposed to higher temperatures, it is common knowledge that trichomes are best extracted in colder temperatures. This helps to separate the trichome heads from the plant. 

Live resin was first developed amongst a close group of medicinal patients in Colorado looking for new ways of preserving complete terpene profiles. These cannabis enthusiasts used a closed-loop extraction system with butane. This maintained the colder temperatures needed to produce the terpene-rich extraction. Due to this new way of fresh-freezing the plant, live resin is renowned for its full-bodied flavour and exceptional terpene profiles. Not only that, it has THC levels of up to 95%. 

How is live resin made?

Live resin is produced in many states across the US, where cannabis is legally regulated. However, unfortunately, due to EU regulations, it is illegal to purchase or manufacture any cannabis extractions throughout Europe.

Live resin is produced by licensed extraction professionals in state-of-the-art laboratories across regulated states in the US. As temperature plays an essential role in cannabis extraction, using only the highest-grade equipment is vital to preserving the terpene profile. So here is a step-by-step explanation of the delicate production process of live resin!

Fresh-freezing

Foremost, plants are either dipped into a container filled with liquid nitrogen at a temperature of -210 °C, or sealed in a dry ice freezer with temperatures maintained at -40 °C. Flash-freezing, the whole plant moments after harvest, helps to preserve the terpene profile and create an aesthetically pleasing extract. 

Cannabinoid extraction with solvents

Solvents, most commonly butane, are used to chemically separate the cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant biomass into a liquid mixture without disturbing the other plant-based matrices. The solvent is often cooled to temperatures below -40 °C which can help lock out the water-soluble components of the plant. 

Live resin can also be produced by non-polar solvents such as ethanol and CO2, but this method is rare.

Closed-loop extraction

The frozen cannabis is placed in a closed-loop hydrocarbon extractor throughout the extraction process. The frozen cannabis will be washed with the chosen solvent, removing all essential cannabinoids and terpenes. 

The hydrocarbon and plant extract solution is collected in the collection chamber, and heat will be applied to evaporate the residual solvent from the solution. The remaining oil will be collected, and the leftover solvent will be returned to the solvent tank.

The purge

The excess residue solvents are then purged from the solution using a vacuum oven at low temperatures, eliminating the risk of unwanted pressure and keeping an identical terpene profile similar to the original strain. All finished products from licensed cannabis dispensaries will be laboratory tested for residual solvents, ensuring a high-quality and clean cannabis extract.

Consistency and texture

The post-processing techniques create the unique consistency and texture of live resin. Generally, live resins are dark yellow and extremely sticky with a similar texture to wax or sauce. 

Multiple consistencies and textures can be achieved through different purging processes, including: ‘sugar wax’, with a grainy, wet sugar-like texture, ‘raw jelly’, with a highly sticky jelly-like texture, and ‘sauce’, winterized with a sticky liquid consistency similar to a café condiment sauce. Winterization is the process of removing the plants’ fat, waxes and lipids.

How is live resin consumed?

Live resin can be used in various ways, but due to its sticky texture, it is always recommended to use a dab tool when handling it. So let us guide you through the top two consumption methods!

1. Dabbing live resin

Dabbing is the act of dabbing a small amount of cannabis concentrate onto a heated surface which will vaporize on contact. It has become extremely popular within the cannabis subculture, and many concentrate enthusiasts use a dab rig to consume live resin. 

A dab rig is a small glass water pipe, similar to a glass bong. However, in place of the bowl in a standard bong, there is either a glass or titanium nail, which will act as your surface for dabbing. The glass rig comprises four main parts: the mouthpiece, downstem, body and nail.

Mouthpiece

The mouthpiece is where the vapour is inhaled from. In comparison to a standard glass bong, it is a lot smaller. 

Body

The body is the main chamber where the smoke enters before it is inhaled. It is attached to the downstem and the mouthpiece and is slightly filled with water to filter the vapour before it is inhaled. 

Downstem

This is attached to the nail and acts as a passageway for the vaporized concentrate into the main chamber.

Nail or banger

This acts as a thermal conductor and is where the concentrates are dabbed onto. A nail has a small surface area and can be made of titanium or glass. In comparison, a banger is primarily made of quartz and is more like a dish.

Once the nail or banger has been pre-heated, the concentrate is dabbed onto a small surface of the nail or banger and vaporized. It is often left for around 30 to 45 seconds to cool down to reach this optimal temperature, but this can vary depending on the material of the nail. 

Dabbing connossuiers often recommend using a quartz thermal nail or banger made from the highest quality quartz glass. Quartz retains the full terpene profile and provides the user with an efficient and heat-effective dab. It is a great alternative to titanium. 

There are various temperatures for dabbing, but the optimal temperature is around 285 °C, preserving essential terpenes and cannabinoids. Low-temperature dabs make the most out of your concentrates and limit waste, whereas high-temperature dabs over 350 °C can destroy the terpene profile and eliminate all beneficial cannabinoids. 

However, suppose you are looking to get the perfect temperature every time. In that case, an electric nail or e-nail allows you to pre-set your rig to a specific temperature by using electronic coils to heat the nail or banger and maximize cannabinoid efficiency. 

The vapour is pulled into the downstem and through water in the main chamber. Once the vapour has filtered through the water, it can be inhaled through the mouthpiece that connects to the main chamber.

2. Vaporizing live resin

For health-conscious cannabis consumers, portable vaporizers make enjoying concentrates extremely easy. 

Wax pens are designed explicitly for extracts and can handle the thick consistency of different extractions like shatter, sauces, oils, and live resins. A wax pen uses an atomiser to heat the concentrate chamber, which is often ceramic. This maintains the highest quality vapour until it can be inhaled.

Dried flower vaporizers such as the Pax 3 and Davinci IQ2 often include a concentrate chamber and are perfect for extracts. There are three types of vaporizers: conduction, convection, and hybrids. So which kind of vaporizer is best for live resin?

A conduction vaporizer is one where the cannabis comes into direct contact with a heated surface, in this case, the concentrate chamber. A convection device pushes hot air over and through the dry flower, and a hybrid combines the two. With such a terpene-rich extract as live resin, a hybrid vaporizer is recommended for optimal flavour. 

How to store live resin

Like all cannabis products, many environmental factors can diminish quality and potency. The most influential factors include the following: 

  • sunlight
  • heat
  • air 
  • moisture

Over time, oxidation and heat can break down the crystalline and cannabinoid structure. So it is always recommended to store your live resin correctly!

It is best to store your extractions in a dark place, away from any light, to avoid degradation of the terpene profile and cannabinoid content. Airtight containers allow the live resin to maintain its unique terpene profile, protecting it from direct contact with air and moisture.

Cool temperatures are ideal, and storing live resin in the fridge in an airtight container is perfect. However, avoid storing directly in the freezer due to the possibility of high humidity in the concentrate container. Freezing any trapped water vapour will create unwanted moisture that can degrade the cannabinoid and terpene content.

Does live resin have benefits over other extractions?

Many cannabis connoisseurs praise live resin for its unique terpene profile and high potency, so let us check out the benefits of live resin compared to other cannabis extractions. 

1. Cannabinoid content of live resin

Rather than the cannabinoids being left to degrade over time, the freezing process preserves a full-plant extract with higher cannabinoid levels than other extracts, ideal for those looking to benefit from the entourage effect.

Live resin is highly potent. With a potential THC content of up to 95%, medicinal users looking for high-THC dosing will only need to consume minimal amounts compared to other extracts. 

2. The terpene profile of live resin

Terpenes can be broken down into two categories: sesquiterpenes and monoterpenes. Together, they make up the complex terpene profile of the cannabis plant. Monoterpenes are compounds with a smaller molecular structure directly responsible for the fresh, uplifting terpenes like linalool and limonene. Sesquiterpenes are accountable for the deeper undertones, such as caryophyllene and humulene. 

Due to their smaller molecular structure, monoterpenes are the first to evaporate once a cannabis plant has been harvested. Cannabis plants contain a more significant proportion of sesquiterpenes. In 2015, High Times surveyed the results of the Michigan Cannabis Cup and found that live resin is around 2% richer in monoterpenes and contains 11% fewer sesquiterpenes by weight than other extractions.

It is well known that as the inflorescence ages, the terpene content decreases. Still, due to the complex cryogenic freezing process, live resin preserves the plant’s terpene profile from the moment it is harvested. 

A study titled The volatile oil composition of fresh and air-dried buds of Cannabis sativa states that over 55% of the original terpene profile is thought to be lost during the drying and curing process! Live resin keeps the terpenes which would have been lost due to oxidation throughout the drying and curing process, even before the extraction process has begun. 

Many other extraction methods damage the plant’s terpene profile, and it is a sad fact that various solvent-based extraction companies reintegrate terpenes lost during the extraction process back into their product post-extraction. These artificial terpenes are not produced by the cannabis plant and do not give the user a full-spectrum plant extract. They also affect viscosity, and isolated terpenes are added to lower the product’s viscosity, potentially affecting its final finish.

3. The production time of live resin

Live resin is also quicker to produce, as there is no need to dry and cure the flowers after harvest. This allows expert extractors the chance to create more products per year. 

However, like all extractions, the terpene profile, texture and aesthetics can change depending on the quality of the flower, and the final product will only be as good as the frozen flower it was made with. 

What are the negative aspects of live resin?

Although there are many benefits of live resin, there are some negatives.

Is live resin dangerous to produce?

There have been various reports of people making BHO extracts at home using open-loop systems, and the consequences have been disastrous. It has been reported that amateur “blasting” methods may result in flammable vapour pooling in enclosed spaces and igniting when exposed to a spark.

This can be seen in Colorado, where there has been a dramatic increase in the number of patients presenting with burns associated with BHO production over the past seven years.

It is also essential to ensure that the final product is free from residue and solvents. So, purchasing your extracts from a licensed retailer where all products have been laboratory tested is always recommended. 

Is live resin expensive? 

There have been various reports regarding the average return from the dried flower. Many growers believe around a 3 to 5% return is moderate, with high-yielding strains having the potential to make a 7-8% return. Due to the limited return from live resin, products can be costly. 

However, due to the increased demand for top-shelf, high-quality extractions, prices have become more affordable for the average cannabis user in America. Due to the constant market fluctuations, it is not easy to put an exact price on live resin, but at the time of writing, an average gram of high-quality live resin in the US can range from $20 to $60 (€20 to €60).

Is live resin the future of extractions?

Some producers are content with using solvents to extract cannabinoids and terpenes. However, scientists and cannabis enthusiasts will continue to push the boundaries to create better, cleaner, more effective extracts. Unfortunately, due to the meagre return rate and exceptional terpene preservation, live resin is one of the priciest extracts.

Live resin keeps the flower’s original terpene profile. It offers the consumer the chance to enjoy the plant’s accurate terpene content, which is impossible with other extraction methods such as dry sift and supercritical CO2 extraction

Although it is a personal preference and there is a wide range of concentrates available, if you are looking for flavour, live resin should be at the top of your list!

Have you tried live resin, or have you had any experience with dabbing? Do you think extracts are the future of cannabis, or are they unnecessarily strong and expensive? Please let us know in the comments below! 

  • Disclaimer:

    Laws and regulations regarding cannabis use differ from country to country. Sensi Seeds therefore strongly advises you to check your local laws and regulations. Do not act in conflict with the law.



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