What is live resin?
Live resin is a type of cannabis concentrate that is created using a unique process that takes freshly harvested cannabis and freezes it to subcritical temperatures prior to and throughout the extraction process. The term "live" comes from the fact that this method enables the plant to maintain its valuable terpene profile, thus retaining the plant's original flavor and fragrance that can be lost in other extraction methods.
The exact origins of live resin are a bit murky, as the method involves technologies and techniques that have evolved over time. However, it's generally agreed upon that the concept of live resin was popularized around 2011-2013 by a man named William "Kind Bill" Fenger, a pioneer in the cannabis concentrate scene, and EmoTek Labs, which developed a closed-loop extraction system safe for commercial use.
The unique aspect of live resin — using fresh, flash-frozen cannabis plants as opposed to cured buds — was a novel concept at the time. Fenger, who was based in Colorado, realized that many of the aromatic compounds (terpenes) in cannabis were lost during the typical drying and curing process. By freezing the plants immediately after harvest, these terpenes could be better preserved, resulting in a more flavorful and aromatic concentrate.
Since then, the popularity of live resin has grown, and it has become a sought-after product for many cannabis enthusiasts, particularly those who appreciate the rich terpene profiles that live resin can offer.
How is live resin made?
The process of making live resin is intricate and involves careful temperature control to ensure the preservation of the terpenes and cannabinoids. This process typically requires specialized equipment and experience, and it's generally not recommended for amateur or home growers. Here's a step-by-step overview of how it's done:
- Harvest: The cannabis plants are harvested. Unlike traditional concentrates, the plants are not cured. Instead, they are immediately prepared for the next step.
- Flash Freezing: The harvested cannabis is flash-frozen. This means it's frozen very rapidly to ultra-low temperatures. The goal here is to freeze and preserve the resin glands and terpenes, which are volatile and can degrade or evaporate at room temperatures. This freezing process is what helps live resin maintain its rich terpene profile.
- Extraction: The frozen plant material is then put into an extraction system. This is often a closed-loop system, which means the solvent is continually recycled through the system. The most common solvent used is butane, but other hydrocarbons like propane can also be used. The solvent strips the cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant material.
- Purging: The resulting solution is then purged to remove the solvent. This is typically done using heat and vacuum pressure, which allows the solvent to evaporate. It's essential to remove all solvent to ensure the final product is safe for consumption.
- Collection and Storage: The remaining concentrate, which is now live resin, is collected. It tends to be a bit runny due to its high terpene content. It's generally a bright golden color and highly aromatic. The live resin should be stored in a cool, dark place to preserve its flavor and potency.
What are terpenes?
Terpenes are organic compounds produced by a wide variety of plants, including cannabis. They are responsible for the distinct aromas and flavors of different cannabis strains, ranging from fruity and sweet to earthy and pungent.
However, terpenes do more than just determine a plant's smell. They can also influence the effects of cannabis. When combined with cannabinoids like THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol), terpenes can contribute to the complexity of the cannabis high, a phenomenon known as the "entourage effect". This theory suggests that the effects of cannabis are not solely due to THC or CBD, but are the result of the synergistic interactions between these cannabinoids and terpenes.
There are over 200 different terpenes in cannabis, but a few common ones include:
- Myrcene: This is the most common terpene found in cannabis and has an earthy, musky scent. It's known for its sedative effects and is often found in high quantities in indica strains.
- Limonene: This terpene, as the name suggests, has a citrusy smell. It's associated with mood elevation and stress relief.
- Pinene: This terpene has a fresh, pine-like scent. It's known for promoting alertness and memory retention.
- Linalool: This terpene has a floral and lavender-like aroma. It's known for its calming, relaxing effects.
- Caryophyllene: This spicy, peppery terpene is unique in that it also acts as a cannabinoid and can activate the endocannabinoid system, potentially providing anti-inflammatory effects.
Compared to other extraction methods, live resin is famous for its capability to retain the most terpenes.
How to use live resin?
Here are a few common methods of use:
- Dabbing: The most common way to use live resin is through a method called "dabbing." This involves using a specialized piece of equipment called a "dab rig," which is a type of water pipe. A small amount of live resin is placed on a heated surface, often a "nail" or "banger," and the vapor is inhaled. Dabbing can be intense, delivering a large amount of cannabinoids all at once, so it's recommended to start with a very small amount ("start low and go slow").
- Vaporizing: Some vaporizers are designed to handle cannabis concentrates like live resin. These devices usually have a chamber where the live resin can be placed. The vaporizer then heats the live resin enough to produce a vapor but doesn't combust it, resulting in a smoother inhalation experience than smoking.
- Adding to Flower: Live resin can be sprinkled on top of traditional cannabis flower before it's smoked in a pipe, rolled into a joint, or packed into a bong. This enhances the potency of the flower and can add flavor and aroma, depending on the terpene profile of the live resin.
- Edibles or Tinctures: Some users may incorporate live resin into homemade edibles or tinctures, although this is less common due to the complexity of the process and the difficulty in determining dosage.