Full-spectrum cannabis extracts, sometimes called whole plant extracts, are designed to maintain the complete plant profile, including cannabinoids, terpenes, flavor, and aroma. Full-spectrum extracts contain cannabinoids, including THCa, THC, CBDa, CBD, CBG, CBN, and other compounds such as phenols, proteins, and flavonoids. They are desirable because they replicate the flavor and aroma of the plant profile to deliver the entourage effect, the theory that the various cannabinoids and compounds work together to enhance active substances, including THC and CBD.
Full-Spectrum Cannabis Plant Profile
Full-spectrum extracts are known for being difficult to create as it can be challenging to keep the many desirable components while stripping unnecessary compounds from the extract. Some refinement techniques that filter out unnecessary components can also strip extracts of delicate flavonoids and terpenes.
The cannabis plant’s chemical fingerprint should maintain the same ratio in the extract. For example, a plant that contains THC of 20% and Myrcene of .5%, should produce an extract with the same 40:1 ratio increased about four times, so the final extract should contain THC at 80% and myrcene at 2%. The plant’s chemical fingerprint, the profile, is what makes the strain unique and should be preserved in the full spectrum extract.
Plants with the same strain can also produce a somewhat different chemical fingerprint depending on growing practices, soil, weather, season, and location. Just like the same type of wine grown in two different locations is going to be somewhat different. Thus, the same strain can produce multiple profiles of full-spectrum extracts.
Full-Spectrum Cannabis Extraction Methods
Creating a full-spectrum cannabis extract from dried plant material will be different than extracting live resin from a fresh plant. This is because the full spectrum of compounds is relative to the exact time and properties the extraction is performed, and cannabis compounds change during the drying and curing process.
Full-spectrum products can be live or cured, with most live resin considered full-spectrum, although consumers should beware of cartridges that might claim to be live resin although are actually distillate with just a small portion of live resin and/or terpenes added. The sacrifices the entourage effect of true full-spectrum extracts.
The hydrocarbon extraction method uses a butane-propane blend or butane to create full-spectrum extracts. The hydrocarbon gas is chilled and liquefied before passing it over raw plant material which dissolves the desirable plant compounds. Various refinement techniques, such as dewaxing and winterization, are used to remove lipids and wax from the final product with the use of additional solvents.
Even slightly minor changes can produce a different final full-spectrum extract profile as certain compounds like terpenes can react differently to a slight temperature increase which can change the flavor of the entire extract.
Supercritical CO2 Extraction
Supercritical carbon dioxide (CO2) extraction is a common method of cannabis extraction used to separate various plant components due to a safe method of producing clean and pure products. CO2 extraction uses pressure and temperature to create changes in the CO2, which reaches a supercritical state at 31.1°C and 1071 psi. This supercritical state means that it has properties of both gas and liquid and can reach into small spaces like a gas but acts like a liquid and dissolves like a solvent.
It bonds to molecules and penetrates porous solids easier than liquid, thereby forcing compounds out of plant matter based on weight. CO2 extraction can be fine-tuned to extract only the most desirable plant compounds and does not require post-processing like other extraction methods.
Extracting with Pressure
Full spectrum extractions include the idea of removing unwanted components, such as some plant lipids that could create a harsh vapor or poor flavor. Some concentrates which contain those lipids, like rosin, are considered full spectrum. Rosin is created by squeezing resin from originating material like dry sift by using pressure and heat or a special rosin press. The benefit of pressure extraction is no usage of solvents, although by using heat, many terpenes are lost in the process.
Some products may be labeled as full spectrum extracts, although there is not much regulation to determine what constitutes a full spectrum label. Examining lab results is really the only way to know for sure if the extract is a full spectrum or not.
Various cannabis extracts created with these methods include live resin, which can be taken from live or even frozen plants, high terpene full-spectrum extracts (HTFSE), and high cannabinoid full-spectrum extracts (HCFSE).
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