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What are full-spectrum cannabis extracts and how are they made?

Whole plant extracts, often called whole plant extracts, maintain the full profile of the cannabis plant. They contain various cannabinoids, including THC , THCa, CBD , CBDa, CBG and CBN, as well as terpenes and other compounds such as flavonoids, proteins, phenols, sterols and esters.

Why are these extracts desirable? From an experiential point of view, they replicate the flavour and aroma profile of the plant. From a therapeutic or medical standpoint, you get the full benefits of the companion effect – the theory that the various components of the plant work synergistically to enhance the effect of active ingredients like THC and CBD.

Full-spectrum extracts difficult to produce. While you need to preserve as many of the desired compounds as possible, you also want to rid the extract of unnecessary components. Some extraction methods filter out the latter using various refining techniques.

However, these techniques often strip extracts of some of the more delicate compounds such as terpenes and flavonoids.

Methods used to produce full spectrum extracts.

The processes used to create full-spectrum extracts must dance a fine line to keep wanted compounds in and unwanted ones out.

Note that the entire spectrum of compounds of a given strain is relative to the point at which the extraction is performed. For example, a live resin extract taken from a fresh plant will have a different profile than an extract from dried plant material. Some compounds change during the drying process.

What’s more, a plant’s profile can depend on a variety of other factors, including the part of the plant, its age and environmental factors. As such, you could have multiple full spectrum extracts of the same strain that all have different profiles.

CBDsvět.cz terpenes

Hydrocarbon extraction

Hydrocarbon extraction uses butane or a butane-propane mixture to produce full-spectrum extracts. This method allows you to adjust the profile of the extract.

In this type of extraction, the hydrocarbon gas is cooled and liquefied before passing through the raw plant matter. The desired compounds from the plant are dissolved and the resulting solution is refined using various techniques such as winterization and dewaxing. Both of these processes use additional solvents and low temperatures to remove wax and lipids from the final product.

Full spectrum extracts can be fine, so the process parameters must be precise. Small changes in solvent composition and temperature can lead to a different product. For example, a small increase in temperature can cause volatility of certain terpenes and change the flavour profile of the extract.

Supercritical CO2 extraction

In supercritical CO2 extraction, temperature and pressure are used to create phase changes in CO2. It goes from gas to displaying the properties of both gas and liquid. It has a gas-like viscosity and low surface tension, so it penetrates porous solids more easily than a liquid. The result is a substance that displaces plant matter compounds based on their weight.

By adjusting the temperature and we can “tune” the CO2 to create a very precise environment in which the supercritical fluid will extract only the most desirable components. While CO2 extraction involves complex pieces of equipment, it requires little or no post-processing, unlike other extraction methods.


The idea behind full-spectrum extracts is to remove unwanted components. For example, some vegetable lipids can lead to bad taste or harsh steam. That is, certain lipid-containing concentrates, such as rosin, are sometimes considered full-spectrum. Rosin is made by squeezing the resin from the starting material (such as dry sieving) using heat and pressure, often using a special rosin press.

The main advantage is that processing does not require the use of solvent and is relatively safe. Because of the heat involved, it is feared that some of the desirable components of the plant – terpenes – will be lost in the process.

The search for full-spectrum cannabis products

There is little regulation that defines what constitutes a full spectrum extract and some products are labelled as such even if they do not meet the general definition. The only real way we can find out is by examining the results of lab tests on the extract.

Here are a few product names to look out for when choosing a full-spectrum extract.

Living resin

Live resin is produced using fresh (sometimes frozen) cannabis plants instead of dried plant material. Not all live resins are full spectrum extracts and their composition depends on the way they are processed.

If you extract using one of the above methods, you can get a full spectrum extract. But, for example, if we use a process using heat, we lose certain compounds from the plant profile – terpenes.

High Terpene Full Spectrum Extract (HTFSE)

The extraction of this product is designed to provide high levels of terpenes, sometimes up to 40%. It is viscous and clear with a honey-like consistency. Some HTFSE are labeled as “sauce” or “terp sauce”, names that indicate a high terpene content. However, not every sauce is full-spectrum.

High Cannabinoid Full Spectrum Extract (HCFSE)

In HCFSE, the processes are tuned so that the final product has a high concentration of cannabinoids. The result is a crystalline structure similar to sugar or diamonds. Although HTFSE and HCFSE can be produced from the same plant, both are considered full-spectrum extracts because they still contain the full list of desired compounds present in the raw material, albeit at different levels.

Information pump from: http://fly.com/news/cannabis-101/what-are-full-spectrum-cannabis-extracts-how-are-they-made

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