For the hash oil aficionado, deriving value from a cannabis extract has always been a pursuit in translating the essence between a living plant and the resin itself. For extractors, the goal has been to create a product that can present a cannabis plant’s unique profile as undisturbed and preserved as possible within a resin. As extraction technology and the science behind it have pushed this pursuit forward, the achievement is now finally being realized. At the forefront of this pursuit is a hash oil product that is unrivaled in flavor and complexity: the full-spectrum extract.
Think of a cannabis extract like a well-made stew. With a stew you expect to find ingredients such as the protein, potatoes, carrots, onions, and celery, as well as the more nuanced essentials like salt, pepper, and other seasonings. These components work together to create a complex and palatable experience for the discerning stew enthusiast. But what if we were to omit the lesser-recognized elements such as the seasonings, leaving behind nothing but the essentials (the “meat and potatoes” of the dish)? What remains may still look like stew; you would still be able to identify the major ingredients. However, upon tasting the stew, you’d find it would be devoid of flavor. Sure, you could still taste the carrots and onions, but without the complexity offered by the missing elements, the experience of “stew” is simply incomplete.
With extracts, it’s very much the same principle of building flavors. A complete suite of bioactive molecules can be the difference between a product that may either remind you of a generic and bland rendition of a strain or one with such depth of flavor, it can make you believe it was literally extracted from a living cannabis plant.
Why Cannabis Extracts Need a Spectrum of Components
Spectrum is the name of the game when it comes to giving cannabis extracts their character. Within living cannabis exists a suite of over 500 therapeutic bioactive compounds. This spectrum of molecules contains not only the cannabinoids and terpenes that are loved and recognized among cannabis aficionados, but also a plethora of other lesser-known but equally important elements such as flavonoids, phenolic amides, and sterols.
With standard extractions, oftentimes many of these lesser-known components are filtered out, leaving behind a product lacking depth and complexity. This is often the case with extracts such as shatters and waxes that are lacking in their flavor profile. Sure, these extracts contain high levels of cannabinoids (namely THC), in many cases over 70%. However, with a low percentage of bioactive compounds such as less prevalent terpenes and flavonoids, the experience becomes flat and unremarkable.
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In order to achieve full-spectrum in a cannabis extract, one must translate the profile of bioactive compounds that a cannabis flower contains into the extract itself without compromising on any aspect of the profile. This includes not only the same ratios of cannabinoids to terpenes and flavonoids, but also the complete suite of other lesser-known compounds while also removing unnecessary components (e.g. fats, lipids, etc.). Unlike cannabis concentrate varieties such as bubble hash, dry sift, and rosin, where fats and lipids remain, full-spectrum extracts remove these elements, leaving behind only what is desired. A full-spectrum extract is about preserving the natural ratios of compounds within cannabis while removing the impurities that can compromise the experience.
Where to Get Full-Spectrum Extracts
If you’re looking to get your hands on some full-spectrum extracts, you may have to look a bit harder as there are currently only a few companies out there with the technology to achieve such a product. For one, full-spectrum extracts require an extensive scientific background to master and the refinement methodology is still very much proprietary. Hash oil products such as live resins and sugar waxes are sometimes mislabeled as full-spectrum but end up falling short at creating a matching profile to the flowers they were derived from.
In order to create a full-spectrum product, there are several layers of refinement that must take place. Not only must an extract require a very specific light hydrocarbon solution administered at exact temperatures, it must also undergo additional winterization and separation phases while maintaining atmospheric homeostasis throughout the process.
Extractioneering, a US-based extraction company in New England, is perhaps the pioneer of bringing connoisseur-quality full-spectrum extracts to the market. With full-spectrum products available in most legal states, the company has done an excellent job in educating the industry on what it means to have a truly full-spectrum extract.
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In January of 2016, Extractioneering introduced a new line of products to the market, including HT-FSE (High Terpene Full-Spectrum Extract) and HC-FSE (High Cannabinoid Full-Spectrum Extract), two full-spectrum products derived from the same base formula. HT-FSE products are clear, viscous liquids that can remain stable indefinitely and contain terpene profiles often exceeding 20%. HC-FSE’s, on the other hand, contain much higher concentration of THC and therefore take on a more sugar-like consistency. Both of these products are designed to contain the full suite of available biomolecules native to the flower, and this is what makes Extractioneering’s FSE line so unique.
How to Identify Full-Spectrum Extracts From Other Products
If you want know if you are truly receiving a FSE from a company claiming to offer one, simply ask for the lab tests. Full-spectrum by its very nature infers that a product should have the same ratio of compounds in flower form and extract form, and there is no better proof than a lab test from an accredited analytical lab. The flip side? Not all analytical facilities are equipped with the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectrometers required to test for the complete list of bioactive molecules within an FSE sample. These tests are often expensive as NMR machines can cost several hundred thousand dollars.
It’s important to understand that not all extracts are created equal. Truly full-spectrum extracts may at the moment be difficult to come by, but rest assured that this technology will soon be the standard in cannabis extractions. If you find yourself in the presence of a retailer offering FSE, make sure to ask to see lab tests and look for visual identifiers associated with full-spectrum hash oils, such as their unique viscosity, opacity, and consistency. Any proud retailer who is lucky enough to carry a hash oil with such quality will be happy to show off the stats.