Taking a closer look at what makes live resin different and its potential therapeutic benefits

Medically reviewed by Katherine Golden, RN
Written by Denise Gonzalez-Walker

Live resin is really all about terpenes, the delicate aromatic plant compounds that pack a therapeutic punch but can be destroyed during conventional extraction processes. Live resin is extracted using specialized processes that preserve terpenes and other plant compounds, retaining more of the whole plant instead of adding terpenes back in later on.

These terpenes play a big role in the effects you get from different cannabis chemovars (strains), a topic we’ve covered before on the blog.

As dispensary shelves become more crowded, cannabis manufacturers are looking for new ways to differentiate and offer products that meet unique consumer needs and tastes. Products containing live resin, including concentrates, vapes and even edibles, are one way manufacturers are looking to stand out. But from a consumer perspective, is live resin worth seeking out?

What is live resin?

Live resin is full-spectrum concentrate made from freshly harvested cannabis plants that are quickly flash frozen, retaining most plant compounds, including the delicate trichomes containing terpenes and flavonoids. This differentiates it from other concentrates made from dried and cured cannabis plants.

(Wondering what trichomes are? Tomatoes are another familiar plant with trichomes. If you’ve brushed across the tiny hairs on tomato leaves and stems, releasing a strong-smelling substance, then you’ve had a firsthand experience with fresh trichomes!)

Seed & Smith live resin concentrate
Seed & Smith live resin concentrate
Seed & Smith fresh flower featuring terpene-packed trichomes
Seed & Smith fresh flower featuring terpene-packed trichomes

How is live resin produced?

Back to our live resin. The plant flash-freezing process is followed by carefully controlled extraction at low temperatures, retaining all the plant compounds. Some popular extraction methods include hydrocarbon extraction and butane hash oil (BHO) extraction.

It’s important to note legal cannabis manufacturers use modern laboratory equipment and follow commercial fire and safety protocols to ensure the extract is safely produced and tested for any residual solvents. Butane hash oil extraction is something you should NOT try at home!

The live resin extraction process contrasts with more conventional methods where cannabis plants are first dried and cured with heat and decarboxylation to create THC distillate. Depending on the product type, manufacturers may re-introduce terpenes, CBD and other cannabinoids, along with flavoring and other ingredients later in the production cycle to create specific product effects.

Young Black woman with questioning face shrugging, unsure which cannabis product to buy.

Is live resin better than THC distillate products?

Does live resin’s unique extraction process make it superior to products made with THC distillate? Not necessarily.

Live resin is only as good as the quality of the plants that went into its production. In addition, the live resin extraction process is complex and time-consuming. If a manufacturer takes shortcuts, they risk losing valuable terpenes or end up with a product that contains residual solvents.

Also, THC distillate made from dried and cured plants often proves more efficient for ingestible products because it can be more precisely measured into a uniform dose.

Both budget and personal preferences also come into play. You may try a live resin product and love the effects and flavor or alternately be left wondering what the hype is all about.

When it comes to therapeutic benefits, live resin may have an edge, given that it preserves more of the whole plant compounds, including a higher concentration of naturally occurring terpenes than you’ll find in dried flower. Terpenes play an important role in cannabis’s healing power, with a wide range of effects. In a previous blog, we provided tips on how to identify the best terpenes for your needs. 

However, everyone’s endocannabinoid system is just a little bit different when it comes to cannabis, which really is individualized medicine. Our Leaf hotline nurses are experts when it comes to terpenes and the pros and cons of live resin products. They are ready to help with your questions via our free hotline at 844-LEAF411 (844-532-3411).

Middle-aged white woman reviewing cannabis information in a notebook, with laptop open on table.

Learning more about live resin product types

Live resin is popping up in more legal cannabis products on today’s dispensary shelves. It can be confusing to sort out all the options! Here’s a quick primer on different live resin products:

Seed & Smith live resin concentrate in a jar with packaging in background.
  • Live resin concentrates: Live resin concentrates can be dabbed (smoked using a specially-designed dab rig), or sprinkled on top of cannabis flower before smoking to enhance flavor and boost potency. Remember that a little goes a long way! Leaf411 supporting member Seed & Smith produces a range of high-quality concentrates extracted from unique, small-batch flower strains. You can see examples of different concentrates at this link. 
  • Live resin vapes: Vaping is a common way that people use cannabis concentrates, and live resin vapes are quickly growing in popularity as consumers look for options that reflect the full plant profile. Live resin vapes also should not contain cutting agents like Polyethylene Glycol (PEG), Propylene Glycol (PG) or MCT oil, which can be found in some distillate-based vape cartridges.
Escape Artists Live Resin preroll shown with packaging and included glass tip
  • Live resin prerolls: If you’re curious to discover how live resin can enhance a joint but not sure about rolling one yourself, some brands are now offering live resin-infused prerolls, including our supporting member Escape Artists. Of course, quality matters, which is why Escape Artists combines the best full buds (not shake) and live resin for their prerolls. Remember that a live resin joint is more potent than your standard joint–one puff may be all you need! 
  • Live resin edibles: Live resin edibles are newer to the scene. While terpenes primarily interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system via smell, they can also affect the digestive system where many endocannabinoid receptors are located. Brands like Dialed In Gummies are now offering single-strain edibles produced using low-heat sous vide methods to retain all the original plant compounds. (Technically, Dialed In Gummies uses live rosin, which is very similar to live resin, except that extraction does not involve butane or other solvents.)

How to get started with live resin

When trying out a live resin product for the first time, our advice is to start with a low dose and go slow. A little goes a long way! This is especially true with cannabis concentrates that can be very potent, containing up to 90% THC. Going slow also allows you to appreciate the complex terpene profiles you’ll find in live resin products.

Nurse working on laptop and calculator

But is live resin worth it?

Circling back to our original question, which we’re sure is on your mind as well: How much more does live resin cost and is it worth it?

Based on a quick look at two of our Colorado dispensary supporting members, Lightshade and Nature’s Gift Shop, live resin products fetch a premium, typically costing more than their distillate-based counterparts. This makes sense given the time-consuming, complex extraction processes used to make live resin. If you’re eager to explore a wider range of cannabis products, the extra cost may be worth it.

However, if you’re looking for a specific therapeutic benefit from cannabis, the answer is less clear. A lot depends on the health issue you’re dealing with, as well as the type of relief you’re seeking. Our cannabis-trained, fully-licensed Leaf RNs are more than happy to help you determine whether live resin may be a good option, or if a distillate-based product may provide targeted benefits at less cost.

Call our free, anonymous hotline at 844-LEAF411 (844-532-3411), or chat us from our home page during hotline hours, Monday-Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. for help with your live resin questions or any other cannabis or CBD hemp questions on your mind!

The Leaf411 cannabis nurse hotline provides free, anonymous education and directional support to the general public about the safe use of legal cannabis. We partner with select business members who meet our rigorous standards to extend our education and outreach efforts.