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What is live resin?

live resin cannabis concentrates
Devine Runtz. (David Downs/Leafly)

Of the many different types of cannabis concentrates or extractions, live resin is relatively new to the cannabis world. It has become popular among consumers and producers alike—it preserves the flavors and aromas of the living plant better than other cannabis extractions and is cheaper and easier to make.

Live resins usually have a more complex terpene profile and can deliver a more complex experience, making them highly desirable.

What is live resin?

Cannabis concentrates are often named or described by their textures or consistencies: some are hard and brittle, like shatter; some waxy; and some like sauce. Live resin is a more malleable concentrate, sitting somewhere between a wax and a sauce—not quite like taffy yet not too wet. 

It is typically dark yellow in color but can vary from light yellow to white. Like all cannabis concentrates, it is extremely sticky, so you’ll need a dab tool to handle it. 

Live resins tend to be potent with a lot of THC, and consumers love it because of its intense flavors and aromas which carry over from the original plant. 

How to make live resin

Live resin distinguishes itself from other types of cannabis concentrates because it is created with fresh frozen cannabis—plants that are frozen immediately after being cut down at harvest. These plants are kept frozen throughout the extraction process and skip the drying, curing, and trimming phases of harvesting.

The drying and curing processes that cannabis plants usually go through can have a devastating impact on terpenes, the plant’s flavor and aroma compounds. Terpenes are present in trichomes, which cover buds and surrounding foliage.

During drying and curing, moisture and chlorophyll leave the plant. This can expose trichomes to heat, oxygen, and light, all of which can degrade terpenes. Trichomes also tend to break off of a plant as it is handled and moved around during harvesting. 

By freezing the plant immediately after harvest, trichomes are preserved and the cannabis plant retains its valuable terpene profile, original flavor, and fragrance throughout the extraction process and into the final product.

After harvesting, frozen plants are put through a solvent extraction process, using butane, propane, or another solvent.

Benefits of live resin

Dabbers love live resins because they are more flavorful and “terpy” than other concentrates. In preserving trichomes and terpenes, they retain the flavor profile of the original plant. Preserving trichomes also keeps cannabinoids intact, and live resins are also known to be potent. 

Growers like producing plants for live resin as well. Fresh freezing plants at harvest means growers don’t have to go through the long, arduous processes of drying, curing, and trimming plants—whole plants can be chopped down, frozen, and sent directly to the extractor. Producing plants for live resin saves growers enormous amounts of time, money, and labor. 

How to use live resin

extraction, cannabis concentrate, marijuana concentrate
(Grant Hindsley for Leafly)

Live resin can be consumed in a few different ways.

Dabbing

Most people dab live resin. To do so, you’ll need a dab rig, torch, and nail, or an e-nail. You’ll also need a dab tool to handle the concentrate and place it in the nail, most likely something with a scoop on it, given live resin’s goopy consistency.

You’ll want to dab at a low temperature to preserve terpenes and flavors without scorching the concentrate—somewhere around 530°F.

Vaping with a dab pen

You can also put live resin in a dab pen, a device similar to a vape pen, except for concentrates.

Be sure to use a dabber tool to get the live resin into the oven or bowl of the dab pen. Then just adjust the temperature, press the button, and inhale.

Topping off

You can also put some live resin on top of a bowl, joint, or blunt for an added kick.

How to store live resin

Keep live resin cool and in an air-tight container, preferably in a fridge if you can. This will preserve the terpenes and keep it tasting and smelling great for a while.

Leaving it out in the open with the lid off will expose it to air, light, and heat, which will degrade the terpenes and make it less flavorful. This will also cause it to dry out and harden, making it difficult to handle.  

How much does live resin cost?

Live resins have come quite a long way since their inception. As recently as a few years ago, they were a new, rare product only found in certain connoisseur markets at premium prices, sometimes exceeding $100 per gram.

Although live resins are still sold at a higher premium than other concentrate products, nowadays live resin prices are much more affordable and most dispensaries carry a range of options.

On the low end, live resins typically go for $20-30 a gram, but on the high end, they can be upwards of $50 a gram.

How are live resins different from one another?

Live resins can differ slightly in consistency—although they sit between waxes and sauces, some can be more like saps, sugars, or jellies. 

The amount of terpenes in a live resin can affect viscosity, and some only contain lighter terpenes such as pinene and myrcene. Variations can also occur because some extraction processes fail to capture all terpenes. 

Concentrates can also be mechanically altered post-extraction, such as when saps are whipped into butters, creating different consistencies.

Where did live resin originate?

Live resin is relatively new to the cannabis concentrate scene. Its humble origins go back to 2011-2013 with a small group of growers and extractors in Colorado.

Among them, William Fenger, also known as “Kind Bill,” and EmoTek Labs founder “Giddy Up,” pioneered the live resin extraction process by developing a specialized BHO extractor capable of maintaining the incredibly low temperatures needed to produce live resin.

Together, they were able to preserve terpenes, flavor, and aroma during the extraction process.

Live resin vs. live rosin vs. distillate

Live resin is created by putting frozen cannabis plants through a solvent extraction, which uses a chemical such as butane or propane. Live rosin is solventless—it uses heat and pressure to remove trichomes from the plant, usually through a press. 

Both extracts are “live” because they both use frozen cannabis plants as source material; simple resins and rosins exist which use dried, non-frozen plants, and utilize solvent and solventless extraction, respectively.

Distillate is a cannabis oil that is created when a resin is refined, either to remove impurities or isolate a specific compound.


Patrick Bennett contributed to this article.