What is a "Full Spectrum" Extract?
To understand the benefits of full-spectrum cannabis extracts you need to understand the proposed entourage effect of cannabis.
The Entourage Effect
This is well articulated by Tyler May, who works at Synergy Health Services. He gives this real world example anyone can try. Take enough fresh flower to roll two equal sized joints. Grind up all of the flower and roll one joint with half of the flower. Leave the rest of the ground up flower to dry out and smoke the second one a week later.
I’ve had many people try this experiment. The results are always similar. The experience from the fresh joint is described as “multi-dimensional” and “full” while the stale joint is described using words like “flat” and there is a general consensus that something is missing.
When it comes to vape pens this difference is most evident in our winterized Vs distilled oils. We consider our winterized oils, like the orange cks, to be full-spectrum because they preserve a more complete ratio of cannabinoids and terpenes relative to the starting material. Distilled oils on the other hand are a more refined product with a narrower fraction range. Even though they have cannabis terpenes re-introduced, they don’t have as wide a fraction as our winterized oils.
Terpenes are first to leave the party
Why is there a difference between a week old joint and a fresh one? THC is a relatively stable compound and THC content will not vary significantly between the two joints. On the other hand, if you were to test for terpenes you would find a significant loss on the dry flower. Terpenes are the most volatile compound in cannabis and are therefore the most prone to evaporation and oxidation, especially when surface area is increased through a process like grinding.
When you grind cannabis you are breaking the waxy trichome heads that house the majority of the plants terpenes, cannabinoids and flavonoids. It is comparable to how an apple turns brown after you cut through the protective skin.
Pure cannabis monoterpenes extracted by Fume Labs. The yellow monoterpenes on the right have been oxidized while the clear terpenes are fresh and have not been oxidized.
Terpenes are the primary constituents of the essential oils of many types of plants and flowers. Some terpenes are thought to have medicinal properties that help the plant fight bacteria and fungi.
Cannabis derived terpenes matter
The entourage effect is the idea that the wide range of terpenes found in cannabis interact synergistically with the cannabinoids in the plant to enhance and modulate their effects. While peer reviewed studies in this field are still years behind due to decades of cannabis criminalization, analogies like the '2-joints' experiment above show us that the effects of cannabis are influenced by a lot more than just THC/CBD content.
Full-spectrum cannabis extracts preserve the terpenes and flavonoids that make up this entourage effect. This is opposed to traditional extracts that mainly preserve THC/CBD while allowing the terpenes to escape.
The question then becomes - why would anyone produce anything but a full-spectrum extract. The answer to that is money. Terpenes have a short shelf life, so the cannabis must be extracted very quickly. Extraction techniques must also be modified to preserve terpenes throughout the extraction process. These things all cost money so full spectrum extracts will typically cost more than their flat counterparts, similar to how fresh squeezed Tropicana costs more than orange juice from concentrate.