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By Jeffrey M.

Feb 6, 2023

You might have seen or heard the terms live resin and distillate while shopping at your local dispensary and wondered, “what differences exist between these two (if any)?” There actually are significant differences between these two extracts that should be kept in mind while shopping for your next vape oil.

Live resin and distillate are the terms used to describe two different extracts that result from using different methods of extracting cannabis/hemp flower. Read on to learn everything you need to know about these two oils.

What is Live Resin?

You might be asking yourself, “What is live resin?” Live resin is an extract that has been produced with the idea of preserving the likeness of the original flower and the amazing terpenes it contains. Those who enjoy live resin are not typically seeking a fruity or sweet aromatic profile in their product, and are also unconcerned being discreet, since live resin produces a cannabis-scented vapor.

Live resin is known as the “terpene savior.” Since terpenes possess therapeutic benefits that accompany and enhance the benefits of cannabinoids, they are often highly sought after, and aid in producing the entourage effect.

In regard to aroma, live resin produces a potent and dank cannabis smoke, has a wide array of terpene specific effects (such as focus, sleep, uplifted, etc.), and has strong medicinal cannabinoid effects as well. Live resin is for cannabis connoisseurs who are seeking an oil that is closer to the taste and aroma of the original cannabis flower strain.

Extracting for Live Resin Carts

Live resin got it’s attractive name for good reason – rather than drying out the plants to being the process, it’s starting material is freshly harvested plants that are almost immediately extracted (or are immediately flash frozen if extraction cannot begin right away), preserving the terpenes and other molecules and compounds from the original buds.

This ensures that virtually all of the terpenes, cannabinoids, and other plant compounds are kept intact. The next step in the process is extraction via a chilled solvent such as ethanol or butane.

Extraction via a closed-loop system allows for lower temperatures to be used than other methods (such as distillation). This is the step where many of the terpenes that were carefully preserved from the frozen (or fresh) plant are usually lost and separated from the oil, due to degradation from heat – but not with live resin!

During the extraction process all of the solvent is able to be separated from the live resin and reclaimed for future extraction use. This means that it will be completely cleaned of any ethanol, butane, or other. It is important to lab test for solvents to know for sure that this step of solvent remediation was done properly.

Decarbing or dewaxing the oil (known as winterizing) is a process that is done last. This allows for removal of waxes and unnecessary fatty components that can also have a negative impact on the quality of live resin carts and other live resin products.

What is Distillate?

Distillate is a sticky, thick and golden-translucent oil that contains none of the waxes, flavanoids, terpenes, or other parts from the original plant. It’s bland flavor/aroma and high cannabinoid concentration is what makes it the most versatile and easy to work with extract as a base ingredient.

Distillates can be used for edibles without much flavor change, mixes well with other oil-based topicals, and terpenes can be re-introduced to it for a smooth hitting vapor product. These features make it the most highly used cannabis oil. The term “distillate” is known well to CBD/hemp and cannabis industry professionals.

Extracting for Distillate Carts and Other Finished Products

The distillation process begins with a different starting material than live resin – dry or cured cannabis flower – and often uses either CO2 or a solvent to separate or strip the product down to a cannabiod dominant oil (distillate). Which cannabinoid is dominant depends on the starting material, whether or not THC is remediated (removed), temperature, and other factors.

Extractors are able to use chromatography to dial in whether they want their final product to end up a full spectrum of cannabinoids, or a single cannabinoid (such as CBD, Delta-9-THC, CBN, Delta-8-THC, etc.) Similar to live resin, if a solvent is used, it is removed nearing the final stages of extraction.

Though it lacks the terpenes and other parts of the original plant, you can think of distillate as “cannabinoid concentrate” – it is extremely potent. One benefit of having the natural terpenes removed is being able to have complete control over the final product’s taste and smell. However, adding the original terpenes from the plant back to the distillate later in the process is possible, and some manufacturers do this for vape products.

In the CBD industry, botanical terpenes are often added rather than the real cannabis terpenes. This is because the majority of hemp plants grown in the USA are not bred for terpene quality or strain variation in the same way marijuana products are, so the terpenes are not as desireable in regard to aroma.

Botanical terpenes are terpenes derived from various plants that are isolated and blended in a lab to mimic the same terpene profile of popular cannabis strains. While there is nothing wrong with this, cannabis connoisseurs typically dislike botanical terpenes. Many believe that finding a quality CBD vape product with cannabis derived terpenes is very difficult. Primary Jane has you covered on this desireable feature, among others.

Live Resin Vs. Distillate: Which One Is Better?

After learning all about live resin and distillate you might be wondering if one is better than the other. Our opinion is that, in general, neither is better since they both have their benefits and downfalls.

Though live resin might be “canna-tastier”, it’s strong cannabis aroma may not be what everyone wants — there’s nothing discreet about the smell of dank bud. In regard to THC, Live resin typically contains less of it than a THC distillate, and a more full spectrum of cannabinoids. This usually means less psychoactive effects than a straight THC distillate.

Or, you might want the wide variety of terpene-driven effects produced by live resin cartridges. Others might want the more consistent psychoactive effects and go for a THC distillate rather than wondering whether they might end up falling asleep at an event after vaping an indica-dominant live resin product, for example.

It all comes down to personal preference / use case, and neither is better than the other. However, the way that you vape your cannabis oil and what device you use does matter. Primary Jane uses full glass live carts with ceramic atomizers only, which assures no metal leaching into your oil. Visit our other blog post if you want to learn more about how to use a live resin vape pen.

Confusion Behind Live Resin Marketing

The popularity of live resin in the hemp and cannabis marketplace has resulted in many products being released with the “live resin” label. There is a question as to whether or not these products all contain live resin or if they are purely distillate infused with “live resin terpenes”.

Live resin terpenes are terpenes that have been extracted from flash frozen (or fresh) cannabis plants. Extractors have decided to label these terpenes as “live resin terpenes” since they are extracted from fresh flower in the same way live resin is. Many products utilizing these terpenes may be labeled as live resin when they infact include no actual live resin oil extract.


Whether your primary goal is to be discreet while benefitting from the consistent and strong effects of cannabinoids themselves, or you are seeking a dank cannabis aroma with noticeable terpene-driven effects (such as focus, uplift, happy, sleepy)… live resin and distillate both have something special to offer as cannabis extracts. Do your research, seek lab results, and test these amazing concentrates for yourself!



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