When cannabis legalization first began, it wasn’t surprising to see new product forms enter the market: edibles, pre-rolls, you name it.

Most consumers probably didn’t anticipate the complexity of everything available, however. Or how overwhelming it might be.

Whether it’s THC seltzers or choosing from hundreds of flower strains, we aim to make buying cannabis at Green Meadows a much more informed ordeal. From our Cannabis 101 section to our highly trained staff at our Southbridge location, we’re here to answer your cannabis questions.

This time, we’re tackling full spectrum vs. distillate cannabis extractions. Here’s what you need to know.

What is a cannabis extract?

If you know the cannabis basics, you’ve surely come across extracts. Cannabis extracts are used in several product types and forms across the market.

For instance, in its solid form, you might have heard an extract referred to as diamonds, shatter, or wax. In its liquid form, it’s the cannabis oil used in vape cartridges. Tinctures are these same extracts formulated in an easy-to-consume way, using a dropper under the tongue or in a drink.

In general, cannabis extracts are smoked or vaporized. We’ll focus on how they’re used as CO2-extracted oils in cannabis vaporizers, or vape pens.

The amount of refinement a product undergoes tells you about the spectrum type of the product. You may have heard terms like “full spectrum” or “broad-spectrum” cannabis. Let’s get into what that really means.

What is full-spectrum cannabis extract?

Full-spectrum cannabis extract is the outcome of using as little refinement as possible after the extraction process. Think of it as taking a photo of something: you’re capturing the image as close to the real thing as possible.

With cannabis, you extract as much of the natural plant

For this reason, full-spectrum cannabis is said to be more therapeutic.

At Green Meadows, we extract the oil and put it through post processing (such as winterization), which helps retain all the good therapeutic compounds without removing the natural properties.

These processes allow us to activate the cannabinoids, such as THCa (into Delta-9), and maximize the benefits you might get from using these oils.

As a user, you can get the benefits of both the individual cannabinoids and the terpenes working together, also known as the entourage effect. You’ll get the highest therapeutic effect and power from your hit.

In other words, full-spectrum cannabis extracts aren’t distilled in any way. They have more plant matter, such as terpenes and pigmentation in them, which results in a darker amber oil color that distinguishes it on the shelf.

In practice, full-spectrum vape cartridges, or carts, give you a similar experience to smoking flower. You’ll get the full taste, smell, and sensory experience because the oil has retained the majority of the original plant.

What is the entourage effect?

The entourage effect is when various compounds found naturally in the cannabis plant create unique effects and benefits. Theoretical effects include:

  • Improving sleep
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Relieving pain
  • Easing anxiety
  • And more

While there’s little peer-reviewed research of these effects, anecdotal evidence suggests there could be some truth to it. Most people refer to THC and CBD when speaking of the entourage effect, but other cannabinoids (THCV, CBG, CBN, etc.), terpenes, and flavonoids are definitely part of the show.

Full-spectrum cannabis extracts can actually put that entourage effect into play. On the other hand, since distillates are made so differently, there is much less – if anything – of a therapeutic effect.

What is distillate cannabis extract?

Distillate is a cannabis extract created by boiling the cannabinoids off the crude oil to be collected. If full spectrum uses as little refinement as possible to extract as much of the original plant, distillate uses the most amount of refinement.

Why is distillate useful? It allows people like us who are producing cannabis oil for vape cartridges to focus carefully on the cannabinoids in the cannabis plant before adding anything else back in.

Think of it like hand-drawing or painting that same image from before. You have to focus on the distinct elements of the scene before you can alter things to your taste or put the full picture together as one. Distillate acts as a blank canvas for flavors to be added to.

The process zeroes in on extracting cannabinoids and focuses on perfecting those before adding anything desired back in (terpenes, flavonoids, etc.). Because the original plant matter is so refined, distillate cannabis oil is a lot lighter in the cartridge. It’s almost pure cannabinoids.

After the initial extraction, distillates go through an additional refining process. It allows us to create a unique flavor profile by adjusting the flavors added, and so on.

Due to the limited profile of compounds interacting with your endocannabinoid system, distillates aren’t as rich in therapeutic properties when compared to full-spectrum extraction.

(L-R) Distillate extract and full-spectrum extract, side to side at our Green Meadow lab

Full spectrum vs distillate: which one is right for me?

The great thing about cannabis, recreational or medicinal, is that there’s no right answer. Full-spectrum cannabis offers all the benefits of the entourage effect and can be especially useful to medical cannabis cardholders.

Full spectrum also allows for the closest experience to smoking flower directly. In other words, if you’re a flower fanatic but need some discretion, full-spectrum vapes may be the answer for you.

Full spectrum is usually not as potent as distillate. While it may have a lower TAC (Total Active Cannabinoid) content, it usually has a much higher terpene content that plays a role in the entourage effect. You might get therapeutic effects from a certain strain but can count on the same effects (or more) in its full-spectrum vape oil counterpart.

On the flip side, distillate cannabis extract offers consistency and standardization. You can expect the same effects every single time because the oil is carefully formulated by centering those important cannabinoids. This method makes it high in potency and is ideal for a flavor-forward audience.

While you may not get the same variety of the cannabinoids with distillate, and therefore not the same impact of benefits, you do get some of the more fun recreational benefits, such as fun flavor choices.

When it comes to choosing full spectrum or distillate, you can decide whether the therapeutic properties of a strain are more important to you than the price or flavor profile.

Full-spectrum vape cartridges will mimic the strain identities of its original flower. It’s generally more medicinal. Distillates take out all that medicinal quality, but allow for a smooth, flavorful THC effect.

Ready to shop full-spectrum and distillate cannabis?

At Green Meadows, we prioritize easy access to your favorite cannabis products. Our vape line is divided into two collections: the Flower Collection and the Flavor Collection.

Flower Collection

Shop our Flower Collection for full-spectrum vapes from our organic grow. These strains come directly from our co-located cultivation facility, adjacent to our extraction lab. That’s about as local as it gets! We have fan-favorite strains like Chem Fuego, Double Chocolate, Larry Lovestein, and more.

Flavor Collection

The Flavor Collection is perfect for the canna-curious looking for a tastier, flavor-forward option. We have delicious and exciting flavors like Grape, Apricot, and Banana, among others. We also have rotating seasonal flavors, such as Peppermint and Mint Chocolate. Stop by our Southbridge dispensary to see what we have available this season!

Looking for additional information about which cannabis vape is best for you? We recommend coming in to speak one-on-one with our Guest Service Associates for custom recommendations based on your needs.