Full Spectrum THC: What Is It & How Does It Work?

November 01, 2023

There are a lot of products on the market that claim to be full spectrum, but if you’re not purchasing the product from a dispensary, it’s likely not a full spectrum cannabis product. To be full spectrum, an extract has to have all the cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and additional compounds natural to the plant. How’s that possible? In this guide, we’re going to give you the details, ensuring you know what full spectrum THC is, how it’s made, and where you can get it.

What is a Full Spectrum Extract?

A full spectrum cannabis extract is a cannabis concentrate that has preserved the compounds found in the marijuana plant. Not only will you have THC and CBD in a full-spectrum extract, you’ll also have terpenes, minor cannabinoids, flavonoids, and other compounds that are natural to marijuana. 

Because these compounds are so delicate, the full-spectrum extraction process is a careful, precise procedure that inevitably increases the cost of the final product you find on the shelves of your dispensary. That said, you’ll also have one of the most aromatic, flavorful products you’ve ever experienced outside of pure marijuana flower.

How Does Full Spectrum THC Work?

To understand how full spectrum THC works, you have to understand your body’s endocannabinoid system. We used to think that THC is what caused the potent effects that we feel when we consume marijuana, and it’s true, THC does contribute to those psychoactive feelings we get. But in 1988, a researcher named Raphael Mechoulam suggested that the other compounds found in cannabis, including other cannabinoids and terpenes, may also have an effect on our body, and when those compounds are paired with THC, we get a unique experience. This theory was coined the entourage effect.

Full spectrum THC embraces the theory of the entourage effect by keeping all the cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other compounds in marijuana that are natural to the plant. That way, we can experience the plant in its entirety and not just specific facets of the plant—like a single cannabinoid. This whole-plant experience is unique to you and your endocannabinoid system. 

How is Full Spectrum Cannabis Oil Extracted?

There’s no question that full spectrum cannabis products require a little extra time and finesse in order to preserve the cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids in the final product. Because of this, the techniques to create a full spectrum cannabis oil are limited to three types of extraction:

  • Hydrocarbon: When butane or butane and propane are cooled, liquified, and pushed through marijuana, they can remove all the compounds we love that are found in cannabis. Then, those solvents have to carefully be removed (along with the fat and wax) to ensure a clean, final product. This time consuming process has to be precise to ensure none of the terpenes are destroyed.

  • Supercritical CO2: Replace butane and other solvents with supercritical CO2, and you get this unique form of extraction. Supercritical CO2 acts like both a liquid and a gas, getting into all the nooks and cellular crannies of marijuana. Then, the temperature and pressure is gently adjusted, causing the CO2 to pull the compounds we want out of the cannabis. 

  • Heat & pressure: For cannabis enthusiasts who don’t want to have solvents touching their full spectrum extract, heat and pressure can do the trick. The marijuana plant is put through a process like ice water extraction or dry sifting, which removes the trichomes from the plant. Then, heat and pressure are applied to those trichomes, and the result is a flavorful, aromatic, full spectrum extract.

Full Spectrum THC vs THC Distillate: What’s the Difference?

The biggest difference between full spectrum THC and THC distillate is what is in the final product. A THC distillate is just that—marijuana that has been distilled down to just THC. In most cases, THC is the only cannabis compound you’ll find in the extract. Full spectrum THC, on the other hand, preserves all the compounds in the cannabis, including the THC. In general, if you purchase a full spectrum product at a dispensary, it will be considered a full spectrum THC product.

What Products Have Full-Spectrum Cannabis Extract?

Full-spectrum cannabis products contain all the cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids you’d find in flower. The extraction process prioritizes preserving these important compounds. If you’d like to enjoy a full-spectrum cannabis extract, you should try:

  • Flower: Flower, obviously, is a full-spectrum product. That said, it can be used to create full-spectrum extracts too. These extracts include live rosin, which is flash-frozen cannabis that is put through a solvent-based extraction to preserve all the compounds we love about cannabis, and ice water hash, which is a hash made from trichomes that have been dislodged from flower via an ice water agitation bath.

  • Edibles: While edibles can be made from things like THC distillate, which is simply THC suspended in oil of some kind, they can also be made from full-spectrum products. Cannabutter, for instance, is typically a full-spectrum product because the only thing strained from it is the seeds and stems. One thing to remember, however, is that if you cook with a full-spectrum product, it’s possible that you could destroy some of the terpenes in the product in too high of heat. It’s also likely that your edibles will have a stronger marijuana flavor because those terpenes pack a sensory punch.

  • Topicals: Cannabis topicals are exactly what they sound like—a topical product applied onto the skin. You can find topical CBD and THC products that focus on that single cannabinoid, but you can also find topical full-spectrum products, including lotions, salves, creams, and balms. These products preserve the terpenes and cannabinoids in the cannabis, allowing all of those compounds to work together on the endocannabinoid receptors found in the skin.

Answering FAQs About Full-Spectrum Extracts

Full-spectrum extracts are becoming more and more popular with curious cannabis enthusiasts that are interested in a flower-like experience without the hassle that comes with enjoying flower. Because of this, we get a lot of questions, and here are just a few of them along with their answers:

Does full-spectrum CBD have THC in it?
Most full-spectrum CBD products have at least a small amount of THC in them, otherwise they’d be called “broad spectrum.” With products sold outside of a dispensary, they have to have less than 0.3% THC. Unfortunately, these products also tend to be unregulated. If you purchase full-spectrum CBD in a dispensary, you’re getting a safer product that will likely have more than 0.3% THC in it. 

Is full spectrum more potent?
Full-spectrum products are not necessarily more potent. They tend to prioritize preserving the cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids in marijuana. Because of this, the manufacturers are less focused on jam-packing their products with THC. That said, a lower THC potency doesn’t mean the product won’t hit you hard. The entourage effect can be a powerful thing, and all those compounds working together with your endocannabinoid system can create some powerful results. 

Can you dab full spectrum extract?
Dabbing just means that you’re using a dab pen or dab rig in order to consume your concentrates. You absolutely can dab full spectrum extracts, like live resin and sauce. 

Find Full-Spectrum THC Products

Increasingly, cannabis enthusiasts are focused on the highest quality products they can get their hands on, and for many consumers, this means full-spectrum THC products. Because of this, dispensaries are prioritizing having a variety of full spectrum THC marijuana available. If you’re not seeing any in your dispensary, just talk to your budtender. They’ll either be able to guide you to what they have in stock or let you know when the products that have sold out will be back on the shelves. 

Use of Marijuana Concentrate may lead to: Psychotic symptoms and/or Psychotic disorder (delusions, hallucinations, or difficulty distinguishing reality); Mental Health Symptoms/Problems; Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS) (uncontrolled and repetitive vomiting); Cannabis use disorder/dependence, including physical and psychological dependence.   Please consume responsibly. This product may cause impairment and may be habit forming. There may be health risks associated with consumption of this product.  State laws impact what dispensaries can and can’t sell to recreational customers and medical marijuana patients. Not every type of product, consumption method, dosage form, or potency mentioned on this blog will be permitted in all locations. 

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