Understanding Full Spectrum “Live Dried” Cannabis Extracts
In this post:
- Why live-dried cannabis is a growing trend
- How flash-freezing is different from hang-drying and curing
- Benefits of freeze-drying cannabis
- Live-dried cannabis extract products
- Why terpene testing is essential
Live-dried cannabis, also known as freeze-dried, fresh frozen, or flash frozen, has higher THC content, more terpenes, and fewer impurities than traditional hang-dried or cured plants. That’s because freeze-drying protects cannabis from corrosive environmental elements, helping it to retain its chemical profile. Manufacturers then use this flash-dried material to produce “live” concentrates that mimic the cultivar’s unique aromatic, therapeutic, and flavorful features. These full-spectrum extracts are in increasingly high demand, and we think this trend is here to stay.
Why Live-Dried Cannabis is a Growing Trend
The idea behind live cannabis is simple: drying cannabis at below-freezing temperatures preserves the plant’s original compounds, allowing processors to create potent, robust extracts from the material. Whole-plant extracts enable people to benefit from the Entourage Effect–the theory that all cannabinoids (not just THC) and terpenes are required to amplify the plant’s healing and psychoactive properties
What sets live drying apart from traditional methods is that it protects buds from heat and environmental degradation.
Cannabis cultivators and craft extractors have known about freeze-drying for a while. However, most continued drying cannabis through traditional curing methods until recently. Freeze-drying is growing in popularity today because consumers are increasingly aware of the wellness benefits of full-spectrum products. Consumers don’t only care about exorbitant THC content anymore. Instead, they want to experience robust therapeutic effects through cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, minerals, and vitamins synergizing inside their bodies.
How is Flash-Freezing Different From Hang Drying and Curing?
Manual Drying and Curing
Most farmers harvest cannabis for extraction using manual hang-dry methods that take several weeks. Typically, they start by hanging plants upside down or on racks in a dark room for five to fifteen days. This allows the plants to release moisture from the leaves and stem and transfer it into the buds. Once this step is complete, growers proceed to the curing phase to rid the buds of bacteria and allow the terpenes and cannabinoids to age and stabilize.
This traditional drying and curing process is effective when done correctly. But it’s also time-consuming and risky. Processors must carefully monitor temperature and humidity levels, which may change due to factors outside their control. They also need to pay attention to how the cannabis looks during this time, so they don’t accidentally dry it too much or leave it out for too long—both can compromise potency, flavor, and aroma.
The Flash-Freezing Process
On the other hand, flash-freezing preserves almost all original or peak levels of cannabinoids (like THCA and CBDA), terpenes (the aromatics responsible for scent), and natural flavors in just a few hours. Here’s how it works:
After harvest, farmers immediately remove the stems, branches, and leaves and vacuum seal the rest.
Then they place the sealed bags in a massive freezer at frigid temperatures of at least -40 degrees Fahrenheit. They must do this within an hour to avoid damaging the plant’s precious compounds.
Once the water inside the buds freeze, forming tiny ice crystals, processors drop the pressure in the chamber. This action creates the vacuum necessary to transform the ice crystals into a gas, removing 95% of the moisture content. Finally, they return the freeze-dried plant to room temperature, taking the remaining water out of the buds.
What are the Benefits of Freeze-Dried Cannabis?
When appropriately frozen, the plant doesn’t age. Instead, it retains its original psychoactive and therapeutic components, including acidic cannabinoid precursors such as CBDa and THCa. Acidic cannabinoids do not cause psychoactive effects–even THCa is non-psychoactive. Still, they deliver potent anti-inflammatory benefits while acting on 5-HT receptors to boost serotonin production. Additionally, flash-freezing preserves the plant’s monoterpenes, responsible for the authentic, earthy flavor people expect from live resin concentrates.
While producing high-quality whole-plant extracts, freeze-drying doubles as a practical storage method. It allows growers to capture potent strains during peak season and preserve them as long as needed before creating end products. In cans, these products can retain their original quality for up 25 years.
What Type of Extracts Do Producers Make From Live-dried Cannabis?
Cannabis brands harness freeze-drying methods to produce live rosin and live resin extracts. Live rosin is a solvent-less extract using fresh frozen cannabis that is washed in ice water hash baths, freeze-dried, and then pressed using low heat and pressure. Live resin is a similar product, except manufacturers use chemical solvents like butane instead of heat and pressure to extract the compounds.
Brands can use flash-frozen cannabis to make a variety of popular cannabis extracts.
Why is Terpene Testing Essential for These Products?
Terpene testing is essential for live, dried cannabis products because they contain the highest terpene content of all extracts, and terpenes are crucial components. Terpenes help determine the plant’s aroma, flavor, and therapeutic and experiential profile. For example, linalool, a terpene responsible for lavender’s well-known scent, exhibits a sweet and floral aroma. Linalool is also known for its soothing effects due to its effects on serotonin receptors. So high linalool strains may be best for evening use to allow physical relaxation at the end of a long day. Another example is pinene, the second most dominant hemp, and cannabis terpene. Pinene delivers pine-fresh scents and energizing effects.
The Bottom Line
By moving away from drying and curing cannabis, producers and manufacturers save time, space, and resources while producing craft concentrates that consumers love—no terpene loss, no cannabinoid loss, no flavonoid loss–just pure, potent extracts.
Send your live-dried extracts to ACS Laboratory today. We test for 38 terpenes and 23cannabinoids, including seven acidic precursor compounds. We’ll help explain how your product’s unique chemical profile works so you can effectively educate budtenders and consumers on the right strain for their needs.