A Full Spectrum Extract (FSE) is an extraction from a cannabis strain that captures its unique psychoactive chemical combination and preserves the delicate, full-range of pharmacologically active chemical components. This results in a full-flavored and full-aroma product with the taste, smell, character, and individual chemical make-up of the original plant.
FSEs are created through the process of extraction. The cannabis extraction process uses a volatile organic compound (VOC) to separate the target chemical components from the plant material, ideally comprising the full spectrum of cannabis’s chemical content.
New research has indicated that high tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content is not a true indicator of potency and that in fact it is the entourage effect, the effect generated by the combination of all the various component chemical compounds working together, that creates potency and physiological effectiveness. FSEs can also have specifically targeted, enhanced terpene profiles (High-Terpene Full-Spectrum Extract – or HTFSE) or enhanced cannabinoid content (High-Cannabinoid Full-Spectrum Extract – or HCFSE).
These VOCs are generally solvents or hydrocarbon solvents; theoretically, they are completely removed before consumption as a “solvent-free” final product. The most common method utilizes butane, propane, or hexane to wash the chemical components out of the plant material. The butane is then evaporated away, leaving only cannabis extract.
Only inert plant matter, lipids, and fats are removed in the FSE extraction process. Full Spectrum Concentrate (FSC) is produced through a mechanical process utilizing no solvents at all. This type pf product is considered “solventless” as opposed to a “solvent-free” extract.
The chemical makeup of each cannabis strain (cultivar) contains its own unique profile of cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, proteins, phenols, sterols, and esters. These chemicals are created and contained within the trichomes on the surfaces of female cannabis flowers.
The cannabinoids preserved in an FSE include both those that have been identified, such as THC, THCa, CBD, CBDa, CBG, and CBN, as well as others not yet identified or understood by current research (with over 400 unidentified compounds present). Heat, oxidation, and decarboxylation can easily destroy many of the most sensitive yet desirable terpenes and flavonoids, so temperature management is key for successful FSE extraction.