Whole Plant Extracts (and How They Differ from Other Concentrates)


In the beginning, there was cannabis. And it was good. 

Now, the once “simple” choice between THC or CBD has become more nuanced. Terpenes, full spectrum oil, whole plant extract, supercritical fluid extraction, live resin: if you’re just a casual cannabis consumer, you may need a hand deciding what product is right for you. For some consumers, that means finding stronger products with higher quantities of THC or CBD. But for many others, the choice of what product to buy comes down to extraction methods. 

Why is extraction method so important? Because like the Avengers, CBD works better when it’s part of a team. The Entourage Effect is the idea that all of the cannabinoids and terpenes found in cannabis work together to create each strain’s unique effects. And it’s one of the reasons whole plant extracts have gained so much attention.

But what are whole plant extracts? And how does the extraction process differ from other types of cannabis products?

What Is Whole Plant Extract?

Whole plant extracts are created using, you guessed it, the whole cannabis plant. 

Cannabis and hemp plants – like other plants – have naturally occurring compounds found in their leaves, seeds, and stalks. These compounds interact with the cannabinoids and terpenes typically preserved in cannabis concentrates to maximize their benefits in the body. 

Think of it like a football team. The skill positions – quarterback, running back, wide receivers – are like cannabinoids and terpenes. They’re the superstars people pay to see. But without the rest of the team (linemen, defensive players, special teams), the superstars can’t perform up to their potential. It’s only by working together that the team is able to be effective.

Put simply, whole plant extracts preserve more of the compounds and terpenes that make each strain unique.

How Does Whole Plant Differ from “Standard” Concentrates?

Many concentrates are produced using only part of the plant: THS is typically extracted from the bud/trim of the cannabis plant, while CBD is extracted from the bud/trim of industrial hemp. This selective (single molecule) extraction can be useful in isolating specific compounds, either for use in other products or to produce a finished product with higher THC or CBD totals. 

But the resulting extract won’t retain many of the other natural plant compounds that contribute to the entourage effect. So even when THC or CBD concentration is higher in a “standard” extract, it may not be as effective as whole plant extract. 

How Does Whole Plant Differ from Full Spectrum Oil?

Full spectrum oil retains a “full spectrum” of cannabinoids and terpenes from a chosen strain. Often associated with CBD products, full spectrum oil is believed to increase a product’s effectiveness by taking greater advantage of the entourage effect. Live resin is an example of a full spectrum extract.

Unlike whole plant extracts, full spectrum oil draws exclusively from the plant’s trichomes. The goal is to preserve the full range of compounds (and all their therapeutic benefits) while removing fats, waxes and lipids that hold those compounds together. While some consumers claim this makes full spectrum a purer concentrate, others believe it stops short of the benefits whole plant extracts provide. 

Karing Kind Boulder Dispensary

How Does Whole Plant Differ from Distillates and Isolates?

Distillates, sometimes known as “broad spectrum oil”, is full spectrum oil that has been further refined to eliminate or reduce certain cannabinoids like THC or CBD. Isolates are the purest form of a cannabinoid. In a pure CBD isolate, the only active compound is CBD. While this allows for a more concentrated product, your body may not be able to process the CBD as efficiently as it could from a whole plant extract.

Consider fruit and vegetables. Most healthcare professionals would say it’s better to get your daily vitamins by eating fruit and vegetables rather than getting your vitamins in capsule form. That’s because the plant’s natural elements combine to enhance the overall effects in a way extracted vitamins can’t. There’s nothing wrong with taking a daily vitamin capsule, and there’s nothing wrong with vaping a pure THC concentrate. But whole plant extracts, like eating a piece of fruit or drinking a glass of fresh-squeezed juice, are generally seen as more effective.

As with full spectrum oil, some consumers swear they get the most benefit from distillates or isolates. But if you are curious about the effects of whole plant extracts, here are a few of our favorite recreational cannabis products made with whole plant extract.

Karing Kind Phoenix Tears (aka RSO)

Each bottle of Phoenix Tears packs more than 500mg THC and over 100mg CBD. Known for its extraordinarily high cannabinoid levels, this whole plant extract delivers pure, concentrated cannabis in an easy-to-use dispenser for precise dosage.

Find Phoenix Tears near you or order wholesale to expand your selection and support more discerning customers.

Need help finding the right product for you? Browse our online menu or stop by our location in North Boulder and speak with one of our award-winning budtenders.