There is a heated debate regarding terminology and differences between cannabis oil extracts. Rick Simpson Oil (RSO), whole plant medicine, and Full Extract Cannabis Oil (FECO); what is the difference and how can you benefit from using one over the other?
Let’s get one thing straight, FECO can always be RSO, but RSO is not always FECO. To understand this we need to first understand how RSO and FECO are made, what their applications are, and their key differences.
What are full extract cannabis oils?
To keep it as simple as possible, FECO products are the concentrated compounds of the cannabis plant. The cannabis flower and sometimes the leaves are used to make the oil extracts to allow patients to receive the maximum benefits from the entire cannabis plant.
How is cannabis oil made?
Each producer of cannabis oil has a different technique and extraction method. Depending on the extraction method, consistency in appearance and contents will vary. This is why the debate can get heated surrounding the names given to each cannabis oil.
Cannabis oil is made using a solvent to separate the plant matter from the cannabis or plant resin to create a hyper-concentration of cannabinoids. Depending on the solvent and strain used, and extraction method, you will produce a different product with varying degrees of cannabinoid and terpenoid potency.
How do cannabis oils work?
Because cannabis oils are made as a whole plant medicine they work naturally with the body’s endocannabinoid system. Cannabis oils work by saturating the endocannabinoid system with cannabinoids such as THC and CBD, among others, to promote homeostasis in the body.
Cannabis oils, unlike other cannabis concentrates, are taken orally (usually from a syringe) which makes them more bioavailable. What does that mean? Bioavailability is important when medicating with cannabis because it determines how much of the medicinal matter is getting absorbed, entering circulation directly after being introduced into the body, and able to have an active effect.
Why is RSO different from FECO
The traditional method of extracting the cannabis oil from the plant matter, as outlined by Rick Simpson, strips the oil of all of its terpenes while FECO products keep all cannabinoid and terpenoid properties. This is primarily due to the solvent used during extraction. If you follow Rick Simpson’s at home extraction methods, which we do not recommend for safety reasons, you won’t be getting a FECO product. Instead, you could be getting a product that includes residue and traces of the solvents.
Why should you care that all of the plant’s qualities remain intact? Contrary to what Rick Simpson believes, terpenes play a big role in how the plant interacts with your biochemistry and aids in amplifying the cannabis plant’s therapeutic value. Terpenes not only give the cannabis the aroma’s we experience but depending on the concentration of certain terpenes, your cannabis will make you feel very differently.
Terpenes: What Are They & Why We Love Them
Terpenes are the essential oil compounds that exist in all plant matter, making them non-exclusive to cannabis, but they play a big part in how we use medical cannabis. In the cannabis plant, terpenes are produced in the same glands that produce THC and CBD and make up part of the flower’s sticky resin. They are what give plants their aromatic diversity and why certain strains have such unique scent profiles that we have come to identify with. Each terpenoid is also attributed to the effects we love in every cannabis strain.
More cannabis doctors and nurses are looking to terpene profiles to incorporate into what they recommend to their patients to alleviate ailments. Like cannabinoids (THC and CBD), terpenes bind to receptors in the brain and produce a variety of effects. However, when combined with other other compounds, terpene effects may change in their presence. We call this the entourage effect which makes medicine more effective; not only in potency but in its ability to target specific pain points on patients. For example, the piney aroma we love from Jack Herer is caused by the presence of pinene. Pinene is the reason why Jack wakes you up and keeps you alert while its medicinal benefits are the key to treating inflammation and pain.
Extraction and Choice of Solvents
To make a FECO product, you have to choose a solvent that will help retain as many of the terpenoids, flavonoids, and cannabinoids as possible. Rick Simpson’s method calls for isopropyl alcohol, naphtha or petroleum ether which destroys all of the natural terpenes. Not to mention those solvents are considered harmful, are flammable, and in some cases can be neurotoxic. These solvents are also considered cancer hazards in their material safety data sheets (MSDS). Many producers that opt to go this route sometimes add terpenes to the extracted product, but because of the solvent used, only limited beneficial scent molecules.
A quality full extract cannabis oil (FECO) is typically produced with food-grade ethanol. This solvent has been proven to retain the most terpenoid and cannabinoid profiles.
Why is FECO considered RSO?
Rick Simpson Oil is a cannabis oil that was dubbed RSO because it was developed by Rick Simpson and users followed his methodology of medicating dosage and production. That simple. Because of the variations of how people produce it, including strain and solvent used, the color will vary making it hard to rule out anything as RSO. However, most people identify RSO with a black tar-like substance, but color can vary from a transparent amber color to the black tar everyone knows.
FECO is just a full extract alternative to traditional RSO. Same use with more potential because of the fact that the cannabinoid and terpenoid profiles remain intact.
Rick Simpson Oil & Full Extract Cannabis Oil: Which One is Better?
Everyone’s biochemistry is different, so we can’t fairly rule out anything. FECO will give you a whole plant effectiveness, but some may not take well to the specific strains used or terpene content within the medicine. Some may not like the taste of FECO as keeping the terpenes retains the earthy flavor of cannabis, so one may turn to a traditional RSO.
The best way to medicate is by consulting a cannabis nurse or doctor so that they can guide you in which products are best suited for you. Consuming products that are lab tested for potency and terpene profile is also a good way to tailor your medicine. Without lab tests, you won’t know what is truly in your medicine.