In the U.S., cannabis is the most commonly consumed psychotropic drug, followed by alcohol. Cannabis is consumed for a variety of reasons and oftentimes to reap an array of medicinal, therapeutic, and/or nutritional benefits.
As a cannabis beginner, connoisseur, or expert, which parts of the plant do you think are the most significant and the most sought after? If you guessed the frosty, translucent, and sometimes cloudy looking trichomes glistening atop cannabis buds, you are right on target!
Although the cannabis plant contains a plethora of natural components that are beneficial in their own unique ways, their desirable psychoactive effects are due to the plant’s female buds and their THC-rich trichomes. Keep reading to learn about the significance of cannabis trichomes, their medicinal and therapeutic effects, their lifecycle and growth stages, and the valuable role trichomes play in cannabis concentrate production.
Cannabis Trichomes: Essential and Significant
Beyond a multitude of already identified cannabis cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids, there are the psychoactive-rich trichomes found on fluffy, female cannabis buds that can deliver numerous medicinal and therapeutic effects. Trichomes are known to have a frosty appearance with tiny hairs, and it is here where powerful chemicals like THC are generated.
According to research at the University of British Columbia, it has been found that cannabis flowers containing mushroom-shaped trichomes offer the most potent cannabinoid and fragrance kick. Would you have guessed that tiny hair-like trichomes can pack such an intense punch?
Based on a report published by The Plant Journal, the biggest mushroom-shaped glandular trichomes on cannabis buds are responsible for being the richest source of not only both THC and CBD-forming metabolites, but also fragrance-rich terpenes. Some popular terpenes present in different cannabis strains range from having citrusy, earthy, fruity, or even piney aromas that are often the highlight of cannabis smoke/vape sessions.
The Background on Cannabis Trichomes
Did you know that trichome is a Greek word meaning “growth of hair”? This is because the appearance of trichomes resembles that of tiny, frosty-like hairs sprouting out from female cannabis flowers. Just like different plants come in various shapes and sizes, this applies to trichomes as well.
For example, trichomes like the ones found on the female cannabis plant are grouped into two different types known as glandular and non-glandular. These trichome types can be distinguished by their ability to produce and secrete or store varying quantities of cannabis metabolites. Non-glandular trichomes protect the cannabis plant from its environment and are found on the top and bottom of cannabis leaves. Whereas, glandular trichomes play their own role by producing and storing substantial quantities of cannabis resin, which some describe as a layer of icing on an already delicious and satisfying cake.
Furthermore, non-glandular trichomes are grouped into two categories known as cystolithic and non-cystolithic trichomes. The main difference between these types is their shape and origin. Then, glandular trichomes break down into three types known as bulbous, capitate-sessile, and capitate-stalked trichomes.
- Bulbous trichomes take the win for being the smallest in size and generating a limited quantity of specialized metabolites.
- Capitate-sessile trichomes are different because they sit atop a cannabis flower’s epidermis with a short stalk and globose head that makes up secretory cells and a cannabinoid metabolite storage cavity.
- Capitate-stalked trichomes are shaped similarly to capitate-sessile trichomes with the same globose head except these are a little bit larger and they have what is called a “multicellular stalk.” Also, capitate-stalked trichomes are the ones that produce more cannabinoids, in total, in comparison to the other two types.
Therapeutic Effects of Trichomes
Although cannabis is often consumed by millions of people for purely recreational purposes, just as many, if not more people consume this plant for strictly medicinal purposes. It turns out trichomes can deliver therapeutic and medicinal effects, and they are also responsible for the biosynthesis of desirable cannabinoids such as THC and CBD.
As cannabis continues to grow in popularity and usage, trichomes should not go under the radar, especially because they house the key components of the cannabis plant that provide it with an array of psychotropic effects and therapeutic properties.
Additionally, frosty trichomes contain the cannabis plant’s variety of pungent essential oils, cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids.
This results in trichomes being responsible for making cannabis therapeutically useful while also delivering unique flavors and potency.
As trichomes begin gaining more attention and recognition as being a vital part of the female cannabis plant, they still tend to be underrated.
Beyond medicinal and therapeutic effects, trichomes serve another purpose by protecting the cannabis plant from predators and pests. Trichomes can even decrease the heating effect caused by sunlight by acting as a natural sunscreen.
To top it off, since trichomes have a sticky residue, it works as a natural defense mechanism to combat various insects, fungus, and herbivore predators that either do not have the ability to push through the sticky, gooey barrier or are discouraged due to the trichome’s unpleasant taste and/or texture. It’s safe to say trichomes are multi-beneficial all around.
Growth and Lifecycle of Trichomes
Cannabis plants undergo several growth and developmental stages in order to reach the point of harvesting. This applies to trichomes as well. There are four stages of trichome development based on their appearance including clear, cloudy, amber, and mixed.
When trichomes are clear or translucent, it is a sign the cannabis plant is approaching its peak concentration levels. In this first stage, though, the trichomes are not potent enough to harvest, and the cannabis plant could even suffer if it is harvested too prematurely.
The second stage occurs when trichomes have a cloudy-like appearance, it is a signal that cannabinoid levels have reached their maximum potential.
Next is the third stage, which occurs once the trichomes become amber in color. When trichomes turn amber, though, this can sometimes indicate a decline in THC levels, so cultivators should regularly monitor their plants once they notice any color changes.
The last stage makes itself known once the trichomes are mixed in colors. Some of the trichomes may be cloudy-looking and others may be amber in color or at least on their way.
Depending on the cannabis strain, harvesting can occur once the majority of trichomes are amber in color. But, for other strains, harvesting can take place once the majority of trichomes are cloudy and the remainder are slightly amber. Ultimately, though, harvesting time depends on the specific cannabis strain and the cultivator’s vision for it.
Strains with High Trichome Content
Out of all cannabis strains, two varieties that have been found to be the most rich in trichomes include Purple Kush and Hindu Kush. If you have ever consumed these strains in the past, do you remember experiencing a strong punch in psychoactive and euphoric effects?
Or did you notice a bunch of frosty, tiny hairs making their debut on fluffy cannabis buds before grinding it up? If so, you were lucky enough to have had a small taste of both the beauty and benefits of trichomes.
Besides Purple Kush and Hindu Kush, though, a few other popular cannabis strains are noted for their abundance of trichomes including White Widow, Chemdawg, and OG Kush. Next time you hit up your favorite dispensary, consider taking a gander at any of these five trichome-rich strains to see what the hype is all about.
The Relationship Between Trichomes and Concentrates/Extracts
On another note, whether you are curious about cannabis extracts and concentrates, have tried them before, or are fond of this product category, there are two ways to separate the trichomes from the rest of the cannabis plant: extraction or concentration.
Extracts use a solvent to separate the active chemical components from the plant material, while concentrates use physical means to separate the trichomes from the surface of the flowers.
The next time you purchase a cannabis extract or concentrate, know that cannabis’s trichome-rich resin plays a large role in the effects and overall experience you will likely encounter post- consumption.
If you are itching to reap medicinal and therapeutic benefits from cannabis and experience psychoactive effects along the way, consuming trichome-rich bud is one way to go. Other options for enjoying the effects of trichomes can be through eating, drinking, vaping, dabbing, or even old fashioned smoking.