If you’re familiar with the stickiness of good bud, then you’re already familiar with the peculiar term of ‘trichomes’. Trichomes comes from the Greek word Tríchōma which means ‘growth of hair’. In weed’s case, trichomes are the sticky-icky microscopic crystals that contain the plant’s beneficial cannabinoids and terpenes. Basically, the carriers of all the good effects and scents you love about weed. Let’s get to know trichomes a little bit better, so you can understand the importance of the frosty coating.
What are trichomes?
Beyond knowing what trichomes feel like...what are they and what do they look like? By definition, trichomes are small resin glands found on the flower, leaves and sometimes even stalks of weed plants. The glands up-close are transparent, hairlike growths with a mushroom type top or head. From a distance, they appear like a glistening coat of crystals.
You’ll start seeing trichomes once the plant is entering its flowering stage. Overtime, more and more appear, especially near the end of the lifecycle just prior to harvesting. But just knowing about trichomes isn’t enough. There are different types of trichomes to be aware of too. Here are the trichomes you should know, and how each differs.
Confusingly enough, bulbous type trichomes are the smallest of them all. They measure at just 10-15 microns. To put that in perspective, human hair is around 40 microns. Bulbous trichomes are found on nearly every surface of the plant.
Slightly larger, and more abundant than bulbous trichomes are the capitate sessile types. They differ by having a stalk and a head, and are more abundant in quantity.
The most important trichome of them all for weed, is the capitate-stalked variety. These are the largest of all trichomes and come in the highest quantity. Capitate-stalked trichomes appear near the calyxes of the flower, and they produce the most resin and essential oils. Hence their importance to the quality of the end-product.
What do trichomes do?
While weed trichomes' most desirable function is producing the plant’s beneficial effects and enticing scents, that’s not their only purpose. In nature and for cannabis too, they’re quite effective for another important reason. Trichomes serve as a defense against insects, pests and fungus that can be debilitating to the plants. Not only that, but trichomes also help protect the plant from harmful UV rays, and inclement weather like wind. For pests, the bitter taste of trichomes is a deterrent on its own. Even more, if an insect or animal does disturb the plant the contained cannabinoids in trichomes will deliver its intoxicating high. A powerful enough effect to keep the pest from coming back for more.
Trichomes also provide a clear view into the maturity and readiness of the plant for harvest. Growers often use the coloring and transparency of trichomes to determine if the plant is at its peak of growth. Of course, like every stage of growing cannabis...timing is everything. Trichomes will transform from being clear, to a milky shade of white, as the time becomes right for harvest. The trichome will also pop its iconic mushroom shaped head, when ready too. Monitoring carefully is key, because when the trichome turns a shade of amber, the plant has matured too far. When this occurs, the precious THC will alter itself into CBN. Since it’s tough to see the opacity of the trichome with the naked eye, a loupe, microscope, or magnifying tool can be used.
Speaking of precious...because the trichomes contain the most important compounds for producing effects and scent, they must be protected. They can contain over 100 varied cannabinoids for varying effects, terpenes for scent and flavonoids for taste. When exposing trichomes to heat, excess light or oxygen, they can degrade or become destroyed. Effectively damaging the harvest that growers worked so hard to produce. This is especially important when drying and curing flower, for final use.
What is made with trichomes?
If you haven’t figured it out by now, the oil and resin from cannabis trichomes are vital for another reason. Weed concentrates. Advancing technology and processes now allow the isolation of trichomes, through extraction to harness their potent powers. Extracts deliver the purest tastes, aromas, and the highest levels of cannabinoids on the market today. Making them widely popular with medical and recreational users alike, for elevated experiences.
Here is a quick review of the types of concentrates or weed products that are made with trichomes -
Through BHO (butane hash oil) or CO2 extraction processes, the cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids are removed from plant material. Varying methods produce different consistencies like shatter, wax, budder, etc.
The collection of crystal trichomes at the bottom of your grinder, produces what’s called kief. Kief is the light and fluffy frosty coating that falls through the mesh. Leaving you a potent powder that can be smoked or used to make edibles.
Trichomes are also essential when manufacturing alcohol or oil based tinctures. To do so, plants are soaked in the liquid which strips the trichomes from the flower material.
If you’d rather save costs and make trichome heavy concentrates yourself, you can do so. There are many at-home methods to concoct your own tinctures, hash, and even certain concentrates. Depending on your experience, or tools, will determine which type is easiest for you. For instance, to make hash, you’ll only need a hair straightener and parchment paper, while BHO methods will require butane, and high heat sources.
Lastly, each weed strain is unique in its growth and production of cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids. Not surprisingly, they differ in levels of trichomes, too. If you’re seeking a trichome heavy strain, there’s a few that outshine the rest. They include -
Trichomes, shine bright like a diamond
From what you’ve learned about trichomes today, you can understand why growers and consumers marvel at the glistening of certain nugs. In addition to trichomes elevating the appearance of specific strains, they also produce weed’s alluring and beneficial effects. Even more importantly to some consumers, the trichomes are key for scents and flavors they crave. Now, you can revel in the pleasures of trichomes and their multifaceted functions.