What are trichomes and what are their importance in cannabis?

You must have heard about trichomes, but do you know exactly what role they play in our favorite plant? Here we tell you all about these little cannabis crystals 

If you like cannabis, we bet that you all have seen those little “crystals” – which can vary between white, transparent and golden – around the cannabis flower and the adjacent leaves. They are called trichomes, a super important structure for our plant for many reasons. They are, for example, the guardians of the most precious herb in itself: cannabinoids and terpenes are mostly concentrated there. But anyone who thinks that this is their only function is mistaken!

Do you want to know more about it? So come with us to get to know these little notables that we love here so much.

What trichomes really are

Like in the photo, they look like small crystals, or even water droplets. But in fact the trichomes are structures very similar to “hairs” on the plant, which, as we have already mentioned, concentrate most of the cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD, and terpenes present in this herb. The production of trichomes is not exclusive to cannabis: they are quite common in some species, such as carnivorous plants.

They are especially important for the production of hashish and concentrates – which are made with the aim of separating mature trichomes from the plant, and that is why they can be so potent! Various techniques, from artisanal charas to the most technological ice water hash or full melt, are carried out to extract trichomes from plant matter.

Cannabis bud full of trichomes

But what do they do?

In addition to being incredible sources of cannabinoids, trichomes also play a role in the development of our plant. In cannabis, trichomes function as a defense mechanism. When female plants begin to produce flowers in the wild, they often become vulnerable to various insects and animals, as well as to non-living environmental variables, such as UV rays. Trichomes serve as a deterrent for animals because their bitter taste and strong aromas make cannabis flowers unpalatable. At the same time, they also have a dual function of protecting your plants from harmful winds and even some varieties of fungi.

Interesting curiosity: in carnivorous plants, trichomes serve to attract prey!

Types of trichomes

There are several variations of trichomes, mainly according to their size and shape. The main three are:

  • Bulbous trichomes: are the smallest of the types, and can be found on the surface of the entire plant. Bulbous trichomes can be approximately 10 to 15 micrometers, which is small enough to consist of just a small amount of cells.

  • Capitate sessile trichomes: they are slightly larger and contain a head and a stem. These trichomes are slightly more abundant than the small bulbous ones, but they cannot compare to the abundance and size of the third variety of trichomes.

  • Capitate-stalked trichomes: they vary from 50 to 100 micrometers in width, which means they are much larger and can be seen with the naked eye. Its structure consists of a stem composed of epidermal and hypodermic cells that form in a basal cell, which attaches to a large gland head. The gland head, held together by a waxy cuticle layer, serves as an epicenter for the synthesis of cannabinoids and terpenoids.

And why do they change color?

The different shades of a trichome are indicative of the plant’s maturity. So it is mega important to keep an eye on them when you are growing cannabis! As we talked about here during our cultivation series, the change in your colors will indicate to you whether your flowers are ready for harvest or not.

There are basically three levels of maturity that can be perceived in relation to color:

  • Transparent: initial stage of trichomes, very immature;

  • White: slightly more mature, but not quite;

  • Golden amber: completely ripe.

It is important to respect the maturation time, as this trichome, which looks more like a mushroom, fills with oil as the plant becomes more mature. In addition, it is beautiful to be able to watch the trichomes develop, and they are a very beautiful and fragrant expression of the plant!

As the peak concentration of THC-A (Tetrahydrocannabinol) approaches, the trichomes obtain a translucent color. This color is a result of the production of resin by the glands. However, CBD (Cannabidiol) levels are still low at this point. At the same time, aromatic molecules are also at their peak.

In most cases, the buds of the plant are harvested when the head of the glandular trichome begins to become opaque – indicating that there is a higher level of THC, which can produce the best effects. But each person has a preference when it comes to harvesting:

There are growers who prefer to harvest when 80% of the trichomes are in a more milky white and 20% transparent – and few amber trichomes. Those are the lighter hash guys.

As people who want a hash with darker and also oily coloring, the harvest is done when there is a higher percentage of amber (super ripe) trichomes. Some people believe that it is better to harvest when they are 70% milky white and 30% amber.

When observing them, it can be very interesting to have the help of a magnifying glass!

Cannabis bud
Cannabis bud

And how can I extract them?

An extraction, in the cannabis world, can be defined as the process of mechanical separation or chemical extraction, of the trichomes of the plant itself. There are numerous methods and techniques for extracting trichomes from plant material.

  1. The most handmade, such as charas and dry sift, can be made even at your home;

  2. Others, more technological, like rosin, bubble hash and full melt, need a little more technology. Although some can also be reproduced at home, they will use variations in temperature and pressure to remove them from plant matter.

  3. There are also chemical extractions that use light hydrocarbons like butane or propane to create waxy, fully melted oils. We do not recommend that they be made at home: the materials used are highly flammable and can cause explosions. In addition, if the purge is not done correctly, or the source of solvents is not pure, its result can be contaminated hash.

So, did you enjoy learning all this? We find this plant every day more fascinating with all this information – and the post was even more beautiful with the photos produced by Alice! We hope you enjoyed them too.

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