In our journey through cannabis, we have explored in detail the different cannabinoids found within the plant and have shed some light on the potential medical benefits of the compounds and how they are commonly used today. However, there is another interesting field worth jumping into, also referred to as the “crema” of cannabis – trichomes.

If you have experience with cannabis, think about your favorite strain. Do you remember what it feels like when touched? Can you almost feel the sticky, crystal-like substance that covers the herb? The little crystals tend to cover the leaves and buds of most marijuana strains and add a shiny, sticky, and aroma-rich quality that is difficult to forget. If we zoom in, we will notice the frost-like substance, also known as trichomes.

But what are trichomes and why are they there?

What are cannabis trichomes?

Deriving from the Greek word “Tríchōma“, meaning “growth of hair”, trichomes are the resin glands of the plant, which comprise of valuable cannabinoids such as THC and CBD, terpenes, and flavonoids. From a botanical point of view, trichomes have the essential role of serving as protectors of the plant. Their function is to support the plant and protect it from fungus, pests, or harmful animals. They have a bitter taste which tends to repel animals from desiring to consume the plant and can also save cannabis from strong winds. In addition, they prevent ultraviolet rays and humidity from causing damage to the plant. In other words, it would be difficult for cannabis to grow strong if it weren’t for trichomes.

Thanks to trichomes, the cannabis plant can grow in a diverse set of climate conditions and have a level of stability.

Trichomes come in different shapes and are classified into three separate groups – bulbous, capitate sessile, and capitate-stalked. All three types of trichomes have the ability to produce cannabinoids but their nature varies.

Bulbous Trichomes

Bulbous trichomes are the smallest type and are only between 10 and 15 micrometers or microns. This set of trichomes is difficult to observe with the human eye without the help of a microscope. Bulbous trichomes are found across the surface of the plant.

Capitate Sessile Trichomes

Capitate sessile trichomes are a bigger than bulbous trichomes and are comprised of a head and a stalk. They are found in more abundance of cannabis but are less dominant when compared to the third type of trichomes.

Capitate-stalked Trichomes

Capitate-stalked trichomes are the largest and most popular type of trichomes found in cannabis. Their size can reach from 50 to 100 microns and they can easily be observed with a naked eye. Their structure includes a basal cell or stalk and a waxy gland head. The gland head on the capitate-stalked trichomes plays the role of the epicenter for the synthesis of cannabinoids and terpenoids. 

The importance of trichomes

Trichomes are an essential part of cannabis and without them, the plant would not be the same. Especially from a cultivator’s perspective, trichomes are of significant importance. To the producer, the resin is everything, mainly due to their ability to produce cannabinoids and terpenes – two of the sources which make cannabis so lucrative and powerful today. While cannabinoids are responsible for interacting with the endocannabinoid system and triggering certain functions, terpenes are responsible for creating the flavor of the bud.

To sum up, the potency, flavor, and odor of the cannabis strain are also influenced by the trichomes. When cultivating cannabis, you certainly don’t want to risk the trichomes falling off as this will damage the quality of the herb and can decrease its beneficial effects on the mind and body.

Thanks to the trichomes, growers can also pick the perfect time for harvesting. While the color of the trichomes is clear at the younger stages of development, it turns cloudy and amber as it matures. Once the color becomes cloudy, growers receive a signal that the trichomes have matured and the cannabinoids have reached their peak. This is the ideal time for harvesting as once reached their peak, trichomes start to degrade.

The separation of the trichomes from the plant is a delicate process and the basic activity behind today’s medical and recreational marijuana. For instance, oil concentrates, wax, and shatter are produced by applying pressurized butane oil as a solvent to extract the trichomes from the plant. There are other solvents that can be used for the process and gives a different end product.

Now that you have become familiar with the nature of cannabis trichomes it is easy to spot why they are an essential part of the plant and should be approached with care. Digging deeper into cannabis uncovers a whole new world of powerful substances that when used carefully, can work wonders for the human body.

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