A Comprehensive Guide To Trichomes
Posted on June 2nd, 2021
If you’re curious about trichomes, you’re in the right place. If you’ve started researching marijuana, you’ve likely come across the term “trichome” before. While it sounds like one of the numerous chemical compounds found in cannabis plants, trichomes are actually the source for cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids,
Trichomes perform vital tasks throughout the cannabis plant’s life. And they play a significant role in cannabis strain quality. But before you hunt down the “best trichomes” strains, you need to learn about the various types. And explore the additional role they play for cannabis plants.
What Are Trichomes?
Trichomes are the gooiest (and grooviest!) section of the cannabis plant. They’re the resin glands of the cannabis plant that consist of CBD, THC, and other active cannabinoids.
In other words, trichomes are the cream of the cannabis crop. They’re the basis of the smokeless revolution when it comes to cannabis consumption. And they offered initial hope to medical marijuana users, including Charlotte Figi.
Charlotte was a young woman who struggled with more than 300 weekly seizures. What was the cause of these seizures? Dravet syndrome, a difficult-to-treat form of childhood epilepsy. Initially, Charlotte found relief using a tincture of trichomes from highly concentrated CBD strains of marijuana. (We now call that strain Charlotte’s Web, because of the relief she experienced.) Sadly, Charlotte died in 2020, at the age of 13, after being hospitalized for pneumonia. But, thanks to her early experience with trichomes, we’ve learned much more about the effects and uses of these sticky cannabis glands.
Trichomes and Terpenes
We’ve already discovered that terpenes contribute to the potentially beneficial effects of CBD. But did you know that harvesting trichomes from the cannabis plant helps preserve terpenes in your final product? Yes, it’s true, which is why trichomes are crucial to some of your favorite weed strains.
For instance, do you like Sour Diesel’s skunky smell? Well, that’s the terpenes. Or are you a fan of Pineapple Twist’s fruity taste? Guess what, that’s also thanks to terpenes. In fact, in most cases, terpenes offer a wide variety of smells and tastes to your cannabis products. Some of the most popular include popular citrus, pine, mint, and berry. For that reason, if you want extra bang for your cannabis buck, look no farther than trichomes.
Of course, to do so, you’ll need to know how to find trichomes on raw plant material. But don’t worry. We’ve got you covered with that info in the very next section.
Where Are Trichomes Located?
As we mentioned earlier, trichomes are sticky resin glands. On the cannabis plant, they look like tiny hairs emerging from weed buds, stalks, stems and leaves. There are several different kinds of trichomes, but only three can serve as sources of CBD, THC or other cannabinoids. These are the capitate-stalked, capitate sessile, and bulbous trichomes. And each are found on different parts of the cannabis plant.
First, let’s look at bulbous trichomes, the smallest of the bunch. Although bulbous trichomes are found all over cannabis plants, they’re so tiny (10-15 microns or micrometers) that you can’t see them without a microscope. (For comparison, the estimated width of human hair is around 40-50 microns.)
Moving up in size, you’ll find the next largest group of trichomes, the capitate sessiles. Apart from being a bit larger than bulbous trichomes, they are significantly more plentiful. Typically, these types of trichomes begin to resemble the more familiar head-and-stalk shape.
These trichomes are also the most common of the three. Since their average size ranges from 50 to 100 microns, it means that they can be visible to the naked eye. They typically consist of a basal cell (stalk) covered by a waxy gland head.
Finally, there are capitate-stalked trichomes. The largest of the three important trichomes, this kind develops on both male and female plants. Capitate-stalked trichomes are easily visible, unlike other trichomes, but all three sub-types do important jobs for cannabis plants.
Why are Trichomes Important?
Currently, scientists believe that trichomes produce terpenes and cannabinoids. But that’s not their only job. In Greek, trichome means “growth of hair.” Now, with humans, hair shields our bodies from infection. And trichomes may do the same for cannabis plants. In fact, they’re meant to repel pesky insects and destructive fungus. Meaning they help cannabis plants reach maturity.
What’s more, these resin glands are the “sunscreen” of developing marijuana plants. They safeguard plants from the sun’s UV rays, as well as low humidity and high wind. Additionally, thick layers of sticky and wet trichomes safeguard cannabis plants from hungry edible-seeking animals, like rabbits and other rodents. And they do so for all varieties of cannabis plant, including hemp and marijuana.
Hemp vs. Marijuana: What’s the Difference?
All too often, people use these terms interchangeably. In fact, they are technically thought to be the same species. And, in a way, that’s true. But there’s a key difference, introduced largely by the current legal environment.
Here’s the story. We distinguish marijuana from hemp by each plant’s chemical structure. In order to be legally classified as hemp, the plant must consist of 0.3% THC or less by dry weight. On the other hand, any plant with concentrations above this limit is regarded as marijuana.
Because of the lack of substantial THC quantities, many countries and most U.S. states legally permit hemp plant growth. Plus, it’s usually legal to use hemp-extracted CBD products. As a result, while trichomes grow on hemp and marijuana, most of the currently available CBD products are sourced from hemp.
High-Trichome Hemp Strains
Two major hemp varieties reportedly contain the highest trichome concentrations of trichomes. These are the Hindu Kush and Purple Kush. Have you tried these strains before? If so, and your experience was positive, you may owe your results to their plentiful trichomes. But that’s where the party likely stops.
Because, apart from the Hindu Kush and Purple Kush, few other common cannabis strains are well-recognized for their abundance of trichomes. (Though OG Kush, Chemdawg, and White Widow reportedly have high concentrations). Of course, strains are often subjective. So, if you want to explore the benefits of trichomes, you’d likely be better off sampling high-quality, full-spectrum CBD.
Benefits for CBD
Many people turn to CBD for its potential therapeutic benefits. Well, it turns out that trichomes may boost the quantity and quality of a plant’s cannabinoids. Which means they may hold the key for more effective CBD and THC products.
For that reason, as cannabis continues to increase in usage and popularity, trichomes shouldn’t go unnoticed. Plus, as we mentioned earlier, these sticky outgrowths defend cannabis plants from pests and predators. (Not to mention harmful sun rays.) And, since trichomes contain a sticky residue, they can also provide natural defenses against predatory fungi. Basically, without trichomes, we might never grow a mature cannabis plant. Which would mean we could never extract CBD, or benefit from its use.
Effects of Cannabidiol (CBD)
Scientists are still exploring CBD’s actual working mechanism. CBD, as opposed to THC, has a substantially lower affinity for the cannabinoid receptors located in your brain. Essentially, these are the molecules to which THC attaches itself, induce psychoactive effects.
Cannabidiol, on the other hand, stimulates other parts of your system, like the opioid receptors that modulate pain. They also influence glycine receptors that primarily deal with the neurotransmitter serotonin.
Based on several studies so far, CBD oil may therefore help manage a broad scope of issues, such as anxiety, depression, epilepsy, insomnia, Parkinson’s disease, muscle spasms, glaucoma, high blood pressure, drug addiction and withdrawal, acne, anorexia, and chronic pain.
With the growth of CBD’s popularity, there will also be more research on it. However, currently, there are few clinical studies that conclusively prove that the effects of CBD can treat any given disease.
From the perspective of hemp and cannabis users, trichomes are an excellent source of goodness. They’re the legitimate manufacturers of CBD, THC, and any other potent chemical compound found in cannabis.
To our minds, they’re a true marvel of nature. By performing a special type of alchemical magic, they create a nourishing and rich golden resin from humble cellular materials. And even the most refined cannabis product can be traced back to their capacity for synthesizing and processing. Meaning trichomes won’t be giving up their significant role in the ever-expanding hemp and cannabis industry.