Many people think of cannabis as a weed. No pun intended. The way they see it, the cannabis grows anywhere it wants and offers little benefit at first look. Who knows when the first humans realized its value as a source of fiber, food, recreation, and healing?
We can trace cannabis to origins in rough and hostile terrains before people were planting gardens for the sake of beauty. A wild and rugged survivor, cannabis is a flowering plant with botanical characteristics of other woody plants. All its parts are like other plants; however, they may play different roles to different degrees.
Trichomes are an example. They are distinct in cannabis botany and may be the source of most cannabis benefits.
The cannabis plant
Cannabis belongs to a subclass of plants labeled “dioecious.” It is an annual flowering plant with male and female organs on different plants depending on the wind for pollination. It proliferates from seed with distinctively shaped leaves growing at right angles two to four inches above the previous level of leaves.
The leaves sprout from an angular stem covered with tiny hairs. Under primo conditions, that stem will grow two inches per day. Favorable conditions include space to spread, air circulation to prevent mold and mildew, and light to replicate long summer days (vegetative growth stage) and short daylight days (flowering stage).
Trichomes are tiny glands that sprout from leaves. The heads of these mushroom-shaped glands contain the cannabinoids sought for recreational and medical benefit. The size of the trichomes varies from one cannabis strain to another. When mature and lump, the trichomes “sweat” a sticky terpene-loaded resin.
Bulbous Trichomes: The cannabis plant makes resin in the Bulbous Glands with small stalks.
Capitate Sessile Trichomes: Globe-shaped, the Capitate Sessile Trichomes are bigger and denser than Bulbous Trichomes.
Capitate-Stalked Trichomes: The larger Capitate-stalked Trichomes have the highest concentrations of cannabinoids and terpenes. Crystalline, they are easily visible to the naked eye.
These sticky trichomes gather pollen as it floats by and issues chemicals that discourage pests. They may also protect the cannabis plant from harmful ultra-violet light rays. Female plants carry more such trichomes than male plants.
Cannabis breeders have used cultivation and genetic development to increase the number and size of the trichomes. Harvesters look for trichomes to mature from transparency to a milky white. Growers can boost trichome levels using several techniques, including genetic selection, soil quality, lighting, and controlled stress. It is crucial to harvest cannabis when those rich trichomes have matured.
What trichomes do for you
Trichomes produce and carry the THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids that differentiate the cannabis plant and its various strains. Strains loaded with trichomes offer more chemistry for the brain and body. Trichomes may be tiny, but they can be seen and felt if they are plump and multiple. So, you might carry a small magnifier when shopping to check the presence and fullness of trichomes.
Handling cannabis risks damaging the trichomes and reducing the plant’s value. Growers must respect that the trichomes are sensitive to light and heat. They must harvest their product carefully and timely.
Trichomes also stick to the hands of harvesters and other handlers. That debris can be salvaged as Kief when scrapped from the skin. Others will process the cannabis to extract or remove the trichomes, creating cannabis hash, oils, shatter, and wax.
An increase in the number and size of trichomes signals the time to harvest. However, growers can encourage growth with controlled lighting. Scientists felt the trichomes were the repository of cannabis benefits. However, they have since discovered they contain the “machinery” that produces cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids.
Cannabinoids: THC, CBD, CBN, and other cannabinoids map over to the human Endocannabinoid System, altering that system’s performance. THC triggers cerebral activity with mild or potent impacts. CBD runs interference, allowing the body to find and maintain its preferred behavior. CBD sedates and calms.
Terpenes: Terpenes and Flavonoids occur naturally in many plants, where they produce the taste and aroma. In cannabis and some other plants, terpenes also have curative effects. Some people associate scents and flavors, like lemon and menthol, with therapeutic effects.
Oils: Cannabis resins and oils contribute to the “entourage effect” that strengthens the therapeutic results.
How to optimize your trichomes
Veteran cannabis users have learned some easy ways to make the best use of the trichomes attached to the buds they buy. They understand that careless handling can seriously degrade the quality of cannabis and the related experience. For instance, when you break buds apart, the trichomes will stick to your skin and fall between the cracks.
Professionals use butane and CO2 to extract the benefits from trichomes by removing them from other plant materials. But you might start by making some Kief with a quality grinder. Grind your buds thoroughly, and the powdery Kief should fill one of the chambers.
You can add the Keif to the stash you put in a joint, blunt, or pipe. Kief adds potency to bongs and bowls. And the fine texture makes immensely powerful and flavorful edibles.
Trichomes are tiny cannabinoid factories. Mushroom-shaped, they grow all over the cannabis plant. They are larger and denser on cannabis flowers, where they serve several purposes. First, pollen from male plants will stick to the trichomes, fertilizing the plant. Second, they repel harmful pests and fungi. Third, they create the cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids that distinguish one cannabis strain from another.
Those cannabinoids produce brain and body effects for recreational purposes or medical benefit. While the terpenes and flavonoids provide the strain with smell and taste, they also contribute to an entourage effect extending the benefits of cannabinoids.
Extracted from the cannabis plant, the trichomes become hash, wax, shatter, kief, and other by-products to optimize your means of administration and pleasure.