When it comes to cannabis, there is quite a bit more than what meets the naked eye. If you fancy the flower, at some point in time you have probably asked yourself about those tiny little crystals that always seems to cover the leaves and buds of your favorite strains. They tend to be shiny, sticky, and always carry the most amazing aromas. Upon looking closer, however, these blankets of frost appear to be large collections of what are known as trichomes.
The actual definition of trichome is “fine outgrowths or appendages on plants, algae, lichens, and certain protists.” Originating from the Greek word “Tríchōma,” meaning “growth of hair,” these tiny microscopic mushroom-looking protuberances look like something out of a science fiction novel. But they are actually the very factories that produce the hundreds of known cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids that make our favorite cannabis strains potent, unique, and effective.
Major Types of Trichomes
There are three major types of trichomes, namely:
• Stinging Hairs
This type of trichomes have a bulb-like portion and contains a poisonous liquid. They can cause pain or irritation by injecting a chemical fluid into an animal’s skin. This fluid contains serotonin, histamine, and acetylcholine.
• Glandular Hairs
Lots of plants have glandular trichomes, which are responsible for the secretion of essential oils. The glandular cells in the hair tip are metabolically active. These trichomes are multicellular and consist of differentiated apical, stalk, and basal cells. They may secrete resin, mucilage, or oil.
• Peltate Hairs
Also known as scale, these hairs contain a plate of cells typically on the foot or stalk. They have thick walls due to the peltate’s number of ray cells.
Different Trichomes In Cannabis
There are three different trichomes in cannabis that have distinctive physical structures. They differ in shape and size but produce the same compounds. The trichomes found in cannabis plants are:
• Bulbous Trichomes
These are tiny bulbs that aren’t visible to the naked eye. You have to use a microscope to see them since they range from 10-15 micrometers. These trichomes distribute evenly on the cannabis plant’s surface. They give cannabis its sticky texture and frosty appearance. Bulbous trichomes can’t hold high CBD concentrations due to their size.
• Capitate-Sessile Trichomes
These are larger yet, still invisible to the naked eye. These contain abundant concentrations of compounds like terpenes than bulbous trichomes. They have large bulbs located on the undersurface of leaves. Their primary function is to synthesize terpenes and phytocannabinoids through their secretory cells. Capitate-sessile trichomes are mushroom-like with stalks and heads.
• Capitate-Stalked Trichomes
These trichomes are more abundant and larger than the previous two. They are visible to the naked eye and measure around 50-100 micrometers. Found on flowers, they consisting of a large glandular bulb sitting on a multicellular stalk. The epicenter of phytochemical production is within the bulb, making them the powerhouse for cannabinoid and terpene production.
WHAT’S THE PURPOSE OF TRICHOMES?
In nature, it is believed, that trichomes facilitate quite a few essential to survival functions of the cannabis plant. The gooey surface coating of sticky resin provides a frontline defence against fungus, insects and hungry herbivores.
Some flies and certain fungi cannot penetrate the trichome barrier, while terpenes will foul the flavour of the lettuce for four-legged furry critters.
Furthermore, trichomes may also play a key role for cannabis growing in difficult climatic conditions. A layer of resin offers wild weed protection against damaging winds from the desert sirocco to the Siberian blizzard.
Trichomes even serve as organic sun block for marijuana plants, protecting them from the effects of UV rays from the sun. We shall explore the relationship between UV and trichomes a little further below.
The function of trichomes on cannabis
The production of trichomes can be observed in many species of plants throughout nature, taking on various physical forms as well as serving many different purposes. For example, trichomes found on some carnivorous plants aid in helping to catch prey.
In cannabis, trichomes function as a defense mechanism. When female cannabis plants begin to produce flowers in the wild, they often become vulnerable to various insects and animals as well as non-living environmental variables such as potentially harmful UV rays. Trichomes serve as a deterrent for animals because their bitter taste and strong aromas render cannabis flowers unpalatable. At the same time, they also serve a dual function in protecting their plants from damaging winds and even some varieties of fungal growth.
What Do the Different Colors of Trichomes Mean?
Like many other plant appendages, they rely on color to signal the completion of biochemical activities. Hemp and cannabis cultivators track the plants’ development through color changes in them. They mature by changing from clear to cloudy, and finally amber.
This is an indication that chemical compounds, which include cannabinoids, haven’t started oxidating. At this stage, the plant is barely starting to grow. The production of terpenes and THC is at its highest, while CBD production is low. You’d experience strong psychoactive effects if you use compounds harvested at this stage.
This is when most cultivators harvest their flowers. Most agree it is the right time to harvest. Here, the production of cannabinoids that have potential pain-relieving, stress-reducing, mood-enhancing, and euphoric effects is underway.
Here, the cannabinoids produce a relaxing effect. This is ideal for growers of medical flowers. It may be able to help with insomnia, pain, and other medical conditions. However, growers need to act fast when they turn amber or brown since they begin to degrade in quality. Amber-colored trichomes offer the most abundant yield with a tiny drop in potency.
Harvesting of trichomes is a cautious undertaking. They and their essential oils are delicate and, thus, easy to damage. Factors like agitation, heat, light, oxygen, touch, and time can contribute to their deterioration. Carefully handling the flowers is the best and safest way to deal with cannabis trichomes. Proper trimming, drying, and curing can make sure they remain intact.
Trichome isolation can happen in different ways. Extraction is one of the methods used to isolate them. The simplest way to remove them is to remove them from the flower mechanically. That is the least refined extraction method and easily done by using a grinder.
It is also possible to harvest and transform theminto more refined concentrates through solvent-based and solventless methods. This is more costly and labor-intensive than mechanically removing them.
Ice water extraction is one of the simplest ways to make concentrates from them. Here, you dip cannabis into ice-cold water, then shake it to detach the trichomes from the flower. You’ll have a clean final product once you filter the materials through micron screens.
What are cannabis trichomes and how do they affect your smoke?
Trichomes are the source of resin and cannabinoids in your cannabis plant. They are small spheres of cannabis resin which coat the leaves, buds and branches of your cannabis plant, giving it a frosty white appearance. Cannabis trichomes are resin glands which allow the production of cannabis concentrates such as shatter, cannabis oil, hash, wax etc. Most people don’t realise that there are different categories of trichomes, each with their own size, shape and unique biochemical function.