Have you ever gazed in wonder at a fresh cannabis flower and wondered about that alluring silvery sparkle? If so, you’re tuning into the magic of cannabis trichomes—the cannabis plant’s “medicine factories.”
Inside these tiny mushroom shaped glands called trichomes, cannabinoids, terpenes, and other essential compounds are synthesized. While each individual gland is nearly invisible to the naked eye, that telltale coating is a sign that the cannabis you hold is fresh, potent, and chock-full of flavor.
In today’s post, we’ll take you on a guided tour of cannabis trichomes, including some surprising ways you can sample these fascinating components of our favorite plant!
What Are Trichomes? Introducing the Cannabis Plant’s “Medicine Factories”
As you probably know, the cannabinoids trichomes produce—including THC and CBD—can be considered the cannabis plant’s major “active ingredients.” This makes these tiny glands extremely important players in the cannabis ecosystem. But trichomes in plants aren’t unique to cannabis. Those leaf-like scales on pineapple plants are trichomes, as are the “trigger hairs” of the infamous Venus flytrap. When insects touch the sensitive trichomes inside the plant’s hinged lobes, they snap shut on the unfortunate prey in a fraction of a second!
So, why do cannabis plants produce trichomes in the first place? Those gooey, oil-filled structures serve as a defense mechanism. Fragrant terpenes serve to repel insects and even fungal growth from feeding on or colonizing the plant. A while the plant’s reasons for producing cannabinoids such as THC aren’t fully understood, researchers believe that, like terpenes, certain cannabinoids may protect the plant against UV light, among other functions.
Cannabis Trichomes: The Origins of Kief
Though it’s difficult to tell without a microscope, there are actually three different types of trichomes. But the only ones you can readily see—and the ones responsible for the bulk of cannabinoid and terpene production—are called “capitate-stalked trichomes.” They appear around the calyxes of budding flowers, lending this most critical of cannabis structures its astonishing richness of active compounds.
Tiny though they are, these little factories first caught humans’ attention centuries ago. They’re the source of kief, one of the most unusual and alluring of all cannabis products. Simply put, kief is a cannabis product made only of those cannabinoid-rich trichomes. While it can’t be known with absolute certainty when humans first produced kief, ancient Chinese texts make reference to cultivators sifting trichomes through silkscreens, or more recently, Moroccans carefully pressing it into the more familiar brick-like product we know as hashish.
Needless to say, kief—like all cannabis concentrates—is highly potent, and should be approached with caution by newcomers. That said, we’re fans of this highly flavorful, aromatic, and ancient product, arguably the purest expression of the humble but hardworking cannabis trichome.
What Are Trichomes? Wrapping Up
If you’re intrigued by cannabis trichomes as well as other elements of the cannabis plant, there’s much, much more to explore! If you have other questions about trichomes, cannabinoids, or any other aspects of the cannabis plant, just ask. We’re always here to help.