Cannabis plants, like many other plants, have trichomes. Trichomes are the beautiful waxy crystals that cover the Cannabis plant. The word trichome comes from a Greek word meaning hair. Trichomes consist of a stalk and a head. A covering of trichomes is called an indumentum. The crystal-like sheen and the stickiness of the plant is because of the indumentum. The indumentum is important as a defense mechanism and helps the overall well-being of the plant. The trichomes help to support the plant until full maturity. It is important in the roles of transpiration control, in water and mineral absorption, the reflection of solar radiation, increasing water-repellency, in protection against insect predation, and the trapping of insects.
That being said, the most important function of trichomes is that they are in charge of the production of the cannabinoids that give cannabis the medicinal and high effects that we're all looking for.
Types of Trichomes on Cannabis Plants:
The types of trichomes on Cannabis plants are Bulbous, Capitate Sessile, Capitate Stalked.
These appear on the entire plant and they are very small and appear as pointed structures on the surface of the plant. They are responsible for secreting resins. Bulbous trichomes are about 10-30 microns. One to four cells make up the foot and the stalk and one to four cells make up the head of the bulbous trichomes. A microscope is needed to view bulbous trichomes. These trichomes are evenly distributed on the plant. They are mushroom-shaped and contain cannabinoids.
Capitate Sessile Trichomes:
These are more abundant and larger than Bulbous trichomes. They are also mushroom-shaped but flattened. The stalk is one cell and the head is usually 8-16 cells. They usually develop before the plant starts flowering. They are typically found on the underside of sugar leaves and fan leaves and around the head of the plant. These trichomes contain cannabinoids.
Capitate Stalked Trichomes:
These are the largest and most abundant during flowering. They are 50-100 microns and are mushroom-shaped. They are very involved in the synthesis of cannabinoids and the synthesis of terpenoids. They are rarely found on the sugar leaves and fan leaves. These trichomes are mostly found on the flowers.
How Trichomes Produce Cannabinoids:
Cannabinoids are the chemicals that produce medical effects in Cannabis trichomes. Trichomes create the compounds by biosynthesis. The steps of biosynthesis are binding, prenylation, and cyclization. First CBG is developed. The enzymes degrade when they come into contact with oxygen and the CBG turns into other cannabinoids like THCa- the acidic form of THC. When the THCa is decarbonized, it becomes THC. THC then degrades into CBN. THC, THCV, CBD, CBN, CBG, and CBC are some of the cannabinoids found in Cannabis trichomes.
Researchers have currently identified 113 types of cannabinoids. Terpenes are aroma releasing phenols. They are any compound with a hydroxyl group linked directly to a benzene ring. Terpenes are made by every plant. Terpenes determine the flavor and scent of the Cannabis strain. Over 100 types of terpenes have been found in cannabis. Myrcene, Limonene, Caryophyllene, Terpinolene, and Pinene are the five most commonly found terpenes in cannabis.
It has been observed that the combination of cannabinoids and terpenes can change the therapeutic effects and make a cannabis strain more calming, or more energizing.
When Does Trichome Production Begin?:
Most of the trichomes are produced when the Cannabis Plant begins to flower; however, Capitate Sessile trichomes will begin to develop during vegetation, before the plant has started flowering. THC, which produces the high associated with marijuana, is found in the outer wall of disc cells during the pre secretory cavity phase of gland development in Capitate Stalked trichomes. After the formation of the secretory cavity in the Capitate Stalked trichomes, THC can be found in the fibrillar matrix. Also, THC is found on the surface of secretory vesicles however it is not found actually inside the vesicles.
How To Increase Trichome Production:
Trichomes are what increase the potency of Cannabis. An important motto is: Quality in, Quality out. Using the best seeds with the best genetics is going to ensure you grow Cannabis that is stronger and healthier with the best trichome production that is possible. Many growers prefer “white strains”, which have been tested and have been reported to have the highest levels of trichomes on the market. If you're looking for quality seeds, check out our guide on the best seed bank to order from!
Sunlight (Indoors vs. Outdoors):
Adding sunlight to your grow will increase trichome production. Specifically, UV-B will cause greater trichome production. UV-B is 290-320 nm and is the same spectrum of light that gives mammals cancer and makes us tan. UV-B causes stress on the plant that makes it create more trichomes as a buffer to protect it from the sunlight. Trichomes are like suntan lotion for cannabis plants.
indoor growers can mimic UV-B spectrum lighting by using metal halide lights or LED lights with a UV-B chip. But LED lights are more cost-efficient.
Cannabis plants that are grown outdoors at a higher elevation are proven to have greater trichome production and THC levels. Elevation affects trichome production not only because of the air pressure but because of the greater quantity of UV-B spectrum sun rays.
Temperature and Humidity:
Temperature and humidity are important factors in trichome production. For ultimate trichome production, make sure the temperature is between 80-85 degrees when the lights are on and 70-72 degrees when the lights are off during the grow.
Lower temperatures have shown to increase Trichome production, but lowering the temperature will halt bud production so it is not advised to lower temperatures. Trichomes grow taller and are weaker and easier to break in high temperatures above the recommended degree. Make sure that the humidity is below 30% during the grow. Furthermore, there are certain strains that actually do better as indoor strains, which will help your production.
Supplements and Nutrients:
Supplements such as magnesium, calcium, silicon, sugars, and b-vitamins are important for flowering cannabis and help with potency and bud and stem development and strength. Enzymes also help with the production of trichomes. These supplements can be found in many different products that are advertised for flowering Cannabis and increasing potency and resin and nectar production.
When You Harvest:
You want your plant to grow to the best of its capabilities and to reach full maturity. Choosing when to harvest is the final factor that determines the number of trichomes and the potency of the trichomes. Most strains take at least 8 weeks in the flowering stage to be ready for harvest. When ready to harvest, observe the trichomes with a microscope. The color of the trichomes will turn milky white and then turn an amber hue. If most of the trichomes are clear then it is too soon to harvest.
Trichome gland heads that are milky or amber indicate maturity. Each strain is unique and will have different levels of different cannabinoids at different stages of flowering. When more of the trichome gland heads are milky, the cannabis will contain more THC and have more of a psychoactive effect when consumed. When the trichome gland heads are amber, the result will be more of a body high because amber trichomes contain less THC and more of the other cannabinoids such as CBN. Some growers like to harvest when the heads are 50% milky and 50% amber to create a balanced effect.
When harvesting it is also important to increase trichome production by handling your plants with care. You don’t want to waste anything by dropping it or touching too much, or even shaking them. This can damage the trichomes by knocking them off and crushing them. It is important to handle plants with latex gloves because the trichomes will not stick to the gloves.
Drying and Curing:
When drying and curing your cannabis, it is important to have it in the correct temperature to preserve the compounds in the trichomes. 62-65 degrees Fahrenheit is a good temperature for drying cannabis. Also, to preserve the trichomes it important to keep harvested cannabis away from sunlight. Direct sunlight will quickly degrade harvested Cannabis. We've tested a few new methods on quick drying weed, so come check out our results!
It is recommended to trim cannabis buds when they are wet so the trichomes are preserved. When the trichomes are wet, they are more sticky and will stay intact with the plant. You may experience more sticking to your scissors or gloves when the plant is wet but the sticky mess can be taken off the scissors and your hands and it can be consumed. The trichomes will fall off rather than sticking when the plant has been dried. Always work over a clean and open table and collect the trimmed material in a bucket or box. The trimmed material collection contains more trichomes that can be extracted and consumed for therapeutic effects.
Final Thoughts on Increasing Trichome Production:
Trichomes are the key to the effects of cannabis. Unique strains will grow differently depending on the conditions and the environment. It is important to pick a suitable strain depending on the conditions. You can harvest at different times to create different effects. It is up to you to decide when to harvest and it depends on the flavor and smell and therapeutic effects and potency you want in the trichomes. Milky trichomes result in more of a head high and amber trichomes result in more of a body high.
Along with this, the trichomes play an important role in protecting the Cannabis plant and they secrete natural compounds that enhance the therapeutic effects and flavors of Cannabis. The potency of the trichomes and the terpene (flavor) profile are what contribute to the therapeutic effects of cannabis. Different strains have different cannabinoids and terpenes in the trichomes that give unique therapeutic and intoxicating effects. Trichomes carry the most amazing aromas. Myrcene is musky, herbal, and somewhat citrusy. It is found also in mangos, hops, basil, bay leaves, and lemongrass. Pinene is like pine, fresh mountain air, and a bit woody. It is found in most coniferous trees and rosemary.
Caryophyllene has spicy, woody, and peppery characteristics. It is also found in cloves, rosemary, and hops. Limonene is citrus, lemon, and orange-flavored. Limonene is found mainly in the skins of citrus fruits like lemons, limes, and oranges.
Terpinolene can be described as a fresh flavor and can be found also in lilacs, tea trees, nutmeg, cumin, and apples.
Trichomes are usually left on the plant and consumed or they can be removed using different extraction methods and consumed separately. The concentration of trichomes after it has been extracted is called hash. Hash can be made with a solvent such as alcohol or butane or it can be solvent-less. The solvent-less hash includes dry sift, heat pressed rosin, distilled oil, and bubble hash. Most solvent-less hashes preserve the trichomes the best and preserve the flavor and cannabinoids. Also, some extraction methods yield more hash than other methods. If you're looking for larger yields, then you should also be looking for high yield strains. Butane and alcohol can make your hash taste dirty while solvent-less hash tastes a lot cleaner. The color of the hash will also vary depending on the method used and the ripeness of the trichomes. You can have different qualities of hash if you separate the trichomes using different sized micron screens when extracting. When using a press, you can get different qualities from the trichomes by using different temperatures and pressures and by holding the press down for different amounts of time.