What Are Cannabis Trichomes and What Do They Do?

We all love those glistening buds with that tell-tale sparkle that all quality cannabis flower has. That sparkle is a result of the presence of trichomes — the hair-like structures that grow on the buds and hold the key to much of the medicinal and therapeutic potential of cannabis. If you want to buy medical marijuana in Canada, then it's in the trichomes where much of the medicinal properties are stored.


What Are Trichomes?

Trichome is derived from the Greek word for hair. These hair-like structures that grow on cannabis buds can be straight, spiralled, shiny, sticky, oily, and are often intensely aromatic.

Trichomes are quite literally little sacks of medicine and hold many of the compounds that are responsible for the therapeutic properties of the plant. A vast series of glands join those thin hair-like structures, and each is filled with a potent resin that contains the cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids responsible for many of the effects of cannabis.


Trichome Development

Most cannabis consumers know that the high presence of trichomes signals good cannabis, but very few are aware of the remarkable evolutionary roots of trichomes. In nature, trichomes function primarily as a defence mechanism. They serve to protect the plant from exposure to the potentially harmful effects of things like UV light, insects, and temperature variations.
Trichomes aren't only native to cannabis. They are found widely throughout nature and play different roles depending on the plant. When they grow on the leaves or stems of a plant, they serve to deter grazing herbivores; while on the seeds, their texture helps ensure a smooth flight when it's being carried through the wind. On other plants, the uses become even more diverse, like on aquatic plants where they function as little life jackets that keep the plant afloat on water.


With regard to their evolutionary purpose in cannabis, trichomes serve to protect the plant. They begin to appear as the female starts to blossom and begins to become vulnerable to insects and UV rays. The trichomes that form helps protect the cannabis plant through chemical interactions from insects and also protect it from UV light by reflecting it off the plant.

The Magic Within The Trichomes

It's the formation of cannabinoids in the trichomes that's of most interest to the majority of cannabis consumers. Cannabinoids begin to synthesize within the trichomes as the cannabis plant enters the flowering phase. They first begin to form on the surface of the vegetation, where the fundamental building blocks for the cannabinoids are transported out from the stalk where the plant metabolizes them to cannabinoids within the glands.


Some plants produce more trichomes than others, and the rate at which they are produced depends on plant genetics and the growing environment. The quantity of UV light is perhaps the key factor in determining the cannabinoid and terpene production levels within the trichome.

How to Increase Trichome Production

Anyone in the business of producing quality cannabis always has one eye on the trichomes. As the source of much of the therapeutic potential of cannabis, the higher the number of trichomes and the larger they are, then the more desirable the end product.


If you're growing cannabis and want to manipulate the conditions to favour maximum trichome production, then you can do so by controlling the environment. Temperature is of critical importance, and it mustn't be too hot or too cold. 29°C with the lights on and 22°C with lights off is a good range to encourage maximum trichome production.

Some growers also like to apply supplements to the growing plants that encourage further trichome production. There are several well known commercial solutions that come ready-made for application that provide growing plants with the base materials for trichome production by helping to maximize the enzymatic reactions within the plant.


The bad news for growers is that trichomes are delicate structures. Even when we do everything right during the growing cycle, we can still lose them if we're not careful post-harvest. The greatest danger of losing trichomes is during the curing phase. If we cure cannabis in an environment with low humidity or high temperatures, then we risk destroying some of the trichome content forever. To help preserve as many of the trichomes as possible, drying cannabis in colder temperatures can often help ensure we don't lose them before curing.

Optimizing Trichome Density

UV light has a huge impact on Trichome density. Trichome production is most affected by a wide spectrum of light rather than its intensity. Each strain responds very differently to a given light spectrum stimulus.


UV-B light is particularly harmful to cannabis, and the growth of trichomes effectively acts as a sunscreen for the plant. This means that with increased levels of UV-B light, the more sunscreen the plant must produce and the more you'll likely enjoy the effects!


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