If you’re a cannabis enthusiast, chances are you know what trichomes look like. Trichomes have become a source of fascination among those of us who are serious about our bud. Trichomes, with their resinous, crystalline hairlike structures are a thing of beauty! But, you may not know everything there is to know about them. In this guide, we’ll explore the following topics:
- What Are Trichomes?
- What Types of Trichomes Are There?
- What Purpose Do Trichomes Serve?
- How to Make Your Own Extracts
To help you gain a quick but essential understanding of what trichomes are and what they’re purpose is, here’s what you need to know.
What Are Trichomes (And Why Are They So Important)?
Trichomes are outgrowths on all kinds of plants, including cannabis, that serve a variety of functions. Trichomes resemble crystal-like hairs. In fact, the word “trichome” comes from the Greek word, τρίχωμα (pronounced: trichōma), which translates to “hairs.”
Trichomes are much, much more than crystal hairs and sticky resin that bind to your fingers when you handle buds. They actually play the most essential roles in cannabis:
- Defense: They defend the plant from environmental threats.
- Cannabinoid and Terpene Production: They house cannabis’ mini-production facilities that are responsible for producing the active ingredients in cannabis.
We’ll go into more detail on the functions of trichomes later in the article. Before we do, let’s look at the three main types of cannabis trichomes.
Types of Trichomes
Cannabis trichomes are categorized as follows:
- Bulbous Trichomes: A gland and small stalk, this is where the plant makes resin.
- Capitate Sessile Trichomes: These globe-shaped trichomes are larger and denser than bulbous trichomes.
- Capitate-Stalked Trichomes: These are the largest and most densely populated trichomes, and the most important to cannabis consumers. Capitate-stalked trichomes contain the highest concentrations of terpenes and cannabinoids. With their distinctive crystals, they’re easily visible to the naked eye.
What Functions Do Trichomes Serve?
Trichomes play some of the cannabis plant’s most essential functions. What role trichomes play depends on what type of trichome they are and where they’re located. For example, as root hairs and leaf hairs (within epiphytes), they absorb nutrients, including minerals and water. As leaf hairs, they also lower plant temperature and protect against UV rays and water loss.
Trichomes “Play Defense”
The gooey surface of trichomes (the coating of sticky resin) creates a protective barrier that acts as the cannabis plant’s frontline defense. Here are some of the defensive measures they’re responsible for:
- Defend cannabis plants against environmental attacks, including animals, insects, fungus, predatory herbivores, and other threats.
- Act as a natural sunblock to protect cannabis plants from destructive UV rays.
- Prevent soil erosion, particularly in cold, arid climates like the desert.
- Protect living cells against frost damage.
- Protect against wind by breaking up airflow across the cannabis plant’s surface.
Trichomes Are Home to a Cannabinoid and Terpene Factory
Here’s where the magic happens!
- Trichomes house tiny factories that produce cannabinoids and terpenes. Cannabis only produces cannabinoids in a single location, the globe-like head of the trichomes. This is the source of all of the plant’s therapeutic and psychotropic properties. (Cannabinoids, particularly THC and CBD, are responsible for producing the therapeutic, healing, and psychotropic effects associated with cannabis.)
- Glandular trichomes secrete essential oils and terpenes that are responsible for each cannabis strain’s unique flavor and scent.
- Terpenes, like myrcene and limonene, influence a strain’s aroma. Many terpenes have therapeutic properties, too, that work synergistically with other cannabinoids and terpenes — what’s called the “entourage effect” — to produce various effects, both therapeutic and psychotropic.
Take note that while THC is the only intoxicating cannabinoid or chemical in the cannabis plant, it’s the plant’s overall chemical profile (or cannabinoid and terpene spectrum) that influences the effects associated with a cannabis “high.” That’s why strains with different cannabinoid ratios (e.g., THC to CBD) and terpene content (e.g., myrcene content) can produce dramatically different effects. For example, Charlotte’s Web is a high-CBD strain that doesn’t produce any intoxicating effects, while a strain like, indica-dominant Godfather OG (with 25%+ THC) knocks you on your ass with a killer case of “couch-lock.”
Myth-Buster: Higher Trichome Density Doesn’t (Necessarily) Mean Higher THC Potency
Since THC is produced inside little tiny cannabinoid and terpene factories inside the trichomes, it would seem logical that the more dense and abundant trichomes appear on your buds, the higher the potency. However, this isn’t necessarily true.
Sure, more healthy trichomes would suggest higher cannabinoid and terpene production levels. In turn, more healthy trichomes suggest a robust chemical spectrum. But due to variable genetic profiles and cross-breeding, the precise level of production of specific cannabinoids and terpenes can vary dramatically from strain to strain.
For example, some strains are bred to maximize CBD content. A top-shelf CBD-dominant strain will have lots of visible trichomes, but that strain may have low THC content and won’t produce much of a “high.”
How to Make Your Own Extracts from Trichomes
Your local Have a Heart dispensary probably has more extracts and concentrates than you can imagine ever trying. But maybe you’re a DIYer and want to try your hand at getting high from trichomes. Well, not trichomes per se, but from the magical ingredients contained in trichomes.
Invest in a Good Grinder
A grinder is a smaller container that breaks up your bud into smaller pieces. If you vape your bud, you absolutely have to grind your cannabis. Otherwise, you’re wasting a lot of your bud. By grinding the bud into smaller, more manageable pieces, you’re increasing the surface area. Maximizing the surface area allows your bud to burn more easily and evenly. Grinding is also an easy way to collect kief. (More on kief later.)
Grinding is also far superior to breaking up bud with your fingers when rolling a joint. Plus, fingers will absorb and degrade the trichomes. You don’t want that! It’s a lot easier to roll a joint with lots of small pieces rather than buds. But, more importantly, “ground” bud prevents canoeing. Canoeing refers to when your bud starts burning only the middle of the joint.
Even better, good grinders have a crystal catching chamber to collect trichomes. This magical powdery substance is what’s called kief.
Separate the Trichomes from the Bud…Carefully!
We’re not going to cover every extraction method, most of which involve using solvents like butane or ethanol (which can be dangerous) or ice water (which can be more complicated than it’s worth). You should leave these methods to the professionals.
We will, however, cover a few easy methods that anyone can do. No matter which extraction method you ultimately choose, your first step will always be to separate the trichomes from the bud.
When you smoke or vape dried bud, you’ll want to preserve as many trichomes as possible. Of course, trichomes are highly sensitive and easily degraded. So you’ll need to be delicate when handling trichomes. Trichomes are vulnerable to touch. When you grind your buds or break them apart with your fingers, the trichomes can easily fall off. You don’t want that! After all, you’d be robbing your flower of it most treasured properties and effects.
How to Make Kief from Trichomes
We’re already touched on how to make Kief. If you already use a good grinder, you’re might be already making kief without even knowing it. Not only is kief awesome, anyone can make it. It’s the easiest cannabis concentrate to make. Makes sense, right? All you’re really doing is separating and collecting the trichomes from the bud.
Here’s how you do it in just two steps:
- Step 1: Place your bud in your grinder.
- Step 2: Separate the trichomes from the buds by rotating your grinder in a circular motion until you’ve gathered enough trichomes in the kief-catcher chamber (the chamber that looks like a mesh metal screen).
That’s it! Now you have kief. The final product should look like a fine powder that looks a bit like granular Caribbean sand. Kief definitely isn’t the best extract out there, but it’s easy to make. And the cannabinoid levels are usually between three and four times greater than regular buds.
How to Use Kief
Kief is versatile. You can sprinkle kief on bowls, bongs, and joints. You can also sprinkle it into onto bud in the chamber of your vaporizer. Take note: because the texture of kief is so fine, it burns differently than bud. You definitely do not want to roll a joint that’s 100% kief. It will burn too quickly.
You can even use it for edibles. It’s especially well-suited for cannabutter. If you’re following a cannabutter recipe, simply substitute ground bud with kief. Because kief is more potent than bud, as a general rule, you probably only need about 25 percent of what the recipe calls for. If a recipe calls for 1 ounce of bud you can probably substitute 1/4 ounce of kief and achieve the same dosage levels.
How to Make Hashish from Trichomes
Hashish, or “hash” as it’s more commonly in North America, is simply cannabis resin. Hash has long been popular in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. And in recent years it’s become more popular in North America.
Good news: you don’t need to be a scientist to make hash. It’s easy! If you can make kief, you’re one step away from making hash.
At the most basic level, all you need to do to make hash is to press high-grade kief into a block using the tips of your fingers. Or use a pollen press. (You can easily make a pollen press, here’s how.)
If you feel comfortable, you can get a little more advanced. Lightly heat your kief while pressing it. [See video below.] This makes for a better product with a longer shelf-life.
How to Smoke Hashish
No doubt, there are at least a dozen ways to consume hash. Here are three of the most popular methods.
Add Hash to a Joint (or Spliff)
- Step 1: Apply a small amount of hash to a key.
- Step 2: Then apply a flame from a lighter to lightly heat and soften.
- Step 3: Sprinkle the warm hash on your joint or spliff, then inhale.
Use an Extract-Friendly Vaporizer
Not all vaporizers are made to handle hash, but some are made so that you can add hash or hash oil to them. If you have one of those pens or vaporizers, simply follow the accompanying instructions for that vape.
You can dab pretty much any extract. If you’ve never dabbed before, you may want to skip this method. Otherwise, you dab hash just as you dab budder or shatter. Heat your titanium nail with a crème brûlée torch. The hash will form smoke. Cover the smoke with a carb cap and inhale the smoke.
Congratulations! Now you’re practically an expert on trichomes. Who would have thought that for all the celebrating we do over cannabis buds, it’s actually trichomes in their sugary, crystalline glory that are responsible for all of the medical, therapeutic, and recreational benefits of cannabis that we all treasure?
Want to put your newfound knowledge to work and see trichomes up close? Visit your favorite Have a Heart location.
Don’t see a dispensary near you? We’re one of the fastest growing dispensaries in North America. Chances are, we’ll be opening a location near you soon!