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What Are Cannabis Trichomes?

September 30, 2022
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What are cannabis trichomes?


Have you ever seen the little crystals on your cannabis flower and wondered what they are? These little crystals are called trichomes. Trichomes cover the buds and leaves of the cannabis plant and are what give cannabis its unique smell and flavor. 

In this article, we will answer two popular questions: what are cannabis trichomes? And, can you smoke trichomes?

Trichomes on weed

Trichomes on weed protect the plant and provide many survival benefits. For example, trichomes help reduce water loss from the plant. 

Additionally, trichomes create the plant's cannabinoid and terpenes - chemicals that may help ward off animals and pathogens, attract pollinators, or bolster the plant’s defenses or immune system. 

What is a trichrome?

Trichomes look like tiny, mushroom-shaped crystals. They are found on the outside of the cannabis plant and cover the leaves, buds, and flowers of the cannabis plant. Trichomes are also found on other plants, like hops and lavender.

At a basic level, trichomes are appendages from the outer layer of plants that “store and secrete secondary metabolites in a species- and cultivar-specific fashion.” These secondary metabolites are often terpenes - for example, the essential oils of peppermint are monoterpenes housed in trichomes. The plant accumulates these “toxic compounds at the plant’s surface,” which may be the first line of defense against predators or pathogens.   

Cannabis trichomes are usually clear or white, but they can also be red, orange, or brown. Milky or amber trichomes are also common. For cannabis, the glandular hairs (trichomes) secrete resin. This resin contains cannabinoids like delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), as well as terpenes.

There are three main types of trichomes on weed:

  • Bulbous trichomes are the smallest trichome. They’re found on the entire plant. Due to their miniature size of 10-15 micrometers you can't see them without the help of a microscope. 
  • Capitate sessile trichomes are larger and have a stalk that attaches them to the plant. They’re found mostly on the flowers of the plant and have a more pronounced mushroom head shape.
  • Capitate-stalked trichomes are the most abundant trichome and the largest. They average in size from 50-100 micrometers and can be seen with the naked eye. 

The trichomes in cannabis produce cannabinoids and terpenes that give cannabis its unique psychoactive effects. Cannabis trichomes also protect the plant from the sun by giving it protection from ultraviolet light and from predators like insects, fungus, and hungry herbivore animals. The cannabinoids are a defense mechanism and deters predators from eating the plant.

Trichomes also help reduce water loss from the plant. This is especially important in hot, dry climates.

When do trichomes appear?

Trichomes appear during the flowering stage of a cannabis plant’s life cycle. They usually start to form about 3-4 weeks into the stage.

You can tell when trichomes are forming by looking at the color of the buds. As trichomes form, the buds will change color. The trichomes will also change color from transparent to milky white. This is a good indication that the weed is ready to harvest. 

Can you smoke trichomes?

So, do trichomes get you high? And do trichomes contain THC?

The answers to these questions are "Yes" and "Yes." You can smoke trichomes!

In fact, when you smoke cannabis, you're smoking the trichomes along with the flower. Whether the trichomes will get you high depends on the cannabinoid content of the strain you're smoking. If the strain has THC, you will get high from smoking the trichomes. 

When you focus on smoking trichomes (and not the cannabis flower), you’ll likely experience a different high than you experience smoking weed. This is because the concentration of THC in trichomes is higher than in the rest of the plant.

If you want to smoke trichomes, you can use several methods. One popular method is to make hash. Hash is made by separating the trichomes from the plant material and pressing them into a cake or block.

You can also make kief, which is a powder made from trichomes. Kief is often used to make hash or added to joints and pipes for an extra kick.

If you want to try smoking trichomes, be sure to start with a small amount. The high from trichomes can be intense, so it’s best to start slow and see how you feel.

How do trichomes reduce water loss?

Trichomes help reduce water loss from the plant by creating a barrier against the elements. The trichomes on the leaves and buds of the plant act as a shield, protecting the plant from wind and sun damage. This helps the plant retain moisture and stay hydrated.

Additionally, trichomes trap water vapor and increase humidity resulting in the reduction of water loss through evaporation. In hot, dry climates, this is especially important. Trichomes help the plant survive in harsh conditions by reducing water loss.

Key takeaways about trichomes on cannabis

  • Trichomes are tiny, mushroom-shaped crystals found on the leaves, buds, and flowers of cannabis plants.
  • Trichomes are responsible for producing cannabinoids, like THC and CBD.
  • Trichomes also help cannabis plants reduce water loss.
  • Trichomes usually start to form 3-4 weeks into the flowering stage.
  • You can smoke trichomes using several methods, including making hash or kief.

Get started on your cannabis wellness journey

Have you started your cannabis wellness journey? Jointly is a new cannabis wellness app that helps you discover purposeful cannabis consumption so you can achieve your wellness goals with cannabis and CBD. On the Jointly app, you can find new cannabis products, rate products based on how well they helped you achieve your goals, and track and optimize 15 factors that can impact your cannabis experience. These 15 factors include your dose, the environment in which you consume cannabis, who you are with when you ingest, how hydrated you are, the quality of your diet, how much sleep you got last night, and more. Download the Jointly app on the App Store or the Google Play Store to get started on your cannabis wellness journey.