What Are Trichomes? Tiny Medicine-Making Machines

by Cesar Escobar, RRT

When we talk about the “medicine“that is found in cannabis, what are we referring to?  There are many chemicals that this plant creates and most have been identified to have medicinal properties.  Where does this medicine come from and why does the plant create such beneficial compounds? The flower of the cannabis plant is covered in tiny little glandular globes, which look like crystals. These crystals contain the vital chemicals that we call medicine. Both, cannabinoids:(CBGA, THCA, CBDA, CBCA, etc.) and terpenes (Limonene, Linalool, Pinene, etc.) are created in this crystal ball known as the trichome.

About 30% of all flowering plants produce trichomes. The cannabis trichome is toxic to grazing animals and deadly to insects, but not us. The trichomes are also made to protect the plant for UV-light.  The size and content of the trichome is of great value to the grower and is sought after by all extractors. The amount of trichomes may represent the potency of the plant, although scientists differ on this opinion. The genetics of the plant determine the type of chemicals created but not the amount. The potency (amount) of cannabinoids is attributed to the environmental factors (soil nutrients, wind, light). There are several different types of trichomes but the biggest ones that produce the most medicine are called capitate stalked Trichomes.  Trichomes are also used to gauge proper harvesting time. Looking at the trichome color is a very common way of deciding when the flowers are to be picked. The trichome color can vary from clear to milky and eventually amber. The amber color is caused by oxidative stress and indicates “over ripeness”. Although, very small trichomes can be seen with the naked eye and can be used as a way to check the quality of the cannabis. Flat or misshaped trichomes generally indicate poor cannabinoid production. Next time you look at the cannabis flower take a closer look and see what you find!