What is a Trichome?

Trichomes, Cannabinoids and Terpenes

The cannabis and hemp plants produce a dazzling array of chemical compounds, many of which have therapeutic properties. An essential component of this production system are the trichome is on the surface of female cannabis plants during their blooming stage.

The trichomes are tiny, translucent, crystalline structures with bulbous heads on the ends. Cannabis and hemp plants have leaves, buds, and flowers that sparkle like dew in the morning. A closer look at trichomes reveals that they are actually fully integrated appendages that grow directly from the plant’s body.

During reproduction, trichomes are purposefully formed. The trichomes on cannabis plants produce more than 400 different compounds within their translucent bodies. Cannabis and hemp harvesters, manufacturers, and consumers appreciate these essential cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids they produce.

What are Trichomes?

Trichomes are found on cannabis plants in three different types. Increasing in size from bulbous to capitate sessile to capitatestalked trichomes.

Only the capitate-stalked trichomes, which have a diameter of 50-100 micrometers, can be seen with the naked eye. In spite of the fact that all three types of trichomes contribute to this natural bounty, the larger ones produce the most cannabinoids and terpenes.

Cannabis trichomes are commonly called ‘factories‘ of the plant. However, it does not convey the fluid, organic nature of trichome activity.

Trichomes perform a transformative function rather than a mechanical one. Raw cellular elements known as plastids and vacuoles are taken through their stalks and into the glandular heads, where they are processed and converted into medicinal-grade substances and other complex, nutrient-rich compounds. Once the cannabis or hemp plants have been harvested, the glandular heads will fill to the brim with cannabis- and terpene-rich resins that can be collected in abundance.

The consumption of trichomeproduced chemicals can benefit humans. However, they are dangerous to potential predators.

Cannabis flowers in bloom are typically attracted by insects and birds. But the bitter taste and intense odor of the sticky residue that soaks through the trichome surfaces repels them. In the cannabis plant, the trichomes serve a protective function, in essence being guardians of the flowers that are allowed to blossom uninterrupted. 

TRICHOMES DURING HARVEST

Trichomes, like many other plants and plant appendages, use color to determine when their biochemical activities are complete. In more precise terms, cannabis and hemp growers monitor the progress of the trichome factories based on the color changes, timing the harvesting activities to ensure maximum yield in quantity and quality.

During their life cycle and production cycle, trichomes transform from translucent to milky white, cloudy white, and finally to a deep amber hue. Harvesting is usually done between the third and final progression; cloudy white trichomes produce the most potent cannabinoids and terpenes, while amber-colored trichomes produce the most abundant yield (with only a slight decline in potency).

Harvesters usually rush to action as soon as the transformation from white to amber is complete. There is not much time to act after trichomes turn amber, as their contents begin to degrade.In addition to genetics and broad-spectrum sunlight exposure, trichome production levels will vary from plant to plant. Trichomes are very sensitive and can be damaged by excessive heat, intense light, or pollution. If they are handled roughly before or during harvesting, they may break or dislodge. The trimming, drying, and curing stages must be carefully handled to avoid causing damage to trichomes.  

When correctly handled, trichomes deliver impressive payloads when subjected to various extraction techniques. During extraction, cannabinoids and essential terpene oils are separated from their trichome “factories” in a concentrated form that can be processed to make hemp and cannabis extracts.

TRICHOME POTENTIAL UNLOCKED BY NEW EXTRACTION TECHNIQUES

In search of high-quality and tremendous yields, harvesters and extractors have always been challenged by the sensitivity of trichomes. Extraction equipment manufacturers have been experimenting with flash freezing and deep freezing technology as a way to preserve trichomes. With this approach, there is no risk of physical damage inherent to other trimming, curing, and drying techniques because everything is consolidated into one clean and rapid process.

A low-temperature extraction system will be introduced by two companies in 2020.  CRS 2000 CryoMass Refinement System, which is being marketed and sold by Precision Extraction Solutions in Troy, Michigan. The CryoMass system, developed by Precision partner CryoCann USA, submerges whole cannabis and hemp plants in liquid nitrogen, which instantly freezes and separates trichomes from leaves and flowers. The drying and curing processes are performed simultaneously and efficiently, resulting in a dry sift product rich in THC or CBD, depending on whether the plants used were cannabis or hemp.

Tracee McAfee and Greg Baughman developed another new extraction method they call Cryo Cure. As with the CryoMass system, the Cryo Cure system eliminates the need for harvested trichomes to be dried and cured. Both technologies accomplish this via deep freezing. With Cryo Cure, the whole cannabis plant is frozen, with the trichomes intact in the final product.

ALCHEMY OF THE TRICHOME

Trichomes are the ultimate form of goodness from the perspective of cannabis and hemp consumers. These plants produce all the potent chemical compounds that cannabis plants are known for, including THC, CBD, and terpenes.

It is an astonishing plant. By transforming humble cellular materials into a rich, nourishing resin, they perform a special kind of alchemical magic. Even the most refined cannabis product can be traced back to their processing and synthesis capacity, which gives them a foundational position in the rapidly growing cannabis and hemp industries. The harvesters and extractors who treat their trichomes well will reap plenty of rewards for their efforts.