What are Trichomes in Cannabis?

Not all weed is created equal. Different weed types have different effects based on the strain, the trichomes, and the terpenes and cannabinoids they contain. But what are trichomes in cannabis? This article will break it down for you.

Trichomes in Cannabis
Trichomes in Cannabis

Understanding Trichomes in Cannabis

All cannabis has trichomes. Trichomes in cannabis are white sticky glands that crystallize over the plant with most concentrations on the flowers and leaves of the plant.

Trichomes serve two purposes. The first is to protect the plant from UV rays and insects. They have a bitter taste and strong smell that deter pests from invading. They coat the plant to keep it safe from the sun.

The sticky glands also produce cannabinoids and terpenes that are found in the plant. These substances are what give the plant its characteristics. Some are energizing, some will promote relaxation, and so on.

Terpenes also help keep plants humid which helps them grow.

Trichomes don’t only grow on the cannabis plant. They appear on 30% of plants across various categories. They also grow on algae and lichens. They are the major component of essential oils. They give plants a unique aroma and flavor.

They may also have different functions in plants. For example, Venus fly traps use them to catch prey.

Different Types of Trichomes in Cannabis

Trichomes in Cannabis 1
Trichomes in Cannabis 1

There are three different types of trichomes in cannabis. They include:

Bulbous Trichomes: These small clear glands spread evenly over the plant’s surface. They make the plant shiny and sticky. They are only visible under a microscope. Some believe they contribute to cannabinoid production, but more research is needed to establish if this is the case.

Capitate. Sessile Trichomes: These trichomes in cannabis are also only visible under a microscope but they appear in greater amounts than their bulbous counterparts. They have a mushroom-like shape and are found under sugar and fan leaves. They store secretory cells at their base that are responsible for terpene and cannabinoid production.

Capitate-Stalked Trichomes: These trichomes are the largest and most abundant in cannabis plants. They have a mushroom-like shape. Their secretory cells transfer nutrients to the head of the stalk. They are typically found on the surface of cannabis flowers.

Benefits of Trichomes in Cannabis

Responsible for Terpene and Cannabinoid Production: Trichomes are responsible for producing terpenes and cannabinoids that give cannabis its beneficial properties. They determine if the plant boosts energy or aids with relaxation. They can also address various health concerns like inflammation, insomnia, nausea, and pain.

Play a Role in Cannabis Concentrate Production: Cannabis concentrates are a popular form of weed consumption. Trichomes in cannabis can be used to create potent concentrates. An extraction method is used to remove plant matter from trichomes leaving behind the cannabinoids and terpenes used in concentrates.

Play a Role in Kief Production: Kief is an extremely potent form of cannabis. It is a concentrate made from trichomes that were separated from the plant without using solvents. Solventless extracts capture the essence of the plant’s flavor and aroma. They do not rely on chemicals like CO2, butane, or ethanol, so they are safer options.

Cost-Effective THC: Trichomes in cannabis contributes to more potent cannabis concentrates. Individuals can use less of the product to enjoy its benefits. It is a cost-effective option.

Trichomes in Cannabis as Harvest Indicators

Large green rice field with green rice plants in rows in Valencia sunset
Large green rice field with green rice plants in rows in Valencia sunset

Trichomes indicate whether plants are ready to harvest. They also give cultivators an idea of the plant’s potency and effects.

 If the trichome is clear, it means it has not fully reached potency and is not ready to harvest. If the trichome has a cloudy appearance, it is at peak potency and ready to harvest. Some say plants with cloudy trichomes provide an uplifting effect. If the trichome has an amber tone, it will be ready to harvest, but it will have less potency and may produce more sedative effects.

Most harvesters will wait for trichomes to have a mostly cloudy appearance while others prefer a 50/50 mix of amber and cloudy trichomes.

Trichomes in Male and Female Plants

Trichomes are found in male and female plants, but they have much smaller concentrations in male plants. Male plants make up for the lack of trichomes by producing sacs of pollen that pollinate female plants. They also aid with cannabinoid and terpene production.

The Cannabinoids and Terpenes in Cannabis

Cannabinoids develop in the trichome when plants begin flowering. Trichomes develop along the outer surface of the plant as flowers are produced.

Trichomes also experience biosynthesis. The enzymes undergo chemical reactions. They produce complex molecules from simple molecules. The process gives rise to the terpenes in the plant.

Various cannabinoids and terpenes form in cannabis. These include:


  • THC: This cannabinoid is responsible for cannabis’s psychoactive effects. It also impacts areas of the brain associated with pleasure, movement, perception, concentration, and pleasure.
  • CBD: This non-psychotic cannabis constituent is known to improve mood, relieve pain, and provide other beneficial health effects.
  • CBN: CBN has sedative effects. It can promote relaxation and help with insomnia.
  • CBC: CBC has anti-inflammatory and pain-reducing effects.
  • CBG: As the mother of all cannabinoids, CBG is being researched for its potential to treat chronic pain, epilepsy, and inflammatory bowel disease.


Selective closeup of dry cannabis on a white surface
Selective closeup of dry cannabis on a white surface
  • Beta-caryophyllene: This terpene may improve mood and reduce anxiety and depression.
  • Beta-pinene: Beta-pinene may have anti-depressant and anti-cancer properties.
  • Humulene: Humulene is a component of ginseng which is known for its energy-boosting properties.
  • Limonene: Limonene may have anti-cancer and anti-anxiety properties.
  • Linalool: Linalool is found in lavender and may relieve stress.
  • Myrcene: This terpene has antifungal and antibacterial properties. It can also promote relaxation.

Trichomes in cannabis help protect plants. They aid in the production of terpenes and cannabinoids that provide beneficial characteristics. They are an essential component of cannabis products.

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