3 things trichomes can tell you about the quality of your cannabis
By Allison Cohn
The quality and volume of trichomes on flower is one of the easiest ways to identify high quality cannabis. According to the International Cannabis and Hemp Standards (ICHS) glossary, trichomes are “resin glands produced in the densest quantities on cannabis flowers.” They contain the most sought after elements of cannabis, including cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids. There are three main types of trichomes found on cannabis: bulbous, capitate sessile and capitate stalked.
Fun fact: The word trichome is adapted from the Greek term for “growth of hair.”
All cannabis has trichomes, but their quality can range from super crystally, sticky and abundant to dull, dry and sparse. During the cannabis grading process, trichome content falls under the qualitative data category and each plant is assigned a rating from the ICHS 100-point scale based on the color and density of intact visible trichomes. With good flower, you should be able to objectively decipher the density of trichomes with your naked eye (no added light source).
Trichomes are very fragile and can indicate a lot of information about the backstory of the plant: how it was grown and in what conditions, how it was cured and stored and, ultimately, whether or not the cannabis is good quality.
1. WHAT WERE THE GROWING CONDITIONS?
Cannabis that appears to be sugar coated with dense, fragrant and gummy trichomes was certainly grown with proper lighting and access to nutrients. Lots of healthy trichomes cultivate on cannabis under optimal growing conditions. In theory, healthy cannabis should consist of a substantial amount of trichomes that increases the flower’s potency. Cannabis with large trichomes is generally grown indoors in a controlled environment. Plants grown outside display smaller trichomes, because they’re exposed to less predictable weather elements. That said, it’s good to note that bigger doesn’t always mean better when it comes to trichomes, it’s more about their color and density.
2. WAS THE FLOWER CURED PROPERLY?
The less the flower is handled, the more intact its trichomes ought to be. If the trichomes boast a little bubble on top of each one (which are often visible under a microscope), that denotes that the flower was likely carefully cured and hand processed. If the trichomes are missing their heads, that might suggest it was machine processed or handled a lot. A flower that’s missing lots of trichomes was likely cured or handled improperly.
3. WAS THE FLOWER STORED PROPERLY?
Storing cannabis properly is super important. If the plant is exposed to light, air or moisture, it may develop defects or become dried out, discolored and potentially lose its desired flavors. Cannabis is also very sensitive to extreme temperatures and humidity. For example, freezing flower will cause trichomes to become brittle and fall off. If flower appears discolored or has a lack of visible trichomes, this could have a direct correlation with improper storage techniques and it will receive a lower grade.
HEALTHY TRICHOMES EQUAL HEALTHY FLOWER
Not only do trichomes play an active role in getting you stoned, but they serve as an important clue in learning the backstory of the flower. The more trichomes, the better the flower.
Trichomes enhance the aroma and therefore the flavor of the cannabis. While trichome size may vary, they all produce cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids and other natural botanical compounds that contribute to the medicinal and psychoactive effects of cannabis. Properly grown, cured and stored cannabis should yield healthy flowers with dense, sticky and fragrant trichomes, which will therefore score a higher grade.
A lack of intact trichomes suggests a disruption during the growing, trimming, drying and/or storing processes. Trichome defects include, but are not limited to, damage and sparse density or discoloration due to oxidation, improper storage or processing.
So when evaluating the pedigree of your flower, have a close look at its trichomes. If your cannabis appears more like Frosted Flakes than Corn Flakes, you should be good to go.
Read more in this series:
3 things aroma can tell you about the quality of your cannabis
3 things color can tell you about the quality of your cannabis
3 things structure can tell you about the quality of your cannabis
Allison Cohn loves gold spray paint and nonsense. She also has a very difficult time sitting still and keeping quiet. She can often be found dancing like a fool when she isn’t hiding out in her mountain lair or gallivanting around the globe.