I am amazed sometimes by what I hear people say about cannabis. I'm speaking about patients as well as employees at medical cannabis companies. So I’m going back to basics for this post to explain what the sparkle and sugary shine that SHOULD be on your cannabis medicine actually is and why it's there.
Why does the cannabis plant have Trichomes?
Trichomes are the cannabis plant's defense against predators and disease. Most herbivores don't like the taste, most insects don't like the stickiness, and the odor seems to offend both and that is the divine plan. Some terpenes contained in the trichomes are also anti-fungal. The trichomes on a mature cannabis plant are there to help assure the plant's survival. Animals will still sometimes eat cannabis in the wild, but my best educated guess on why they only eat it sometimes and not others, (based on observing my own animals) is for the medicinal qualities. It’s just like the way my chihuahua with digestive issues will ignore every plant, including grass, but chooses to eat the wild globe mallow in our back yard. I come to find that herbalists and natural healers use globe mallow for gastric issues. Animals can be smart that way.
Why are Trichomes important to patients?
In cannabis, the largest concentration of the plant’s medicinal constituents are in the trichomes. They contain most all of the cannabinoids, (THC, CBD for example) and all of the terpenes. There are lesser medicinal constituents in the leaves, stems and roots, but the trichomes are where it’s at.
Cannabis trichomes and their medicinal constituents are what makes cannabis such a unique plant in the plant kingdom. The only thing close is hops. Besides the obvious cannabinoids, trichomes also hold all the terpenes responsible for the flavor, aroma and medicinal qualities of the plant. Terpenes are also now believed to be the modulator of your medicine, ie: sativa, indica, or a combination of both called hybrid.
The terpenes prevalent in indica strains are myrcene (in dominance), with limonene and pinene in close second. Others also exist in varying occurrence. and the combinations seem endless. Sativa strains have a more complicated terpene profile that is much more variable as well, with terpinolene and pinene vying for dominance. Myrcene can be present and can even be dominant in a sativa, but the other terpenes and plant constituents present in that sativa strain will counteract the couch locking sedative effects that are so common in indica. The terpenes profiles in sativas can cause an opposite effect and will keep patients uplifted and energized. This may explain why so many patients prefer the hybrid strains that are usually pretty balanced in the high, and cover a larger variety of medicinal effects than a straight indica or straight sativa do.
The trichomes you can easily see in the photo are called capitate stalked trichomes and they exist all over the mature flower, becoming more numerous as the plant ages. They are also visible with the naked eye as that sugary looking crystals on the flower buds. Bulbous trichomes, (unstalked), are smaller, seen only with the help of magnification, and are found in larger quantities on the leaves and stems, and to a much lesser degree on the flower buds. There is a third kind of trichome on cannabis called capitate-sessile trichomes and they are like the ones pictured, but smaller and with a much shorter stalk. These will be found on the flowers and bud leaves. The trichomes with the most medicine in them are the capitate stalked trichomes. Sessile trichomes contain much less medicine and the bulbous trichome hold even less to none. That is why the magic is in the flowers.
Whether it's industrial hemp or high grade medicinal cannabis, trichomes are present, visible, sticky and are an integral part of the plant. Some species produce more trichomes than others, and the kinds of terpenes present in the trichomes can differ drastically depending on genetics and how well the plant is grown. No trichomes = no medicine. If your cannabis is lacking in aroma or flavor it is lacking in terpenes. If your medical cannabis is lacking in terpenes it is lacking in medicinal value as well. What’s in your medicine?
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