An Introduction to Trichomes for Cannabis Extraction

An Introduction to Trichomes for Cannabis Extraction

What are Trichomes?

Trichomes are tiny fibres that grow on the appendages of plants. For people familiar with cannabis buds, they are the tiny hairs that give the plant its shiny, sticky look and feel. In cannabis, they exist in the highest concentrations in the “bud”, and in lower concentrations in the stems and leaves. There are 3 main types of trichomes found in cannabis plants:

  1. Bulbous trichomes are found on the surface of the entire plant, but are only visible through a microscope
  2. Capitate-sessile trichomes are slightly larger, though still only visible through a microscope, and have a mushroom-like shape
  3. Capitate-stalked trichomes are the most common, are visible to the naked eye, have a mushroom-like shape, and play the primary role in the biosynthesis of cannabinoids and terpenes (learn more about trichomes here)

Did you Know?

The frostier the flower, the more potent the cannabis – a study by the University of British Colombia found that flowers with more mushroom shaped hairs contain the most cannabinoids and fragrance.

To read more, click here.

How Do Trichomes Affect Your Experience?

Trichomes in the cannabis plant contain the highest concentrations of terpenes and cannabinoids. Because of this, they play a major role in defining the psychoactive effects and health benefits that a strain provides. Recent studies have tried to prove that the specific terpene concentrations found in a strain are what can cause strains of similar cannabinoid levels to produce different effects when processed by the body’s endocannabinoid system (a phenomenon referred to as the “entourage effect”).

Since trichomes are the main source of terpenes and cannabinoids within the cannabis plant, cultivators, extractors, product formulators, and even average consumers should understand what healthy, ripe trichomes look like. Trichomes that are a milky white colour contain the highest potencies of terpenes and cannabinoids, whereas amber coloured trichomes have aged past their peak potency.


This image shows the capitate-stalked trichomes found on the surface of a cannabis plant.

How Do Trichomes Impact Cannabis Extraction?

Plants with more trichomes will have higher concentrations of cannabinoids like THC and CBD. The extraction process pulls these desirable compounds from the plant’s trichome glands. By dissolving the trichomes and harvesting the subsequent cannabinoids through a solvent extraction process (like ethanol or supercritical CO2 processes), extractors can produce high-quality cannabis distillates in large quantities.

Trichomes are essentially cannabinoid factories, and are incredibly sensitive to factors such as heat, light, time, and physical contact. For this reason, cannabis extractors must be in communication with their cultivators and processors to ensure these parts of the plant remain undamaged and intact until it’s time for the extraction process to begin.

extractX Mobile Labs

If you’re hoping to produce high-quality cannabis distillate, an extractX mobile lab could be right for you! Our labs are built off-site to the highest compliance standards, installed at your facility within 4 months of contract for $0 lab CAPEX. Reach out to extractX today to learn more about our extraction-as-a-service partnership model.

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