The Amount of Hairs on a Cannabis Flower Determines Its Potency

Science & Tech News - Hairs on a Cannabis Flower Determines Its Potency

We’re all already familiar with the potency of cannabis leaves, but the freshest data from the University of British Columbia suggest that it’s actually the chemicals released by the tiny mushroom-shaped hairs on cannabis flowers called glandular trichomes that give cannabis both the psychoactive and medicinal assets, as well as the unique smell.

In a study published in The Plant Journal, scientists reveal the distinct structures and chemical properties of the different kinds of hairs for the first time. Their findings reaffirm what many experts on cannabis have speculated: the largest glandular trichomes are also the most abundant with CBD and THC-establishing metabolites and the essential oil ingredients (specific hydrocarbons known as terpenes) responsible for the fragrance.

According to one of the study’s co-authors, Teagen Quilichini, their overall understanding of the science behind the cannabis plant is still in its initial stage, due to legal restrictions, that also have a restrictive impact on the current research capacity. But, what is known for now is that when it comes to cannabis plants, glandular trichomes are the biochemical factories of utmost importance and, as the UBC team hopes, this study could be the foundation for further research advancements.

Based on the trichomes’ appearance, the previous research had classified them into bulbous, sessile, and stalked. But prior to this, their role in cannabis flowers’ chemical production was unknown. For the purposes of this study, the researchers combined the advanced microscopy and specific chemical profiling in order to fully scrutinize the interior processes regarding the development of individual trichomes of “Finola,” a fast-flourishing hemp variety of cannabis.

So, what was the actual outcome?

The team found that under UV light, the stalked trichomes emitted a bright blue color and consisted of the unusual pie-shaped secretory cell discs. On the other hand, somewhat smaller sessile trichomes had smaller discs and therefore produced fewer terpenes. Also, they emitted red light.

Sam Livingston, a Ph.D. candidate from UBC, said that what the team saw was that the stalked glandular trichomes have larger “cellular workshops,” and thus are richer in cannabinoids and terpenes. What is particularly interesting is that these stalked trichomes actually grow from what first looks sessile-like, but later during development undergoes extreme changes which turn them into more potent plants. These changes are observable under the microscope as well.

However, more of the fascinating research at UBS is yet to come. The next issue they are to investigate is how trichomes “manage” to store all of the metabolites inside cell walls, without it having the intoxicating effect on the cells.