The frostier the flower, the more potent the cannabis
Advanced microscopy reveals internal structures of cannabis biochemical factories
Cannabis flowers with the most mushroom-shaped hairs pack the biggest cannabinoid and fragrance punch, according to new research from the University of British Columbia.
While the cannabis leaf is iconic, it’s the chemicals produced by the tiny, frostlike hairs on cannabis flowers that give the plant its psychoactive and medicinal properties and distinctive smell.
In a study published in The Plant Journal, UBC researchers have revealed the unique structures and chemical outputs of the different types of hairs, or glandular trichomes, for the first time.
Their findings confirm what many cannabis connoisseurs have long suspected: that the largest, mushroom-shaped stalked glandular trichomes are the richest source of THC- and CBD-forming metabolites and fragrance-giving terpenes.
“Despite its high economic value, our understanding of the biology of the cannabis plant is still in its infancy due to restricted legal access,” said co-lead author Teagen Quilichini, a postdoctoral fellow at UBC botany and Anandia Laboratories Inc. “Trichomes are the biochemical factories of the cannabis plant and this study is the foundation for understanding how they make and store their valuable products.”
Previous research had identified three types of glandular trichomes based on their appearance — bulbous, sessile and stalked — but their relative contributions to the chemical production of cannabis flowers were unknown.
For this study, the UBC researchers used a combination of advanced microscope techniques and chemical profiling to examine the internal structures and development of individual trichomes in a fast-flowering hemp variety of Cannabis sativa called ‘Finola.’
They found that under ultraviolet light, the stalked trichomes emitted a bright blue colour and contained a large, distinctive pie-shaped disc of cells. The smaller sessile trichomes, which do not have a stalk, emitted a red colour, had smaller secretory discs, and produced fewer fragrant terpenes.
“We saw that stalked glandular trichomes have expanded “cellular factories” to make more cannabinoids and fragrant terpenes,” said co-lead author Sam Livingston, a PhD candidate at UBC botany. “We also found that they grow from sessile-like precursors and undergo a dramatic shift during development that can be visualized using new microscopy tools.
As a result, Livingston explains, UV light could be used to monitor trichome maturity on flowers and inform optimal harvest times.
The researchers also conducted a gene expression analysis to investigate how instructions in trichome DNA are converted into the plant’s biochemical products. They found that the stalked trichomes in Finola were strongly geared towards making cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) and terpenes.
“We found a treasure trove of genes that support the production of cannabinoids and terpenes,” said principal investigator Anne Lacey Samuels, a botany professor at UBC. “With further investigation, this could be used to produce desirable traits like more productive marijuana strains or strains with specific cannabinoid and terpene profiles using molecular genetics and conventional breeding techniques.”
Next, the researchers will investigate how trichomes export and store the metabolites they produce.
“Trichomes store the metabolites in their cell walls,” said Livingston. “And what’s really astounding is that such high levels of product should be toxic to the cells, so we want to understand how they manage this.”
The research was funded by the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and a MITACS Elevate postdoctoral fellowship, in partnership with Anandia Laboratories.
Cannabis flowers with the most mushroom-shaped hairs pack the biggest cannabinoid and fragrance punch, according to new research.
How to recognize high quality CBD flowers. Complete guide.
If you’re new to the world of legal cannabis, our first advice is: don’t always trust labels. The CBD flower itself should speak for its quality.
The good news is that it’s quite easy to learn how to recognize high-quality CBD flowers and to distinguish them from a low-quality product.
You will surely find a lot of online guides based on various physical and chemical characteristics, but insiders will tell you that your most important and precise measuring tool when you are looking for high-quality CBD flowers is your nose.
Top-quality legal cannabis is often characterised by a powerful fragrance. So when you are examining your CBD flower, consider that fine quality cannabis flowers should have a distinct and captivating smell which should stand out from other flavours. The strong and rich aroma indicates a high content of terpenes that with some more experience you will be able to identify. Terpens are produced by a variety of plants and are the primary components of resins and essential oils. It’s the combination of terpens that gives to a flower or a plant its particular smell and aroma (floral, citrus, fruity etc.) Pungency of CBD flowers is also directly linked to their potency.
If your storekeeper has different display samples, consider that remaining open to the air the flavour loses its intensity. If possible ask the storekeeper to give the flower a little pinch in order to release some of those terpenes and help you to get a better idea of what the actual smell of your CBD flower is.
So the smell is the first and main evaluation criterion for CBD flowers. The pungent aroma with its different nuances (sweetish, sourish, fruity, citric, floral etc.) is always a sign of quality.
- Avoid buds that smell like hay or have no smell at all.
Visual appearance: judge by the appearance!
Another important thing to consider if you are looking for fine-quality legal cannabis is the color.
First quality CBD flowers should be generally green in color, though the shade can range from lighter green to darker green. Bright, robust coloration generally signals a high-quality product. Top-quality CBD flowers tend to be some combination of green and purple.
Purple color of CBD flowers indicates the TOP quality
- When the CBD flower on the shelf is brown, red, or yellow, that’s not a great sign. Our advice: avoid purchasing them.
If your storekeeper provides magnification devices to inspect the product (alternatively take a picture with your smartphone and zoom it), check out the trichomes on the flower’s surface. The trichomes are the collection of crystalline white hairs that aren’t always immediately visible to the naked eye. To determine the quality of your CBD flower you will have to evaluate whether those small crystals on the plant are intact or machine-trimmed and hacksawed down. In fact, best quality legal cannabis should be tightly hand-trimmed.
It’s in the trichomes that you will find your THC and CBD. Apart from producing such cannabinoids, which determine the potency and the properties of a flower, trichomes produce the resin. But not only! They are also responsible for the storage of essential oils and terpenes, which have been already mentioned, special compounds that confers to CBD flowers it’s aroma and flavor.
So if your CBD hemp flowers are densely packed with ripe trichomes and have a “frosty” look , you are almost surely holding in your hands a powerful and high-quality marijuana.
The quantity of trichomes is proportional to the quality of legal hemp flowers.
It’s common to see quality CBD flowers covered with numerous colored pistils. Orange, brown or rarer red, pink and purple tiny hairs represent the maturity of the flower and their presence is a clear signal of a high-quality product and a confirmation of the correct maturation of the plant. This means that the plant comes from the controlled cultivation and the farmer is an expert in his field.
Their abundance does not affect the potency of the flower in any way, they only represent a clear quality mark.
To the touch
Too dry or too wet? Both are the low-quality signals. If the CBD flower is too dry it will crumble easily to dust. It should maintain a minimum of consistency and chop easily without pulverizing.
If the hemp flower is too wet it means that it has not been dried properly. The greatest risk of this drying error is the development of mold. The mold is usually easily visible to the naked eye.
Try to break off a small part of the flower. If it feels “sticky” to the touch – that is to say resinous and therefore laden with cannabinoids (THC, CBD) – but still remains slightly crunchy, then you are holding a flower of excellent quality.
CBD flowers structure
Quality cannabis buds should be quite tight, dense and well-formed. Avoid hemp flowers with “airy” or open structures and visible stems.
The best quality of legal cannabis comes from indoor cultivation. Almost always it excludes the presence of seeds, twigs and leaves that not only add an extra weight to your CBD flowers, but are normally synonymous with the poor quality.
First-class CBD flowers are priceless and should be considered luxury items like fine wine and best cigars.
How to undersand the quality of CBD flowers. Learn how to recognize high-quality CBD flowers and to distinguish them from a low-quality product. Guide.