Whether considering the recreational or medical aspects of cannabis, the majority of the therapeutic value of the plant comes from cannabinoids and terpenes. These “miracle compounds” that bring alleviation for a wide spectrum of conditions; from depression and gastrointestinal problems to epilepsy and cancerous tumors.

Where do these “miracle compounds” come from?

Both cannabinoids and terpenes are created in small resin glands present on the flowers and main fan leaves of late-stage cannabis plants. These are known as Trichomes.

Trichomes on Fan Leaf
Trichomes on Fan Leaf. Photo credit: Jared Geber

Coming from the Greek word trikhōma, which means “growth of hair”. Trichomes are minuscule, nearly microscopic, mushroom-like protrusions from the surface of the buds, fan leaves, and — in lower numbers — even on the stalk. While relatively complex, trichomes are comprised primarily of a stalk and a head. It is within the head that the actual production of cannabinoids, like THC, occurs.

Trichome Characteristics

There are three known types of trichomes: Bulbous, capitate-sessile, and capitate-stalked.

Capitate-stalked trichome example. Photo credit: Jared Geber
Capitate-stalked trichome example. Photo credit: Jared Geber

Bulbous is the smallest and barely visible to the naked eye, whereas capitate-stalked, the largest type, is what most people notice when viewing cannabis flowers, either with the naked eye or under magnification.

While more research is needed to understand how these types differentiate from one another, it is believed that all trichomes produce all types of cannabinoids and terpenes.

Other Traits of Trichomes

Trichomes help growing cannabis plants stay protected from the sun’s ultraviolet rays as well as high wind and low humidity.

The thick wet layers that these resin glands produce also help protect the plant from predators, such as deer, rabbits and other rodents.


Since they play such an essential role in protecting a cannabis plant from potential harms and also provide a unique “creation station” for hundreds of known remedially beneficial compounds, trichomes deserve to be crowned as “MVP” in the cannabis world. Seasoned cannabis farmers are very familiar with the intention of preserving trichomes when growing cannabis. As cannabis agriculture continues to evolve, farming trichomes is and will remain as the future of shedding light on the enigmas of the medicinal and healing aspects of cannabis.

*Pictures from Jered Geber*

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