Terpenes and Trichomes: Why Do They Get Confused?

magnifying glass on bud

If you're involved in the cannabis community, you've probably heard of terpenes and trichomes. But do you know exactly what they are, what they do, and why they do it? Don't feel bad if you haven't the slightest idea what terpenes and trichomes are since few people actually do! It's one thing to hear the word thrown around a bunch and entirely another to know the definition. Lucky for you, Leafbuyer is here to dispel any confusion over terpenes and trichomes! No more mixing up the confusing names, forgetting what does what, and wondering why weed is so darn confusing.

All you have to do is read up and you'll be a casual expert on terpenes and trichomes: their differences, similarities, and the relationship they share. So grab your favorite strain and get ready to learn everything you need to know about terpenes and trichomes.

What Are Terpenes?

thca crystalline in pool of terpenes
THCa crystalline in a pool of terpenes
Terpenes are mentioned frequently enough in the stoner community, but how many people know what they are (much less do)? Most cannabis enthusiasts have perhaps a passing understanding of terpenes but there's much more to them than flavor and fancy weed-speak. In fact, terpenes are naturally occurring plant compounds responsible for a wide array of aromas. Weed naturally contains a number of various terpenes along with many other plants like conifers and lemons (to name only a few).

Terpenes don't just give weed its diverse range of smells and flavors — they're also responsible for the effects one experiences while high. That's right! From sleepy to chatty to everything in between, terpenes have a much larger role in a weed high than most stoners are aware. Working together with THC to create what's commonly referred to as the "entourage effect," terpenes are the driving reason behind weed's complex highs. So next time you smoke weed, make sure to thank the terpenes for their awesome (very much appreciated) work.

What Are Trichomes?

lots of trichomes

When you see a dank nug of weed, what do you look for? You probably want it to be big, dense, and covered in a heavy coat of sticky crystals. Every stoner out there knows they've hit the weed jackpot when there's a visible layer dusting the nug. Those sparkling crystals that stick to your finger and smell like condensed weed are trichomes. And there's a reason people like nugs with heavy coatings of trichomes — after all, it's the trichomes that help get you high! That's right; that sticky coating does a lot more to get you stoned than the actual plant matter. If you've ever tried (or have heard of) kief then you've experienced just how awesome pure trichomes can be.

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As for why cannabis plants have trichomes, that's a little fancier. Anyone can smoke weed and enjoy the high, but few really understand the reasons behind why they feel the way they do. After all, who would expect a plant's natural protection against pests, sunlight, and mold (to name just a few) to be psychoactive? Trichomes change in color as the plant matures and are at the perfect potency for harvest when almost all of them turn milky white and just a few have begun taking on an amber tint. Don't let your trichomes get too amber or the potency will be lost. Also keep in mind that trichomes don't keep well in dry, well-lit areas. For maximum trichome potency, store your cannabis somewhere dark with just a hint of humidity. You don't want mold, mind you! Just enough moisture to keep your cannabis from drying out and losing all those awesome trichomes.

Terpenes and Trichomes

marijuana bud with trichomes

So now that you understand terpenes and trichomes a little better, you're probably wondering how and why people confuse the two. As far as we can tell, the only similarity is they both start with "T" and have to do with weed. Other than that, there's only enough overlap for a brief overview. To start, terpenes are found within the trichomes. That delicious, weedy smell you get after touching the trichomes? That's the terpenes doing their aromatic thing, smelling good, and making weed more complex and effective.

It's easy to appreciate trichomes since they're visible, sticky, and (seemingly) smelly. But terpenes, with their more intangible role, have a harder time getting the recognition they deserve in the stoner world. But as cannabis gains popularity (and legality), more and more information about everyone's favorite herb is getting out there.

Who knows, maybe soon enough everyone and their grandmothers will know how much of a role terpenes have when it comes to weed. Terpenes and trichomes aren't so much related as overlapping, both important to the weed experience as we know it. Next time you pick up a strain maybe you'll pay a little more attention to the terpenes and trichomes (or maybe not, the decision is entirely up to you). Either way, at least now you know the relationship between terpenes and trichomes and how they might affect you!

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Isabella Cook
Isabella is a freelance journalist based in Northern California. She hopes to use her satirical writing experience to bring fun and facts together in her articles. When she isn't writing, Isabella can generally be found cooking, catching up on shows, or reading a really old book.