What is Kief? An In-Depth Look at Kief & Trichomes

By SheSmokesJoints | October 06, 2015


Trichomes are a part of the cannabis plant’s resin glands and act as a sun screen for the leaves and, most importantly, calyxes against the intensity of the sun and other elements. They act as a protectant for the plant against the sun’s intense rays, helping to protect the most important leaves from burning, while also guiding pollen to the pistols (or hairs) during pollination, and acting as a repellent for animals in nature.

Trichomes are attached to the leaves of a cannabis plant and are exceptionally small at about 50 to 100 micro meters wide. “Frosty” buds are ones that have trichomes covering the outside, generally causing the bud to shimmer under the light. Kief (also spelled “kif” or “keef”) is the term for trichomes that have been removed from the bud generally using a tool like a grinder. Many people like to save up their kief collection because kief is a more concentrated form of THC. Let’s dive in!

(Close-up of trichomes that have been removed from the plant. This is known as kief. Source: SheSmokesJoints)

Trichomes Help the Plant


The trichomes we are focused on in cannabis have two main components, the stalk and gland head. The stalk acts as a support and transport of nutrients to the gland head. In the gland head the secretory cells create the precursor to terpenoid and cannabinoid metabolism. Scientist theorize that these precursors are then transferred to the secretory vesicles where once there, are converted into terpenoids and cannabinoids. These terpenoids, cannabinoids as well as THC are stored in and close to the cuticle, as flowering progresses this cuticle becomes thicker and richer in these essential oils. The vast majority of essential oils present in a plant, THC, terpenoids and cannabinoids, are stored in this small layer along the outside of the gland head.

(Source: DynastyGenetics)

Trichomes help us

As cannabis progresses through flowering and the gland heads, full of essential oils, eventually begin to lose their grip on the stalk and can fall off. Properly timing your harvest ensures that your gland heads remain intact. The longer the plant is allowed to flower the fuller the heads get with essential oils. Trichome heads begin their lives as clear crystal like balls, as they begin to mature and fill with terpenoids, cannabinoids and THC, they begin to cloud up, becoming milky, and as your plant reaches the end of its flowering season these heads will begin to turn amber (or purple, pink, red, yellow in all varying shades and tints). Traditionally speaking when about 50% of the trichome heads have reached this stage, your plants are completely finished. Though, depending on the high you are trying to achieve, allowing your plants to flower longer can help increase the amount of CBD’s, harvesting a little earlier can help with the drowsy effect of cannabis.

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 12.10.07 PM
(Source: SheSmokesJoints)

We can visibly see the color change of trichomes across a bud, but by using a jewelers lens we can  look at each gland head on its own. The color change affects not only the look of your bud, but the outcome of concentrates as well. For example, a plant that has been allowed to fully mature, in which 50% of the gland heads have changed to amber, would produce a darker concentrate than a plant that was pulled early due to its clearer gland heads.
Tiny as they are, trichomes irrefutably prove that good things come in small packages!


@SheSmokesJoints here! I am an avid cannabis connoisseur and grower who began smoking about a decade ago. While I was hitchhiking throughout Western Europe I learned how to roll joints, and have simply loved the entire process since. Cannabis is my medicine as well as my favorite hobby.

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