Cannabis trichomes: How cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids are made

How cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids are made. The hair which can be found on the outer side of the plant is trichomes. These trichomes are responsible for delivering therapeutic and intoxicating effects as far as the plant of cannabis is concerned. Specific trichomes have resin glands on them responsible for creating terpenes, flavonoids, THCA, CBDA and phytocannabinoids.

The stickiness of cannabis buds will be as much as they would have trichomes on them. You can observe these trichomes not only on the buds of the cannabis plant but also on the plants’ leaves and stem. Although not every trichome is glandular. The effects of the non-glandular are not the same as glandular produce. But they help keep the balance and provide the safety layer to the plant.

Cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids are produced by the glandular. These glandular are of three kinds, bulbous, capitate-sessile and capitate-stalked. At the same time, non-glandular got the name cystoliths.


The tiny buds found on the surface of the buds, leaves and stem of cannabis plants are trichomes. Although, seeing them through the microscope is the easiest. They are responsible for the stickiness of the flowers of the cannabis plant. Generally, its easiest to find them on the cannabis plants surface.

Capitate sessile trichomes:

These trichomes are more in amount as compared to bulbous trichomes. However, they can also be seen by using a microscope. They have mushroom like shape. You will find them on the sugar and fan leaves of the cannabis plant.

Capitate stalked trichomes:

They are similar to capitate sessile as far as the shape is concerned, but they have a large bulb at the head. Consumers are aware of this kind of trichomes because people can see them with the naked human eye. Also, they are in an abundance. Finding them on the outer side of the flowers of the plant.

How we create compounds within the trichome:

Biosynthesis is the procedure to produce cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids in the cells of trichomes. Producing complex molecules from simple molecules when enzymes catalyze a number of chemical reactions. Binding, prenylation and cyclization are the three basic steps of cannabinoid biosynthesis. 

The precursors to all-natural cannabinoids are geranyl pyrophosphate and olivetolic acid. Producing them by a complex biosynthetic reaction series. Geranyl pyrophosphate and olivetolic acid bond to each other with the assistance of enzymes in the prenyltransferase category known as GOT. Furthermore, creating the first cannabinoid, CBGA (see Figure 1). CBGA, or cannabigerol acid, contains a carboxylic acid group (with the molecular formula COOH). Due to the presence of that acidic group, an “A” is placed at the end of CBGA.

This is true for the rest of the cannabinoids whose acronyms end with the letter A (THCA, CBDA, etc.). The carboxylic acid groups spontaneously break off the cannabinoid structures as carbon dioxide (CO2) gas when heated. This process goes by the meaning decarboxylation, in which the “A” designation is lost. For example, decarboxylated CBGA becomes CBG. This is considering a degradation process because it does not require enzymes and occurs after harvesting. The CBG type of cannabinoids has one ring in the molecular structure; it’s the aromatic ring from olivetolic acid.


So, CBGA is the first cannabinoid forms from a biosynthetic reaction that joins two smaller pieces together. It is also the precursor to all other natural phytocannabinoids. Next, CBGA cyclizes into THCA, CBDA, or CBCA via the enzymes known as THCA synthase, CBDA synthase, and CBCA synthase. The presence and relative quantities of the specific enzymes determine which cannabinoid is the major product from each particular strain and each particular cell. Remember, the CBG type cannabinoids have only one ring in their structure. After the cyclization reactions, the THCA, CBDA, and CBCA cannabinoids have more rings in their structures.


For THCA, two new rings form by creating two new covalent bonds, a carbon-oxygen (C-O) bond and a carbon-carbon (C-C) bond. The CBDA synthase enzyme catalyzes a reaction that creates one new C-C bond at the same position that the C-C bond formed in THCA, but without the new C-O bond, thus forming CBDA. The formation of CBCA occurs by the formation of one (C-O) bond at a different position of the molecule than the (C-O) bond formed in THCA.

Compounds with two rings fusing, such as in CBCA and CBC, are bicyclic. That’s how THCA, CBDA, and CBCA are made through biosynthesis. When the cannabis flower dries and cures properly, the most prominent cannabinoids will be the acidic forms of the cannabinoids (THCA, CBDA, CBCA, or CBGA). When smoked or baked into edibles, these molecules decarboxylate. While decarboxylated forms of cannabinoids might be produced to a small extent biosynthetically during drying, acidic forms are the major product. The decarboxylation products are delta-9-THC, cannabidiol (CBD), and cannabichromene (CBC).

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