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The Life of a Cannabis Trichome Gland-Illustrated; Part One: Living That Best Life at 6-Stars

Updated: Nov 16, 2022

With a long history of confusion, misinformation, and deception, the ease and simplicity of the modern solventless process, along with the precision achieved is truly mind blowing.

It's as if we are growing two or even three plants simultaneously, rather than just one...


First, we grew cannabis plants for their flowers. Most of the plant material was scrapped (or used for BHO), while the buds or flowers sold for top dollar. We know now the real prized possession isn't the plant or its flowers, but rather, what's growing from their surfaces:

Ex. #1. Above is a model of a fully mature and ripe trichome gland (with a round head sitting on the trichome stem) containing all of the plant's cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids.

While the solventless method is fairly new, anyone who understands the plant and it's trichome structure, can logically comprehend ice water hash and the solventless refinement process (trichome structure explained later). The goal of which, aims to remove, isolate, and preserve ONLY the round head of each trichome gland, using only ice and water.

hash jar model
Ex. #2: 6-Star Ice Water Hash Consists of Whole Trichome Gland Heads.

Trichome Glands (Capitate-Stalked)

These trichomes begin to appear at the start of the flowering stage (just like the flowers) and have been our measure of readiness, harvesting plants based upon inspection and the color of the plant's trichome glands. Despite farmers paying close attention to the trichomes for decades, they've been largely ignored after harvest until recent years.

The graphic below illustrates the start of the flowering period (roughly 30 to 60 days in) through harvest, when trichomes mature and start to exhibit a milky, white, and amber hue to their heads:

Ice Water Hash/Trichome Anatomy

Six-star ice water hash (the highest grade), when perfected, is a jar consisting of only the round heads from each trichome gland (free of the trichome stems even!) (See Ex.2). Knowing what is contained in each trichome from Example 1, here's a more realistic anatomy of a single trichome gland:

Ex. #3. One Trichome Gland. Notice the cells which produce cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes, along with the pinched section where the round head connects to the stem. Nature was prepared for these heads to be removed!

Since everything pertinent to cannabis is contained within the plant's trichomes, the goal of hash-making is to remove and preserve them. Simple enough? Well we have known this much for decades, however the idea of removing and preserving these trichomes was a bit beyond us. The best we could do is blast the plant with chemical solvents and hope to recover as much of the dissolved and destroyed trichomes as possible.

With these two factoids well digested:

  1. Everything desirable to the high, effect, & therapeutic properties of cannabis reside entirely within the plant's trichome gland heads.

  2. Ice Water Hash is made up of whole trichome gland heads.

Let's turn back to a cannabis flower...

cannabis flower
Cannabis Flower about Midway through Flowering.

Most plants require 60 to 90 days from the start of flowering until harvest. Having eliminated the male plants early on, females ramp-up trichome production. Energy normally exerted toward reproduction and seed growth, goes instead to all-out, resinous trichome growth.

A Maturing Bud of Cannabis

cannabis flower with trichomes illustrated
Cannabis Flower About 3/4 Finished with readily apparent Trichome Glands covering the surface.

By the end of the flowering period, trichomes become visible to the naked eye. A closer look, preferably under some magnification will reveal a dense abundance of trichomes covering every available surface of the plant. Below is a zoomed in look at the surface of our almost mature cannabis flower (above), covered in ripe trichomes:

Here's a zoom-in to the surface of the female cannabis plant nearing maturity. (Each circular black head represents trichome heads (all contain cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids) on trichome stems (black lines).

The graphics should give you a good idea of what, when, and where trichomes develop. The plant is cut down and immediately frozen on the farm. Freezing the plant locks valuable terpenes into the frozen trichome heads, and helps us refine them.

The Wash

Frozen cannabis is transported from the farm to the lab and put in a 220 micron mesh "work bag". In the mesh bag, the frozen cannabis is lowered into a bath of ice and water. The mesh bag only allows material smaller than 220 microns to fall through and while the plant material is apt to float, the densely resinous trichome heads will sink and settle to the bottom.

Graphic Model of a Wash Vessel Filled with Ice and Water. Frozen cannabis is soaked and agitiated in a mesh "work bag". Trichomes break free and sink to the bottom.

The frozen trichomes will naturally break free from their stems and the plant material by agitating and stirring the frozen cannabis wash. The bulk cannabis material can easily be removed from the water in the mesh work bag. The water (containing only trichomes and minor debris smaller than 220 microns) is then poured through a series of increasingly finer mesh filters (think cheese-cloth), separating trichomes from the water by size.

Spooned directly off the mesh bags and onto metal trays, the trichomes are placed in the commercial freeze drier and we're smoking hash by tomorrow! As the trichomes are dried using sublimation in pharmaceutical freeze dryers, the resulting effect is a hardened patty of trichome heads. This hard and dry material is put through a normal kitchen sieve to achieve the fine sand-like consistency as depicted by @papas_select in the video below:

This is all accomplished in refrigerated rooms and after the ice water hash is weighed and put into jars, it’s returned to the freezer. From the wilderness of a Humboldt cannabis farm, breathing fresh air and taking in sunlight, those same trichome glands grow to maturity, are cut-down, and frozen in place. They will remain that way until you open the jar and let those trichomes thaw for the first time since leaving the farm.


Solventless hash has changed the landscape of cannabis for the better and will continue to influence cannabis consumption in more ways than this writing can express. It's the answer to many of my "corporate" concerns. It's the great equalizer, without the enormous start-up cost or use of dangerous solvents and serves as the "Acid Test" for the highest quality of cannabis. If you thought we were only after THC, think again, as we're after so much more...

Part 2 Coming Soon, where I will show you what happens when the hash isn't a perfect six-star melt and requires an additional process to curate live hash rosin.


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