If you’ve ever touched a cannabis bud, you know that the plant is very sticky. That stickiness is cannabis resin.
Similar to sap produced by trees, cannabis resin is a gooey plant byproduct. Unlike sap, cannabis resin is contained by fatty structures called trichomes.
In contrast, tree sap is filled with a greater amount of sugar and is liquid in nature. Cannabis resin forms crystal-like structures that can be difficult to separate from the green plant material.
Resin is produced by various parts of the plant, but it is most heavily concentrated on the buds of unpollinated female cannabis flowers. Female plants are grown and harvested for their resin, which is considered the most valuable part of the plant.
The marijuana plant is capable of producing more than 400 different chemical compounds. Many of them are found in the gooey resin it produces. In fact, the primary psychoactive in the herb, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is contained in cannabis resin.
Flavonoids and terpenoids, which are flavor and aroma molecules, are also present in resin. This makes resin one of the most fragrant and medicinally valuable parts of the cannabis plant.
Why is weed resin produced?
To understand why cannabis resin has intoxicating and medicinal effects, learning a little about why the plant produces resin is useful.
In a way, cannabis resin acts as an external immune system and communication network for the plant. The six types of sticky trichomes present on the plant offer numerous benefits, including protecting the plant from pests, infections, herbivores, and damaging UV rays.
The plant can expel different types of terpene aroma molecules to attract beneficial insects and pollinators, providing a way for the stationary herb to communicate and engage with the outside world.
Types of smoking resin products:
Today, there are several types of cannabis resin products available for consumers to choose from. All cannabis resin products are concentrates, meaning that they consist of concentrated cannabis resin that has been stripped from its plant base.
As a concentrated essential oil, products made with cannabis resin are quite strong. Here are the five most common forms of cannabis concentrate available to consumers:
Hash is perhaps one of the oldest and most traditional cannabis concentrates available. Made by separating trichome crystals and pressing them into a brick or rolling them into a ball, hashish products originated in Central Asia.
Butane Hash Oil
Butane hash oil (BHO) is perhaps the most popular form of cannabis concentrate available today. In fact, BHO is what is most often used in dabs as it provides a strong and fast-onset cannabis experience.
BHO is made by using butane as a solvent to remove fatty trichome resin glands from the plant material. This creates a much purer resin than hash, but the act of processing the cannabis oil also destroys much of the beneficial terpenes.
Terpenes and other vital cannabis compounds begin to degrade when the cannabis plant is cut and dried. When processing the plants to make concentrates, even more of these terpenes and phytochemicals are lost.
The solution? Live resin. Live resin is a concentrated cannabis resin that is made from plants that have been flash frozen immediately after harvest. Subcritical temperatures are then maintained through the extraction process.
Freezing the flower theoretically halts the degradation of terpenes, meaning that this method of extraction preserves more of the tasty and beneficial terpenes, flavonoids, and cannabinoids in the plant.
Live resin is often made using a solvent. Yet, because live resin is often made with a solvent, some of the terpenes may degrade anyway.
Rosin is a very simple cannabis extraction that does not require solvents. Rosin is simply made by applying heat and pressure to dried cannabis plants. This heat and pressure causes trichomes to melt and makes them easy to scrape onto a different surface.
One of the most popular ways to make homemade rosin is to simply take a dried cannabis bud, place in the fold of a piece of parchment paper, and then clamp the bud between hot hair straightener. This technique uses heat and pressure to create a fast cannabis concentrate.
Like BHO, CO2 oil is a cannabis concentrate made from resin that has been stripped from its plant material using a solvent. As you may have guessed, instead of butane, this type of oil uses CO2.
CO2 oil is the most common oil used in vaporizer pens. This type of oil is thin, gooey and syrup-like. BHO, on the other hand, tends to form textures similar to sugar glass, among many other forms.
Traditional ways of processing marijuana resin
Cannabis resin has been collected, processed, and used both medicinally and recreationally by humans for millennia. In fact, many traditional methods of processing and collecting cannabis resins are still used today. Here’s the scoop on the two simplest ways to collect cannabis resin:
Charas are a form of hand-rolled hashish from India, Nepal, and some parts of Pakistan. Made from fresh cannabis flowers, charas are simple to make and can be made by anyone who has access to growing plants. Here’s how basic charas are made:
Step 1: Trim a fresh cannabis bud from a plant. This can be done earlier in the flowering cycle, before pistillate hairs begin to dry turn a rusty brown.
Step 2: Trim off excess sugar leaf.
Step 3: Gently rub the bud around in your hand, starting slowly and increasing in speed.
Soon, trichome resin glands should begin to warm up and stick to your hands.
Step 4: When enough resin starts to stick to your hands, use the thumb of your opposite hand to begin to press the resin down into a hash-like pad.
Step 5: Once enough resin is collected, roll the resin pad between your hands to create a brown, malleable ball.
Step 6: Pieces of this ball can be pulled off to use in smoking or vaporization devices.
Since the charas are made with resin collected from fresh cannabis plants, the resin ball will need to be heated in order to transform the resin into its most psychoactive state. Smoking or vaporizing charas converts the fresh cannabis material into active THC.
Note: Charas can also be made without trimming the flower off of the growing plant. For this method, simply place one hand on either side of the plant and begin to rub your hands together up and down the plant, collecting resin.
Unlike charas, which can be made from fresh cannabis flowers, sieving involves rubbing dried cannabis over a screen. The screen separates the fragile trichome resin glands from plant material.
The powder it creates is called kief in Western countries. This is the same trichome dust that collects in the bottom of grinders. This kief can then be pressed into hashish. Sometimes, kief is heated slightly to activate the cannabinoids and make it easier to shape into a brick-like consistency.
Sieving can be performed in a variety of methods and hashish-making techniques can vary from region to region. Here’s how simple simple sieving works:
Step 1: Coarsely chop dried cannabis flowers.
Step 2: Prepare your sieve by securing a very fine silk screen over a collection bowl.
Step 3: Pour the chopped cannabis flower over the silk and spread into an even layer. Secure a second piece of silk over the top of the ground cannabis.
Step 4: Using two, centimeter thick wooden dowels, begin to beat the chopped cannabis flower with a medium pressure and consistent taps.
Step 5: Once you have made a consistent pass over the surface of the cannabis flower, you can carefully remove the top layer of silk and brush the chopped flower into a separate bowl.
Step 6: Kief should be collected in the collection bowl.
Step 7: You can then use a press or your hands to roll the kief into hash bricks or balls.
You can also gently warm the oven for a few minutes on a low temperature to activate the cannabis compounds. Then, scoop the resin and spread into an even layer, and top with another layer of paper.
While the kief is still warm, use a rolling pin to gently work the hash into the consistency that you would like. Some people also press the hash with a clothing iron.
Note: When sieving the cannabis, you can continue to collect as much kief as possible from the chopped flower by repeating steps 4 and 5.
What about cannabis resin in the bottom of pipes?
For some, desperate times call for desperate measures. The black goop that collects on the bottom and alongside the sides of cannabis smoking devices is also referred to as “resin”.
This goop is, in fact, still resin. However, this resin is burnt. Burnt resin has lost most of its psychoactivity, is extremely harsh to consume, and contains a large amount of carbon from ash.
Further, resin that has been sitting around inside a damp water pipe for a while is more likely to harbor molds and mildews, making it more risky to consume.
While this resin is a common choice for those desperate for some cannabis, smoking pipe resin is not recommended for health reasons. Pipe resin is also so low quality, it is not recommended as an enjoyable smoke.
How to increase resin production in your cannabis plants
Hoping to get some extra sticky buds? There are a few tips and tricks that growers utilize when trying to reap the maximum resin production from their plants, whether they’re high THC or high CBD cultivars. Some of these tricks include:
Start with superior genetics
Not all cannabis is made equal. Some strains have been cultivated after generations of cross breeding high-potency or top-quality medicinal plants.
While ample trichome coverage does not always mean high levels of THC or CBD, it is recommended to find seeds and cones from plants with a known history of high resin and cannabinoid production.
Carefully managing nutrients
Managing plant nutrients can be a delicate balance. Too many nutrients can mean a sad plant with brown, curling leaves. Too few nutrients can mean that the plant will not have enough of what it needs to put ample energy into trichome production.
To learn about proper feeding, it is recommended to research the strain or contact the breeder for more information about what types of nutrition the plant prefers. It’s also important to keep an eye on your plants before and after feedings to watch for signs of distress.
Expose cannabis to a little bit of stress
While too much stress can be detrimental, some low-key stress may increase the plants production of terpenes and/or cannabinoid compounds.
Above all else, cannabis is a medicinal herb. It’s well-known by farmers of more conventional herbs that exposing plants to light amounts of stress can increase the production of medicinal phytochemicals.
To expose plants to stress, some growers like to grab them stem of their plants and give them a gentle shake now and again. Others like to keep fans on the plants to ensure that leaves are rustled by moving air.
However, one of the most tried-and-true ways of encouraging greater terpene production in plants is to expose them to slight drought. This simply means letting the soil become completely dry before watering again.
Yet, when stressing out your plants, make sure to keep stress at a manageable level to ensure that the plant does not become so stressed that its health and growth are limited.
Get serious about lighting
Speaking of stress, many growers have caught on to the fact that cannabis plants will boost THCA (the precursor to THC) production when exposed to UVB light. While excess exposure to UVB light is not good for the grower, many gardeners are incorporating UVB into their grow rooms to amplify THC production.
Keep things cool(ish)
While slight drought and UVB light may provide good stresses for plants when used appropriately and not overdone, stress from excess heat can really do a number on plants and prevent the plant from spending more energy on resin production.
For a happy plant, keep things as cool as possible for the strain. The ideal temperature for your grow room can depend on what you’re growing and your overall climate. So, it’s generally recommended to maintain temperatures on the cooler side of what is ideal for that plant.
Don’t over handle the plants
This tip is a simple one: don’t touch the flowers too much. Touching the cannabis flowers pulls resin off of the plant and on to your hands.
So, while it is important to keep an eye on the plant and check for signs of molds or pests, it’s best to keep handling and touching to a minimum.
Harvest at the right time
The peak time to harvest cannabis is when pistillate hairs on the plant begin to transform from white to a brown color. Yet, it’s also useful to pay attention to color changes in trichomes.
When trichomes are developing, they will be translucent. However, you’ll know when it’s time to harvest when trichomes develop a cloudy white color and then begin to take on amber coloration.