Saving trichomes is equivalent to saving the terpenes; and terpenes have many enemies. Weather it be heat, light, agitation, or time, terpenes are very finicky compounds. This plays into why cannabis flowers have a short shelf life. Between losing moisture in the leaves and the degradation of the trichomes, cannabis flowers don’t do an optimal job of preserving terpenes on their own once the flowers have reached full maturity and the plant is harvested. In fact, it is from this very point forward that terpenes begin their natural degradation process. Despite this, properly dried and cured cannabis flowers that have been minimally handled throughout their lives are stored in optimal environments can maintain their complex profiles for long periods of time. Strains cured properly can even develop more complex aromatic profiles as a result of curing. There are several methods involved in preparing your cannabis for the long haul. With the right preparation, your terpenes will stay fresh for longer than you may think.
The waxy surface of a bulbous trichome head serves a fundamental purpose of adding a protective layer between a cannabinoid and terpenoid factory and the dangerous outside world. Throughout the lifespan of a flowering female cannabis plant, these millions of trichomes that line the surface of the flowers are all working to develop the valuable compounds that we desire. This combination of terpenes, cannabinoids, and flavonoids all develop under the protection of a thin and waxy layer of cells that make up the bulbous dome of the trichome. These microscopic domes are incredibly fragile and can burst at the slightest contact. If you run your fingers across the sugar leaf of a flowering cannabis plant and then smell your fingers after, that aroma is the result of destroyed trichomes on your fingers. Even more, trichomes will cease to develop and degrade under harsh conditions like high heat or too much exposure to light. During harvest, any excess agitation will destroy trichomes, which is why minimal handling is optimal for preserving the trichomes.
If you have purchased cannabis flowers from a dispensary or delivery services, chances are that your flowers have been cured for several weeks or months before reaching you. Cured cannabis flowers inevitably experience some level of trichome degradation, but if done properly, the result is a highly enjoyable smoke that contains all of the flavors and medicine but without the harsh chlorophyll taste from a improperly tired leaf. The life of a trichome is contingent on care. High heat will degrade trichomes. Any agitation is enough to cause damage. Over exposure to light can destroy trichomes, and even long periods of time can inevitable do damage. Cannabis flowers that have been exposed to any of these elements will have a compromised flavor profile.
To help keep your cannabis flowers fresh and smelling festive, store your stash in a cool dark place that gets little to zero airflow. Humidity is also crucial in keeping the leafs of your cannabis in proper shape. Using humidity pouches or a humidifier of some sort can go a long way in preserving your trichomes. Too much humidity can cause mildew, ruining the flowers completely and destroying the terpenes in the process. Too much dryness can cause the leaves to become brittle and dissolve.
Perhaps the most effective way to preserve your terpenes is through extracts and concentrates. Properly made extracts remove not only the plant material from the compounds we seek, but also takes care of the waxes and lipids that protect the terpenes and the cannabinoids. This leaves you with a pure substance containing nothing but pure flavorful medicine. Although some methods of extraction expose cannabis flowers to high temperatures that can destroy some terpenes, many methods focus on mitigating this damage by operating at extremely low temperatures. High quality concentrates that are stored with the same care and dedication as cannabis flowers (i.e. cool, dark, humidity controlled, no airflow), can last indefinitely. That’s a long time to savor the flavor!