Cannabis flower, commonly known among weed connoisseurs as “bud” or “nug,” is the most coveted part of a cannabis plant. With legality sweeping across the United States and varying parts of the world, many are becoming tantalized by this once-stigmatized plant.
In order to fully enjoy the benefits and effects of marijuana, it’s pertinent that you become acquainted with the plant and its most prized possession: the cannabis flower. Here’s everything you need to know about cannabis flower; how to consume it and what to expect when you do.
What is Cannabis Flower?
Cannabis flower is a dense and aromatic bud, and the final result that emerges from the flowering cannabis plant. It contains more than 120 cannabinoids and other plant components, such as terpenes and flavonoids.
The budding flower found on the plant is made up of many parts, including the cola (the main part of the flower), trichomes (crystal-like resinous glands that produce cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids), fan leaves, sugar leaves, and the stem.
Once it’s dried and cured, the flower is the part of the plant that is smoked or enjoyed via alternative consumption methods. The most popular of these cannabinoids are delta-9 THC (or simply, THC), the intoxicating component of cannabis famous for producing that stoned or high feeling, and CBD, the non-intoxicating component that has become a mainstream staple in the health and wellness industry.
While these two cannabinoids only scratch the surface of the chemical makeup of cannabis, more research is needed to unearth the exact effects of the other components.
Types of Flower
There are hundreds upon hundreds of different strains – each equipped with its own unique set of physical attributes, scents, effects, and a sliding scale of stickiness. From culturally iconic strains like Purple Haze and OG Kush to lesser known varitals that never made it mainstream, there’s no shortage of strains to wrap your head around.
When we’re talking species of cannabis plants, however, they are typically classified into one of the following: Sativa, Indica, Hybrid, and Cannabis ruderalis. Each of these plant types tend to take on different appearances – such as branching patterns and plant height – and thus produce cannabis flowers that vary in appearance and effect.
Sativa plants are thought to be skinnier and reach greater heights than Indica plants. These traditionally tall and thin plants have lighter colored green leaves and yield flowers that are more airy and less dense than Indica-dominant strains. When it comes to the effects of sativa, users generally report a more energetic and stimulating high.
Indica plants are traditionally shorter and stockier in stature, producing dark green leaves and denser, more tightly packed buds. The effects of indica-dominant cannabis flower are often said to be more relaxing and better-suited for pain relief and sleep.
In reality, most THC-heavy cannabis strains on the market are a mix of both Indica and Sativa. Some strains are more indica-dominant, some are sativa-dominant, while others are closer to a 50-50 split – also known as a hybrid. Most cannabis strains on the market today, even ones labeled Indica or Sativa, are hybrids of some form or another.
Hemp is a male cannabis plant that produces flower with insignificant amounts of THC. Buds from these plants generally are bred to have high amounts of CBD, a non-intoxicating cannabinoid that relaxes users without providing that stoned or high feeling.
Another much less sought-after species of cannabis is cannabis ruderalis, a short and stocky plant native to Asia and Eastern Europe. Sprouting small but dense flower, this species is known to have low levels of THC, making it less effective than its indica and sativa counterparts.
Methods and Dosing: How Do You Consume Flower?
There are many consumption methods for cannabis flower, some are quick and simple, some newer and more advanced, but all of which will get the job done. No matter what method you choose, you should count on using a grinder to break-up the flower into smaller, more combustible pieces. Here are some common ways to consume your nug.
A bowl is a handheld pipe, usually made from glass, that has an indentation where you place the ground flower. As you light the flower with a flame, inhale through the mouthpiece on the other hand of the bowl. Oftentimes you’ll find what’s called a “carb,” which is a small hole on the side of the bowl, that will allow the user to place their thumb over it and control the airflow.
Bongs and Bubblers
Bongs and bubblers utilize a similar mechanism to bowls with the addition of water filtration to cool the smoke before inhalation. A bubbler is also usually handheld, but holds the water chamber underneath the bowl. A bong is a bit more advanced, built with a long tube-like stem that connects the mouthpiece and water filtration area. The bowl is held within a downstem, which is inserted into the water chamber of the bong. As the user inhales through the mouthpiece and smoke is filtered through bubbling water, the bowl is removed from the downstem and the smoke is cleared from the bong.
Joints and Blunts
Another popular way to smoke flower is in a joint or blunt. A joint is cannabis rolled in a paper made from a material like hemp or rice paper. It can often include a paper filter placed into the mouthpiece, known as a crutch.
Blunts constitute a similar mode of consumption, but the cannabis flower is housed inside of a blunt wrap or a gutted cigar instead of paper. Unlike a joint, tobacco is found in the wrap of a blunt, usually leading to a slightly harsher smoke.
For those who prefer not to put smoke inside of their lungs, vaporizing flower has become a viable alternative. While cannabis oil has become a hot commodity for cannabis consumers, flower can also be vaporized using a dry herb vaporizer. There are several tabletop and handheld vaporizer devices on the market. Instead of lighting up the weed and smoking it, the vaporizer allows the user to enjoy the benefits and effects of cannabis at a lower temperature, without the need for full combustion.
What to Expect (Onset, Duration, Potential Effects)
Although it’s not possible to set expectations on how every person will experience cannabis, the limited science available – alongside infinite anecdotal accounts – enables us to provide general guidelines on how quickly the effects of cannabis take place once consumed, the duration of those effects, and what those effects may actually be.
When cannabis flower is smoked, the effects can be felt almost instantaneously. Once it’s inhaled, THC travels through the lungs and is absorbed directly into the bloodstream, where it travels throughout the body and into the brain. The peak concentrations of THC hit the user just 5 to 15 minutes after it’s smoked.
The duration of the cannabis high, when consumed through smoking or vaping, is estimated to last just a couple hours.
The effects of cannabis flower are not as predictable. They will vary depending on a plethora of factors, including the potency of the flower, the actual strain, the genetics and predisposition of the individual consumer, as well as the total amount consumed.
Cannabis potency and effects are largely contingent on the chemical make-up of the flower, including cannabinoids and terpenes. For instance, some bud may have high concentrations of THC, which will get the user higher than someone smoking a milder strain or CBD-heavy hemp flower.
Benefits to Consuming Flower Over Edibles and Other Consumption Methods
Aside from being the most traditional and culturally significant way to consume cannabis, smoking or vaping flower also bestows several benefits upon the user. As previously mentioned, one appealing factor of flower consumption versus edibles is that the effects can be felt almost immediately.
Edibles tend to take hours before the effects can be felt, and for the inexperienced or impatient that could mean overdoing it. The user also has more control over how much cannabis they’re consuming. Start with a small amount and slowly consume more until you reach an ideal high.
Another noteworthy advantage of smoking or vaping flower is that it provides a first-hand experience with the flavorful and unique terpenes that each strain has to offer.
What To Look For When Buying Flower
Convinced that flower is the way you want to consume cannabis? There are a few things to keep in mind when buying the right flower for you.
- Purchase from a reputable source: when possible, buy legal cannabis from a reputable source that provides a high quality flower product.
- THC levels: Always keep in mind that THC levels will have a major impact on the high you experience. Something with 10% to 18% THC levels will have a mild high, while a strain exceeding 25% or 30% will be much more intense and potent.
- Lab testing: Last but certainly not least, try to purchase flower that is lab tested by an independent laboratory. These results will contain THC levels, as well as the presence of other cannabinoids and terpenes. It will also ensure that the cannabis flower doesn’t contain mold or other potentially dangerous characteristics.