What is Kief?

Ever wonder what to call all those tiny, sticky crystals that cover cannabis flower?

Well, we’ve got an answer for you: kief.

Simply said, kief (also known as dry sift or pollen) refers to the resin glands which contain the terpenes and cannabinoids that make cannabis so unique. While marijuana sans kief still contains cannabinoids, the resin glands that develop on flower buds pack the biggest punch.

Trichomes: It’s All About Protection

While kief specifically refers to the bulbous, crystal formation on the tip of a gland, the substance itself is just one part of what is called a trichome, or a “hair.”

Many different plants and algae have external trichomes for specific evolutionary purposes. For example, some carnivorous plants rely on sticky trichomes to trap their prey. Other plants, like cannabis, use them as a deterrent to herbivores.

Trichomes on the marijuana plant keep away hungry herbivores by producing an intense psychoactive experience, theoretically disorienting the animal and preventing it from eating the rest of the plant. The resin’s strong, distinct odor also attracts pollinating insects and predators, which might keep herbivore populations at bay.

Extracting Kief

If you like the experience of concentrates but don’t want to break the bank buying expensive wax or extraction equipment, sifting kief might be a great alternative. Due to the high concentration of terpenes and cannabinoids in resin glands, separating kief crystals from plant matter is a great way to consume cannabis while reducing the amount of charred material you take into your body.

Extracting kief is simple. Using a three-chamber herb grinder will help you finely grind your cannabis while letting kief crystals fall through a screen and collect into a small compartment. While two chamber grinders are nice, they often let potent kief go to waste since crystals fall off of the dried herb and just stick to the inside of the grinder.

For extracting larger quantities of kief, using simple silk screening materials will allow you to separate kief from plant matter with the ease of sifting flower.

Many people create makeshift sifters using layered screens similar to the ones pictured above. Because kief tends to measure between 75 and 125 microns, it can be difficult to separate all of the resin from the plant materials. To make sure you’re collecting the cleanest kief without unwanted plant matter, stack three to four layers of fine mesh screen one on top of another.

For the best results, home extractors use consecutive sizes of screen and stack them in order from largest to smallest. When buying screens, the number of wires or threads per inch, or the LPI (lines per inch) number is an important thing to remember. The larger the screen, the smaller the LPI number. When it comes to sifting kief, mesh between 80 and 270 LPI tends to work best.

When buying extracted kief at a dispensary or retail store, keep in mind that the purer the kief, the lighter the color will be. Kief that still looks fairly green means that there is still quite a bit of plant matter mixed in, whereas kief that has been well cleaned tends to be more of an off-white color.

What’s the Deal with Hash?

Extracting kief is one of the first steps of making hash. To simply summarize, hash is basically just kief that has been heated and pressurized to form a soft, green ball. Applying heat and pressure to kief changes its composition by rupturing the resin glands. Once the kief ruptured, the overall taste and effects of the product are slightly different. Pressurizing kief also darkens its color; the more pressure you apply, the darker the hash becomes.

Kief may not be the most exciting cannabis product out there, but it still remains one of the most popular and easiest to access. For more information on kief and kief extraction, check out Ed Rosenthal’sBeyond Buds. In the meantime, be sure to pick up a three-chamber herb grinder if you’d like to get the most bang for your buck.


 

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Strain Review – Afghani Pakistani

Recently we at Substance started carrying a new flower, known as Afghani Pakistani, or Afpak for short. A couple of the staff members here have gotten a chance to try this lovely flower, and we would be delighted to share our experiences and opinions on it with you all.

First things first…some basic Afghani Pakistani knowledge for your brains.

The Afpak…

  • is a heavy indica
  • comes from Aghani Landrace and Pakistani Landrace strains
  • is commonly used to help with insomnia, issues with appetite, and pain relief

My first impressions of the strain were very positive. It looks gorgeous, with beautiful purple coloration, prominent orange hairs and a decent bud structure. The Afghani Pakistani’s trichomes are abundant, making it look rather frosty and visually appealing. The smell is just as good, with a sweet candy-like aroma. In fact, I would best describe its appeal as being like “purple candy”.

The bud was clearly cured very well. The flowers are not dry, nor are they full of moisture which would suggest it was harvested too early. Rather, the process appears to have gone very well and provides the flower with a lovely consistency. The texture is sticky and balanced just right.

Now, moving on to the effect…

I loaded my pipe with the Afghani Pakistani flower as my day was winding down to an end. I was tucking in for the night, ready to relax and listen to some music. I was hoping that the strain would be perfect for such a setting, given that it is a heavy indica – and it was. The taste of the smoke was just as sweet, if not more so, than the flower itself. The resulting effect was a pleasant heady buzz that made me feel very relaxed and helped to ease my muscle tension.

My coworker made an excellent observation about the strain. He stated that while the Afghani Pakistani is a heavy indica, it nevertheless produced a very functional high that didn’t have the “couch-lock” effect that many indica strains tend to induce. I experienced a similar effect – body and muscle relaxation, pain relief, while still being able to stay up and do creative things like drawing or making music.

All in all, the Afghani Pakistani gets a rating of 9/10 from me. It’s a well formed flower with excellent appeal and a very pleasant effect. I would definitely recommend picking it up while we have it in the store, because it’s going fast.

 

Terpenes and Terpenoids

What are Terpenes?

Terpenes (TUR-peen) are a large class of organic hydrocarbons produced by a wide variety of plants, and are referred to as terpenoids when denatured by oxidation (drying and curing the flowers). They are the main building block of any plant resin or “essential oils” and contribute to the scent, flavor, and colors. Some are even known to have medicinal value.

Terpenes are the main class of aromatic compounds found in cannabis and have even been proven to interact synergistically with cannabinoids to provide for a range of different effects. While many people believe that it is the sticky glands of THC (delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol) that provide cannabis with its peculiar aroma, it is in fact the more unstable monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes that are responsible. In fact, it is the smell of the specific sesquiterpene, Caryophyllene oxide that drug dogs are able to detect when probing for cannabis.

Terpenes have been found to be essential building blocks of complex plant hormones and molecules, pigments, sterols and even cannabinoids in cannabis. Terpenes also play an incredibly important role by providing the plant with natural protection from bacteria and fungus, insects, and other environmental stresses.

More noticeably, terpenes are responsible for the pleasant, or not so pleasant, aromas and flavors of cannabis. Although, over 200 terpenes have been reported in the plant, only a small minority has actually been studied for their pharmacological effects.

A study conducted in 1997 by the Swiss Federal Research Station for Agroecology and Agriculture entitled “Essential oil of Cannabis sativa L. strains” characterized 16 terpenoid compounds in the essential oil of different cannabis strains. The most abundant of which was myrcene. Other terpenes that were present in higher concentrations included alpha-pinene, limonene, trans-Caryophyllene and caryophyllene oxide.

Understanding the importance of terpenes allows for a true “cannasseur” to broaden their approach to searching for new strains based on smells and tastes, rather than purely effects.


Smells and Theraputic Effects

Here you will find some of the more common scents manifested in the cannabis plant, along with their notable theraputic effects.

α-PINENE – (Pine Needles) – Anti-bacterial, Anti-fungal, Anti-inflammatory, Bronchodilator
β-CARYOPHYLLENE – (Black Pepper, Cloves) – Anti-bacterial, Anti-cancer, Anti-fungal, Anti-inflammatory, Anti-septic
BORNEOL – (Camphor) – Analgesic, Anti-insomnia, Anti-septic, Bronchodilator
CARYOPHYLLENE OXIDE – (Eucalyptus) – Anti-fungal, Anti-ischemic
CINEOL – (Tea Tree) – Anti-bacterial, Anti-depressant, Anti-inflammatory, Anti-ischemic, Bronchodilator
CITRONELLOL – (Roses) – Anti-cancer, Anti-inflammatory, Anti-insomnia, Anti-spasmodic
HUMULENE – (Hops) – Anorectic, Anti-cancer, Anti-bacterial, Anti-inflammatory
LIMONENE – (Citrus) – Anti-anxiety, Anti-bacterial, Anti-cancer, Anti-depressant, Anti-fungal, Bronchodilator
LINALOOL – (Lavender) – Anti-anxiety, Anti-bacterial, Anti-convulsive, Anti-depressant, Anti-insomnia
MYRCENE – (Lemongrass, Mango) – Analgesic, Anti-cancer, Anti-inflammatory, Anti-insomnia, Anti-spasmodic
NEROLIDOL  – (Wood, Citrus Rind) – Anti-fungal, Anti-insomnia
PHYTOL – (Green Tea) – Anti-insomnia
TERPINOLENE – (Lilac, Apples) – Anti-bacterial, Anti-fungal, Anti-insomnia, Anti-septic

Terpenes Work Synergistically With Cannabis

A 1974 study entitled, “Effects of marihuana in laboratory animals and in man” suggested that there may be potentiation of the effects of Delta(9)-THC by other substances present in marijuana. The double-blind study found that marijuana with equal or higher levels of CBD and CBN than THC, induced effects two to four times greater than expected from their THC content. The effects of smoking twice as much of a THC-only strain were no different than that of the placebo.

This suggestion was reinforced by a study done in 2003 by J Pharm Pharmacol called “Medicinal cannabis: is delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol necessary for all its effects?” The scientists compared the effects of a standardized cannabis extract with that of a pure THC (with matched concentrations of THC) and a THC-free extract. They tested the three extracts on a mouse with multiple sclerosis (MS), and a rat brain with epilepsy.

Scientists found that the standardized extract inhibited spasticity in the mouse and caused more of a rapid onset of full muscle relaxation compared to THC alone. The THC-free extract caused no inhibition of spasticity in the mouse, although it did exhibit anticonvulsant activity in the rat brain. However, the standardized extract outperformed the pure THC in all circumstances. Therefore, the effects of THC were modified by the presence of other components, and thus, THC is not necessary for all the possible medicinal effects of cannabis.

Ethan B. Russo further supported this theory with scientific evidence in his 2011 study, “Taming THC”, in which he proved that non-cannabinoid plant components such as terpenoids serve as inhibitors to THC’s intoxicating effects, thereby increasing THC’s therapeutic index. This “phytocannabinoid-terpenoid synergy,” as Russo calls it, increases the potential of cannabis-based medicinal extracts to treat pain, inflammation, fungal and bacterial infections, depression, anxiety, addiction, epilepsy and even cancer.