Cannabis 101: How Does Cannabis Work? Start with the Anatomy of the Plant

We focus a lot of our efforts on talking about the various compounds produced by the cannabis plant, like the cannabinoids and terpenes that make it such a uniquely effective medicine for various types of pain, anxiety, and depression, as well as a long list of other symptoms and conditions.

But one thing we haven’t taken a lot of time to discuss is the source of all those potent medicines: The cannabis plant itself. So with the goal of better understanding how cannabis grows from a tiny seed into a virtual medicine factory, here’s a brief introduction to a hero of all-natural healing: The cannabis plant!

Anatomy of the Cannabis Plant: From Seed to Shrub

cannabis plant 1

In many regards, the cannabis plant isn’t that different from any other. It grows from a germinated seed, sending down a skinny taproot that will bloom into a complex root system to draw up water from the soil. It sprouts leaves covered in tiny pores called stomas, which take in carbon dioxide (CO2) and expel oxygen (O2). And after it’s properly established in the ground, it will sprout flowers. As far as we humans are concerned, that’s where the action really happens.

Like many other plants, cannabis plants are dioecious, meaning they can be male or female. While male cannabis plants are essential to the breeding process, they have limited medicinal value due to their relatively low yields of active compounds such as cannabinoids and terpenes. Male and female cannabis plants can be distinguished by the sex organs—female stigma and male pollen sacs—that develop between the plant’s nodes, or points where branches sprout from the central stem.

Anatomy of the Cannabis Plant: The Flower, a Miniature Medicine Factory

canabis plant 2

That leaves the female flower, or what used to be colloquially known as “bud.” More than being a single structure, they’re part of a complex system of plant parts that all work together to support the creation of healthy, cannabinoid- and terpene-rich flower. Here are the essential players:

  • Cola: Sometimes known as a “bud site,” these are clusters of female flowers growing tightly together.
  • Flower: As we mentioned, these are the plant structures chock-full of beneficial cannabinoids and terpenes. Dense and typically covered with a frosty-looking coating, they’re what we grow cannabis for in the first place.
  • Trichomes: The frosty coating we just referred to, trichomes are clear, minuscule, mushroom-shaped glands that produce both aromatic terpenes to repel pests and cannabinoids such as THC, CBD, CBN, and others still. Products such as hash and kief are made from these potent, resinous glands.
  • Sugar leaves: These little leaves are what flowers form around. Coated in sticky resin, they’re often used to produce pre-rolls, concentrates, and other products.
  • Bract: Similar to sugar leaves, bracts are green teardrop-shaped leaves that surround the cannabis plant’s female reproductive organs. Even more than the flowers themselves, bracts contain the plant’s highest concentration of cannabinoids.

There are many other elements in the story of the cannabis plant. But when it comes to the potent, sustainable, and all-natural medicines we offer here at Remedy Columbia, the flower is really the heart of the matter.

If you have any other questions about the anatomy of the cannabis plant, don’t hesitate to ask! We’re always here to help.