With the numerous appeals of potent cannabis, it is hardly surprising that there is an eternal pursuit for ways to increase the THC levels. Although some of the methods are still subject to further testing, there are already foolproof techniques that can effectively boost the psychoactive content and overall quality of the harvest.
A Guide On Enhancing Cannabis Potency
When it comes to cannabiscultivation, there are varying objectives. Whether it is for medicinal purposes or leisure use, the universal goal is to increase the level of cannabinoids, especially THC. There are numerous benefits to this practice, and by keeping a few things in mind, effectively enriching the quantity and quality of the yield is achievable.
Why Increase The THC Level
Potent weed is not always desired. In fact, low-THC cannabis is sometimes more preferred, since it allows the plant to be ingested without the high. On the other hand, immense levels of this compound also have these beguiling charms:
- Improved Psychoactive Effect For Less. A boost in the herb’s mind-warping content enhances the psychoactive experience even in smaller dosages. A tiny hit or two from a very potent cannabis is comparable to at least 5 or more from a low-THC strain, thereby allowing the harvest to be fully capitalized on.
- Medical Relief. High THC levels can more effectively mitigate various ailments, such as nausea, muscle pain and spasm, multiple sclerosis, and so on.
- Increase In Harvest. The adage “killing two birds with one stone” rings especially true in this procedure. Most of the steps performed for increasing THC levels, after all, can consequently boost the overall yield as well.
Proven Factors That Affect The THC Levels
Several factors contribute to the rise in THC levels – it can be innate factors like genetics or something external, like how well the plants are taken care of, among others. Arguably, the most common misconception is that high amounts of CO2 may increase a plant’s potency. As there is no evidence about this claim, it is best to stick to proven and well-tested steps, such as the ones listed below.
Strain & Inherent Genetics
Plant genetics is considered the most vital aspect of cannabis potency. Genes set the ceiling of how much THC and other cannabinoids a plant can generate. Grow methods may only help in achieving the maximum content, but not in going beyond the fixed limit. Hence, it paramount to only use varieties known to have naturally high THC load. Researching beforehand will help in figuring out which strains are preferable, as well as purchasing from reputable sources.
Moreover, the entourage effect must also be taken into account. The concept explores what happens when various compounds are consumed concurrently. For example, THC may feel different or less powerful when combined with CBD, which is known to counteract the prior, than when it is ingested alone. As a result, even if Strain A has higher THC than Strain 2, the latter can deliver a more powerful high due to its interaction with other compounds.
The harvest time plays an essential role in the quality and quantity of the produce. Harvesting too early, for instance, may drastically reduce yields and potency.
In the fruiting phase, there is a 2-3 week periodphase when the plants contain the peak levels of THC. During this stage, 50% to 70% of the clear, crystal-like trichomes on the buds will turn cloudy white, while most of the pistils (hairy filaments) will darken and curl in. Apart from counting the days, make sure to wait for the telltale signs to know if the colas are indeed ripe for harvest. Cannabis procured during this timeframe will induce the most intense high, coupled with euphoria and stellar medicinal faculties.
Overall Plant Health
For the cannabis to produce the most potent buds possible, the plant must be at its prime health, and the buds should also receive direct light during the flowering stage. That being said, common gardening malpractices like the following must be avoided:
- Lack of water
- Excessive heat
- Root problems
- Erratic light cycles
- Nutrient deficiency
Although cannabis can grow even in poor light conditions, it will not yield substantial amounts of bud without proper illumination during the vegetative stage. Since cannabis exploits light to fuel plant food creation and the development of buds, it must get direct sunlight at least 8 hours a day (when grown outdoors) or light exposure from sources such as LED or HPS (when grown indoors) to generate the highest levels of THC.
The post-harvest procedure involves draining the moisture out of the colas. It leads to better smell and enhanced effects. Although this procedure is already verified to increase the perceived potency of buds, there is still no proof that it raises the THC levels directly.
Despite this, the curing process offers myriads of other benefits. For one, it can eradicate the undesirable grassy odor and taste of cannabis and bring back its natural aroma. Besides, curing can mitigate the adverse effects that accompany prematurely harvested buds, such as headaches.
How To Increase THC Levels
Apart from guaranteeing the factors mentioned above, employing additional techniques can also boost the potency of the buds. Do note, however, that personal anecdotes instead of scientific tests corroborate the efficacy of these methods, so they must be implemented with a grain of salt.
There are several supplements available for cannabis cultivation, and each one serves its own purpose. Most supplements for bud quality claim to increase yields or flavor instead of potency. However, some may hint that they may raise the THC levels in cannabis.
Sadly, there is still no rigorous testing system that determines whether a supplement will raise the amount of THC. As such, trying this option must be done so with caution to avoid causing nutrient-related concerns.
Extending The Vegetative Stage For 8 Weeks Or More
Prevalent for several years now, this method still has not garnered enough scientific proof even today. The central premise is to let the cannabis plant grow in the vegetative stage for at least 8 weeks before transitioning to the flowering phase, so the flora can reach the upper limit of its THC level when it starts budding.
Plants that remain in the vegetative stage for an extended time tend to be more massive and more full-bodied, which may lead to heftier yields. However, it does not automatically mean that the plant will generate higher levels of the psychoactive compound. Although it may be plausible, further testing is still needed to ascertain it. The following is an example of a test that may be performed:
- Sprout multiple seeds from a stable cannabis strain. It decreases the genetic variations between the plants.
- Let the seedlings develop to 8 weeks in the vegetative stage, then obtain a clone from each of the plants. These clones, despite having the size of seedlings, are technically the same age as the mother plant – which means that they are also 8 weeks old.
- Germinate more seeds of the same stable strain, and let them mature until they are around 3 weeks old and the same size as the clones. It is vital to time this experiment so that the seedlings are around 3 weeks old and the clones are the same size and are starting to take root.
- Now that the 3-week seedlings and the 8-week clones share the same size, they must be flowered together in similar growing conditions.
- After harvesting, it is time to test the THC levels. If the buds from the clones are more potent than those from the seedlings, then it is safe to say that the extended maturation did increase the cannabis potency.
A few decades ago, most of the cannabis in the market were seedy buds. Back then, it was not a practice to segregate the male and female cannabis plants in the flowering stage to avoid accidental pollination. Once the necessity of preventing accidental pollination was recognized, however, there was a rise in sensimilla buds, or seedless, unfertilized, and highly-concentrated cannabis plants.
From then on, the sensimilla buds began saturating the market. They were highly coveted as the flowers were significantly larger and more potent. Furthermore, they also do not produce harsh smoke which seeded buds do.
Although it is true that sensimilla buds have increased potency, there is no proof that the lack of pollination is the reason behind this rise. At any rate, regardless whether it boosts the bud potency or not, it is important to note that cannabis will indeed drastically enhance the quality of the buds and the number of yields as the females can focus on nurturing their flowers instead of the seeds. As such, inadvertent pollination should always be avoided.
Exploiting Grow Lights
Indoor gardens often use artificial lighting systems to ensure the proliferation and wellbeing of the plants. These grow lights emit different spectrums or colors of light. Some of the most common illumination sources used for cannabis growing are:
- Light-Emitting Diodes (LED). Durable and energy-efficient, these grow lights offer bright illumination that may enhance resin and THC production.
- Light Emitting Ceramic (LEC). LEC halide lights deliver a broader spectrum of light than conventional light sources like fluorescent bulbs. Like LED grow lights, they are also cost-efficient and may boost resin production and THC levels.
- High-Pressure Sodium (HPS). HPS lighting systems mimic the rays of the sun, providing a hotter luminosity that prompts cannabis plants to mature faster and more effectively. It is believed that robust HPS grow lights can generate the highest levels of THC.
Special Flushing Methods
When it comes to cannabis cultivation, flushing means feeding the plants with only water in the last few weeks before harvest. It compels the plant to exhaust its remaining that may potentially affect the taste and odor of the buds.
Apart from the regular flushing method, there are additional and specialized flushing techniques that purportedly increase the THC levels. Although these procedures have been around for a while, there are still no tests that can verify whether any of the work indeed work. The following are some of the most popular approaches which may – or may not – amplify THC content:
- Keeping the plant in the dark for 2-3 days before harvesting
- Harvesting the plant in the morning
- Collecting the plant during its dark period
- Watering the cannabis with ice-cold water before harvesting
- Cutting down and hanging the cannabis upside down for a few days before trimming and curing the buds
Monitoring Air Temperature, Humidity & Watering
In a 2011 study on industrial hemp, it was discovered that the following environmental factors were linked with increased THC levels:
- Too much humidity
- High air temperature
- Decreased levels of precipitation (rain)
Even though hemp is strongly related to cannabis, they are still different entities so the findings should be interpreted with reservation. Moreover, since the study focused on hemp raised outdoors, it is hard to figure out if these factors will also affect the THC levels of cannabis grown indoors. At the very least, maintaining a warm environment and avoiding overwatering should always be observed.
While it is common knowledge that lower humidity towards the end of the flowering stage will improve THC content, it is worth noting that in this research, hemp generated higher levels of THC at higher humidity.
Nurture More Potent Cannabis With Ease
Although there are different goals when it comes to raising cannabis, in the end, it all boils down to enhancing the potency of the buds and improving the quality of the yield. For most cases, it means increasing the cannabinoid content of the plant. Fortunately, there are already proven techniques – as well as some of the experimental methods – that can be employed. With patience and smart judgment, the potential of cannabis plants can be maximized to reap their psychoactive and therapeutic faculties.